WAYNE Burgan has always been good with numbers.
No one was surprised when he chose to study accounting at the University of South Australia and subsequently land a job with the Australian Tax Office (ATO).
What people didn’t see was his skill in identifying a potential markets and supplying innovative solutions.
It began at 14 when he started his first business – providing guitar lessons for struggling classmates at school. He saw the need and had the skill to provide the solution – and make some pocket money in the process.
And again while working with the ATO. He quickly discovered there was a genuine (and even desperate) need for an affordable and simple financial book keeping solution for ‘mum and dad’ business owners.
“One of my roles at the ATO was to audit small businesses,’’ Wayne said. “I could see that small business owners didn’t keep good records and that would often get them in trouble with the ATO and hamper their own business success.
“They weren’t trying to rip off the ATO, in many cases it was the opposite, they were unaware of what they were and weren’t entitled to claim and were missing legitimate deductions.
“It was a classic case of not knowing what they didn’t know.’’
“They were the type of people who kept all their receipts in a shoe box and every year at tax time they would go see their accountant and dump all this stuff on their desk. As a result their accountant couldn’t verify they were meeting tax requirements and couldn’t help them claim legitimate expenses.
In 1987 Wayne decided to leave the ATO and “put out a shingle’’ and begin his own accounting firm in Adelaide, South Australia to try and help these people.
He had identified a need in the market and knew he possessed the skills to provide the solution.
After about three years he had grown a supportive client base – almost all who first visited his office with the same first question: “How do I do my books?’’
“I remember doing a bit of research and realising they needed more than sound accounting advice but there was nothing in the market to help them at the time,’’ Wayne said.
“For big companies, it wasn’t a problem. They could afford to hire an accountant to look after their financials.
“But the self-employed people, tradies, mum and dads running a takeaway shop, couldn’t afford that option.’’
“When I started helping my clients I didn’t assume any knowledge. I started from scratch with them. I drafted instructions for them and created schedules. Then I thought if my clients need this help so must other people.’’
He started talking to other accountants and came up with the idea of creating a simple publication that could be handed to any business owner which would help them keep their books in order.
“This was before the days of mainstream computers and things like advance graphic design just weren’t available,’’ Wayne said.
“I created a booklet (a real paper one) that was about 50 pages long with each section broken down with instructions, examples and how to keep records of receipts.’’
The marketing strategy to sell the booklet to accountants who could then on-sell it to their own clients – with a small mark up available for the selling accountant.
A story ran in a Western Australian business magazine about the new booklet and Wayne received a call from a man who wanted to sell the product in the state. It quickly expanded across the country.
“Very quickly it became difficult to keep up with demand,’’ he said.
“My wife was working in the cellar of my accounting office, ring binding all the booklets and sending them to accountants as fast as she could.’’
In 1994 Lloyds TSB of London bank approached Wayne about supplying the systems to their clients.
“I sold to Lloyds at a wholesale price and they would give the booklet to their new business clients, which was a significant number,’’ he said.
“The booklet was never meant to replace an accountant, it can’t. But it ensures when business people do see their accountant, everything is in order and easy to process.’’
In that same year Wayne made the decision to sell his accounting practice and focus solely on his Cashflow Manager product.
He appointed an overseas manager to deal with international demand while he focused on Australia.
Two years later in 1996 he displayed his now well-honed innovation skills.
With the explosion of personal computers it was time to enter the software market with a digitised form of Cashflow Manager.
“I didn’t have the expertise myself to write code or computer programs but there was a person in my office who was married to someone who understood all that,’’ he said.
“We got to talking and soon we had what I wanted.
“There were other software accounting products on the market at the time but they assumed business owners wanted to be accountants. They were – and still are – complicated programs if you don’t understand accounting.
“I wanted to stay focused on our niche market of small businesses, tradespeople, doctors, people who worked for themselves.
“We stuck to our knitting – we didn’t change our methodology of simple rows and columns it was just the technology that changed. The focus remained “keep it simple.’’
Cashflow Manager has now sold over 120,000 copies of the accounting program in Australia and has offices in the United Kingdom and Canada.
The software is regularly updated to include new requirements such as GST, PAYG and other mandatory governance requirements.
In September 2014 Wayne will launch Cashflow Manager’s new smartphone application which allows for on-the-spot invoicing of clients. Then, shortly after, he will launch their Cloud version of Cashflow Manager.
“The Cloud version is just another option we wanted to offer people,’’ Wayne said.
“The advantages are is that you can allow your accountant, using a password, to directly access your figures. So you don’t have to physically email documents or ledgers, they can access it directly.’’
The company has also created programs to manage payrolls and rental properties for investors.