Why it’s time to break away from traditional accounting firms, what going it alone meant for us, and why we are so pleased that we did.
By Nick Gregory & Joel Hams
There is something exciting about the beginning of a new year. A clean slate to start afresh. Inevitably, pondering the opportunities that a new year holds leads to thoughts of resolutions. This year, instead of focusing on what to change for next year (which seems a negative way to start a new year) we decided to take some time out over a cheeky Christmas drink and reflect on what a massive 18 months it’s been with the establishment of the Scarlett Financial Brisbane office and more specifically, our Business Advisory practice.
Looking back over the 15-ish years we have been working together, there was a common theme that ran through us both and our interactions together. We were both incredibly career-focused; always pushing for the next promotion, both driven to achieve what we thought was the ultimate goal – to become ‘partners’ in an accounting firm. It is only now, 15+ years on and after everything we have been through in the last 18 months that we can really articulate why that was the goal.
To us it means freedom. Freedom to work together to build a business that we are proud of, a business that creates value for our employees, our clients and for us. Freedom to work when we want, and how we want, and freedom to decide for ourselves that it is more important to take the morning having breakfast with our wives and kids than to be at our desk at 8:30am. Perhaps controversially, it also means freedom to decide who we will work with because life is too short, and everyone is time-poor and nothing drives home those two points more than working with the ‘wrong people’. This is also known as our ‘no d*ckhead policy’.
Upon reflection, it seemed inevitable that we would end up in business together, so when we were offered the opportunity to join the Scarlett Financial group as owners, to establish the Brisbane office and create our own accounting firm, the decision was an easy one. In fact, it was almost as if the Scarlett Financial model was designed with us in mind.
The business model is simple, a flat service fee on your cash collected billings (i.e. no pay to play), no other ongoing costs and a kickback share of group profits. When we launched, we had a fully fitted-out office, a website with our mugs on it, phone lines and internet, business cards and other marketing material; all we had to pay for was two laptops, a Xero subscription (which soon became free) and some professional registrations, call it $10k.
… an easy decision!
That’s enough about us, what about our clients? Throughout the process of setting up our firm, we have been constantly humbled by the support we have received from clients. Our clients were genuinely excited for us when we started up and chose to support us (beyond their own work) by actively referring new opportunities our way. This outpouring of referrals from long-standing relationships continues to be a great source of pride to us.
We have always believed that the true value of an accounting firm rests with fostering and maintaining great client relationships, supportive relationships that go beyond the idea that you speak to your accountant once a year at tax time. In designing our firm, we placed this aspect at the centre of our values. We can now offer our clients a full suite of financial services; accounting as the bedrock, along with financial planning, finance broking and insurance broking services available to provide holistic value. If it’s a service that we don’t offer (yet) we’ve got awesome contacts in other industries – relationships that we are able to actively foster because of that freedom that we mentioned earlier. By staying boutique and placing a deliberate cap on our total client numbers, we are ensuring our client relationships remain close and personal and more important than growing our business.
So, after all that, we did end up making a new year’s resolution; to remember how and why we started this journey and especially the people who made it possible.
What about you?
Throughout professional services firms (accounting, financial planning, finance broking, insurance broking etc), bright young professionals are charged with the responsibility of managing client and team relationships, delivering work and winning new business for their firm. Critically, these expectations are typically met with long work hours and mediocre salaries. Good combination, right?
If this sounds like you, why wouldn’t you break away from the traditional structure, own your own business (you are doing it all anyway) and create the lifestyle and financial freedom you are chasing from becoming a ‘partner’? Scarlett Financial can help, if you’re ready to evolve beyond what your current firm can offer, reach out to us for a chat – what do you have to lose (except long hours, poor pay, rigid hierarchies, top down management styles and office policies that get in the way of delivering great work)?