As we celebrate our two year anniversary at The Back Room, from humble beginnings as an incubation model to now having 770 square meters of floor space across three interconnected offices, we take a look back at how our business process outsourcing (BPO) company was conceived and the journey that followed.
It all started over a game
On the ordinary day of 8 April 2017, two sports-loving Kiwis from totally different careers crossed paths over a rugby game which sparked an unexpected momentous milestone: the opening of the door to The Back Room.
The semi-finals of the Super 15 rugby airing at Phillies Sports Grill & Bar in Clark, Philippines, got Wayne Findlay and Mark Stables talking business, which led to the incarnation of a BPO company that changed the game of the offshoring industry in New Zealand, Australia and further afield.
At the time Wayne Findlay was a Chartered Accountant in New Zealand and owned an accounting firm in Wanaka together with his brother, Scott. Mark Stables, meanwhile, was a hotel manager who had been around Asia for 25 years.
The unplanned meet up in Phillies brought together a collaboration of two people with unrelated expertise to form a company that employs and develops the greatest accounting minds that one can find in Clark.
Scott and I had been coming to the Philippines a couple of times a year to do training with our offshore team at another BPO company and we saw an opportunity and the need to create our own business and to do it the way we wanted it, which was a big focus around our systems, like the prepping and also around Xero. We were heavily involved with Xero at that time (and we still are).
I was up in Phillies and had just finished fixing up a hotel in Boracay that I had opened in 2015. I was back looking for something else to do. I’d moved away from hotel general management into more hotel design start-up and consultancy so I was becoming more self-employed – which kind of suited me because working with hotels over this part of the world, you work six days a week. You just don’t have any life; you’re just married to the hotel. As I grew older, I wanted to move into doing something that was more self-employed.
I was watching the start of the rugby and Wayne came in shortly after the start of the game. Around half time we started talking about who does what. He said he had some staff here and he was over to do some training and he was thinking of opening his own BPO. He asked if I could offer some assistance to him as he started looking around for properties and premises, which I did.
What was my impression of Wayne? Just a typical Kiwi guy. Didn’t really come across as an accountant – he didn’t seem boring, just a sport-loving fan and obviously a very astute businessman.
The feeling was mutual.
I was quite impressed with Mark. He’s a detailed type of person and he’s a good operator; a good manager. I thought this could be an opportunity.
The Back Room was born and grew
What was achieved in the next two years went beyond the image in mind by the two rugby-enthusiasts who shook hands over a game that day.
I had no idea, to be honest. I had no idea at all. We grew cautiously, as that’s the right way to incubate. We had 13 staff at the end of 2017. May 16, when we moved next door, we had 22. Now we’re going over 70, and in the coming weeks, we’ll be over a hundred.
I didn’t have any expectations because I didn’t really know anything about the BPO industry. That was another advantage of operating in the incubation model because I had expertise in my fingertips. General management in hotels, I knew how every day and every week and every month would pan out. You can strategise how to do things. Here, from an employment perspective, since you are competing against other BPOs, you have to be a little bit smart. Sometimes you have to employ people without knowing where they’re going to go to, for the fear of letting somebody who can do the job drop through your fingers. If you don’t make a decision to employ, they are going to be working with your competitors. You have to think on your feet a little bit more in this industry.
Back when we first got going, I think the BPO company where we were at, had only 50 or 60 staff, or maybe a hundred. I thought that would be a good business model – to have a hundred accountants all trained up in Xero. I thought that it would have taken a lot longer than what we’ve done, to be honest, but we’ve managed to do it a bit quicker. Our premises are a lot better than what I thought we’d ever have as well. I think we’ve overachieved from what my first thoughts were.
Fast forward to present day
We have now tapped into the US market and our numbers have passed the 100 employee mark. We smile as we know we have the recipe right with 100% staff retention of graduate CPA’s.
It’s a poignant time to be writing now as our very first grad, Laelyn Limpin, started two years ago and she has set the benchmark for her peers to follow, she can do what a New Zealand accountant can do at the age of 24.
Our growth is controlled as we constantly adapt and evolve how we approach client communications and our on-going support to staff. And we continue to enhance our training and on-boarding platforms along with our training and development team.
We have enjoyed hosting many clients recently who take a lot away from visiting their offshore team. So, come on over! We’re happy to guide you with travel and accommodation. Tack a couple of days on the end and explore some of the beauty in the cluster of over 7,000 islands, many accessible from Clark.