Saj Sharif: The Accountancy Guru Providing Zen to Clients

Published by Gary Ellis on May 27th 2024, 3:03pm

Saj Sharif’s career ascent is one marked not only by her professional trajectory, but also personal and spiritual growth. 

As the founder and CEO of Zen Consultants, the Edinburgh-based accountancy firm, Saj combines all her growth and accumulated experiences to provide the utmost quality service to clients and serve as a development-enhancing leader to her staff.

Saj’s career trajectory is marked by a series of pivotal moments, from advancing as a temp to a permanent employee at a stockbroking firm to a fortuitous encounter with a director who recognised her potential and offered her a chance to shine. “He was impressed with my work and my presence,” she recalls.

However, it was the combination of personal challenges, including illness and the recession, that catalysed Sharif’s entrepreneurial spirit. In 2006, Zen Consultants emerged from her resilience and expertise in finance, growing organically from a few clients to a substantial portfolio that necessitated further expansion and the pursuit of an accountancy degree.

But Sharif’s vision extends beyond the corporate realm to Zen Community, a venture born from her desire to support others who have faced similar struggles. “The Zen Community is where I want to be able to support other people that have been through similar situations with myself,” she states. Her commitment to her family and community has been the driving force behind her dream to balance her time between Zen Consultants and focusing on the community side.

With Zen Consultants’ success, including multiple awards and Sharif’s role as a council member of the Chambers of Commerce, she continues to champion diversity and personal growth. Her spiritual journey has also flourished, with qualifications in life coaching and Reiki, among others. As such, it is evident that Saj Sharif’s story is not just one of business success; it’s a chronicle of personal evolution and community engagement.

Leadership According to Saj Sharif

In the realm of leadership, Saj advocates for a model that is both empathetic and adaptable. “Someone that leads by example, not a ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ approach,” she asserts, highlighting the importance of authenticity in leadership roles.

Sharif believes that a good leader must be like the trees that bend with the wind: resilient yet flexible. This philosophy extends to understanding the unique personalities and needs of each team member, fostering an environment where trust and support are paramount. “You have to have open ears as a leader,” she notes, highlighting the power of listening and peacekeeping.

For Sharif, leadership also involves a realistic approach to problem-solving, whether it’s dealing with clients’ issues or navigating the complexities of regulations like those imposed by HMRC. “It’s doing it with structure,” she explains, suggesting that even the most challenging messages can be conveyed effectively with the right approach.

Working from the heart is central to Sharif’s leadership style, which is reflected in her team’s dynamic. “There’s no ‘I’ in team. We are our team,” she states, encapsulating her belief in collective effort and shared success.

Saj prides herself on the eclectic mix of clients her firm serves. From exotic dancers to GP practices, dentists to lawyers, and even charities, the diversity is striking. “We don’t say no to anybody,” Sharif states, reflecting her firm’s inclusive approach. However, she is candid about the limitations, acknowledging that larger investment corporations are “better placed with the larger contingency practices that can accommodate their needs.”

Sharif’s philosophy is grounded in a deep sense of responsibility: “I wouldn’t try to do something that I felt was out of my capabilities because I wouldn’t want to create a negative impact on anybody’s life or company.” This conscientious approach ensures that Zen Consultants only takes on work they are confident in handling, maintaining integrity and respect for potential limitations.

Whilst most of their clients are UK-based, the firm’s reach is also global, with clients as far afield as Spain and America, and even seafarers. Sharif’s leadership ensures that Zen Consultants remains a respected and realistic practice, one that embraces a wide array of client backgrounds while upholding a commitment to deliver quality service without overextending its capabilities.

Envisioning a Legacy: The Future of Zen Consultants

Saj is not only focused on the present success of her firm but is also deeply invested in its future. “I’m not only doing it for me and the present moment, I want to leave a legacy,” she asserts, highlighting her long-term vision for the company. She envisions a future where the reins of Zen Consultants will be passed on to someone within the team, someone who has risen through the ranks and shares her passion and ethos.

The conversations about succession have already begun, with Saj noting, “We’ve had talks and they’re very receptive to the notion.” Her desire to leave a legacy is not just about maintaining the business but also about safeguarding the jobs and well-being of her team. “You don’t want to throw your team into jeopardy,” she says, emphasising her commitment to the collective over individual gain.

Saj’s dreams for Zen Consultants are expansive, yet she is mindful of the importance of shared experiences and group spirit. She speaks fondly of the team’s unity, “I think the energy that we’ve brought together is this sense of sheer togetherness.” This sense of community is fostered through shared lunch hours and team activities, including a planned activity day, reinforcing the company’s culture of respect and mindfulness.

As Sharif contemplates her eventual retirement, her focus remains steadfast on ensuring that Zen Consultants continues to thrive as a collective effort, a perfect conclusion to encapsulate her leadership and the vibrant, inclusive culture she has cultivated.

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Authored By

Gary Ellis
Senior Editor
May 27th 2024, 3:03pm

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