New Year's resolutions are habitually put in place in order to improve our lives or reach a particular goal. It's all about aspirations. And who's more aspirational than a business owner? The ones who seize the opportunity to make themselves and their businesses great. If you have that entrepreneurial spirit – you'd know that planning is key in reaching your goals.

But first, let's talk timing

The start of a new year can actually be pretty quiet for some small businesses. Making it the ideal time to pause, think and plan. You probably already believe your business could benefit from cost saving and new systems. Making it reasonable that you carve out some time to give it the once-over. So what should you have in your 2019 toolkit?

#1. An up-to-date business plan

One of the most important tools you can have in your arsenal is a strategic business plan. This is your roadmap for the year ahead. It helps all parties get on the same page. Ensuring that visions are aligned, budgets are available and pitfalls are anticipated. Make sure yours is still relevant by comparing year-on-year actuals and variables. Then cross-reference these with new plans and fresh goals.

#2. Available cash-flow

Now you have a plan in place. Make sure you have the cash-flow to make this happen. Cash-flow is like air for your business. It doesn't matter how cutting-edge your plans are, without working capital to finance it, it's all theory. The good news is that there are ways to facilitate this. One way would be to get your overdraft facility in place. The other way is to apply for finance. A cash advance can be a great way to get access to quick funding. In as little as 48 hours in fact. This should be a priority at the start of your working year.

#3. A clear marketing and communications strategy

No matter how good your product or service is if nobody knows about it you are won't sell very much. It is vital that you come up with a communications strategy that clearly explains your product. And creates a convincing argument to compel customers to use it. It's likely that as the small business owner you spend most of your time on operational issues. But bear in mind that having a marketing strategy in play will ultimately drive sales and help you do your job better.

#4. A consolidated calendar

Now that you have a business plan and communications strategy in place, one of the most important small business tools is a calendar. Think about how quickly the year moves. So as tedious as the process is, it is well worth syncing calendars with all the micro-activity that will make up your long-term wins. Then stick to them.

 #5. Strong small business tools rest on relationships

Quiet periods are a great time to touch base with your customers in a personal way. Don't rely solely on your staff to give you feedback on customer experience. There is no better way to understand what your customer thinks then by asking them yourself. The personal contact will be a welcomed interaction. And you can only benefit from the experience.

#6. A good IT infrastructure

The systems that worked for you last year, may not work for you now. Take the time to do a consolidated audit of all your IT systems. Consider if there is a way to pool resources, upgrade your Wifi or backup your office devices. This is often a place you can save costs, so its definitely worth investigating.

A new year holds the potential for so much. Often this is exciting. But it can also be daunting. The key to your success (and sanity) rests in careful planning and baby steps to help it all happen. With these key small business tools in place, hopefully, 2019 can be one for books!

Professional indemnity insurance for Dentists

Today's dentists operate in a far more litigious environment than they did in past decades. So it's crucial that your professional indemnity insurance affords you adequate and appropriate cover for your full scope of practice, say experts.


Like all health professionals, dentists now operate in an increasingly litigious environment. Nearly one in 10 dental practitioners will face a lawsuit in their professional lifetime, and one in 20 will be slugged with a regulatory complaint or matter in any given year. So it's crucial that dentists' professional indemnity insurance (PII) covers them for the full scope of their practice and that its limits enable them to mount a proper defense, should they wind up in court or face regulatory action.


Why dentists need PII


According to the Dental Board of Australia, PII refers to a policy or arrangements "that secure for the practitioner's professional practice insurance against civil liability incurred by, or loss arising from, a claim … made as a result of a negligent act, error or omission in the conduct of the practitioner".


"Having PII is a legal requirement, part of your registration," explains Dr Hugo Sachs, Australian Dental Association federal president. "It covers you for the actual procedural events that occur in a dental surgery, so anything from restorative work to tooth removals.


"PII also ensures members of the community that if something untoward occurs in their [dental] treatment, the provider of that service is indemnified, and therefore they will be recompensed."


Craig Hockley, head of marketing at Guild Insurance-the ADA's preferred insurer in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and SA-says having comprehensive PII cover isn't just mandatory; it's a necessity.


"Twelve years ago, around one in 30 dentists experienced the stress of a professional indemnity claim; today, it's closer to one in 10," Hockley says. "Not only has the incidence of claims increased, so has the cost. Without professional indemnity insurance, dentists risk losing their business and personal assets."


