This week Vivid Minds Vivid Futures interviews Caleb Dobos, the owner of start-up business advisory and accounting firm, Altitude Business Advisory. Caleb partners with small to medium businesses to help them reach new heights and looks after all their accounting, tax, and business advisory needs. He is part of the ‘New School’ of accounting firms that seek to focus on customer service, achieving customer results, and building long-term relationships with their clients.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in Burnie Tasmania, and our family moved to Campbelltown for a short time before we moved to Armidale in 1997. I attended Sandon Public School and O’Connor Catholic College. After I finished school, I did an undergraduate program with WHK, now Findex, while I was studying a Bachelor of Business (Accounting) at UNE. In 2010, I married my wife Hannah, who I met going to St Mark’s UNE Church, and shortly after, we moved to Port Macquarie and then to Newcastle. In Newcastle, we had our first child in 2016, and then we moved back to Armidale at the start of 2017. We had our twins here in 2018, which was an exciting yet challenging year. As a family, we love getting out exploring our region and going on camping trips and enjoy watching the Sydney Swans. Recently we became foster carers and currently do respite care, which can be difficult at times but is very rewarding for our whole family.
What does Altitude Business Advisory do?
We partner with small to medium businesses to help them reach new heights and look after all their accounting, tax, and business advisory needs. We also specialise in business technology systems and applications to streamline a business, with a focus on efficiency. We offer all our business services as a monthly fixed fee package. This gives businesses the certainty of costs and services, and there’s no nasty bill surprise at the end of the year. We include all basic support, emails, phone calls, and Xero support in our packages free of charge.
When did you start your business?
I started in November 2020. Running a business is something I’ve always wanted to do since I first became qualified. I’ve always thought about being a partner or running my own firm. I’ve worked for four other accounting firms in my career, and I didn’t really like a lot of the ways traditional accounting firms operate, often leaving the smaller ‘mum and dad’ type clients under-serviced. I wanted to start a firm that does things very differently, focusing on the client’s goals and delivering value. Fixed fee packages are one major way of doing this, making it clear and transparent what services a business is paying for and what value they’re receiving for it. This also makes it easy to budget for every month. I also wanted to focus on business systems and be at the forefront of accounting technology.
What have been some of your challenges in starting a business?
Where to start? Wearing all the hats is challenging; building a website, doing marketing, business development, admin, and getting time to do some actual client work. I haven’t found it too hard though. Coming from a business advisory background, I had confidence in my systems, but starting from scratch created uncertainty. It helped that I had confidence in my difference and what I am offering the market.
What do you like most about running your own business?
I like breaking the mould of traditional ways of working; 9 to 5 is very inflexible. I love trying to achieve simplicity, quality, and purpose for business and family life. I also try to offer that to my clients, to help them focus on their purpose and goals in life and how their business helps them achieve that, and helping them to keep it simple.
What advice would you give a business just starting out?
Engage professional advisors early; accountants, lawyers, designers, marketers, IT – whatever areas you are not strong in, get those professionals in early so you get set up properly from the beginning. Set up the right operating structure that is going to not just work for now, but into the future as well (i.e. a company, trust, partnership etc.). Do your research and talk to those professionals to make sure you are set up for success. Focus on why you are going into business. What problem or pain point are you trying to solve? And who are you solving it for? Make sure you can deliver. Develop your solution as a solution that can work in the market long term. Figure out why yours is the best, and why people would buy your solution. A mistake some make in business is trying to do too much too early, like having too many products or services. Be deliberate and focused on a few areas; be successful in those services or products and the growth will follow.
What inspires you?
My family and providing a great work-life balance and flexibility for them and having more time with them around the business. What inspires me in business is helping small business owners achieve their goals, like growing their business, adding employees, or helping them make their existing business more profitable or efficient, or as simple as saving businesses money on tax.
What is your secret for success?
I try to make the complex simple, and then make it compelling. The solutions to the pain points businesses have can be complex for them; tax legislation and other things to send you into a spin. I find it most successful when I put the solution in a way the business owner can understand. I then explain how it addresses and removes their pain point, making it a no-brainer and compelling for the business to move forward.
What’s next for Altitude Business Advisory?
We are gearing up to have a big year-end and attract more small business clients over the coming months. Small business owners who want a non-traditional accountant, someone who treats them as an individual and not another number. Someone who is going to think outside the box for them. In the medium term, we would love to add another person into the business to assist with helping small business owners achieve their goals. But for now, we are focused on getting established – and growing.