A weekly Q&A with interesting people in the Australian Media Industry
Ben Fletcher
  • Name Ben Fletcher
  • Company Generate
  • Position Managing Director
  • Interviewed by Social Diary on 29/9/2016
  • Q
    Describe your career path to date?
    A
    A commerce degree lead me to a small accounting firm in the city where I cut my teeth before coming across a job ad promising an opportunity to 'work for the stars' - definitely the result of an overzealous recruiter, nevertheless it caught my eye and the rest is history. I've worked for this business for nearly 10 years, been a part owner for three years and have been the MD since earlier this year.
  • Q
    Describe your typical day?
    A
    As anyone who runs a small business will tell you, there is no such thing as a typical day! That said, a good day starts with an early morning ride and some brief QT with my little family. Once at the office my time is split between consulting with my brilliant clients on all kinds of interesting matters and the rest of the day is spent running Generate - working with our fantastic team, marketing, discussing strategy with my business partner... the works! After all that, any day that ends with a few cheeky beers is a good one.
  • Q
    How does your firm, Generate, differ from regular accounting firms?
    A
    In two key ways. First, we have been around for 15 years servicing the creative and entertainment industries, meaning we truly understand how these businesses work and what their pain points are. Second, we also understand that visiting the accountant isn't top of the pops for most people let alone creatives, so with that in mind we strive to deliver a no-jargon, welcoming and enjoyable experience for all our clients. A tailored service for a niche industry.
  • Q
    What was it about the creative businesses that attracted you to provide your service to the industry?
    A
    This company was born as a result of my business partner's love for the Australian music industry. This was also what drew me to the company - applying my skills to help those who produce the music I loved. Pretty neat! Over the years I've spent more and more time working with owners of other creative businesses and have found they all share similar needs - for an advisor who understands their business, how they think and how to help them achieve their goals. It's a brilliant feeling being able to help creatives do what they love whilst also achieving financial success.
  • Q
    How do you work closely with those in the PR & Marketing sphere to ensure that their financial needs are met?
    A
    Great question. Whilst many of our clients just need us to handle their annual tax work, we have a growing number of clients we work closely with on a more regular basis. They are after more holistic advice to help them run their business and we have the experience of hundreds of other clients, as well as our own running a small business, to share.

    Once such client is Lauren Fried (Pulse Collective / Gruen Transfer) for whom I act as CFO - we meet every month to discuss all aspects of her business - finances, strategy, staffing, the future - much more than just the numbers. We talk regularly and I'm fortunate enough to be able to pick her brilliant marketing brain for tips for my own business!

    It can be an isolating experience running a business and we like to provide the sounding board and support that our clients need to get their businesses heading in the right direction.
  • Q
    The PR industry is made up of many boutique-sized agencies, is your service aimed at a particular sized company? Would larger agencies or one-man-bands benefit from your services?
    A
    We work with micro businesses owned and operated by a single person and we also work with multi-million dollar businesses with large teams - regardless of size, we like to craft an offering that ensures our clients get the support they need.

    The little guys tend to just need you to keep them compliant and perhaps offer support via business coaching, whilst the bigger businesses are typically looking for more formalised and regular support in the form of a CFO offering or an advisory board.
  • Q
    What are some of the most common financial mistakes PRs make, especially when they are starting out?
    A
    Failing to plan! Like many small service businesses, it's all too easy to get lost working in the business and not working on the business - they get going, chase down their first client, over-service them and then wonder why they have no time and less pay than when they were 'working for the man'. Successful PR agencies know the value of regular business planning - setting goals, deciding upon strategies to achieve the goals, monitoring, adjusting. Rinse and repeat.
  • Q
    Do you have any insights about what PRs are allowed to claim at tax time, that they may not be aware of?
    A
    PR agencies aren't typically able to access anything unusual as far as tax deductions go, but a few key tips would include:
    - Keep a travel diary to maximise travel claims
    - Entertaining clients isn't a tax deduction and may expose you to fringe benefits tax
    - Seminars, training and professional memberships are generally deductible

    Tax deductions aside, agencies should keep an eye out for grants they might be eligible for. If you're conducting R&D you may be able to access the generous R&D Tax Offset which is a refundable cash tax offset tied to undertaking relevant R&D activities - for example a PR agency may be developing a software platform for client projects. Another grant is the Export Market Development Grant which could be useful for agencies seeking to grow their business overseas.
  • Q
    Are there any processes that PRs are able to implement in their day-to-day work that assist in making accounting easier?
    A
    Good systems are a must! A good accounting system is made up of documented processes, a great software package and a quality bookkeeper to keep it running smoothly and up-to-date. Without this, it's almost impossible to manage an agency successfully. No data = no information.

    Having a cloud-based accounting package like Xero saves time and money when it comes to data-entry and sorting out payroll. Something that makes this software even better is the growing market of third-party add-ons available via the Xero Marketplace. Some of the add-ons that might appeal to an agency would include:

    - Automated debtor chasing (Chaser, Debtor Daddy)
    - Timesheets, job management, workflow (WorkflowMax, Harvest)
    - Financial performance dashboards (CrunchBoards)
    - Cashflow (CrunchBoards, Float)
    - Loans/financing (Moula, Prospa)
  • Q
    Your Instagram/Twitter:
    A
    @generateHQ