Clive Levinthal, CEO of Experien Insurance Services, agent for Australia's largest indemnity insurer, Vero, notes that dentists' need for PII cover has increased with changes in the regulatory environment. "Historically, the main concern for dentists was civil claims, and that's still a high risk. But [as] regulatory bodies have become … easier for consumers to access, regulatory cases have spiked: in 2016-17, these increased by around 30 per cent year on year."


Regulatory cases run the gamut, Levinthal says, from complaints about quality of work done, "say, in putting on veneers, to failing to exercise 'reasonable care and judgement' during a filling or extraction that failed, or the dentist having inadequate skills to do work such as implants or orthodontics" to allegations of poor infection-control measures, inappropriate behaviour and threats to patient safety.


"It could come from anyone-a patient, current or former staff member or the regulators themselves, following an audit of compliance practices or allegations made by a third party," he says.


And even competent, careful dentists can be at risk, cautions Dr Sachs. "No-one's immune-there are some scurrilous claims," he says. "And in general, the more complicated the treatment, the higher the risk. Which is why you have professional indemnity insurance: it's there to help both patient and practitioner."


Registration standard


Under Section 129 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, a registered health practitioner can engage in his or her profession only if "adequate and appropriate" PII arrangements are in force.



"No-one's immune-there are some scurrilous claims. And in general, the more complicated the treatment, the higher the risk. Which is why you have professional indemnity insurance: it's there to help both patient and practitioner."-Dr Hugo Sachs, president, Australian Dental Association


All dental practitioners except those with student or non-practising registration must be covered by PII that meets the minimum terms and conditions outlined in the DBA's Indemnity Insurance Registration Standard.


Whether direct or third-party, your PII cover must include civil liability cover, appropriate retroactive cover; and automatic reinstatement, dictates the DBA.


Civil liability cover pays for any legal expenses you incur defending or settling a civil claim, plus any damages. Retroactive cover means PII arrangements covering you against claims arising from procedures undertaken prior to the start of the policy, while automatic reinstatement means the limit of indemnity (amount insured) is reinstated for new, unrelated claims even after claims have been paid to the indemnity's limit.


If you work under third-party PII that doesn't meet this standard, you'll need to take out additional cover. Ditto if you intend to practise outside the scope of your employer's PII-say, through additional study or volunteer work


Moreover, under the DBA's registration standard, 'practice' isn't restricted to direct clinical care; it includes "using professional knowledge in a direct non-clinical relationship with clients… and [in any roles] that impact on safe, effective delivery of services in the profession".


Practice owners should take out practice entity cover in addition to their individual PII, advises Levinthal. "Though it's not mandatory, it's recommended, especially if they employ other dentists. Because if one of those associate dentists makes a mistake, litigation … can be brought on both the individual treating dentist and the practice that employed that dentist."


The same could apply to an assistant's error, he notes. "So if you're the owner and employ staff, ensure you're covered for mistakes they may make."


Full scope of practice


In line with the National Law, the DBA sets out "broad scope-of-practice requirements for the different types of dental practitioners, rather than specific activities", explains the Board spokesperson. "Practitioners are expected to practise safely and within the limits of their competency, training and expertise.


"In all cases, dental practitioners need to assess whether their PII is adequate, given the area/s of practice they work in, their professional experience, the risks involved in their practice and any previous insurance claims made against them," says the spokesperson.


"All dental practitioners must declare if they meet the Board's standard on PII when they apply to renew their registration. The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency audits practitioners at random to ensure they meet … registration standards. Any practitioner who cannot produce evidence demonstrating that they're covered by appropriate PII may have action taken against them."


While most APRA-approved insurers take a 'full scope of practice' approach to PII for dental practitioners, not all policies are equal, asserts Levinthal.



"It's important a practitioner pays close attention to these details as well as any limits of cover the policy may extend."-Craig Hockley, head of marketing,

 Guild Insurance


"We don't nitpick and charge additional premiums for general dentists who, say, do implants or orthodontics-our policy covers for everything they're registered to practise," he explains. "There are different premium bands, however. So a part-time dentist can opt to pay less. And while there's no discount for not practising particular treatments, choosing certain excesses lowers your premium."


Hockley notes that while some insurers "dictate the number of hours a week a practitioner can work or limit the number of hours they can spend on specific treatments, Guild's dental PII policy's written in such a way that if the DBA says you're able to do it, you're covered".


That said, loadings are applied to general dentists intending to undertake implants and/or orthodontics, Hockley says, because audits show "there's a greater risk to those two procedures".


