Announcing SBO Financial’s new CEO

Today I’m thrilled to announce that from 1 March 2021, Vanessa Firth, our operations director will become our new CEO. 

Before diving into what that looks like, let me start with some context. 

I’ll explain why, why now, and what that means for Rowan and I.


SBO started as a scrappy accounting business in 2015. We started this company due to dissatisfaction with the accounting industry.

We desired to build the ‘anti-accounting’ firm:

  • We wear t-shirts, not suits
  • We’re partners to our clients, not service providers
  • We’re transparent with pricing, no surprise invoices
  • We’re 100% remote – we don’t make clients (or team members) commute to our office – we work wherever there is an internet connection.

One of our earliest hires in SBO was Vanessa (~2017). Vanessa’s role was solely operations focussed – an unconventional hire compared to traditional firms where 99.99% of staff have billable hours targets.

Why Vanessa

Operations is the often lesser appreciated, yet most vital function of growing a business. 

Without strong foundations, you’ll have trouble building anything of value.

Vanessa has been instrumental in building the backbone of SBO. 

Ensuring we have robust systems and processes. Being ahead of the curve with best practice and quality assurance. Coaching the team. Having the ‘tougher’ conversations with stakeholders and being another pillar that our clients can lean on. 

This has allowed us to service our clients effectively and grow the team quickly and sustainably. 

SBO Vanessa new CEO

Why Now

Rowan and I were kind of sharing the role of “CEO”. As the business continues to grow, we felt it was the right time to have central leadership.

Vanessa was the obvious choice. In addition to her industry expertise and leadership, Vanessa has basically done it before. She and her partner Andrew (also an accountant!) owned and operated a bar in Sydney and led an entire division at a national accounting firm.

As a relatively young and ‘small’ business, outsiders may consider it early, perhaps premature to create a formal CEO position within the company.

We think the opposite. We’re delighted to bring Vanessa’s contribution and leadership to the entire organisation. We know it will take us further.

What this means for Rowan and Jason

Rowan and I are not going anywhere. 

I will be still heavily involved with SBO, with my focus being:

  • Evolving the technical learning and education program for our internal team and clients
  • Working with existing and new clients on strategic projects
  • Grow our brand presence and thought leadership throughout the broader business community

In addition, I will be developing Stark Naked Media – our content and digital product business. The mission of this business is to improve the financial literacy of entrepreneurs. The work we are doing here is complementary to SBO and the broader Arbor Group.

Rowan’s focus will be expanding our investment firm, Arbor Capital. Arbor Capital is a group of private equity and venture capital fund managers that invest in technology and growth-driven businesses. We deploy patient capital into businesses with a long-term horizon.

I am incredibly excited by what we’re building, the bets we’re making and all the years ahead. 

We’re just getting started.

Please join me in congratulating Vanessa!

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