Jason Robinson, a director of RBK Advisory, set out to do things differently – to launch and build the kind of accounting and advisory firm that others were talking about but not actually doing.
Just over 12 months ago, while consuming a few cold beers, Greg Bramich, Jonathan Kane and I met to discuss our dream accounting and advisory firm. We had all worked at several firms where the buzzwords were change, technology, and value-add, but none of us felt as though any of those things were genuinely being implemented and lived by. Redundant software, old school servers, the inflexible nine-to-five grind, paper files and complicated processes – we knew there was a better way. So, RBK Advisory was born.
Now over 12 months from launch, our extended team and partners have grown to 18 and we operate out of five different locations across Melbourne with a newly opened Geelong office, and a Sydney office on the 2017/18 financial year roadmap. Down the track we also have ambitions to set up RBK New Zealand.
During our first twelve months, Greg, Jonathan and I realised our growing client list could benefit from having trusted partners in financial planning, mortgage broking and digital marketing. We worked hard to add those services to our offering and found partners who made that process a breeze. Our more than 1600 clients now have one number to call for the majority of their financial and business needs. It’s something we’re proud of and that our clients love.
Taking the risk and making the leap to launch
Although RBK Advisory has found success early after launch, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Our biggest concern at the start was how we were going to afford to pay ourselves. We all had good jobs before making the decision to leave. And leaving those jobs wasn’t an easy decision, especially with Jonathan having a family and Greg about to start one. At the end of the day, it was a risk we had to take. We made a plan, like any good accountant would. There were spreadsheets (thanks Gregie), and many beers (thanks Jono), and by the end of it, we had figured out how we were going to create our dream firm and make it work.
Surprisingly, having the cash to pay the three of us was never an issue. Our issue was that we took too long to hire our first team member after launch of the business. Instead, we tried to take on a ridiculous workload by ourselves. That lesson was a hard one to learn, but now we hire in advance and the stress of finding the perfect team member urgently is something we’ve taken off our plates. Another lesson? Using Practice Ignition. It ensured we were always paid up front, with an ongoing fixed-price agreement, or on completion of the work. We still can’t believe that every other firm isn’t using it!
Putting change front and centre
We also wanted to live and breathe change. We dived right in. No paper. Digital signatures were a must in a business that we want to take with us wherever we are. RBK Advisory operates from anywhere in the world, and DocuSign is a big part of that. Easy-to-manage ASIC corporate messenger service and simple formations, both from NowInfinity, are amongst other key software tools that we utilise. Plus flawless management reports from Spotlight, lease calculations and fancy structure charts from AccountKit, just to share a few. You name it, we’ve found an add-on partner with an app that’s allowed us to do it. We pride ourselves on thinking outside the square and actually implementing those thoughts. It’s one thing to say it and another thing entirely to make it happen. This attitude has allowed us to grow and prosper in the fast-changing environment that is the accounting industry.
Realising the importance of relationships
How do a couple of accountants with a big idea and some fancy software grow so much in one year? We focused on relationships. Our strength was to get ourselves out in the world, be noticed, and let our ability to build genuine relationships with people win business. In this day and age, that started with making sure our website didn’t say “I’m boring and I do tax returns”. Instead, our website tells our story and makes it clear that we aren’t your average accountants. A great marketing strategy has been invaluable in communicating our strengths, which ties back to the relationship building – we have personality and we care about our clients. Making sure our website and social media align with our culture and values has meant that the message is seen and understood by both current and potential clients.
The key to social media has been to keep it fun. While we include professional content like blog posts, we always keep it on the lighter side and ensure that anyone can read and enjoy it. Photos of our team and of ourselves always go well because people know us, and they like us. Having a digital presence has meant that we can connect with our clients in a way that hasn’t been possible in the past. We can’t believe there are still firms who aren’t active on social media! These great relationships have also meant that online word-of- mouth and regular positive reviews have resulted in a constant flow of new business.
Keeping things human
I harp on about relationships a lot but it’s because that’s what I genuinely love about RBK Advisory. At a human level, the partners care about each other. There’s no unhealthy competition or tension between us. We all have different strengths and celebrate them. The latest addition to RBK is Anthony Turner who’s joining as a fourth partner. More experience and another brain to add to the diverse mix. Our structure is flat with every team member being treated with the same amount of respect. We attract great employees and awesome clients because what we do is infectious. Loving your job shows and people want in on that kind of culture.
Tips for partners considering change
- Ask questions and speak to people in the industry who have been there and done that
- Do a pros, cons and cost-saving spreadsheet about the change you’re considering
- Communicate the benefits to your team and get their buy in. This will make the process a lot smoother, and more beneficial
- Have a look at your competitors. See who’s doing it best in the industry. Look beyond the status quo and get inspiration from the game changers.
Jason’s story is taken from the new issue of Partner Pages – a magazine of beautifully curated content, written by partners, for partners. Get your free copy at the Roadshow Australia 2018.