For general dentists, taking out a full-scope-of-practice PII policy is a simple way to ensure you're covered in any eventuality, says Dr Sachs. "If you don't, and you're not paying the add-ons-which, for orthodontics and implants, [can] attract a significant loading-you can't legally practise these procedures. And without 'full scope of practice' cover, dentists who've had repetitive misadventures can find their insurer says, 'We'll no longer insure you for that'."


Read the fine print


When weighing up various PII options-and before you sign-read the fine print, experts caution. "It's important a practitioner pays close attention to these details, as well as any limits of cover the policy may extend," says Hockley.


PII providers offer anything from $100,000 to $500,000 for defending regulatory matters, and typically between $10 million and $20 million for civil claims. "It's certainly worth shopping around," Levinthal stresses.


Hockley, however, contends that with PII, price correlates directly with the service you receive. "Just because another insurer's premiums are cheaper doesn't mean it's like for like," he says.


"Nine out of 10 of our customers who've made a claim go on to recommend us to a colleague. While we're close to it, we don't pretend to be the cheapest: we aim to be the best, and to be there when you need us. Dentists pay, on average, $2500 a year-claims can be millions. There's a distinct possibility that if you're not properly covered, you can lose your livelihood."


Failing to note changes to the fine print could also prove costly.


For example, the 2012 amendment applied to many Australian health practitioners' PII policies, excluding from coverage anyone using 'therapeutic goods' not registered under our TGA-designed to discourage dentists from using cheap unregistered imports that could be harmful to patients-entailed an apparently 'minor' alteration to the fine print. Ignoring this crucial amendment could, potentially, have cost a practice or practitioner millions-enough to render them bankrupt, with their professional reputations damaged irreparably.

Clarke McEwan's Network of Contacts includes brokers, insurance specialists in the medical industry.   
Call us for an obligation free consultation about your needs.

 #clarkemcewan #doctorinsurance #riskassessment

Are you holding back your business?

Overcoming the biggest problems in business often comes down to the simple things. Here are a few simple things you can do to capitalise on your opportunities and reduce your risks.


"I didn't get time…" No more excuses

Most people simply don't set aside the time to do the forward planning they know they need to do. Here's a simple test: write down your goals for the business. Now ask yourself, are you doing something to achieve those goals every day or every week? If not, it's not a goal. It's just a nice thought.


Set a realistic budget 


Financially mapping your business reduces your risk and removes some of the surprises that can occur. Your budget needs to be realistic – not just a percentage increase on last year. 

Start with an operating budget and assess each line critically. Map your revenue to see where, how and when the money is coming in to create a reliable estimate of your income for the coming year.   


Once you have your revenue expectations in place, look at what is required to generate that income. For example, what advertising, marketing and resources will be required? 

Once you are comfortable with your revenue, work up your expenditure budget. Be tough on costs. Don't forget to allow for growth and the increases that are likely to flow through. 

Once your budget is complete and you have a good idea of your likely profit margins, do a couple of alternative estimates for your key revenue drivers so you understand the impact of changes to your assumptions. Once you have all this in place, track and measure it throughout the year. Where possible, your management team should be a part of this process and take responsibility for achieving the budget numbers they give you. When people don't take the steps that they knew were required to achieve the budget the gaps become obvious fairly quickly. Having a budget in place that you need to report on regularly makes you focus on what really needs to be done.  

Map your cash

Even some very large businesses have failed because they ran out of cash.  Understanding your cashflow needs is vital:  particularly for high growth business.

Understanding your cash position is about understanding the timing differences: How long will it take for your customers to pay you? How much stock will you need to hold? And, what are the payment terms required by your suppliers? With your cash flow, don't forget to allow for things like tax payments, loan repayments, dividends and any capital purchases that are planned. These can be 'big ticket' items and if you don't allow for them then you will get caught out.

As part of your cash flow forecast identify your capital expenditure requirements. Don't deal with these on a one-off basis as they arise, plan them in advance.

Expect the unexpected 

Growing to death is often the result of unplanned growth opportunities. It's ironic that seizing a major sales contract or big new client can be your business's ruin but its more common than you think. 

Many business operators are very good at what they do. Most have an excellent knowledge of the business they conduct and understand their products and services. Most also have an in-depth knowledge of sales performance and revenue. Few however, have a high level of financial management expertise, so when a big new opportunity presents, critical financial questions are not part of the vocabulary. As a result, there can be a sudden and unintended impact on their financial position. A rush of sales might be a great thing but it is not always counterbalanced by a rush of income and profit. Free cash and liquidity are the victims.

