Protea Conversations: Zane Stevens
Protea Financial was founded in 2014 to provide high-quality outsourced accounting at an affordable price. Given Protea’s flexible work environment, the Company especially appealed to accountants who wanted to re-enter the workforce after taking time off to start a family. This allowed Protea to attract extremely talented individuals who were previously overlooked. Protea strives to represent people from all backgrounds and provide an environment for them to grow and succeed in a setting that provides the flexibility and acceptance of who they are as people.
We selected the name Protea because is the national flower of South Africa and is a symbol of our connection. The Protea flower has become an ornamental flower because of this striking beauty and is included in arrangements and bouquets as a symbol of courage or daring to be better or a sign of positive transformation.
Protea Conversations in 2022 will focus on positive transformation and representation from all backgrounds. We are broadening our Conversations with the hope that these conversations will continue to create a forum to discuss the experiences, opportunities, and challenges leaders face, and how we can build a more diverse, inclusive, and successful environment for everyone.
In December 2022 we spend time with our founder, Zane Stevens.
Prior to founding Protea, Zane was Financial Manager at Syntell, and subsidiaries, in Cape Town, South Africa. Syntell is a leading blue-chip company with revenue in excess of $38m that provides cutting edge technology-based services for Road Safety, Traffic Management, and Revenue Collection. Before joining Syntell, Zane was a supervisor at KPMG in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, South Africa, where he led audit and financial and information technology advisory engagements.
Working with a broad host of clients, from owner-managed entities to large listed multinational companies, Zane obtained extensive experience in various sectors including automotive; public sector; food, drink, and consumer products; retail; healthcare and agriculture.
Zane is registered as a Chartered Accountant (South Africa) with the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants. He received an Honors Degree in Accounting from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, where he also completed his undergraduate degree in Accounting.
Zane has found success managing a team of highly skilled accountants to provide the best outsourced bookkeeping and accounting services to the wine industry. Zane is seen an expert in the field and continues to share his knowledge and thoughts with the greater accounting community.
Tell us a little more about your decision to become an accountant and how the idea of starting Protea was formed?
I was seen as a smart kid at school that showed ability in mathematics and performed well in my accounting classes. Though I wanted to become a teacher I, was encourage by councilors, teachers, and parents to rather pursue an accounting qualification as it would open up more opportunities and still allow me to teach if I wanted to.
Though I was not that excited about this, it turned out to be a great decision.
After spending time at KPMG and a listed company subsidiary, my wife, Candice, was offered a CFO job in California. After a very brief conversation we decided to make the move.
Once in the US, I spent time being a househusband before starting to work at the same company as an analyst (and later an accountant). My main role was that of performing long term forecasting to see how projects would perform overtime and what the exit number would be. After a few months, we quickly realized we needed to hire someone to manage the books of these investments we were penciling out.
With this idea in mind, we hired our first part-time in person in South Africa, and like they say, the rest is history. We are currently a team of 39 helping over 140 clients to try being successful by providing them with high quality financial records.
What has been the biggest challenge you have experienced in reaching your current success (personally and professionally)?
Relationships have always been the toughest for me. I am not always the easiest to get a long with and generally not been that good at maintaining long term friendships. I generally need very little people interactions and I can survive by myself.
As it turns out, this is not a good set of traits for an accountant and definitely not good for an entrepreneur.
I have had to learn to be more approachable and focus on being as kind as possible to every person I meet.
I must work hard to develop my management skills, networking skills, and develop ways to connect with people so that I am memorable and can have the opportunity to show what value we as a team are able to add.
What are your short-term goals of your career and yourself?
All my goals and ambitious are focused on the success of Protea. My focus is on stability of the team, continued strengthening of our systems, and helping as many people as possible.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that has helped you in your success?
Be yourself! Remember there is only one of you and you should be proud of who you are. Be consistent and let every person you meet, meet the same version of you.
What is the piece of advice that you wished you had gotten when you were starting out?
Everyone talks about balance, but honestly there is no such thing as balance. Balance really is finding time to do things that are important to you. So, identify what that is for you. For me, this is work, my family, working out, and sport. I find time for the most important, my family, every day, and find time for working out and sport within the week. I make sure I find time for everything important to me each week and understand there is going to be days and weeks where different concepts of my life will need more time than others. But I always find time for each area. This is the way to feel in control and minimize burn out.
What advice you give to others to help them be better leaders?
Be consistent with your actions and behavior. Consistency builds trust. Trust builds confidence. And leaders who have confidence of their team will go further. Because remember “if you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far go together.”
Can you share something interesting about yourself that will provide insight into who you are outside of the professional space?
I am fairly boring, but do have a wonderful wife, 2 amazing young boys, 4 loving cats, and actively involved in the local soccer association where I will be taking on the VP of Recreation Soccer position starting in the 2023 season.
As a thank you to our interview and Protea’s commitment to more diverse and inclusive leaders, Protea will donate to Positive Images (https://www.posimages.org/). Positive Images is a grassroots nonprofit organization serving Sonoma County since 1990. Their LGBTQIA+ Community Center hosts multiple weekly support groups, a youth leadership development program, mentorship opportunities, an LGBTQIA+ Library, resource and referral station, and a Transformation Station. They proudly offer a warm, welcoming, and affirming environment for young people to explore their individual identities, develop leadership skills, and contribute to our collective community. Positive Images staff lead LGBTQIA+ Cultural Competency Trainings and presentations that educate the greater community focusing on human connection, compassion, and inclusion. Their goal is a community where all LGBTQIA+ people are valued, compassionate community members, creating a just society.
Protea Conversations Let You Expand Your Network
Connect with industry leaders and expand your network. Our goal here at Protea Financial is to work with people from every industry possible. Reach your goals with the help of people who care. Contact Protea Financial today!