After a year of stunning growth, Rubik3 director Guy Earnshaw is sitting in a Braddon cafe, reflecting on what went so right.
The owner of Australia’s top start-up on the Australian Financial Review’s annual list and a finalist in the MyBusiness Optus Awards comes to an interesting conclusion about his professional services firm as he stirs his latte: he thinks it’s all about relationships.
“Our business is sustainable so we can spend time building relationships, not focusing on billing people for every second. It’s about making clients happy because that creates its own energy,” he says.
“I think one of the biggest things with our growth is that we do things differently. We offered three things, not one – consulting, IT solutions and business services – and we jumped into a mid-tier business straight away because we had the right people to do it. We let the market dictate what they needed, then adapted our service offerings really quickly.”
That’s made Rubik3 a nimble operation, a factor that also differentiates it clearly from the Big Four competitors in the professional services market. Earnshaw explains that staff with the national firms often work in silos simply because they’re so big. By contrast, Rubik3 has the right scale to assess a client’s needs and respond fast with the right solutions and the right people.
“I want to give our clients exactly what they need with one port of call,” Earnshaw says. “They get the full spectrum of services at a very competitive price. We’ll ascertain what you need, pull those resources together and make them interact really well.”
The focus on developing strong, trustworthy relationships extends to his staff too and Earnshaw understands they need the chance to develop leadership skills and take ownership of projects. “Early on in the piece, you are involved in every aspect but I know you have to step back and take a chance that people might fail.
“If they do, they’ll learn but mostly they won’t fail because they are really talented people. In reality, my role is now about people management and strategy and trying to package everything together and work towards the end goal.”
Rubik3 sees contractors as valued external team members, and Earnshaw says of the team dynamic that “while we’re a business we have morphed into really close friendships. That’s important at the pace we’re growing. People look out for each other and support each other to make it work.”
The firm works in the Canberra and Melbourne markets and sees advantages in the cross-fertilisation between the two cities and their quite different business communities, enabling Rubik3 to create innovative results. Sometimes, that can be as simple as putting the right people together within the same organisation.
“An issue in government is that there are pockets of excellence everywhere but it’s hard to find best practice and create interaction between different departments,” Earnshaw says. “If we can hover above a problem and link them up, it’s great. That frees us up to do change work, disruptive work, which we really want to do.”
When he’s asked what all this rapid growth has meant for him personally, Earnshaw pauses momentarily before admitting that his reflection time is “about 30 seconds in the car”. But, he says, “I now have a great management and executive team, and for me, it’s all about planning, planning, planning. Decide what you want to do, make a plan and work every single day on that.”
“The vision we’re talking about hasn’t fundamentally changed, it’s just matured a bit. It’s not dumb luck to get here. It’s hard work understanding the market and responding to what your clients need.”
And he’s grateful too, to be expanding rapidly in this city. “I think Canberra is really exciting. We have the ability to influence all of Australia. We’ve got some really smart and dedicated people in the city and we have the ability to grow out of Canberra and influence other places, to create a centre of excellence where people can grow their businesses and celebrate our successes.”