Take all the tax advantages you can

For small business in particular there are a range of concessions and funding you can access. Many businesses simply don't realise the opportunities available to them.  A simple example is trading stock valuations. Your trading stock is an asset that is recorded on your balance sheet. In most cases it should be tax neutral to you. The cost of purchasing stock is expensed in your profit and loss account and offset by the value of the stock asset, until you sell it. While the amount of stock you are carrying will impact on your cash position, because you have your funds tied up in it, there is no direct impact on your profits or taxable income until you sell that stock. However, if at 30 June some of your stock is worth less than its cost price, you have the option to value it at the lower figure and take the tax write off, rather than wait until the stock is sold. This reduction in your stock value will produce a tax saving for you.

For tax purposes, there are a number of ways of valuing stock. Once you have done your stocktake (assuming you need to do one), you can choose what method to apply depending on the stock and your circumstances. The different ways of valuing stock can produce different results. Most businesses chose to value trading stock at cost – but you have the option of valuing your stock at cost, market selling price or replacement value. 


For example, if you have stock that is about to become obsolete, valuing it at cost price for tax purposes is not going to help you. In this situation you might be better off to value the stock at market selling price, particularly if it is a large quantity. The tax rules also allow you to use a value that is lower than cost, market selling price or replacement value if this is warranted because of obsolescence or other special circumstances as long as the value you elect is reasonable. Take the example of vitamins with a use by date that only has a month or two left on it. Leading up to and once the vitamins reach their use by date they are unsaleable. In this case, you would estimate how much of the stock you are likely to sell prior to the use by date and at what price. Using previous sales as a guide, if you only expect to sell 15% of the stock prior to the use by date, you would use the market value of this 15%. Other than when you sell your stock, your tax return gives you a once a year opportunity to adjust your stock values and realise any losses.

Another way businesses disadvantage themselves is not taking the Government concessions available to them. The R&D tax incentive and Export Market Development Grant are a classic case. In the case of R&D incentives, if you develop new technologies or products, you might be eligible for a 43.5% tax offset (if your business has a turnover under $20 million). The Export Market Development Grant reimburses up to 50% of eligible export promotion expenses above $5,000 provided that the total expenses are at least $15,000.

As dentists compete strongly and with continuing uncertainty in the sector, it is more important than ever to hang on to your existing patients.


Here are 7 powerful tips to make your patient recall communications more effective.


1. Your message needs more…

'Our records show you are due for your next appointment, please call us' is uninspiring and not likely to compel your patients to call you.

If you want to improve your patient recall rate, you need to show your patients you've missed them, tell them what they will miss if they don't attend, and guide them effectively to call you.  Read on for more details…


2. Make it personalised

OK, so it's unlikely you have time to write an individual message to each patient, but you can make it appear more personalised when you incorporate some simple techniques:


•           Address them by name – don't use a generic 'Dear patient'. A simple, yet important, point which you can incorporate easily via 'mail merge' techniques.

•            Address them and only them – talking about 'our patients' as a whole is a little impersonal and can even seem 'distant'. So address the reader directly.

•            Write the letter from the individual dentist/hygienist – this gives the patient the impression they have been missed specifically, rather than receiving a general communication from you


3. Place the focus on them

This one should be applied to all your patient communications…


To clearly and effective put the emphasis on your patient and their needs, make sure you use more 'you' and 'yours' rather than 'we' and 'our'.


Start each sentence with 'you' or 'your' whenever you can. Simply switching 'our records show' to 'you are now due' is a good start.


4. Highlight the features and benefits

The MOST IMPORTANT tip for you to take on board…

Show them WHY they should attend.

Many patients are surprised about quite how many checks a dentist or hygienist makes. So tell them what you do during the appointment. Make it jargon-free and be concise.

Then follow these appointment 'features' with the BENEFITs to them.


For instance:

"Your dental examination is the most effective way for you to find out about any issues you may have with your teeth and gums. It pays know about any issues early, as they can be dealt with more easily and at a lower cost.


