LivingSeas is a Singaporean dive education and conservation business that has expanded into Bali and Jakarta, Indonesia. LivingSeas began using Xero in 2008, two years after Xero’s launch in 2006. This makes their business one of the earliest adopters of the platform in the region.
Founder Leon Boey has a background in computing, and started out his career running several small businesses in Singapore. These included a design agency, managing programme and systems integration, and events.
A career entrepreneur, Leon once played waterpolo for Singapore and wanted to find a way to turn his love of swimming and watersports into a business. After leaving competitive sports, he happened to try out diving and was immediately hooked. However, after a few years Leon became despondent about the declining state of our oceans.
And so LivingSeas was born.
LivingSeas’ mission to improve our ocean
The business is driven by providing the highest quality diving education, which includes a focus on environmental sustainability. Leon believes that by helping individuals become better divers, they will be motivated to actively care for our environment. This will encourage a better appreciation of marine ecology and awareness of their own impact on their environment.
From a business development perspective the diving industry in Singapore is small but competitive, owing to a small and price sensitive target audience. Communicating that quality does cost more was therefore key to success.
LivingSeas expands to Bali
After trying a few different approaches to get the business off the ground in Singapore, Leon chanced upon an opportunity to open the business in Bali. Unlike Singapore, Bali offers diving all year round. This was a new opportunity to attract Singapore based customers to travel to Bali for their training. Additionally this had the added benefit of increasing margins through travel and trip management. Over time this led to a further opportunity in Jakarta, and the business really started to take off.
Leon felt that there was more opportunity for his quality and conservation focused business to stand out in Indonesia. In Indonesia dive companies typically overly focus on their bottom line without considering the opportunity in customer retention over the longer term.
But moving into a new market isn’t always easy – Leon’s advises all business looking to expand to get to know the lay of the land: ‘Different locations have different cultures and ways of doing things – get to know the right people and build a network.’
Broadening their scope
LivingSeas now operates dive schools, acts as a dive trip travel agency and has a retail and technical offering. Xero was a natural choice for Leon, to help him streamline and efficiently manage the accounts, cash flow and invoicing for these different lines within his business. ‘I’m no accountant, so having all these reports done for me made things much easier. Xero just makes business sense – simple as that’, comments Leon.
The business operates solely with Xero in Singapore. However they use Xero accounting partner Logiframe in Jakarta to navigate and advise on tax laws and regulatory requirements. ‘We traditionally never had an accountant for the Singapore business because whenever I needed to, I could just export a report from Xero and use that’ says Leon. In Jakarta however he adds that Logiframe is crucial to ‘assist with tax filings and payroll documents. They’ve also provided Xero training to all our staff in Jakarta.’
How Xero makes life smoother
Before Xero, LivingSeas was using the old carbon paper triplicate receipt books bought off the shelf. ‘Man, that was such a mess, I don’t even want to remember it!’ says Leon. Once he’d moved to Xero everything started to run more smoothly – ‘I don’t think I could run a business without Xero now!’.
Leon uses Xero for invoicing and managing cash flow. ‘Using Xero allows me to see performance over different accounts through the dashboard, helping me gain some idea of how the business is going.’ He says his favourite feature, bank reconciliation, means ‘I know exactly where every cent goes and where it came from. Nothing gets lost with that system.’
Using Xero is a huge time saver for Leon, and allows him to focus on his customers. ‘I like being a small business owner because I’m close to the front lines. I can see the direct impact I’m creating for our customers. Using Xero means I have more time to do this,’ says Leon.
Next steps? More dive schools! Leon is currently working on opening another dive school in East Indonesia and is always looking ahead to how he can continue expanding the business. He believes innovation is the best way to do this: ‘Innovation is critical to business success. It’s the only way to survive, grow and change with the times.’