When Fusion Group officially launched on January 4th 2016, we were sorely lacking in terms of cash flow, income, and a respectable office. We also entered a saturated market, in an infamously small town – armed with the knowledge that the first year is when most businesses fail.
Just over a year later, we’ve breathed a massive sigh of relief. We grew from a team of one to three, and serviced a whopping 100 clients – with an average 3-5 new clients walking through our doors each week. And we smashed our three-year turnover goal in the first year alone.
Along the way, we had some awkward conversations, unconventional clients, and a snort-worthy motto. Here are the things we learned – sometimes the hard way – in our first year of business:
If you met with us in our early days, chances are you paid a visit to ‘the Dungeon’. Our first premises were on the back lot of a family member’s warehouse yard, and they weren’t exactly flashy. The ceiling appeared to have been designed for dwarves. In client meetings, you could often hear the dulcet tones of a hacking chain saw. But a year later, we’re in a spacious office in a buzzy strip in Leederville, with two boardrooms, a massive kitchen, and showers for after the gym.
If we had waited until we had our dream office, we never would have started. Don’t delay: start now, with whatever and wherever you have available. The perks will come.
Have your vision and stick to it…
This is different from the numbers and projections. It’s the real value of what your business offers, and you shouldn’t ever lose it. At Fusion Group, our vision is simple: that every client we have on our books should be happy to have a beer with us. Sound silly? Bear with us. Accounting can be scary – or batshit boring – for a lot of us. But it’s part of life. By taking out the fear factor, we’re helping people’s lives become easier, and saving them cash in the process. And when they feel comfortable and happy with us, they’re more likely to re-use our services – and bring their friends.
… But be willing to make a few tweaks
Our original motto was: “Come together.” It was clever, a perfect summation of our collaborative nature, it was visionary, it was – oh, wait. Oops. Once we realized why everyone was sniggering, we did an overhaul and changed our motto to “Today’s Preparation, Tomorrow’s Success.” Much better!
Breaking up is hard to do
Whether it’s that needy Tinder date you can’t shake, or an employee who doesn’t pull their weight, it’s never pleasant to end a relationship. But sometimes, it’s necessary. I started this business with a partner, but soon realised I wanted to do it alone. Despite the awkwardness and potential for hurt feelings, I listened to my gut and went with my instinct – and haven’t looked back since. It’s so important to be upfront and honest when it comes to your relationships.
Understand your clients
I see a lot of tradies. Ever done tradie work? It’s tough. You’re putting in intense physical labour, often in sweltering heat, with ungodly early starts. Understandably, the last thing these guys want to be doing at the end of the day is balancing their books. Together, we figure out a method so they never even have to look at the paper. We grab their login details, and do everything from completing to BAS statement to actually paying their bills. It’s a huge relief for them.
At Fusion we have a wide range of clients including a few in the Adult Entertainment industry. Many clients don’t need a stuffy, judgmental accountant. They want someone who gets it – not only to share a laugh with, but who understands the nature of their work. As a professional servicing a wide net of clients, you need to be open and flexible.
Never stop learning
One of my proudest moments this year was being granted my Tax Agent license. It wasn’t easy. In fact, trying to look after my current clients, progress the business and sort out the required licenses was a downright logistical nightmare. But it was well worth it. Being a client’s trusted tax advisor is why I got into the game years ago, and what I enjoy best about my job.
Don’t waste money on advertising
In our first year of business we did very minimal advertising. Instead, we worked so hard on satisfying our clients and exceeding their expectations that they walked around singing our praises like giant light-up billboards. That way, their friends gave us a ring too. Then, friends of those friends dropped us a line… You get the picture. Last year, we gained 100 clients and now see about 3-5 new clients each week – all thanks to word-of-mouth referrals.
Set regular goals
When you own your own business, you don’t have a boss breathing down your neck or a checklist to follow to get that bonus. You need to make your own goals. I set goals yearly and quarterly in my business, and I think the process of constantly reviewing and analyzing yourself pushes you to get better and keeps you accountable.
You’re always a work in progress…
It was a big year but at no point did I think, ‘I’ve made it now – time to relax!’ And to be honest, I’m not sure I ever will. A good business is about both dealing with what’s in front of you and moving forward to a brighter future.
… So you might as well enjoy the ride!
You know what they say: build a mountain and they will come. Focus on doing great work, and you’ll soon see the clients you want. In the meantime, all you can do is keep an open mind, smile and have a laugh. Otherwise talking tax all day would send anyone nuts!
Work hard, play hard
Because hard work during the week and long hours makes those Friday lunches and beers taste even better.