During this visit you will receive:

•           An evaluation of your teeth and any existing restorative dental work

•           An evaluation of your gums and supporting structure of the teeth (your cheeks, tongue, floor of your mouth and jaw)

•           Full screening for a range of mouth diseases

As you can see, it is a thorough review and we therefore recommend you call us at your earliest convenience"


5. Inform overdue patients

The last point is paramount in all your recall communications, but for overdue patients you can go further…

Tell them a little about what may be happening in their mouths over the last year/ 18 months / 2 years since you have seen them. Do it clearly and concisely, without being overly dramatic.  Then follow this info with…


6. Reassure overdue patients

If you are looking to recall patients who are overdue (and you should be on a periodic basis to keep your patient database as up-to-date as possible), make sure you tell them you don't see the time passed as a barrier.

A patient may know they should return to see a dentist, but may hold back from coming back to you for fear of embarrassment. Tell them they needn't worry. Reassure them you'll be happy to see them regardless of the time they have been absent.

Patient recalls is a numbers game and this just may break down any psychological 'barrier' some may have built up about coming back to you as time has passed.


You can refer to your online booking system if you have one, so they don't even have to call in to book.


7. End with a strong, compelling 'call to action'

What you want your message to do is motivate the patient to contact you, isn't it? So make sure you encourage them to do it!

In marketing terms, this is called a 'call to action'. Something which clearly tells the patient what you want them to do.


Here's a useful mnemonic I refer to when writing a call to action. Make the action you want them to take a 'SURE' thing…


S– Make it specific – tell your reader exactly what you want them to do. For example, instead of saying "contact our practice" say "call us now on [your tel no.] and speak to our friendly reception team"

U– Give it urgency – add a sense of urgency to your call to action. Using terms like call today

R– Reinforce the reasons why the reader simply must contact you. State the benefits again in abbreviated form. For example: "Call us today on 0x7 5475 4300 and make sure you continue to care for your oral health."

E– Entice them – Offer something extra to entice the reader to take action. This is optional and the above three points are more applicable here.


Include your phone number in the call to action too, to make it as easy as possible for people to call and increase the amount who take action straightaway on reading your message.

As first appeared in ASPD 17th February 2014

Burnout: Gain Financial Independence & Retire Early

Prioritize and eliminate debt.

The most important aspect to achieving financial independence is to gain control of spending. While it may seem like an intuitive concept, lifestyle creep is a prevalent behaviour among physicians as they receive pay bumps after residency and again after entering private practice. As a consequence, student loans and other debt may be ignored in favour of a nicer car, a larger house and exotic vacations. By putting extra money towards savings or paying off debt rather than big ticket items that increase your fixed expenses, you'll be closer to achieving financial independence and reach retirement sooner.

Maximize your savings.

Contributing the maximum to your contribution cap into superannuation will maximize your post-retirement savings.  In addition, where structured into your agreement an employer can top this off in the form of matching and profit sharing for a maximum combined contribution.   

By funding a superannuation fund account that won't be touched until retirement you are saving in a way that includes a wise tax-planning strategy for your future .

Invest in yourself.

Physicians in private practice are often presented with the opportunity to buy an interest in the practice, the real estate of the practice, and the surgical centre utilized by the group.  If the ownership is structured appropriately and the investment is financially sound, who better to invest in than yourself and your colleagues? The consolidation that has occurred in medicine, as well as third-party interest, can make ownership in one's practice a particularly fruitful investment and further diversify your overall investment portfolio.


Personal insurance is a smart way to protect your quality of life and provide support for loved ones if you get sick or injured.  We suggest you consult a financial planner about the type and structure of your insurance so that the dollars you pay for premiums work harder for you.   Contact us for further information.

Maintaining a sound financial plan will eliminate burnout, allow you to focus on caring for your patients and increase the time you will have in the future to dedicate towards your other passions.

The Half Way Mark


We find ourselves nearly mid-way through the calendar and it is only a month until another financial year will draw to a close. 

At Clarke McEwan we are about to embark on our annual round of tax planning, which is also a good time for our clients to do a reality check on how well their businesses are dealing with changed perceptions in the marketplace.

Customers today expect a great experience at all touch points, including awareness on social media, the transaction itself, and afterward. Successful businesses understand that it's more time consuming and costly to attract new clients, than it is to maintain existing ones. Unfortunately, some businesses are simply too large to remember all of their clients by name, and it can be difficult to maintain contact with their client base. However there are many digital platforms to make your own, for the purpose of maintaining awareness with your clients, and the options grow frequently.

While making plans for expenditure in the next financial year, it may be the time to budget for implementation of some of the new methods of providing client service by using some of the technology platforms that have emerged in 2018.

