Will Buckley, the Director of Xero Canada, is not your average accountant. His CV reads like someone in their 60s and he’s still got 30 years before that milestone. I had a chance to sit down with Will and walk through his incredibly unique path.
Will might be new to Canada (he’s from Sydney), but he already feels right at home. Being half-French, he went to a French school and as a kid went by the name Guillaume or ‘Gilly’ (French for William).
At the age of 16, he decided to pursue a career in professional soccer. He vividly remembers the moment an Italian scout interrupted a training session in Milan to come over and speak with him directly. That scout was from Italian soccer giant, AC Milan. That was the window of opportunity right there. Unfortunately, that window ended up closing before too long with a few too many immigration obstacles. “Those obstacles could have easily been avoided with a little more foresight and preparation. The experience was a defining one, it taught me that when an opportunity presents itself, you have to already be prepared to jump on it. It’s a big part of how I’ve handled my career since.”
He did get another chance when he made a more permanent move to European football with Champions League club, Dinamo Buchurest in Romania. During his European adventure, Will also spent time with clubs such as Club Brugge (Belgium) and AS Cannes (France) before making the decision to head back to the sunshine and beaches of Australia.
Back in Australia, Will starred in the second season of “Football Superstar” a reality TV show where the winner is awarded a contract with an Australian professional team (you can see his audition video here).
He eventually decided to hang up the cleats and started university in Sydney majoring in accounting. After graduation, he got his professional designation while working at a small public accounting firm.
After a few years in practice, Will joined his first startup, brandsExclusive as one of the early stage employees. Less than three years later the company was acquired in a $66M deal. “I was the first finance hire, and ended up managing a team of 5 and going through an acquisition. As a 25 year old, that pace of professional development and on-the-job learning was beyond anything I could have ever imagined.”
After the acquisition, Will wanted to get some corporate finance experience and became a pricing analyst at Woolworths, Australia’s largest retailer and grocer. Yes, this is where the bread comes in. Australia treats bread like a commodity, and since Woolworths is the largest grocer, Will cheekily claims that he effectively set bread prices across all of Australia!
But that wasn’t enough for Will (how could it be?), so he decided to start doing bookkeeping on the side for family and friends. The ‘business’ grew organically through word-of-mouth, and soon he had to start hiring people to manage the influx of clients. Before he knew it, his side gig became a full-fledged cloud accounting firm. He had also found a great partner to help grow their firm, buckleybrown. And if you think his partner’s name is Brown, you’d be incorrect. Will originally came up with the name when it was a one man show and he wanted the firm to sound bigger than just him.
Eventually Will decided it was time to quit his day job and work full-time at his…other day job. But after only a few months, Will felt he no longer needed to be there day to day as the firm was running itself thanks to his partner. In that time he became acquainted with Xero, who happened to need a Head of Finance for their Australian market.
Will’s story of becoming the Canadian Leader for Xero is equally fascinating, but to avoid this post becoming a novel we’ll save that for another day!