PKF OCTAGON is one of South Africa’s leading Chartered Accountants and Business Advisory Service providers delivering innovative financial solutions and needed support to their clients’ current and future business issues.
PKF Octagon caters for individuals, privately owned businesses and corporations of varied sizes that span a wide range of industries. Despite their diversity, PKF Octagon sees them as partners in the journey to unlock their future potential.
The South African Professional Services Academy spoke to Managing Partner Clifford Livingstone about his 21-year-old personal, professional and entrepreneurial journey at the firm.
Tell us your brief history and your role TODAY, how was your training like?
I did my Bachelor of Accounting degree on a part-time basis at the University of Witwatersrand and graduated in 1980 whilst working for Eliasov Wolf & Partners. I wrote what used to be called the board exam in 1981, impacting significantly on my training, growth and development at Bloch Schaffer and then Herbert & Trakman where I was a Partner. When I track my movement and changes throughout my career, I recognize that the changes were all important in crafting the individual I am today – In 1981 we started the business with eight partners, hence the name Octagon and now since November last year PKF Octagon!
What does it mean to you that you have been entrusted with the position of Managing Partner?
The PKF Octagon brand is built on a profound sense of good reputation and I feel a deep sense of privilege to have been entrusted with this very important role. This appointment also means I can serve and guide other professionals aspiring to rise through the ranks, with expertise in audit practice, accounting principles, business advisory, business empowerment and taxation.
What is your role daily?
30-40% of my time is spent in managing the practice and all interactions with the firm. The rest of the time is spent consulting with clients, planning and assessing audits. I am spending a significant amount of time in the regulatory space to ensure great quality, professionalism and integrity is upheld.
What would you like to have achieved by the end of your term as Managing Partner?
I would like to leave a succession plan of a viable practice for my younger partners to successfully endure into the future.
The PKF Octagon Model has always been driving a happy and collaborative working environment, which spear-heads diversity in the professional services sector; and driving innovation in our service delivery models. The collaboration and referral system are working well for us since our association with PKF
How would people describe your management and leadership styles?
I would like to think it’s informal and casual. I have an open-door policy and am freely available. I’m told I am insightful and have a lot of empathy. My leadership and management are based on being firm as a leader and finding a level of comfort that harvests honest and open relationships with all professionals, business support staff in our business unit and the clients we service.
What makes you tick or keeps you awake at night with respect to your position?
I am keen on enabling an environment that provides an equal opportunity for all our people to excel in their respective areas of work and core competency. I am quite worried about our economy at present, the high petrol price and the cost of living in this country worries me as many people will not afford basic services.
How do you take part in mentoring others?
We mentor professionals on-the-job, we have several trainees and nurture that talent.
How has the firm fared in terms of achieving its business growth objectives?
The firm has done incredibly well and continues to achieve year-on-year growth.
How does the organisation ensure that the firm maintains prominent level of ethics and integrity?
Audit quality, Ethics and Integrity are non-negotiable for our firm and is a minimum expectation of all our employees.
Is transformation considered a key objective at the firm, and if so, how is it attended to?
We are firmly committed to transformation and that forms part of our objectives and values. As part of our Partner’s Think-Tank at PKF Octagon, we have taken on board four new partners since January 2018, and three of our partners are women.
Highlight some recent contributions by the firm to the community:
We do pro-bono work for various organisations like AUTISM SOUTH AFRICA and we host and sponsor the “Mandela Day” football tournament annually for THE SMILE FOUNDATION. This pro-bono work is guided by the recognised need to narrow the divide between the advantaged and disadvantaged members of South African society and the obligation to play a role as a good citizen in promoting the transformative goals of the Republic.
How does the firm ensure that professionalism and good customer service are upheld?
Besides the academic qualifications that are important in the work we do, I am a firm believer in common sense, logic and people taking the initiative to deliver on what is at hand – we want employees that have exceptional skills, commercial judgment and are committed to the highest level of service to our clients. We engage, in-house train and coach our employees to ensure this happens on a weekly basis.
What would be the highs and what would be the lows of your working career?
Highs are always our employees passing exams. A huge loss in our past was losing 2 partners who died far too young. Highs of late have been the association with PKF International, and the development and move into our new office building overlooking the M1 motorway in Waverley
What accolades have you and your organization received recently?
We are not motivated by accolades but enjoy the ongoing positivity of our advisory work with clients, that bring about successes.
When you not at work, what do you get up?
I have a beautiful family, and my 4 grandchildren keep me busy at my age. I am a social golfer; my handicap is in the mid/upper teens!
Where can people follow you online?
Visit our website, www.pkfoctagon.com, follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.