Agribusiness careers: Aaron Watson's journey from farm to finance

Aaron Watson has agribusiness in his blood. His grounding in farming, practical agriculture skills, and eye for numbers makes him ideally positioned to advise and guide his clients at BDO Invercargill. We spoke to Aaron about his pathway to BDO’s agribusiness specialism, what he loves about his role, and how farmers and other agribusinesses can look after themselves in an uncertain market.

Tell us a bit about your background

“I grew up in Canterbury on a sheep, deer, and dairy support grazing farm. This helped me develop a lot of hands-on skills; I’ve worked on other sheep, beef, and cropping farms and also for rural contractors doing baleage contracting. I did my Bachelor of Commerce (Agriculture) at Lincoln University, where the curriculum included visiting different farming operations across New Zealand, working on farms, learning the day to day on-farm management, and also gaining an understanding of the changing industry landscape.”

How did you find your way to accounting?

“I studied accounting at high school and did a few accounting papers at university, and I loved the idea of combining my agricultural background with my interest in finance. Numbers can play a key role in telling a business’s story and can help drive major strategic decisions, especially in farming. After speaking to people working in this industry, I realised what a broad and deep skillset you can develop as an accountant. Accounting is very widespread, and you can specialise in so many different areas, so it felt like a great fit for my career.

I’m currently undertaking my Graduate Diploma of Chartered Accounting with Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand.”

What made you choose BDO Invercargill?

“I moved to Southland because of the strong agriculture presence throughout the region. Many young rural professionals move here so there’s a lot of business potential. BDO Invercargill is really relationship-focused and has a huge amount of experience across many sectors, and its agribusiness offering is strong and growing.

On top of that, there’s the wider BDO New Zealand network and the support and expertise that comes with that. The specialist agribusiness team lives and operates in the farming community, and are actively involved and have a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities faced by people in this sector.

Being able to draw from the experience and knowledge of others within BDO has already helped me develop my skills. ”

What do you love about working within BDO’s agribusiness specialism?

“As well as using both my practical farming experience and interest in numbers, I love building relationships with people in this sector and connecting with other rural professionals. I’ve been involved in farming my whole life so when I talk to clients about their businesses, I genuinely understand them. I like being able to work across different types of businesses, meeting people and helping them get a handle on their operations.”

What conversations are you having with clients at the moment?

“There’s uncertainty within New Zealand’s agribusiness sector currently, especially with the varying commodity prices, inflation, and interest rates and ahead of the upcoming election. We recommend leaning on the technology available - such as Xero and Figured/Farm Focus – as well as having conversations with accountants and trusted advisors to gain more visibility and understanding of your situation.

We also know that farmers are ageing. It’s important to have the right conversations around succession planning particular to your circumstances, and to get these conversations started early to help ensure robust plans are put in place. We recommend involving your accountants, bankers, lawyers, and other trusted experts as early as possible to ensure a meaningful succession plan is formed and put into action.”

What would you say to someone considering a move to BDO Agribusiness?

“It’s a great place to take your career. There are plenty of resources available here – you’ll have the best training available and so many people to lean on across BDO’s huge New Zealand network. There are opportunities to specialise, grow, and really take your career further.”

Interested in joining the BDO team? View our latest vacancies here.