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10 minutes with … Vision Beyond Business director Vanessa Bamford

Business

After watching her parents navigate their small business through the 1990s recession, Adelaide financial consultant Vanessa Bamford has used the experience to inform how she runs her own business amid the global pandemic. InDaily spoke with Bamford about surviving an economic downturn and reassessing her business’s direction.

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Almost three decades ago, Vision Beyond Business director Vanessa Bamford watched her parents successfully open a delicatessen during a global recession.

The learnings she gained from their success prepared Bamford to adapt to the present global struggles by dedicating her resources to her current purpose-driven clients.

The move followed a restructure last year where she refocused her accounting and bookkeeping firm to better fulfil its aim of creating positive impact.

Bamford founded Vision Beyond Business (VBB) in 2010 to provide an affordable alternative bookkeeping and consulting company to small South Australian businesses.

But since being named as one of InDaily’s 2019 40 Under 40 winners last year, she has reassessed the way she does business and chosen to centre her work around assisting other companies striving to create positive impact.

Do you think your parents’ experience running a business through a recession prepared you for the pandemic? And, if so, how?

One of the things that I have been very clear on, just prior to Covid-19 and during Covid-19, was being very specific on who I’m working with and giving those clients the best possible services. Also, speaking with the clients to find out what we can do better.

When mum and dad bought the shop – they bought a deli right in the middle of the recession – 24-hour servos had started popping up everywhere and delis were just dropping like flies.

They really had to think strategically around: How did they keep the foot traffic going, given there was so much going up around them and they were in the minority of businesses?

So, I think quality of customer service and asking the customers what they want, and being on top of that, is something through all of this that has been at the top of my mind. And cashflow, managing strong cashflow wherever possible.

What kind of advice have businesses been seeking in the past couple of months?  

What we’ve really been focusing on, at the moment particularly, is understanding the vision, mission and values of the organisation and where they are going – particularly right now when everything is so tight.

And getting a really sound understanding, especially at the moment, of their numbers, their cash flow and how to manage all of those things. Making sure they’re making sound financial decisions.

We specialise in working with purpose-driven business owners, not-for-profits and social organisations – those who are doing business with that longer term good in mind.

We find opportunities for them to become more efficient, more effective as well as always looking at their future vision and strategy.

We also look at how we can become more strategic as a finance department, how we can help to support them in their future goals basically, as well as always helping them understand profitability and cashflow.

We don’t offer the one-off accounting attack services. Everything we do is a full end-to-end service, so from bookkeeping payroll, which is our finance, to the strategic consulting, reporting, the financial understanding for different levels of management and your tax and compliance services.

When did you stop taking on clients?

When the restrictions were first announced, my team and I started working from home.

And I’ve been offering extra time to those clients to really help them get through this. So committing to them and helping to get through.

I’ve been leaning on workshops and broader consulting so that I can help people without directly having to provide the end-to-end service that we do.

I started a number of workshop for small businesses. I find that small businesses in particular, are the ones that don’t understand their numbers and kind of bury their heads in the sand a little bit, because it can be scary and overwhelming.

Numbers aren’t everybody’s thing, so we go through the symptoms of a business that doesn’t know its numbers and then we go through the core areas, like what a break-even is, how to calculate it yourself and how to make small changes in your business to be more profitable.

We look at cashflow as well as pricing, that is one of the areas that people really struggle with, particularly small businesses – how to price their products.

And on that we talk about gross profit margins and putting a price on themselves, which is a bit more emotional for people when people have to compare themselves to their competitors.

It’s been roughly a year since you were named as one of InDaily’s 40 Under 40 winners. Has anything changed as a result of the award?

The connections were really valuable, meeting other alumni and I felt really inspired by quite a few of the people who were finalists last year.

It was really motivating to see so many people in South Australia doing things differently. But honestly, the main thing that I got from it, which sounds a bit silly, but I got this sense I’d achieved an entrepreneur status that I never thought I was.

It’s silly because it’s a piece of paper and acknowledgment of an award but I kind of got a sense of relief that I could just stop.

It really changed the trajectory of my business.

In what way?  

My focus. I’d always been very purpose driven and wanted to make a positive impact for the community.

I felt as though after that I had been validated for being an entrepreneur and doing those things and I kind of felt, ‘I really want to do those more.’ And I didn’t feel I was making the impact that I wanted to.

So the direction changed, I had a big restructure of my business and now have a much more balanced lifestyle and am working much more in that space of purpose and positive impact.

It’s also been able to put me in front of different people, it’s been able to help me achieve more of a thought-leadership. Not hugely, but particularly in the mental health space, which is what I’m most passionate about.

Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Nominations are still open for this year’s 40 Under 40 Awards with judging to commence in August before the awards are held in October.

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