Interview with Gavin Bacon, Owner of PATC

Gavin you started from very humble beginnings in the 80’s and today you are a thriving professional accounting company with over 1000 clients and a team of 11, what’s on the cards for the future growth of PATC?

Gavin Bacon, Owner of PATC

Gavin Bacon, Owner of PATC

Gavin: Well I Matriculated in ’87 and immediately started studying. I passed all my subjects including Accounting finishing at the top of my class in 1991, despite the fact that I never took accounting at School. I have a flair for figures and found accounting “easy”. While working for SARS I ‘kept my eye open” for potential clients. Then when I finished at SARS in 1993 I already had a handful of clients. I did their wok in my spare time and after work. I was the head Accountant for Holiday and Travel Club and but continued to gain clients from word of mouth. I was then appointed the Financial Manager of Wakefield’s’ Estate Agents while continuing to grow my business. In November 1994, I started my business full time. I had about 15 clients. I now have over 1700 clients and we are growing by an average of 20% per year. With 15 staff members. Year ended February 2013 is proving to be our best year ever. I am keen to continue to grow my business! I am currently marketing the Gateway / Durban North Area as well as Durban itself. We belong to Kloof Elite, Gateway and the incredible Business Network International (BNI), where we continue to gain many clients. My objective is to grow by continuing to provide excellent services at competitive rates and excellent service with fast turnaround times. I excel in finding solutions to ALL tax problems and take my clients problems in hand personally, loving the challenge and ultimately winning my tax cases with the enemy: SARS.

So Gavin was 2012 a “taxing” year for you?

Gavin: Yes it was, but a success!! My team and I managed to solve all our clients’ needs and managed to save millions in tax. So whereas I found the year to be “taxing” it was an extremely successful year and very rewarding. In solving Tax and other problems – it was not taxing after all.

What else would you be if you weren’t a professional accountant?

Gavin: Oh my word! I always wanted to be an Attorney. But having dealt with the Courts in SA – I am glad I never entered that field – I feel sorry for Attorneys. I am much better at what I do….LOL

Let’s talk Charity – PATC participated in the 2010 Toy Run charity drive, are you involved in any other charity drives? What are your thoughts on the recent “KZN Rhino Watch” campaign and is it something PATC will be involved in.

Gavin: We moved slightly away from charity events, rather focusing on growth but in so doing increased our staff compliment by 50% and in so doing helping the poor unemployment stats in SA. We are however involved indirectly with the sunflower fund – which helps children with Leukaemia – to match the 1 in 100 000 donor match via our BNI. By directly donating to them and partaking in their golf days. The Rhino fund: Well that’s a difficult one. It’s a shame to see and hear what is happening to our Rhino population. Yes I’d like to be involved with that….

You offer a free first consultation, can you tell us a little bit more about this…… (T’s & C’s apply)?

Gavin: Yes – we always offer our first meeting free of charge. It’s a scenario of we meet our Potential New Clients and they meet us. We find out what services are needed and “fit ourselves in” wherever the client needs us. So either just Vat for or a tax return for example, or we do everything – from bookkeeping, to Annual Financial Statements and Tax Returns to Tax Advice – “No job too big or too small”. We will even “teach” clients what to do so as to save them our time which saves them money. We also assess the work load and then report back with a fee. Only then if the client is happy do we proceed. If they turn down our fee then they only pay for the time it took to assess the workload (not the first meeting – that’s always free. If the fee is accepted, then there is no charge for the assessment. Until the end of Feb 2013 (might be extended), we also offering a free assessment of their Annual Financial Statements / Tax Returns so as to make recommendations as well as advice. Only if the client “Oks” the proposal, then there will be a fee attached. We do not proceed unless the client is fully aware of what is going to be undertaken and the happy with the fee / proposal.

Every industry has a stereotype with some people perceiving accountants as pencil pushing bean counters, are you a fun kind of guy who can see the humour in this? What is your office vibe like?

Gavin: 100% of clients who comment: Say they would never had guessed that I am an accountant. I wear jeans and a smart shirt to work – that’s it. Fridays are casual Fridays. My personal motto is: If the clients are happy, you’ve met the respective deadlines and you make budget. I don’t care if you work in Pyjamas” and my staff know this well. The office vibe is very relaxed – yet professional. I have a very low staff turn around. Staff respect the fact that they have to work and I respect that they have outside lives and all the pressure that go with it. I look after my staff and they look after me. If my staff ask me if they can have a day off – I return the question: I don’t know – “can you take the day off?” i.e. – is your work up to date? Is your client happy and are you on target to make budget? If the answers are all yes – then yes – ‘you can have the day off’.

Do you think it is important to keep re-inventing your company to keep up with the changing times or are you still using the same winning formula since you started the company?

Gavin:  It is compulsory to keep up to date. We have to do a minimum of 20 structured hours a year – whereby we attend Tax and Accounting Seminars and 20 hours unstructured – reading our Tax and Accounting Journals monthly: South African Institute of Professional Accountants and South African Institute of Tax Practitioners etc. However, my winning formula has not changed. To be honest with clients, communicating with them and after giving them good advice: letting them make the decisions. Meeting promised deadlines, finding solutions to their problems and assisting them to get up to date and maintaining their books and tax.

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you lately?

Gavin:  Whereas I am TERRIBLE with directions: I am very good at figures. I was on my way to see a client and I got horribly lost. Phoned the client to let them know I was running late and arrived 30 minutes late. The client had since taken in another appointment, so I had to wait. I got talking to his bookkeeper, and to kill times she informed me of other tax problems that they were experiencing – not the reason I was there for, and I ended up resolving that problem too…. Talk about a silver lining. I saved them over R75 000, while waiting to see the client….

Anything else you would like to say to add……..

Gavin: I often say: If I won the lotto (a big one…LOL), I wouldn’t be sitting behind my computer, I’d be relaxing on a beach somewhere. However, I am not rich and have to work for a living: Therefore, why not make the best of it? Earn a living and by keeping a client happy? There is a huge satisfaction when a client has to sell his house to pay SARS, yet after seeing me and me doing my job, I save the clients house (this is a true story…). I treat these as “cases”…. I have never lost a case