Georgina Dent Reporter

Georgina reports on the legal profession, management, marketing, diversity, retail and emerging businesses. Before joining BRW, she worked as a lawyer in a commercial firm.

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The power to innovate

Published 14 March 2012 12:00, Updated 15 March 2012 05:02

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Clients are not just surprised that Vincents Chartered Accountants offers an in-house internet marketing services business. “They’re even more surprised that a bunch of accountants can sit down and actually talk to them about it,” Vincents director David Rose says. Unconventional as it sounds, Rose says it is a natural extension of the service. “Part of our role is sitting down with clients who are having challenges and looking at how they can re-invent themselves,” he says. “We look at ways to generate new revenue streams and building online solutions is vital in that, particularly for clients in the retail sector.”

Looking outside the square is also why Vincents, the winner of the 2012 BRW/Beaton Client Choice best accounting firm with annual revenue of less than $50 million award, now sends out all of its communication via video. “Most of our communication used to be through email,” Rose says. “We failed to recognise that some people connect better to auditory formats. We did a staff survey and found that 60 per cent of our staff are auditory, so now we use video. It’s been well received.”

Being innovative in big and small ways is critical for all professional services firms. Gilbert + Tobin was a finalist in the most innovative category of the awards and its founder and managing partner, Danny Gilbert, says being innovative is a state of mind, or zeitigeist, inherent in his firm.

“I think from the outset when you establish a new business and take on the big players you attract people who are less risk-averse,” he says. “It’s in the blood of an organisation. Essentially we try not to tell clients things they already know or put the problem back on them. We give them a solution.”

Tim Orton, the founder of management consultancy and the 2012 BRW/Beaton Client Choice most innovative firm winner, Nous Group, agrees that being a smaller player lends itself to innovation.

“Clients come to us because we’re renowned for thinking originally about issues and they demand innovation more from us than the global firms,” he says. “For us being innovative is critical to servicing our clients because we aren’t a global brand.”

Hiring a diverse workforce comprised of several generations with different experiences is a deliberate choice that Orton says keeps people thinking differently.

Darren Watt, the vice-president of the finalist for most innovative firm, Golder Associates, says innovation is more practical than purely intellectual.

“When you ask clients about innovation, it’s not about best of breed,” he says. “Having technical excellence and the best minds is an element but when you unpack it from the client’s perspective it’s about walking them through the risks and rewards on a project and making them comfortable. It’s not just coming up with a solution – it’s about implementing it for them.”

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