40 years of Perks and counting!

Posted on 23/11/2021

General News

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In 1981 the first edition of the IBM Personal Computer was released, and Kim Carnes’ Bette Davis Eyes was topping the Billboard 100 charts. It was also the year that South Australian brothers Greg and Harry Perks made the decision to start their own accounting business.
Perks turns 40

With two accountants, one secretary, a couple of clients, and a vision for helping private businesses to discover success, Perks was born. It was these humble beginnings – and many subsequent hours of hard work to make the vision become a reality – that set the foundation for Perks, both as it was then and as we know it today.

Now, as we celebrate 40 years of being in business, the milestone presents an opportune moment to reflect on how it all began.

Humble beginnings and a clear vision

“Back then, what you had to do was get in front of as many people as you could and build a relationship. And, importantly, you had to be really passionate about what you were doing.”

“In retrospect, we did that very well. It was a really fun time and we started to have lots of people wanting to join us both as clients and as team members, because they were attaching themselves to the vision of what we wanted to achieve – growth, prosperity and great relationships along the way.”

That clear vision and strong sense of fun saw the business grow to seven staff in five years.

Then, in 1988-91, a recession hit as the economy slowed. This was arguably a defining moment for Perks as the firm’s strengths came to the fore.

“When things like that happen, you really find out how good your adviser is,” Greg said.

“What we found back then is that we were really good at developing strategies and coming up with solutions. And the word about how we could help soon got out.”

Two years after the recession, the property market followed the downward business trend, and many properties were sold in distressed circumstances. Again, during what could have been a challenging time, Perks and its clients thrived.

Perks started to syndicate with investors, and we were able to develop good assets in a bad time,” Greg said.

“We had the fortitude to take a risk and bring our clients along for the journey and that became something we did over and over again. You have to recognise when the opportunity is there in order to take it; to be able to anticipate when opportunities will arise and how they can be maximised.

“We had great relationships with good bankers who understood what we were doing, and we were able to get our clients the collateral they needed.”

Growth through design

In 1991, Perks had grown to 15 staff and Mark Roderick, now Managing Director, joined the business.

“I was really enticed by the idea of working in a smaller firm,” Mark said.

“When I first met with Greg and Harry, they told me that accounting isn’t really about numbers, it’s about creating relationships. It was made very clear that Perks was 99% a people business and that same thinking has very much carried us through until today – it’s a fundamental part of who we are as a business.”

For Mark, joining the firm in the early 1990s was not without its challenges. The State Bank of South Australia collapsed in 1991 and the Australian economy was suffering its worst recession since the Great Depression.

But yet again, the trusted formula of providing sound, strategic advice to clients with whom deep relationships had been built proved successful, and in turn helped their clients to discover success in difficult times.

“Our practice is busy, but it tends to get busier when the economic environment starts to go badly around us because our skillset is in high demand,” Mark said.

“In most part, it’s because we offer our clients much more than just the financial advice we provide. It’s because we have taken the time to intimately know their business, their families, their appetite for risk, and what they are working to achieve.”

In the years that followed, Perks played a pioneering role in developing a “one stop shop” of services for businesses and their owners. Perks Private Wealth, the firm’s wealth management arm, as well as an in-house finance brokerage, life insurance, cloud and digital services, bookkeeping, human resources and recruitment offerings were all started through a response to their clients’ needs – a testament to their vision of helping others to prosper, while also resulting in rapid and sustained growth for the firm over the past four decades.

“We could see our clients wanted all these services and they wanted them from someone that had a good understanding of their business and most importantly, someone they could trust,” Mark said.

A local firm with a national footprint

It has been this evolution and addition of new services to meet the needs of their clients that has seen Perks achieve national recognition as a leading multidisciplinary financial services firm. In 2018, Perks was named SA Multi-Service Firm of the Year and National Finalist at the SMSF & Accounting Awards, and in 2019 the firm was Xero Accounting Partner of the Year.

According to Trent Innes ” […] Perks embodies the modern accounting practice, providing trusted advisory services that support the growth and prosperity of local businesses. This is well-deserved recognition of a firm that has also been one of South Australia’s leading cloud adopters, helping small businesses to enhance their use of technology.”

Despite national acclaim, Perks has remained firmed grounded and continues to be proudly recognised as one of the top five independently badged and owned accounting firms in Australia, according to the listings provided by the Australian Financial Review’s list of the Top 100 Accounting Firms in Australia for the past two years.

Perks Private Wealth continues to maintain its own Australian Financial Services License, a testament to their client first approach in the face of mounting regulatory pressure that has seen many large and small operators exit the industry. Additionally, just last year, Head of Perks Private Wealth, Director Simon Hele, was named as one of the country’s Top 100 Financial Advisers by Barron’s Magazine.

Staying true to our vision

Importantly, Mark said the growth of the business has not come at the expense of the core principals upon which Perks was founded back in 1981.

“Even though we now have close to 200 team members and a national reach, we still maintain that small, boutique firm spirit in everything we do,” he said.

“Along the way, we’ve certainly had the opportunity to go in different directions or join forces with bigger firms, but we’ve always been committed to being masters of our own destiny with our Directors in control of the firm’s strategic direction.”

“We pride ourselves on being there for our clients through thick and thin; whether this means assisting in realising a lifetime’s work through the sale or even floating of their business, or alternatively, being ‘shoulder to shoulder’ in challenging times.”

“It’s a privilege to work with business owners who share their ambitions with us. It’s certainly a responsibility the firm has treated with respect for the past 40 years and will continue to be the case for many years to come.”

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