With a plethora of both good and poor quality products out there, it is important to set aside some time to do your research as you would when adopting any new system or technology for your business.  Here are a few ideas of where to begin:

1. Speech self service

We have seen a lot of ads about the latest Google device that responds to your voice commands. Google Home is really making inroads into our domestic situations. It still feels odd to ask the device out loud to turn on the lights and music, but children are already using it for their homework assignments. Clearly they are not shy and in time, neither will we be, as the technology continues to get smarter.

2. Digital Privacy and Safety

Just because many of us share some of our life on social media  doesn't mean we should not be concerned about safety measures online. In fact, quite the opposite is true. The digital rights and governance group at the University of Sydney conducted a survey of 1,600 people and found that even tech-savy people in their 20s and 30s were concerned. Online platforms (like FortKnoxster, a cyber-security company, specialized in developing secure and encrypted communication solutions) are taking advantage of blockchain technology, decentralized storage, and advanced encryption, and creating potential solutions to help protect user safety as it becomes more important.

3. Futuristic Technologies

Some of the very abilities we have only seen up until now on television or in the movies are finally making their appearance. Passwords will become a thing of the past as we start to see voice print as identification and with biometrics embedded into hand held devices, like iris scanning and face recognition. One such company, Prellis Biologics can now print organs on demand with a 3D printer. What was once the realm of sci-fi is now very real.

4. Blockchain

A major mainstream credit card company is already using blockchain, a more secure and transparent method to pay, as it is said to be a more efficient method of paying. It also removes the need to swipe a credit card. MasterCard's blockchain operates independently of a cryptocurrency, and instead accepts payments in local currency.

5. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence is becoming more mainstream and businesses are starting to utilise it. A basic chat bot utilising an AI platform can be built in just a week and a half. The great thing is that no longer are large enterprises leading the way – anyone can be involved. Companies are now making their AI tools accessible and easy to use, so we will see more experimentation and innovation from smaller businesses. 

Paradoxically, new technologies can be both a major source of expenses for your business, as well as a method of eradicating your biggest costs.  Focus on the areas where you will see the biggest bang for your technology buck if a new technology succeeds -- but be ready to abandon the cutting edge if it cannot deliver on these promises.

If in doubt about the deductibility or tax treatment of acquiring new software or software enhancements before the end of the financial year, contact us.


From a young age we are encouraged to think about plotting a pathway in life that gets us from Point A to Point B in an efficient and expedient manner. If only!

The truth is for most of us, the pathway to where we want to get to is an elaborate and sometimes absurd game of snakes and ladders. Even more so when you throw your hat into the ring as an entrepreneur.

However, once you embrace this idea, you can start to shed your unrealistic and limiting expectations and go with what really works for you. It may not be the path you originally thought you'd take, but it could be the one that takes you to greatness, just as it did for these successful female entrepreneurs.

Sara Blakely

These are some of the things Sara Blakely tried but failed at before becoming the founder of a billion-dollar company: lawyer, stand-up comedian, and Goofy at Disney World. She did, however, sell fax machines for seven years with some success. "It was great life training," Blakely previously told Business Insider.

Blakely's story is the classic case of the accidental entrepreneur. She invented a fashion product but was not a fashion designer and had never been involved in the clothing trade in any way at all. Instead, she applied the old rule of necessity being the mother of invention when she experimented with cutting the foot section off her pantyhose in order to get the benefit of wearing pantyhose without what she saw as the unsightly bit that spoiled wearing open toe shoes.

It was a mundane and almost comical start to what would eventually become Spanx, which is now a women's hosiery and activewear company worth more than $US1 billion. When she shopped her invention around to hosiery mills in the beginning she was roundly shown the door. But her persistence and hustle meant she finally found a partnering manufacturer and distribution through Neiman Marcus.

Today, Blakely is personally worth $US1.1 billion and has business interests in a range of companies.

Sophia Amoruso

By her own admission, Sophia Amoruso was a little lost for direction at one stage in her life. A dumpster diving punk with zero in the way of conventional career ambitions, Amoruso recounts her strange journey from high school dropout to fashion mogul in her book #Girlboss: "Anyone looking for a sure bet, in business or in life, would never have put their money on me. But that didn't dissuade me from betting on myself. In the end I beat the odds".

Starting out as a strictly eBay venture, Amoruso built up Nasty Gal from a scungy lounge room operation into an e-commerce company valued at $300 million at its height. She did this all in the space of about seven frantic years, riding on the thrift store coat-tails of the e-commerce revolution and the retro tastes of her mainly Millennial customers.

