In March 2012 I arrive in Perth with no idea what I was going to do with my life. I had been travelling Australia in a caravan for a year and a half. I was looking to explore the country, and maybe myself, with my partner Bec before I turned thirty and life got in the way. On the trip, the certainty grew – I never wanted to work for someone else again. I didn’t want to be stuck in an office 9 to 5, with just an annual Christmas holiday. I wanted flexibility and freedom.
I had an accounting background. I knew lots of small business owners turned to their accountant for tax advice, but struggled with the day-to-day running of their business. This inspired me to start a bookkeeping business.
I became the first interstate franchisee of an East Coast franchise. Starting the business was much tougher than I imagined. I tried everything to market my business and wasn’t very good at any of it. I did letterbox drops, cold calling, networking lunches, and tried pay-per-lead services. After six months of working seven days a week, I had only four or five clients.
Meeting Xero as a bookkeeper
The winds of change were set in motion when I attended a seminar in Brisbane on how to run a bookkeeping business. Fifteen minutes into the captivating presentation from Xero, I was hooked.
Just 48 hours later, and at some cost, I had exited the franchise. I was excited, invigorated, and now free from my restraints. I was ready to chase the dream of bringing cloud-based bookkeeping to my non-existent client base.
That was the beginning of Fortuna Bravado Bookkeeping – my reworking of the Latin quote ‘Fortune Favours the Brave’. I became Xero certified, signed my first client, and became a Bronze Partner. All in the space of a month.
Nine months on, and the business was becoming too big for me to handle on my own. I convinced Bec to throw in her real estate career and join me, even though there wasn’t enough money to pay her salary yet.
From Bronze to Gold
When we employed our first staff member we were unsure if we would have enough work for her. We agreed to pay her a minimum of 25 hours a week no matter what. But there hasn’t been a week where she has done fewer than the full 40 hours.
A few months later we became a Gold Partner with Xero. We were starting to get the hang of things and bringing in multiple clients every week. This was a stark contrast to the early days. We had our business model down pat by only offering Xero. We also had fixed price billing via direct debit as our only option. And to help the cashflow of the businesses we worked with, we billed weekly rather than monthly. Our client mix ranged from one-man-bands to ASX-listed companies in Perth and across Australia.
Six months later we combined forces with an accounting firm and rebranded again to become Carbon Bookkeeping. We also moved into commercial premises. We saw changes occurring in the industry and planned to offer clients a one-stop shop with specialists heading up each division.
Carbon started by providing bookkeeping and accounting services. But it has since expanded into cloud integration, general insurance and mortgage brokering. Financial planning will start later this year.
It grew rapidly from 14 staff in the combined Carbon Business Group on 1 July to over 30 a year later. We have 12 of them in the bookkeeping team.
Keeping up the momentum
What a brilliant three years it’s been. Growing Carbon Bookkeeping, getting married, travelling to Europe, America and most of Asia, having our first child, and winning the Bookkeeping Partner of the Year award. Alexis Morgan Davison was born just a week and half before Xerocon, so I was unable to be there. But that didn’t diminish the excitement of being the winning organization when there’s such huge competition out there. Over 7,000 bookkeeping partners are registered in Australia.
The award is fantastic recognition for the team. They’ve worked tremendously hard to bring about our success and exponential growth. They’re a young, generation Y crew who embrace the cloud. You can usually find them working out a problem over a game of giant Jenga. Or maybe having a ping pong tournament to see who gets the opportunity to field the next new client call. than filling out a timesheet or putting on a tie and jacket.
The award is amazing – but it’s just the beginning of our journey with Xero. We recently expanded our office space so we can grow to 50 staff. We’re looking to take Carbon Bookkeeping from one office in Perth to multiple locations in Western Australia. Then we want to expand from coast-to-coast over the next three years.
Jamie Davison, Carbon Business Group (Bookkeeper of the Year, 2015 Australian Xerocon Awards)