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Interview: Lindsay Rogers – Business Director of Chello

Growing up in the Northern Beaches, I believe everyone of a similar age knows each other – if not directly, at least through a friend of a friend. I was lucky enough to meet Lindsay Rogers through a friend in 2003 after she moved from England to Australia. I definitely had no idea that 12 years later we’d both be Directors in our own companies still catching up for coffee (or champagne) to debate trivial things like which filter on Instagram makes us look better.

Recently Lindsay was nominated, then shortlisted as a finalist for the Telstra Young Business Women’s Award. Fingers crossed that she takes out the award, and just in case she does and forgets to thank me during her speech, I thought I’d book a meeting and ask her some questions about her personal aspirations, business, accounting and entrepreneurial success as a trade-off.

Telstra Young Business Women’s Award

Noel: The whole time I’ve known you, you’ve loved working with not-for-profits and contributing to community. What is it about NFP’s that you enjoy and why do you continue to seek opportunities to work with them?

Lindsay: I’ve always been career minded and interested in business, but at some point, I’ve always questioned ‘what more is there?’ so my view is that with my business Chello, we’ve been really fortunate since starting, so if we can give back in our own way, then let’s do that and on a personal level, it just feels good! It also creates a great culture for our team which something that money can’t buy.

NT: What significance does becoming a finalist in the Telstra Young Business Women’s Award have to both you personally and to the company?

LR: Because the application process is quite lengthy and complex (it took about 25 hours to complete), touching on topics like leadership, financial sustainability, business sustainability, diversity and plans for future success I think it definitely sets apart individuals and companies that are doing good things. It also provides amazing networking opportunities like a Finalists Breakfast that I was at this morning where we were all able to share ideas from like-minded individuals doing really well.

I think it’s great to support women’s achievements as we’re still a minority in leadership roles, however I’m all about competency. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female – just be really great at what you do!

NT: Talk me through the decision to leave your job and start a business

LR: I was at my previous company for close to 5 years and there was a verbally promised buy-in that fell over at the last minute so I was thinking it’s now or never. I’m young and I’m never going to have this opportunity again in.

I’m not the greatest illustrator or editor so I thought ‘who is the one person I wouldn’t want to go up against in a pitch?’ and Tris (Tristan Velasco – Creative Director) came to mind so I gave him a call and he was on board so we brainstormed names, launched and went to market 4-5 weeks after that first discussion. We worked on several briefs then got some traction.

NT: How do you and Tris split the roles of a Director?

LR: We really complement each other with the skill sets required to run a creative agency. I run all of the front of house like the accounting, management, finance, hiring, HR and strategy, and Tris is exceptional at the execution; thinking really differently creatively and managing the team of designers to output exceptional work. Together we’re like the dream team and it’s really a match made in heaven!

NT: Do you actually like accounting and finance?

LR: …No. I just have to do it!

NT: Haha yep, no worries – it’s just my profession! Okay let’s move onto some snap questions about your accounting situation. What accounting software do you use?

LR: Xero

NT: Why?

LR: I’ve just always loved it. I was on MYOB previously and to me, that’s like using a PC and Xero is like using a Mac.

NT: What if I use Xero on a PC? Not as cool?

LR: No… just no. You obviously don’t work in a creative agency.

NT: How important is your relationship with your accountant?

LR: Our accountant is more of a business advisor. They’ve been on board with us from since before we even had a name and they’ve been exceptional with how they’ve structured their costs for a start-up.

They do the normal ‘stuff’ for us like BAS and year-end work, but more than that we get 8 hours per month of advice – whether it’s a small Xero query or a more complex query like when can we take on another staff member or when can we pay a dividend.

NT: That sounds like exceptional service. I work with a few firms that promote advisory, but rather worryingly, also know a lot of accounting firms that don’t actively seek to provide that service to their clients.

LR: Yeah it’s been one of our best kept secrets. It was one of my mandatory conditions when starting because even though I’d been involved with accounting in finance during my last role, they’ve seen a lot of businesses fail, so they know the red flags to look out for and also giving advice on taking a business to places I’ve never been before. We’re all about experts helping us out that sort of stuff.

NT: So how often do you review the numbers?

LR: Daily. It helps me understand where we’re at – what cash is coming in and going out. I typically log into Xero around midday between meetings to make sure we’re on track.

NT: What are the key metrics you look at?

LR: I reconcile the accounts and run a profit and loss regularly to see how we’re tracking. I also review the sales pipeline to see what’s coming up and that’s also how we manage our roster of freelancers and contractors.

NT: Do you use any add-ons with Xero?

LR: We have a production management tool called Streamtime which pushes into Xero.

NT: In closing, these days it’s pretty cool to be an entrepreneur. Do you have any advice on how to be a successful entrepreneur?

LR: I think you just have to do it. You just need to prove your idea; that there’s a market for it first and not put too much emphasis on the pretty stuff – you can create that later. Also, every opportunity is networking and sales.

NT: Thanks for your time and cheers to the future!

LR: Cheers!

Lindsay at the Chello office

Chello as described by Lindsay during our interview: ‘a creative content agency that’s been around for just over a year. We work with over 40 brands, have an FTE headcount of 9 and we’ve just moved into our own studio in Redfern. We work with corporate and enterprise level brands in areas such as strategic communication, video, design and miscellaneous fun!’

We met at: The Norfolk Hotel – Redfern

We drank: Mumm Cordon Rouge NV Champagne