Biting off more than you can chew

Alicia BeechleyAlicia Beachley’s mantra reads like this: “I believe in biting off more than you can chew and then chewing like crazy.”


Beachley is the founder and managing director of April5, an independent marketing agency whose clients include Nokia, Stocklands Balgowlah, Oral-B and Pilot Pen.


Founded in 2007, April5 is based in Sydney and currently employs six staff. According to Beachley, the business has doubled its revenue in the last financial year, recently billing $2 million.


April5 started as a one-woman show. Beachley was unable to share her workload, insisting on doing everything herself.


“For me, thinking I could do it all and save money [was a mistake]. It’s not a matter of saying no  to clients – it’s the tasks within the agency that hindered me,” she says.


“A really good example of that is that I took on all the bookkeeping and then we got busier and busier. I was having to manage MYOB files and expenses and everything else. That started to cut into my time, my life, my weekends and my nights.


“In the beginning, I was also wanting to develop the business the way that I wanted to develop it. What I embodied for my clients, and the work they got out of me, had to be consistent and I wanted it to be all the same.”


“But when I started to work ridiculous hours, I had to start giving parts of the business to other people.”


In addition to devouring her time, Beachley’s inability to delegate tasks started to have an impact on the bottom line.


“Me doing bookkeeping for the business – I might bill out at $200 or $300 an hour, whereas a bookkeeper might cost $30 or $40 an hour,” she says.


Beachley says it took at least a year before she started to relinquish work to other staff, and another year before she started to bring in the experts.


“Relinquishing some of that responsibility to them, and allowing myself to do that, [was difficult] but I’m not an expert in everything,” she says.


“Realising that I’m best suited to doing what I do, and developing the business and growing the business, means that I really need to leave other stuff to other people.


“One of the things that I do now is surround myself with really good people who are specialists in their field… I’ve got a financial controller who manages my business. I outsource all the bookkeeping, I outsource digital, I outsource creative, etc.”


“I have this ‘onion’ network of fantastic people who are around me that support me and I don’t have to do it all, and I know it’s okay not to do it all.”


Rather than dilute her business, Beachley’s network has enabled her to mould the business exactly the way she wants it, while offering an outstanding service.


“This time last year, I decided that the nature of the business we were getting – I was working on Nokia and for a number of other corporate clients – meant I had the chance to grow it to the next level or stay small and start saying no to work,” she says.


“I thought, I’m going to take it [to the next level]. As a result, we’ve just been awarded a $20,000 government grant through Enterprise Connect and we’re about to use that money to grow the business.”


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