ICAEW.com works better with JavaScript enabled.

What sport taught a triathlete about accounting

23 March 2020: Della Hudson is a triathlete, entrepreneur and author. Here, she tells Alison Coleman about how her sporting accolades supported her professional development.

Hudson’s childhood dream was to dance professionally, but her parents had other ideas, and instead she went on to pursue a career in accountancy, while maintaining a keen interest in sport and fitness. 

After graduating from university, she joined a small accountancy firm in London and started her ACA training before moving into industry and a variety of roles, including financial controller and finance director, together with a brief spell in IT at National Grid.

“I was interested in computing, which was very new at the time, and I liked people,” she says. “It was that combination that made accountancy so appealing to me. I particularly loved being in practice because it’s where you can make a real difference in helping small business owners achieve their dreams.”

Away from work Hudson was a keen athlete, focusing mainly on swimming and running, alongside athletics coaching. However, her sporting pursuits fell by the wayside when she took a nine-year break from work to have her family. She did virtually no exercise during that time. It wasn’t until 2009, when she started her own accountancy practice, that Hudson started work on her fitness and signed up for a local Couch to 5K run, which got her back into running. She also started swimming again, prompting a friend, a triathlon coach, to persuade her to get back on her bike as well and do a triathlon. She did, and she loved it.

“The shorter distances were quite manageable. I could do the sprint triathlon in 90 minutes, and I also found that it tied in with my practice and my small business clients,” says Hudson. “In a triathlon you see the end goal, which can seem daunting, but you break it down into smaller goals: you swim, cycle, then run. In business you also have an end goal, but you focus on taking one step at a time to get there. It’s about staying calm, and not getting fazed. If one thing goes badly, clear your mind and get on with the next thing. Business is an endurance event.”
It helped that a lot of her clients were triathletes, trainers, and fitness instructors who could talk about the relationship between sport and business because they understood it.

Hudson gradually started doing longer triathlons, and in 2017 completed an iron distance triathlon event, the Cotswold 226. “It is tough, so it’s important to surround yourself with supporters who will spur you on and keep you going. I would encourage my small business owner clients to do the same.”

That same year, Hudson sold her practice and wrote a book, The Numbers Business: How to Grow a Successful Cloud Accountancy Practice. She recently launched a new business, Hudson Business, combining her accountancy and business skills and her coaching experience to help accountants and bookkeepers grow their businesses.

“Some business owners see the need for business coaching as a sign that they are struggling. But to draw another analogy with sport, coaching is valuable regardless of what level you are at because it will take you further.”

Hudson also points out that her sporting goals have always been more about the participation than the win. “I have no hope of winning, and I have no desire to be in amongst the elite. I just want to be the best me that I can be, and I believe that also applies very much to small business owners.”

You might like to read our other sport-related articles from Insights Quarterly magazine: