Poised at being a front runner in tech-driven finance and accounting solutions, Mahzan Sulaiman is in the business of serving micro and small businesses with accounting and company secretarial needs, by acting as a Virtual CFO and advisor to independent bodies from the outside looking into their business.
At the helm is its founding and managing partner Mahathir Mahzan, a trusted member of the Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA) with 20 years of experience in the industry to steer it in the right direction.
Joined by business and co-founding partner, Feizal Sulaiman, the pair aims to bolster the severely underserved micro and small business space and help others grow their businesses through their unique incorporation of cloud technology and automation to shape mundane and low-value processes.
Looking at all that he has accomplished, you would think this was all just part of his plan. But it was only after pursuing his undergraduate in the United Kingdom did he find his footing in the accounting sphere.
A bachelor's degree holder in the field of Electronic and Electrical Engineering from the University College London, the thought of going into the accountancy and business studies stream never even crossed his mind.
“I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur and build businesses, but I was totally clueless about how the business world worked. I actually bought a copy of the Financial Times and tried reading it. It was full of business jargon that was totally foreign to me,” Mahathir recalls.
“I found it interesting and after talking to a few close friends and doing some research, I decided to embark into the business world; little did I know that it would become my permanent profession.”
Finding his interests peaked, the then young undergraduate decided to throw caution to the wind and take an elective course that covered Corporate Finance in his second year, and the rest was history.
After successful completion of his professional examinations and practical training, he was admitted as a member of Chartered Accountants Ireland and underwent his accountancy training in a medium-sized audit firm in Dublin, Ireland.
Having spent 15 years in the United Kingdom and Ireland, Mahathir decided to make a change. He packed his bags and headed back to Malaysia, and started working for Binafikir, a strategic advisory firm and subsidiary company of Maybank Investment Bank. After a short stint with Maybank, Mahathir took the plunge and started his own firm, motivated by the prospects the Asian economic market could bring.
“At the end of the day, nothing can beat home, and Malaysia is my home,” says Mahathir fondly. “I also believe that Asia will be, or already is, the centre of business and innovation.”
In a few short years, businesses and professionals alike have had to consider the importance of changing to fit the times. Accelerated by the recent pandemic, many industries have taken to adopting technological innovations, but in the finance sector, such methods can bring change most are not equipped for.
“I think the biggest challenge in our profession is the fact that technology and AI will take over mundane tasks like bookkeeping, accounting preparations, and even audits. We accountants will need to change our mindset and adapt to the situation in order to add value to clients.”
Understanding that the future is digital, Mahathir and his team knew they had to look towards how technology can not only change but improve their services. The firm has partnered other tech-driven companies such as recurring payment start-up, Curlec, and Xero, a global and leading cloud accounting platform from New Zealand, to further evolve their service and stand out amongst their peers.
Coming a long way from his days back in Dublin, Mahathir has led his team to innovative success, being recognised as the XERO Malaysian Accounting Partner of the Year in 2019. But like any leader worth his salt, he knows that being placed in a position of leadership does little in what it means to be one and shares his perspective on what being a leader entails.
“I am still evolving in this respect. Throughout my professional career, especially as the Managing Partner at Mahzan Sulaiman, I have learnt a great deal about leadership. I believe that a leader must be someone that sets a sharp vision and purpose for the organisation, be able to identify the right people for the right positions and bring out the best in them,” he advises.
“I have made countless mistakes and experimented with different approaches, and I am still learning. It is crucial for entrepreneurs to know how to dissect financial statements in order to make sound business decisions, because the journey of being a leader is a never ending one. The most important and most difficult part of running a business, especially in the service industry, is dealing with people.”
Penny For Your Thoughts
How would you define a “good life” and/versus a “successful life”?
I think different people have different definitions and perspectives of what a good and successful life is. From my viewpoint, I will have had a successful life if I had touched the hearts of those around me, contributed positively to society, and led a meaningful and happy life, guided by universal morals and principles. Opulence, decadence, and material wealth does not define success in my opinion.
What is the bravest thing you have ever done?
Starting my own business from scratch.
Advice you would give your younger self.
Surround yourself with those better than you, and don’t be so easily influenced by trends in society.