Growth, Risk and Changing Goals

STS Electrical & Thrive CA

Many small business owners start out without much business knowledge, and learn as they go. The owners of Auckland-based STS Electrical, Scott and Cheryl Lovell-Gadd, are a good example. Scott started the business in 2009, at the age of 20. Later, Cheryl joined the business as co-owner and administrator.

Because they started so young, Scott and Cheryl didn’t have a lot of business experience. Scott was a qualified electrician, but didn’t really know how to manage the business side or make the business grow. That’s where Karen and the Thrive team came in. They have been working with STS Electrical since their second year of business, and have provided accounting services, business advice, and much needed support through that time.

As Cheryl Lovell-Gadd explains, Karen has supported STS through growth, increasing profitability, and changing goals.

“Every year we’re changing what we’re doing, what our goals are. Karen has been supportive every step of the way, she’s been adaptable to when we were trying to grow and make more profit, now she’s supportive as we’ve gone the other way and wanted to reduce everything down. She’s given us the freedom to change what we want to achieve.”

Starting from scratch

 When Scott started STS Electrical, accounting support seemed too expensive. But, after an unprofitable first year, they had a meeting with Karen on the recommendation of a friend with a similar business. It quickly became apparent that accounting and business support were an expense they needed to make room for.

Cheryl puts it like this: “We were drowning. We reconsidered that it was out of our budget and realised that we needed support. She could help with all aspects – it became a cost that we couldn’t put a price on.”

Karen became a business advisor and mentor as well as an accountant, using her years of experience in business to help the STS team make the right decisions. She and the STS team had an hour-long meeting each month to discuss finances, profitability, and changes in the business. Looking at their financial situation regularly meant that Scott and Cheryl always knew where the business was going – there were no surprises at tax time. These meetings were also a valuable chance to talk about any issues facing the business – from staffing, to expansion, to legal issues.

Growth and change

Over 9 years in business, STS Electrical’s goals have changed several times. When they started working with Karen and the Thrive team, their initial goal was growth. Scott and Cheryl wanted to expand the business, bring in more staff, and broaden their client base.

After achieving that goal – with Karen’s help – they decided that they wanted to focus on profitability. Despite taking on staff and expanding operations, profits were still fairly low. With Karen’s guidance, they focused on making sure the business was being run efficiently, and that Scott’s time was being used wisely.

At this point, Cheryl explains, they decided to take a pretty significant risk – bringing Cheryl in full time to manage the administrative side of the business. This was risky because it meant giving up Cheryl’s guaranteed salary, and relying on the business to pay both of them. Fortunately, the gamble paid off.

Cheryl explains: “The key thing for us, the huge turning point that Thrive was instrumental in, was me leaving my job and joining the company. We didn’t lose any money – for the business to go from zero admin support to having me working full time was huge. Profitability changed hugely, Scott could focus on electrical while I managed the admin.”

More than just business

According to Cheryl, part of what makes working with Thrive so valuable is the personal care that Karen brings to her role. She explains that unlike many accountants, Karen has always been interested in balancing personal lives as well as profits. As Scott and Cheryl’s business goals changed again, this understanding was essential.

After achieving significant growth and increasing profits, STS has come full circle, and is now in the process of downsizing. But this isn’t a bad thing, it’s a decision Scott and Cheryl put a lot of thought into. After running a bigger business with around 6 staff, they realised that they weren’t getting the work/life balance they wanted – so they decided to scale the business back. They are now down to three staff, and Cheryl is looking to go part-time soon.

Cheryl says that Karen has been an invaluable source of support throughout this transition.

“She cares about us as people, not just about STS Electrical making as much profit as possible. She knows what we want to achieve, she knows what’s going on in our personal life. At the end of the day, that’s why you have the business. She’s been supportive as we’ve achieved profits, but she’s also helped us with personal goals.”

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Benefits for STS Electrical:

  • Guidance and business mentoring

  • Growth – able to take on new staff and expand operations

  • Profitability – increase of at least $60,000 in profits when Cheryl joined the business

  • Visibility – regular meetings to go over finances, questions, and goals

Thrive CA Services used through STS Electrical's journey:

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