Real insights on how these franchisees made the COVID-19 year work for them

March 22, 2021

Starting and running your own business can be tough, even at the best of times. We’re proud, though, to introduce you to two franchisees’ who saw through 2020 with a refreshingly positive experience.

Sumi Sivalingam of First Class Accounts in Doncaster, Victoria, and David Jennings of First Class Accounts in Albion, Brisbane, are both in very different stages of their franchisee journey.

While Sumi is nearing 8 years with the company, David chose 2020 as the year to start running his franchise. With such different perspectives, their stories offer real insight into how running a First Class Accounts franchise can make challenges like COVID-19 and more work for you, no matter where you are or how far along the business road you are.

Sumi Sivalingam’s story

Where it all began.
I moved here from Malaysia in 2008 and I left an accountancy position in Price Waterhouse Coopers. I was happy to be a stay-at-home mum and look after my boys but when they started high school, I knew I needed to get back to work.  

Owning my own business would give me the flexibility to manage my family life and maintain that work-life-balance so I naturally gravitated to the industry I was good at. 

Why Sumi chose First Class Accounts.
I chose First Class Accounts because I saw them as a professional franchise. The aspect that drew me to this franchise group was the technical and accounting support that they offered which slowly but surely gave me the confidence to navigate the Australian laws. Coming from a different country, I was not familiar with compliance work and felt I personally needed this support.

Till today, I know that I can call Head Office if I’m unsure of a client’s query and am able to come back to my clients with the right information.

Sumi’s biggest pleasure.
I’ve been working at my business for over eight years and I’ve fallen in love with my work. Being in my early 50s, I see myself continuing in this industry for some time to come. I love walking into my home office daily and doing work which gives me great pleasure.

It is very satisfying to know that my clients have faith and trust in me and are comfortable with me managing their finances and having access to the bank accounts to pay bills. This faith and trust are something that I don’t take lightly and knowing I am an asset to my clients’ businesses is a huge factor in how I run my business.

How Sumi managed clients and her business over 2020.
It was a difficult time in Victoria last year. My husband lost his job and I became the main breadwinner for a while until he secured another job but those were stressful times indeed for me and the family.

I had a better appreciation for the industry I was in though as accountants and bookkeepers were sought after as clients needed to have Jobkeeper and Jobmaker for their business. I was kept busy.

Knowing that some clients were going through rough patches themselves, I adjusted my fees accordingly and understood that I was going to lose some business but it was going to be temporary until everyone was back on their feet.

I was pleased to do it though as it was the right thing to do. My clients did appreciate my gestures and I’ve had clients leave little gifts on the front door as a thank you.

I was able to keep my fulltime contractor too, which was also important to me. I understood that she too needed to have an income and support her family.

Sumi’s advice to those considering buying a First Class Accounts franchise.
Whether we buy a First Class Accounts franchise or any other business, ultimately it’s still our own business and we need to work hard to develop and grow it. Build trust and confidence when delivering the service and the rewards will slowly start to trickle in.

Carry the brand with pride and be true to your clients. Know that success doesn’t happen overnight but it will come with hard work and determination.

David Jennings’ story

How David’s first year in business has gone.
Yes, I did choose to open my own franchise in a pretty tough year for business, but I was able to buy clients from the previous franchisees in my area who were retiring. This offered a buffer to withstand some of the downturn.

One or two of those clients were struggling there for a bit, including a menswear shop, but in the last month or two they are going well and sales are beginning to pick up.

Why David chose to open his own business.
I left a job in banking as an executive for one of the majors and after some time in a corporate advisory firm I wanted do something of my own.

I chose First Class Accounts because bookkeeping is an important and practical service all businesses need. The First Class Accounts’ head office team drop everything to help when I need it, and all the franchisees go out of their way with advice and support.

The hurdles and achievements that David has seen this year.
I am most proud of delivering good customer service. Delivering on time with correct work. Doing what I say I’m going to do.

I am not a BAS Agent yet, but I’m training for that certification. First Class Accounts’ head office team has to check all my BAS before I submit them. That takes a little longer and I do struggle to get compliance paperwork in on time with that requirement. I know though things will get smoother over time.

I enjoy learning a different skill. This year I look forward to really bedding down the work I’m doing for my current clients and getting new clients on board. Increasing the bottom line and building a stronger business.

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