Not many graduates set out to start a leading professional services firm, but that is exactly what Pat Quade and Anthony Wilson did back in 1999 when they started Synergy Group. Now the leading Canberra-based, Commonwealth-focused professional services firm employs more than 300 professionals to deliver consulting services across the government sectors.
Pat says starting Synergy was a bold move driven more by youthful enthusiasm than ability.
“I was fresh out of university and staring down the barrel of graduate accounting jobs,” he says. “I really didn’t want to head down that path so I said to Anthony, ‘Let’s give ourselves 12 months to see if we can build our own company – if it doesn’t work out, we will go back to plan B.'”
So the two friends set themselves up in a small office and got to work.
20 years ago, Pat Quade was fresh out of uni and looking to do something different. He and his mate Anthony Wilson took a gamble and started professional services firm Synergy Group, and haven't looked back since. Genevieve Jacobs dropped in to the firm's Canberra office to hear more about what has been a remarkable journey.
Posted by The RiotACT on Monday, November 2, 2020
“We tried everything to get our foot in the door, but we also knew we had to differentiate ourselves from the competition,” says Pat. “From the very beginning, we set out to be collaborative while demonstrating that we were capable of delivering professional services to government.
“We always wanted to make a meaningful impact, save money, improve efficiency and ultimately transform the departments we were working with.”
The firm grew slowly and cautiously in the early years and didn’t bring new partners onboard until 2008, and then again in 2012.
“We brought in the new partners primarily to broaden Synergy’s capabilities and bring in a range of diverse skills and views,” says Pat.
As Synergy grew from providing audit services to advising on corporate systems and business infrastructure, it set up an internal advisory function that Pat says allowed it to increase its footprint into areas such as Defence, Customs and Home Affairs.
“We are familiar with trends and the mechanics of government and we bring everything together,” he says. “We know how government works and the outcomes it wants. We are challengers at heart, constantly seeking to uncover what could be, so it can be for our clients.”
These days, Synergy offers a range of different areas of management consulting including finance, audit, people, organisational development and digital services, and is giving multinational professional service companies real competition.
Pat says flat organisational structure and a good culture has always been a priority for Synergy.
“Culture is a big thing for us,” he says. “It has always been our focus. Quite simply, an organisation with a good culture performs better. We have a team of 300 highly skilled consultants, all aiming to work at a high performance level but with a little fun thrown in, too.
“We work hard to empower our people. We care for our staff and value the work they do. We try to offer opportunities for all of us to develop individually and as a company. We take the same approach with our clients, and that means we have strong relationships underpinned by confidence and results.”
Focusing on staff culture and workplace flexibility payed dividends for Synergy when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“When COVID-19 came along, we were ready,” says Pat. “We had built our workplace to be flexible and we had the technology and systems in place to pivot to the realities of the new workplace.
“We wanted to keep the whole team operational, and with some new systems in place we did just that. We have people working from home, able to care for their kids and still deliver for our clients.
“Despite the challenges we are all facing this year, having a team actively engaged and happy to work at Synergy is really rewarding.”
Synergy provides an end-to-end, whole-of-life service, from strategic planning to change management, creative, digital technologies, financial management and resourcing. Learn more at Synergy Group.
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