More recently, Nasty Gal has hit rockier times, as Amoruso stepped down as chief executive in 2015 and the company filed for bankruptcy late last year. But having defied the odds once already, it would be a brave person who would bet against Amoruso flying high yet again.

Karlie Kloss

Being a supermodel comes with a certain set of expectations and becoming an advocate for coding is probably not one of them. However, a successful and lucrative modelling career has not stopped Karlie Kloss from pursuing her interest in software and web development, and passing on that passion to young women.

Kloss started modelling at the age of 14 and has modelled for some of the biggest names in the fashion game, including her time as a Victoria's Secret Angel from 2011 to 2014. But in recent years it has been her somewhat left-field turn into the world of computer education that has garnered her applause from more than just the fashion crowd.

Kloss says she was always interested in maths and science as a kid, but her modelling career took over and she was unable to really pursue those interest, until 2014 when she enrolled herself in a Ruby on Rails programming course.

Inspired by her first foray into the world of programming, she teamed up with computer education provider Flatiron School to develop her Kode with Klossy program and scholarship. The non-profit now runs coding summer camps, awards career scholarships to young women developers and helps to foster the role of girls and women in tech.

The 3 big challenges facing Australian small to medium businesses

In today's climate, small and medium business owners face a volley of challenges. In this video, Peter Switzer of Switzer TV speaks with Damien Bueno, Vice President of SAP about what they can do to overcome these challenges.

"Smaller business is able to be responsive and agile... and we increasingly see that the younger people, smart millennials are far more attracted to those nimble and agile smaller businesses." Damien Bueno

                                 Click here to access video


Why Start From Scratch?


Purchasing an established healthcare practice could help secure a medical practitioner's financial future. It's not uncommon for business-minded practitioners to look at setting up their own practice once they feel they have secured a firm list of clientele. However, few consider the option of buying into an established practice – given the right circumstances, this option can yield the best outcome for the practitioner.

In much the same way that purchasing an established business can help entrepreneurs bypass challenges encountered in the start-up phase, purchasing an established healthcare is advantageous to practitioners. Access to an existing customer-base provides a predictable cash flow from Day One, and everything you need to run the practice will already be in-place including staff who know the business and how to do their job, as well as equipment and premises, which have all been secured for you.

Buying an established practice also eliminates a lot of time and capital that would traditionally be spent on building your business from the ground up and working on an effective business plan, which some practitioners might not want to or can't do. It also eliminates any unforeseen out-of-pocket expenses you might not have calculated for when setting up your own practice.

Below are some tips to keep in mind and consider when looking to purchase an established practice.

Finding the right practice

It's important to make sure you fully understand what kind of practice you are buying into, before making the big purchase. One way to see if a practice is suitable for you is to try working near the area, or even at the same practice if possible, and potentially even have an arrangement in place where you have the option of buying the practice after 12 months.

Have clear intentions before you begin

Make your intentions clear from the start. It's important to have an agreement in place when you join a practice, otherwise you could end up wasting a lot of time going back and forth on costs and transfers. Make sure you have a specific exit strategy in place for the existing owner as well, to avoid any crossovers that can cause problems.

Purchasing cost

Costs for a medical practice vary widely and can change depending on a number of factors. One of those factors is location. Some practitioners may prefer to work in an urban environment, however due to the convenience of the location, the price of a practice might be much higher than one based in the country. Country practices may cost less to purchase, however it's important to keep in mind that they may also offer a smaller clientele.

Ongoing staff

Starting out with experienced staff is a bonus when purchasing an established practice. To ensure a smooth transition into the business, you should keep in mind how existing staff are used to working and what systems are in place. You might have to factor in potential costs for training.

Existing equipment

Purchasing an existing practice often means you won't need to worry about buying new equipment. However, you will need to consider if the practice wholly owns the equipment, or if they are paying it off or leasing it. This is another factor you need to consider before making your decision to avoid unnecessary costs.

Use a specialist adviser or lender

Having a specialist adviser or lender can make the buying process much more simplified for you. A specialist adviser will show you the ins and outs of the business, keeping the process simple and right from the start. They will also remind you to do your due diligence, to ensure you know exactly what you're buying, including the liabilities. "Clarke McEwan's medical specialist division has been established on the Sunshine Coast for over 20 years.  Sunshine Coast and Brisbane clients all benefit from referrals to a huge range of contacts in the areas of lending, advising, banking, and insurance."

Adequate income protection, accident and life insurance is recommended. As a practitioner, you are the business asset, so if you can't work, you have no income. Make sure you take care of your biggest asset!

