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Heather Williams Azets Poole

TGt Meets...Heather Williams, Tax Partner at Azets

International Women’s Day 2021 #choosetochallenge

Heather Williams is a tax partner at Azets. They are a national firm of Chartered Accountants and have opened an office in Bournemouth on Oxford Road. Read below as we spoke to Heather to get her thoughts on International Women's Day 2021.

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #choosetochallenge – what would you choose to challenge when it comes to gender equality or inequality this year? 

I would like to see us never having to have any conversations about the inequality of opportunity for men and women because it doesn’t exist.

Thinking of your own experience in the world of business – which inequalities, if any, have you experienced personally or witnessed around gender?

Astonishingly in every firm that I have worked for (except Lush) there were more men on the board than women. That seemed wrong.

Some men assume that women can be a mother, housekeeper and a full-time worker, but of course some men would love to stay at home with their children but society sometimes discourages this. It seems strange that women are allowed an equal role at work but only as long as they don’t drop the other roles they play as “mother” and “housekeeper”. I was lucky as my husband had to be housekeeper whilst I travelled the world with Lush.

It is more about expectation for me – relatives expect you might not have as important a career as your partner.

What do you think women offer in particular to the world of business?

I have never really focused on gender when I consider what people can offer. My experience is that different people (whether men or women) offer different things and that is about their experience and not their gender.

What do you think men offer in particular to the world of business?

As above!

Can you name up to three women in business or in your organisation or in the wider business community that you admire? 

Helen Ambrosen – Lush (she created Angels on Bare Skin and Gorgeous face moisturiser) that I discovered when I worked with her as Group FD. I have never found better facial treatments. She is amazing.

Robin White (sister) - Robin is a barrister who has fought for the rights of gender equality. She has transitioned from a man and is now leading the way in lots of world changing cases.

Claire Burnett – Founder of Chococo (a client) - she creates the most amazing chocolates and supports and runs the shops. Amazing business and amazing chocolate

Linda Preece – retired Tax Director - probably one of the best tax professionals I have had the pleasure to work alongside. She was technically brilliant and taught me huge amounts.

Can you name up to three men in business or in your organisation or in the wider business community that you admire? 

Chris Whitty - not business but he immediately came to mind. Solid technical knowledge and absolutely brilliant. He has guided my understanding of Covid throughout the pandemic without over dramatising and giving us clear guidance.

Matthew Harrison - I have to include my friend and co-tax partner at Azets. We worked together 25 years ago and I gave him his first job. I have returned to Azets and during that time he has looked after clients I have directed towards him, and they have stayed. He is amazing, kind and absolutely the nicest boss anyone could ask for. The team is collaborative and has grown in experience and culture under his guidance. I am soooo pleased and privileged to be working alongside him again.

Rishi Sunak - I have to include a man who took over the job just nine days before the budget in 2020 and a few weeks before the pandemic. He created the furlough scheme and has done his best to weave us through this devastating hit to business. To remain calm and creative when I am sure all he needs is sleep is astonishing. I hope I feel the same about him after the budget in March.

Do you think women who start their own business experience more challenges than men? Can you explain why you think this?

As I said above yes. If they have children then they would often have to continue to be the one to pick up the children and feed them and deal with holidays etc. I am not sure in every case this is shared equally.

Now a little bit about being based in Poole and your Covid-19 experience…

Describe Poole in 3 words…

Beautiful, Fun, Sunny

Where’s your favourite place for an out of office/remote meeting?

The beach!

What do you most love about working in Bournemouth?

People are less frantic than in, say, London, and more creative, and it is a wonderful business community of people who know each other and seem to look out for each other. It is not uncommon for someone to say they have been out for a 6am swim in the sea before work. We are so lucky.

How do you think Poole and local businesses will bounce-back once lockdown is eased?

We will all work together and will bounce back. We will do all we can to support each other. Those who have streamlined and adapted their businesses will survive. If they have not done that and need help, then tell them to call me.

How has Covid-19/Lockdown affected your business and what are your plans for the year ahead as we start to move out of lockdown?

Azets opened up in November 2020 in Bournemouth so it delayed the opening from May 2020 (as we had originally thought Covid would be over by November) but it has not changed our medium term plans. We will be ready and set to grow as soon as we can get out and meet businesses after lockdown ends!

Anything else you’d like to say?

I am so proud of how the business community of Dorset has welcomed Azets. We are the 9th biggest firm in the country and Bournemouth was the first office to open as Azets (after its rebranding in September 2020) and the best is that we won the best firm for customer service voted by FD’s - see link here.

Find out more about Azets by visiting their website here.

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