Listen to this episode here: Finding Your Purpose

Welcome to our blog for TALKING NUMBERS with Paul Jansz, we welcome Jason Cunningham, Paul Jansz‘s co-host in the show ‘Chewing the Accounting Fat’, which was launched last year. Jason is the Co-founder & Director, Head of Business Advisory of the accounting firm The Practice. Jason is an author and also a radio and television personality. In this conversation, our two speakers focus on growth, fees, profits, and value for businesses.

A Crisis Requires a Cool Head

Jason shared that he discovered it was important to have the right mindset when dealing with adversity and change because adversity and challenges are constant. He tries to start every day by doing something for himself. He gets up early, goes for a walk, meditates for 20 minutes, and then has a workout. This routine helps him get a good, calm mind space.

Working Remotely and Incidental Collaboration

Fifteen months ago, Jason ran a cultural survey with the team members and asked what is the one thing that they did well, and one thing they didn’t do so well. They are happy to see the feedbacks, especially the things that could be improved. Some members mentioned they could have a better arrangement for flexible work hours and work remotely.

By the end of 1999, Jason’s team undertook a project that set them up for success globally, that was when they had 25 to 30% of the team working remotely. After the pandemic, looking forward to 2021, Jason’s firm has committed to a rotation system for all team members to have a better work-life balance by the mixture mode of working from home and the office. Jason thinks the teams are collaborating very well.

Simultaneously, Jason appreciates the team’s together time because ‘incidental collaboration’ is an important component of their organisation and the industry. By ‘incidental collaboration’, he means that people’s small talks in the office sometimes might lead to the identification or solution of a problem.

Essential Numbers for The Practice

Jason says their current turnover is around $10 million. They have 47 accountants in Melbourne and 9 in Sydney.

Jason says being a $10- $12 million business doesn’t mean they’re more successful than anyone else. When they started on the first of December 1997, Jason recalls the first objective was to build 10,000 a month; and in their first financial year, they turned over $60,000, within 7 months. Later, they broke through $100,000 a month; they were so excited and could not believe it. But not long after that, they reached $1 million a year, then $5 million a year.

The ‘Desert’ Situation

When they reached the $5 million bench, Jason says it was a ‘desert’ situation, not a nice place to be in. There’re three options: The first is to stay in the desert and die; Number two is to retreat, try to get out of the desert and the last option is to grow as hard and as fast as you can to get to the other side.

Jason says, a $5 million business is too small for a general manager, HR manager, marketing manager, or CEO, but is too large to not have one. They had to think about their strategies for growth purposes and made a significant decision to reinvest back in the organisation. They had a full-time marketing resource five or six years ago and a full-time HR resource to look after people and culture. They have a general manager who runs the business and takes care of all the things. With all the support, they can better achieve their mission: to help the clients achieve their business and personal goals.

Hire Ahead of the Curve

Jason says when people ask how to grow their organisations, the first thing he would suggest is to hire the best people. At The Practice, they’re always hiring ahead of the curve, on the lookout for good people.

Jason says most firms only hire when they’re looking for somebody, as opposed to proactive firms that are always looking for people. If a business is competent enough, it will reinvest in bringing the people, growing the firm, and getting new clients.

Marketing and Content

Jason says the clients will come to you for three reasons. The first is that they meet you, and they like you. Number two, they’ve been referred to you by a trusted source. And the third one is to become a thought leader or a key person of influence.

Jason suggests that if you want to have a voice, you can write a book by hiring a ghost-writer, which he has done because of dyslexia. You can also write a white paper on what your expertise is. Today there is a lot of content on the internet, and it’s all about giving and sharing.

Jason says everyone can create valuable content. You can make a catchy title and write it in the readers’ language. You can write something and get it done professionally, such as getting a copywriter, making it a white paper PDF on your website. Jason emphasises that people don’t know your website exists until you point them to it. Once you get that out there, then you become a thought leader.

Financial Planning

When talking with younger aspiring partners in accounting firms, Jason often says they need to make a strategic decision on whether they will do financial planning. They should either choose to do it and do it properly or don’t touch it. Because once you choose to do financial planning, it subsequently becomes an extension of your service and brand. You have to deliver in a timely manner.

The Practice made the decision and have had their own financial services licence for about 12 years now. They link it back to the purpose and mission statement to help the clients achieve their business and personal goals through proactive service and ongoing advice.

A Menu of Services

Jason was suggested to have a menu of services and bundle up these services as a product. The Practice offered financial accounts setup and tax planning from the start. And Later, it extends to business advisory, strategic planning, quarterly meetings, and monthly coaching. “Asset offering” is now their most profitable part in the business, where The Practice acts as a registered office for clients, does their annual return, and changes officeholders and sets up structures. They also offer tax audit insurance and a few other things. Jason found that if they focus on those profits, those additional profit centres actually help to increase the margin on the bottom line.

Past Mistakes

Jason noticed that whenever they focused solely on the dollar, and not on who they serve and how they serve, things went wrong. When they were growing, they got a little bit ahead of themselves, and that was a mistake. They merged/acquired with another business and mistrust some people, which cost them a significant amount of money.

Jason says they have learned that as a partnership group, and together they set the organisation’s strategic direction. Now, they have a general manager who implements strategy, and everyone is there to assist that person. No one will care about and love your business as much as you do.

A Piece of Advice

Jason believes the most important person in the business is the one who asks the questions, not the person who gives the answers. It’s about being curious and listening. He suggests everyone learn how to ask the right questions, and it’s Okey to not know the answer.

Jason’s books:

Have Your Cake and Sell it Too: The 7 Key Ingredients of Business Success

Where’s My Money:10 Sure-fire Ways to Keep, Earn and Grow More Money