"Need assistance in your start up?  Clarke McEwan is also very experienced helping doctors establish themselves in private practice, and transitioning from the public system to private practice ."

Our Services for Medical Practitioners  How to Request an Appointment 


Choosing An Accountant

 Looking to Change Accountants ?  It's not just a numbers game.  

Accountants have the power to change the lives of business owners, but most of them aim for average. We're here to change all that.

How many business owners do you know that actually say "I really like working with my accountant!"?  They are out there – but more often than not, their accountant has done a shocking job at serving their customers' actual needs.

It's not a light decision to make the leap to another accountant, but if you've been meaning to change accountants for a while, make it your priority now!

We've put together some important questions that you should ask yourself when evaluating your current accountant, or choosing a new one.

Who does the accountant normally work with? 

This is important to know: Are you a good fit to the accounting firm?  Are they a good fit for you?

It's a two way street, and unfortunately most accounting firms will usually say "Yes"  to anyone – whether they can provide them with value for their money or not.

Be sure you ask for leads within your industry, and even look at their marketing material.  Don't try to be a square peg in a round hole!

What services does the accountant offer?

You need to make sure their experience and skill set matches the service that you're after.

Are you looking for business advice at an accounting firm that just pumps out tax returns? Do you need bookkeeping assistance?

In most cases, if the accounting firm cannot do what you're after, they will most likely work with someone who can.  It's also best that if you need a second adviser, for an international tax matter for instance, that you keep your accountant in the loop, or let them manage the business relationship.

What does the accountant specialise in?

What is the one thing that the accountant would provide you over all other things?

Where is there best value to you as the customer? Look for statements like "we work with you, providing insight into your business and its numbers" rather than "we're really, really good at tax returns". 

After all, any firm can churn out a tax return. Business acumen and advice is another matter. 

How will the accountant charge me?

How do the dollars work?  Do they charge in a way that rewards inefficiency, or do they charge for the value that they provide and the access to knowledge? It's not always what they can do,  but rather what they know.

It's a different conversation and focus for both you and the accountant.  The attention shifts from 'be quick to reduce the fee' to 'let's focus on where the value is'.

Some questions to pose might be:

  • What does the project or subscription include?
  • Do they price each job before they start, so you can both agree to the scope and terms?
  • Do they allow you to pay by the month to spread out the burden on cash flow?

Be sure to get a good understanding of the charges and how they work – it avoids unwanted surprises and you have clarity before moving forward.

What is the response time to my questions?

How quickly will you expect to hear back from your accountant, and who will answer that query?  We regularly hear from new clients that a former accountant takes weeks to get back to them, or doesn't respond at all!

Response time is key number that we focus on – and we measure it in hours, live on our website or by return phone call the same day.

Make sure you ask for a clear understanding of how and how quickly your accountant will return your call or email.

How long does it take to get your work done?

"Turn-around time" is a common complaint heard when businesses are talking about their existing accountants.

If, after an honest look at how you provided information and followed up their queries, your accountant still takes months to finish your work without a valid reason, maybe it's time that you moved on.

What would your standards be if you ran a business that took that long?

This is one of the key numbers that we measure as the Clarke McEwan team – one that we see is important in the eyes of our clients. 

What technology does the accountant use?

It's important to know how you'll be interacting with your accountant on a regular basis.  It's all very well to throw ideas around on a whiteboard in the boardroom, but what about for the "in-between" times?

Do they use the internet, a website and technology to communicate with you or enhance web meetings to describe concepts and run scenarios? 

Be sure that the technology they use makes sense to you.

How often does the accountant talk to you each year?

At Clarke McEwan, what we really love about working with our clients is that we get to learn about their business and their lives.  Accountants can't do that if they only speak to you once or twice a year. 

This is how an accountant will be able to provide you with real insights into your business. It's important that you understand how often you'll be in touch with your accountant, and that you're comfortable with this.

Is the accountant a member of an association?

It's best to choose an accountant that is part of an association.  The three main associations in Australia are:

  • CPA Australia
  • Institute of Public Accountants Australia
  • The Institute of Chartered Accountants

All three have different levels of requirements to join, different membership levels – but all have a set of standards that members must adhere to.  If you've got a problem with an accountant, you can usually take it to their association.

Can you have a coffee or a beer with them?

It's important that you can hold a conversation with your accountant, outside of your business.  Ask whether they will meet you for a coffee to get acquainted.

By the way, John likes his coffee with a dash of milk.