Last week, Brad sat down with the team at Darren, Peter, and Craig from Total Water Services to chat about how we work with them to deliver effective, explained accounting. We help them understand their numbers and make sure they know exactly how their business growing. Find the transcript for this interview below:
Brad: As part of our ongoing series chatting with Affinitas clients, we have the pleasure this morning of talking to the senior management team from Total Water Services. Total Water Services is a diverse and quite a large plumbing, and water reticulation business based in Hillcrest in Brisbane, and this morning, we’ve got the three directors with us, Darren, Peter and Craig. Welcome, boys.
Brad: As I mentioned in the introduction, you have some specific areas of expertise and different income streams in the business. Darren, can you tell us a little bit about the area of specialty that you look after?
Darren: In my past, working career, I’ve worked for a lot of major pump manufacturers. I’ve learnt a lot of pumping and stuff, so we pushed a lot into that area. But I also spent a lot of time with the commercial nurseries in the market. And we specialize in disinfection and different parts of that market.
Brad: And that’s a growing part of business in certain parts of South Brisbane?
Darren: It has been in the last 5 years, and in the last 5 years it’s grown quite quickly. Mainly because of the amount of developments that have gone through South East Queensland at the moment. So the plant requirement is going through the roof, so obviously the nurseries have grown with it.
Brad: Peter, you look after the really big projects, the quoting and running of those projects. How does that area work?
Peter: We do all these larger projects, we do all the irrigation, we do plumbing and drainage works, so that’s an immense amount of time, and high value of course which is good for the business in the long term.
Brad: And Craig, you’re involved heavily in the service side of the business. How has that been going and growing for you?
Craig: In the past 11 years, since we’ve started, we’ve focused on servicing the customer, hence the name Total Water Services. But we’ve also broadened our scope by looking at the service side, by assisting the local plumbing network. That’s around Brisbane, Gulf coast and North coast areas. We specialize in servicing sewer, storm water and portable pump water stations. Which gives us, pretty much a broad scope throughout the city and metro areas. We also service right down to the small domestic services.
Craig: So, in the past years, we have found it quite fruitful. We now have a great range of family clientele. And we’re also specializing in pump modifications, so full we fit programs as well as going into mild factory based work. And offering solutions in not only water, but in chemical and other emulsion.
Brad: So, yeah as we can see there, you’ve got three very distinct areas of expertise and income strings there. But on top of that you also run the store here out of Hillcrest, and that’s a supply store to the plumbing industry. And that’s been growing over the past few years as well.
Craig: It’s been a long time in the making, our biggest hurdle that we had … was getting our clientele to know that we actually existed. We embarked on many different advertising campaigns; word of mouth in the very beginning was a very strong arm for us, and now what we find is the flow through traffic for the store is actually quite good … but this store was actually designed by the customer for the customer.
Craig: So we took the input of our local clients, we took the input of local businesses that required equipment … and we basically formed and stocked the store to suit.
Brad: And you finding a lot of businesses here?
Craig: Yes, a lot of repeat business. Especially now that we in the 11th, well the 12th year now. We finding now repeat business is actually quite good. But the bigger thing is the actual new business.
Brad: So, when we first met you, we were online tax and now we are Affinitas … you were already in business and running a business. So the decision to change accountants was an important one, and not an easy one to make. How did you find us, and how were you able to feel comfortable about making the decision to change accounting firms?
Darren: It’s really a word of mouth thing that … another supplier that we dealt with in the past, and he said, “Hey these guys are pretty good,” and we were looking for someone at the time. We found that our account at that stage wasn’t quite up to the market of our size business. We were growing beyond his capabilities, in our own opinion, so we thought we needed someone who had a little bit more expertise. And you so definitely fitted the bill of that.
Brad: At the end of the day, you had to hear our pitch as accounting firms; what we offered … and then decide just exactly what you wanted to do as far as changing accounting firms. So what was the thing that tipped you over the edge to say “Yes we will change accounting firms”?
Craig: Diversity! Diversity was the key. We’re always under the belief that we could … well stepping back we went back, we had multiple different agents helping us out through our business type. And what we found, and the three of us, were under the belief that we could tie our legal services, our accountancy services, our brokerage services; under one banner. Which was a single point of contact and at that point in time when we were searching, we came across this personal supplier that said “Hey, look, give this Brad a ring”. And that’s how it actually started, and the whole reason that we really wanted to move on, again like Darren said, we had quite an extensive growth rate, and we were finding it hard to manage.
Craig: Because we specialize in what we do. But we are not accountants, we’re not a legal team, and we’re not real estate agents. So, we needed to acquire the services, but we wanted to do it in one banner. And that’s where the key for Affinitas or pre on one actually started.
Brad: How have you found the communication between us as accountants, and you as business owners, has worked in your favor over the years?
Peter: It has been very good actually. Particularly with the people in your office, and our own admin people. They formed good relationships, and they actually talk to each other more than we even know, which is good, because they give us [inaudible 00:06:57].
Brad: A broader question Peter, what do you see as the future of the plumbing industry, in South East Queensland?
Peter: I think, there’s definitely a future. And for us, we’re only 12 years old. We’re in that twelfth year, so I see a lot of growth yet to come. We’re in a few different industries, but they all sort of relate back to plumbing. But our focus is probably the irrigation pumping. The plumbing just happen to tag along with us. We have a shop, we have a lot of plumbers come in and purchase products, so we’re able to give them that expertise.
Peter: So that’s side of it is growing.
Brad: As long term business owners yourselves, how would you advise other plumbing firms to choose the right kind of accounting firm for their needs?
Darren: You do need a company that will actually look after you, so that they can look after that part of the business. You find that people within our industry of plumbing and irrigation as well, is that we really don’t know much about accounting. We can work at offloading, we can do our sales, we can do our design. But that back end of the business, which is obviously the most important part of the business, we don’t have a lot of knowledge on that. So you need to instigate someone that has it.
Brad: And I think one of the important things that we do, is when we have our annual meetings; we look at explaining the numbers to all three of you, and give you options of how tax planning and cash flows might work. And I think you found that a very valuable service.
Craig: It’s a key thing, that the forward thought has really helped our business … to a point where, even though we hit a couple of stumbling stones, we have the ability to acquire the premises, which has really helped our business behind the scenes as well. So, getting back to it, we need a team who has the ability to take us from not only basic accountancy, start a relationship, but to cover all facets.
Brad: Thank you very much boys! It’s been a pleasure chatting to you officially, as part of our series. And I know the three of you are very busy, so you need to get out and go to work, so thank you very much for being involved. And we look forward to bigger and better things.