Successful Alliances’ agility in bookkeeping – 18 years and counting

The story of how one ACT-based consultant began her career in bookkeeping solo, but now manages a flourishing consulting firm. We look at how Successful Alliances has maintained relevance over time.

“I founded Successful Alliances as a sole trader in the year 1999,” said founder and director, Karen Groves. “It was after meeting the wonderful MYOB Certified Consultant, Helen Hutcheson.

“I was so fascinated by what she did that I left a 20-year-long career in the Commonwealth Bank to begin my own journey as a consultant.”

Groves told The Pulse that Hutcheson was both an inspiration and an invaluable mentor, helping Groves to kickstart her fledgling consultancy.

“I was working from home when I founded the business. Since then we’ve steadily grown to support a staff of six and operate in commercial premises.”


Beyond bookkeeping for specific clients’ needs


When Groves started out, she offered traditional bookkeeping services, including data entry, reconciliations and payroll.

Today, Successful Alliances has shapeshifted into much more. Value-added management reporting is Groves’ personal passion.

“It’s always rewarding to see clients and CEOs grow in their financial literacy and strengthen their business,” Groves said. “I’m always happy to share technical accounting expertise, explaining the concepts in unintimidating language to empower my clients.”

READ: The Connected Practice – tips on shifting to business advisory services

Part of Groves’ ongoing success has been to identify a specific client type – not-for-profits. Her firm’s 18 years in this niche has developed a deep understanding of this type of organisation.

“Targeting not-for-profits as our core clientele was a strategic decision,” Groves said. “These organisations generally have a large need for reporting, but the amount of financial expertise in the organisation can vary widely.”

“The people in charge of not-for-profits are often in the role because of their commitment to a cause, not because of their financial acumen, so they need people that can mentor them in these areas.”

Not-for-profits account for half of Successful Alliances’ client base. And Groves’ mission is to make sure they’re reducing costs to direct as much of their hard-earned funds as possible to help people in need.

But Groves wasn’t always able to be the advisory guru in her business. Innovation over the past decade has enabled her to change focus over time.


Bookkeeping disrupted: the speed of tech change


Karen Groves
Karen Groves, founder and director of Successful Alliances.

 

“10 years ago, I had just leased my first commercial space,” said Groves. “I had two staff members and while I was an MYOB Approved Hosting Provider and could host client files on our local servers, the office was frequently closed with all staff on-site at our clients’ offices.”

It was early 2008 and for clients’ work based at the office, their paperwork was express posted or physically collected by Groves’ staff.

Groves said 80 per cent of the work is now done at headquarters. The team uses sophisticated Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software for data entry that used to be cranked out manually over hours, and client files are mostly submitted electronically.

“All of this has allowed us to get a much better handle on our costs and to successfully move to a fixed pricing model.

“And while we add value through management reporting, we also spend time researching and testing various software platforms and add-ons, so we can be considered experts in a range of products,” Groves said.

These industry disruptions drive deep into Groves’ message to her peers and to her staff: “You need to continually update your skills in order to adapt, otherwise you’ll soon lose relevance”.

“Whether you call yourself an accountant, a bookkeeper or a business advisor, the rate of change in technology means you’re constantly having to review what you offer clients and, ultimately, who you are as a professional. And your ability to do so will dictate whether you’re still in business for the long haul.”

Karen Groves has been a member of the MYOB Partner Program for over 10 years and in recognition of this loyalty she’s been recently awarded 10 Partner Points, which contribute to a wide range of product benefits and discounts. You can learn more about the benefits of the Partner Program, as well as how you can join, via this link.