Charmel Flemming CA(SA) qualified in 2009 after completing her articles with KPMG in Bloemfontein. Until the middle of her matric year she was indecisive about her career choice, but it all fell into place once the accounting bug bit. She reminisces on her varsity days which felt like a breeze as she thoroughly immersed herself in the world of accounting and finance − a subject that fits her like a second skin. Today she thrives in the entrepreneurial space as an accountant.
Charmel Flemming CA(SA) is the founder and CEO of F Twelve, a bookkeeping and accounting services company offering administrative and accounting support to small and medium businesses, using cloud technologies. She is also a non-executive director who serves on several board positions to bring an independent perspective to decision-making and function as a ‘critical friend’ while acting in the best interests of the company’s stakeholders. Her current board positions include DRDGOLD Limited, MixTelematics Limited, Acorn Agri and Food Limited, and the Afrikaanse Taal- en Kultuurvereniging (ATKV). She is also active on various committees and sub-committees.
After years in the corporate sector and longing for a new challenge, Charmel recognised the exciting opportunities that technology advancements were opening up in the accounting field. As the daughter of an entrepreneur, she felt in tune with the challenges small and medium businesses faced and was confident that she could provide the support they needed. With the emergence of cloud accounting technologies, the face of accounting was changing, and she wanted to be a part of that movement.
Driven by the desire to provide businesses with the necessary accounting tools to grow their business to the next level, and her commitment to supporting SMMEs’ growth and contribution to the economy, Charmel founded F Twelve − an outsourced cloud-based accounting company committed to solving many SMME owners’ challenges. F Twelve’s use of innovative cloud-based accounting technologies turned the traditional concept of accounting on its head. With the onset of the pandemic, the world has embraced this once-foreign concept as part of the new normal.
Charmel highlights how the first three months in business differ from the first three years and how the lessons along the way have moulded and dictated the direction of F Twelve, which started its humble beginnings with two micro-enterprises with an average turnover of R100 000 to now, four years later, and servicing clients whose turnovers range between R100 000 and up to R20 million. Charmel credits this growth to her vision of taking a strategic, holistic and long-term approach to servicing clients instead of ad-hoc services that may provide a solution in the short term but lack of support and relationship-building in the long term.
Being only too grateful in the early days for clients who put bread on the table, Charmel soon realised that to grow F Twelve efficiently and effectively, she needed to recognise and understand three things:
- Not every client is your client − Understanding your client’s needs and streamlining your offering can help you gear your business to operate the way your strategic vision intended, ensuring that there are no gaps or misunderstandings in what you do and how you do it.
- As a business owner, you can’t do it all at once − Whilst there is a tendency in the start-up phase to want to take care of everything and do everything on your own, as a business owner, it stands you in good stead in the long run if you can stick to what you excel in. Where necessary, delegate or outsource.
- Nor can you do it all alone – Collaborate! Charmel believes that collaboration is the key to driving progress and growth within small and medium businesses. F Twelve embodies this philosophy by collaborating with its clients, staff and other companies where the opportunity presents itself. If you have staff, you should strive to improve their skills and education to benefit your business in the long term.
Charmel is robust in roles that require ‘big-picture’ thinking. She enjoys working in an entrepreneurial environment and seeks opportunities to leverage her technical competence and entrepreneurial inclination. She draws from her experience in the corporate and big business sector by taking an integrated, high-level, holistic view of business, finance and accounting and applying that same thinking into the small business environment. She brings the highest level of professionalism and advisory services and gears her clients for growth at any stage of their business.
In her last four years as an entrepreneur, Charmel is most proud of her highlights and achievements, including being selected as one of 25 women-owned businesses to participate in the Proctor & Gamble South Africa Business Development Programme for 2020. This collaboration between P&G and WEConnect International aimed to help these entrepreneurs revisit their business strategies geared to success in demanding business environments. Another noteworthy achievement was attaining Xero Silver Partner status and becoming a Xero VAT Specialist. Being a Xero-certified advisor and reaching Silver Partner status allows her to access valuable knowledge and the most innovative technology in the market to serve her clients better.
When Charmel embarked on her journey to become a CA(SA), she didn’t realise all the doors and opportunities that would open for her. Because of the exposure to various aspects within different industries and even the communities that CAs(SA) operate in, a CA(SA) has a very holistic perspective and holds a unique position that should be used to everyone’s benefit − that is the key to being a #DifferenceMaker.
ADVICE FROM CHARMEL
- Integrity − What should be an inherent moral compass rather than a box-ticking exercise, it speaks of your character when no one is watching.
- CPD – it is important as a lifelong commitment to ensuring that you maintain and enhance your abilities. CPD can take any form and should encompass various forms of activity from which you learn and develop. Young CAs(SA) should embrace CPD to stay abreast of current affairs and remain relevant in their respective industries. You not only retain your qualification but also continue to add the highest level of value to your clients, career and/or employer.
- Brand building − Build a reputable personal brand that aligns with you.
- Social media − The preferred communication and networking tool of the decade. Ensure you invest time to use it effectively. Select platforms relevant to you and invest in professional photos and sound copywriting.
- Networking − It is crucial to build and maintain relationships that allow you to meet prospective clients, partners, and mentors. Including developing and improving your skillset, networking gives you access to the resources necessary to grow your career.