To break away from the enterprise that provided your first major opportunity can be a difficult task - especially if you have never been in a senior management role before.
This is the situation that Ben Walker, now director of Inspire CA, faced in recent years, moving from an employee within an established firm to starting his own accounting business.
Founded by Ben in 2013 at the age of 22, Inspire CA holds a niche position in the accounting industry in Queensland. In Ben's own words, the 'business aims to help young families use their small business to achieve big goals.'
However, in contrast to normal accounting firms, Inspire CA has a true focus on family. Ben believes that by managing tax obligations and the red tape surrounding family-run enterprises, owners can spend more time with those most dear to them - their loved ones.
'We believe that family is the most important business and most business owners go into [it] for the freedom and to spend more time with their families,' he said.
Ben has led Inspire CA to significant success over nearly three years of operations, but getting to this position has required him to develop his own leadership style and ensure that he is delegating responsibilities and tasks appropriately. In 2014 Ben won the Anthill Online 30under30 award and was a finalist at the Brisbane Business News “Brisbane Young Entrepreneur of the Year” awards.
• Transitioning into senior management leadership
• Influence of teamwork and collaboration
• Interactions with similar business leaders
Becoming a leader for a growing team
After several years of working within a traditional accounting firm, Ben began to think about new and innovative ways that they could serve clients. While there was nothing wrong with the original approach, Ben's idea stretched further than the ideals of his former employer.
'I thought we could change things that matter more to our clients - the way we charge, the way we communicate with people and the technology used behind it,' he said.
In February 2013, Ben broke away to form Inspire CA. With a handful of clients in tow, the business quickly grew to what Ben thought would be the best model possible for his customers.
However, leadership can sometimes be a burden and, by Ben's own admission, he believes he tried to wear too many hats at once. During the initial months, Ben described himself as a 'massive control freak', trying to run every single part of his business himself. Whether this was remuneration, business strategy, recruitment or customer relations, Ben wanted to ensure every element ran as smoothly as possible.
Finding balance within the team
As Inspire CA grew, Ben was forced to hire more staff to his team and is now the leader of 12, with around half operating in accounting services and half dealing in administration.
Ben explains that TEC played a major role in his own development and helped him to alleviate his workload.
"One thing that TEC has helped me with is to understand that the team is there is assist you and getting rid of the idea that 'we are the best in everything' - recognising that others have better skills in certain areas," he stated.
Whether this involves delegating more effectively, making clear his highest and best use or working on his priorities, Ben's work with TEC has contributed to him becoming a well-respected and trusted leader throughout his team.
"A lot of people go into business good at what they do, but not necessarily great a running a business. I'm happy to put my hand up and say that was me," he said.
"You are here as a CEO to provide strategy, guidance and empower the team, not necessarily doing it all."
Maintaining a wide, positive mindset
Ben said that, in many small accounting firms, the partner is often so involved with day-to-day operations that they forget the importance of strategy and reviewing customer relationships. This is something Ben now takes on board and ensures he is always looking at the bigger picture.
For over 18 months, Ben has been a TEC member, and understands the value of interacting with business leaders who have years of experience and are happy to share their triumphs and mistakes.
[su_quote]TEC membership has prepped me with the right mindset to tackle different challenges as they come up,[/su_quote]
Ben also sees value in now helping new business owners get their model right from the start and sharing his own experiences to ensure leaders focus on the right areas.
"My passion for marketing and unique business models means I can provide insight to other members. People get value from being in the same room as like-minded individuals," he explained.
Starting a small business is difficult and Ben's experiences are shared by many others across Australia. However, even when the tough times do arrive, it is clear that a focused and skilled team can ensure small-business leaders have the time to take the enterprise in the direction that they desire.