The no-frills approach of a small, community-minded accounting firm has earned it a national commendation in the Australian professional services industry.
General Taxation Services, based in the outer Brisbane suburb of Banyo about 12km from the CBD, beat many larger accounting firms across Australia to be named Best Accounting Firm in the business clients category at the 2017 NAB Professional Services Awards.
The Principal at the firm, Graham Robinson, said he was “really proud” of the award and that his firm’s down-to-earth, community-focused culture was a key to its success.
“We do a lot of work for small businesses,” explained Robinson. “Tax returns for Mum and Dad, self-managed super funds, business structuring and starting up small businesses. We’ve secured really good connections with the local community because of that.”
The firm not only helped small businesses with their accounts at the end of each financial year, but it provided year-round assistance to the local community by providing sponsorship and bursary funds to local schools as well as sponsoring a host of local recreation and sporting clubs.
Robinson said the majority of his firm’s work came through referrals from other clients and that, in a regional community like Banyo where everyone knows everyone, it was important to maintain good client relationships for this reason.
“People seem to like the fact that we keep it real,” said Robinson. “Many of our clients complain of a lack of accessibility from other accountants. For example, they would leave a message and the accountant wouldn’t get back to them until a few days or even weeks later when it might be too late. We continually endeavour to get back to our clients straight away.”
Part of “keeping it real” also meant General Taxation Services offered clients beer or wine when they came in to the office (only after an appropriate time, Robinson maintained) and sent them gifts for referring new business to the firm. Robinson said the clients valued this personal and informal approach to accounting.
“These points of difference, they’re not huge but people really appreciate the thought,” said Robinson. “We’re definitely not the usual accounting firm. We do the little things to make clients feel welcome.”
Robinson has personal insights into the difficulties small business owners face. After working in larger accounting firms early in his career, he set up as a sole practitioner in 2008 and initially ran General Taxation Services as a “one man show” – completing all administrative tasks and running between client’s houses on a daily basis. He acquired an office space in Banyo and has since filled it with eight staff, including himself.
“I’ve got a great team and I’m really proud of what we’ve built here,” said Robinson. “I grew up in a family of seven kids and was taught the value of hard work, I look back and I’m pretty proud of what I’ve achieved here.”
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