How Nick Urry a CA and Tax Agent in Australia established a technology-driven bookkeeping, accounting, and tax business

The Finance Story

 

  • Meet Nick Urry, a Chartered Accountant and Tax Agent from Australia who serves as Managing Director at Dexterous Group (Pty) Ltd
  • Dexterous Group was set up in 2015 by founding partners Nick Urry and James Iliffe. Their vision was to challenge the norms of the accounting industry and establish technology-driven bookkeeping, accounting, and tax business.
  • Starting small, they hit the ground running with their innovative approach, combining the cost efficiencies of a Manila-based team with the intimacy of a Sydney-based business. 
  • Fast forward two years, Dexterous scooped the Best New Firm 2017 in the Australian Accounting Awards and has grown from a team of 2 to 35 members with 100 plus clients.

CA was never on my mind!

To be honest, I tried a number of other professions and I could never settle for any of them.

As destiny would have it, at University I was offered admission to an Accounting degree instead of the International Management course I had applied for. This University was around the corner from home and led me to seriously consider the accounting path.

Fast forward 6 months into my studies, I was offered a 3 month paid internship through the CA summer programme, and believe it or not, on the last day, I was offered a full-time job where I could complete my studies part-time! It was too good an offer to refuse and needless to say, I took up the opportunity.

In the next 7 years - I completed my University degree, my CA, and also did a  secondment in the Channel Islands, Jersey. Whew! That was an amazing journey.

On reflection, my grandfather was an Accountant too and I love numbers so it shouldn't have been that hard for me to stumble upon this career path, but that's just the way it goes.

Trying to figure out my career path...

After qualifying as a CA in 2011, I decided to leave the chartered environment and try more commercial roles. So I took up the role of a Financial Accountant. 

Around the same time, I registered for my Tax Agent License so I could manage tax returns for family and friends. I have to mention that. at the same time, I never had the ambition of starting my own business! 

Over the years (2011-2105), I moved through 2-3 different roles in different-sized companies and industries but never really found my home. 

What next?

And finally coming up with a business idea

Fast forward to 2015, I was a bit disenchanted with work and a close friend referred me to James who was searching for an alignment with a Tax Agent in Sydney.

Turns out I had actually met James (my now business partner) a number of times before! At that point, he was looking for someone to help with tax lodgements for his group of bookkeeping clients.

Chatting further, I realised we could do a lot more than just basic tax and bookkeeping. We could help businesses automate and streamline their finance function. 

After a bit back and forth we caught up for coffee and I remember saying to James so are we going to do something to disrupt the fairly static industry in the Accounting space?

Fortunately, it all made sense to him and we came up with the idea of utilising robotics to automate or streamline manual finance processes.

In 2015, Dexterous, was born to help businesses establish a robust finance function utilising automation and an agile resourcing model to ultimately save our clients’ time and money. Voila!

A side project to a business

When we just started out, I continued working full time. 

My full-time job and James’ other businesses allowed us the opportunity to financially grow Dexterous without interest in compensation as we could finance our own lifestyles on the side. This helped us so much as we were under less pressure.

We continued like this for 9 months until I decided that we needed to go full-time if we really wanted to make the best out of Dexterous.

Finally, in March 2016, I soon quit my well-paying job at Westpac (an Australian Bank and financial services provider) and took up a start-up space at the Hub in Darlinghurst eventually moving to WOTSO in Neutral Bay which was closer to home for both of us.

(These startup spaces are great in the early stages as you can manage your costs and access all the traditional office perks!)

Growing the business

In the first year, we allowed ourselves to grow steadily as we aimed to prove the business model but from 2016 it was full steam ahead.

We had staff in Manila, Philippines from the first day of rapid growth and we hired our first employee in Sydney in our second year.

Like most bookkeeping and accounting firms, we provide various services from bookkeeping to collections, from accounts payables and receivables to financial management (like CFO services) but what differentiates us is our tailor-made automation solutions and agile resource tailored for each client.

We are mainly focused on businesses with a turnover of at least $2 million up to $20 million as we feel they benefit the most from our approach. 

It has been an exciting journey to date and we are just getting started. We have a fabulous team onboard, valued clients and we look forward to tailoring solutions to our prospective customers, as well as always ensuring our current customers have what they need.

Today we are a team of 35 helping businesses all around Australia and internationally.

Timeline of our growth journey

2015

  • Working full time and managing the business, slow growth, proving the business model and building capability in Manila, Philippines.

2016

  • We took the leap to work on the business full-time, sent bigger proposals and eagerly awaited responses.
  • This was an exciting time as we had to constantly check our emails.

2017

  • We moved offices and hired our first Sydney-based employee. This is when we got comfortable with our business model and market position.

2018

  • We expanded our service range to include Collections and focused on bedding down our internal control processes and service delivery to build skill sets that cater to our expansion.

2019

  • This year led to the introduction of our first robot, Dexter to the business.
  • Dexter streamlines manual and tedious tasks or processes which then frees up internal staff’s time to focus on more value add activities
  • Yet another exciting time as we found ourselves peeping into the future by embracing the industrial revolution (IR) and artificial intelligence (AI).

2020 and 2021

  • We have 35 staff members across Sydney, Australia and Manila, Philippines.
  • Despite the pandemic, our business is thriving as we have digitised it from day incorporation!

Concluding...

When I think of it now many signs pointed me in the direction of entrepreneurship without me even noticing. In fact, I recall how my parents held a very successful business that they sold shortly before the Global Financial Crisis.

It takes so much courage to start something from the ground and getting it off the ground takes way more than just that.

As an accountant, I would never recommend quitting a full-time without a solid plan albeit many have set up successful ventures this way.

Do your research on your product or service to determine what sets you apart from other providers of the same good and/or service. Do not be afraid to embrace IR and AI. These are great tools.

Do not underestimate the time and bandwidth required to set up and run a business as this becomes a 24/7 role. Having said this, it can be very fruitful.

Try by all means to limit your capital intensity and find the right people to work with as you will be spending most of your time with them. Choose your internal team and any potential investors wisely and think medium to long term.

Now It's Your Turn...

If you would like to chat about the current setup of your finance team, please call me on +61 404 869 355 and I would love to have an obligation-free chat! Dexterousgroup.com.au

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