Shannon Smit, Director at Smart Business Solutions (SBS) in Mornington, thinks big, talks fast and lets us in on why her practice is hitting the high notes – including her incredible fundraising initiatives.
Shannon started SBS in 2006 after 11 years working for Ernst & Young around the globe. Up for partnership and pregnant with her second child, she had a sliding doors moment and decided to start her own practice.
Business advisory is an area SBS does particularly well, focusing on proactive business planning, cash flow and budgeting, as well as helping clients with the day-to-day running of their businesses.
“I say to my clients… ‘I’ll help you grow and make lots of profit, and I’ve got some tax challenges to solve for you along the way’,” says Shannon. Clients are typically 30-50 years of age who are interested in investing (often in their businesses), with many in property development, trades or the medical profession.
Financial planning is a new addition to the stable. Shannon explains: “We got into financial planning because the rules changed and I had to – but I didn’t realise it was going to be the missing link in my business.”
Initially run under a limited advice model, it soon became clear that clients needed more, so SBS transitioned to full advice. The expansion into planning has taken significant training internally, including for staff not giving advice to enable to identify clients who would benefit from financial planning.
“Count has been amazing at supporting the upskilling of the team, and we are very happy,” Shannon says. “I see the change with CountPlus as a positive, as I don’t believe there is any future in practices which are just accounting or just financial planning.”
Shannon and her practice are regularly recognised with nominations and awards.
“We strive for perfection and we love what we do. I have always run this firm like the team I was running at EY, and that has meant it is a small practice benefitting from Big Four lessons,” Shannon says.
Her management style is all about giving staff inputs and explaining her goal but leaving people to work out the how – to really think about what they are doing.
“I like to help them gain confidence and skills because in the end the better they do, the better the business does. I’m also very lucky to be supported by two Senior Manager Associates with over 10 years’ experience. It is around this time in a career many people would leave and set up their own practice, but SBS allows them to thrive and we have built a strong brand for them to work with.”
The building of the brand has taken many years and has been helped along by business initiatives like the BITE Business Conference.
“I was motivated to start BITE so I didn’t have to keep going to the city for conferences. It is a professionally run, social purpose event which brings a city style conference to the Mornington Peninsula. It is not-for-profit – the aim is that it pays for itself,” Shannon says.
In the first two years BITE was heavily branded with SBS and this helped drive business growth, but last year this was tapered back to SBS being a major sponsor.
Being a good employer is also high on the agenda with programmes like the ‘global employee swap’, when SBS had a younger employee who wanted time overseas and the business negotiated a swap with a UK practice.
“Dave was supposed to come to us for four months and stayed the full 12 of his visa, and Hayden is still in the UK. The reality is if you don’t give these opportunities to your team members you may lose them anyway, and what we have done is build a great long-term relationship with Hayden and the team knows we are willing to invest in them,” says Shannon.
Sharing the positivity from the office, the team at SBS set a goal at the start of 2019 to see how much they could give back to the community which culminated in SBS being a finalist in the Community Partner of the Year category at the Xero awards. Through direct financial contributions, fundraising, sponsoring events being held by community groups, or pro-bono support to organisations, their efforts meant a massive $44,300 was raised by the end of the year. The team was so buoyed by their achievement, it was quickly backed up by them fundraising a further $30,000 to support bushfire recovery.
“What SBS has managed to achieve in the community has only be possible because of the Count Charitable Foundation, which enables practices to increase the fundraising dollars through a small monthly donation to the foundation,” Shannon says.