The Gild Group specialises in a number of sectors, including the creative, sporting and hospitality industries, and founder Paul Luczak CPA says clients value having an accountant who really understands their business.
At a glance
- The Gild Group specialises in key industries such as music and entertainment, and has offices in Melbourne and Manila.
- Director Paul Luczak CPA is also co-owner of Intogreat Solutions, a company designed to help Australian SMEs with their offshoring strategies.
- While compliance remains a valuable revenue stream, specialisation fuels The Gild Group’s healthy rate of growth.
Paul Luczak CPA’s new office space has all the trappings of a start-up playground. There’s a golf simulator, a gymnasium, a pool table and plenty of breakout spaces designed to foster big-picture thinking. It’s far from the average public practitioner’s workplace, but The Gild Group is not your average public practice.
Luczak formed the company in 2016 to provide virtual bookkeeping, financial controlling, and CFO services, as well as tax, business advisory and wealth services for industries such as music, creative, sporting and hospitality.
He recently moved its Australian operation from a 70sqm office in Melbourne’s Elsternwick to a 440sqm warehouse 250 metres from his home in the bayside suburb of Sandringham. However, his motivation goes beyond personal convenience.
“One of the most important elements of success in business is culture,” Luczak says.
“We’re in the people business, and if we don’t have happy people, then the whole machine doesn’t run. It’s easy to walk into any public practice and just see a bunch of faces churning away at their work, but creating an environment where people actually want to be has kept me up at night, and it’s still a big focus.”
Fine-tuning his public practice skills
Luczak started his career with a Big Four firm and soon discovered that he was not the right cultural fit for a large-scale practice. In 2006, his desire to combine his two great passions – music and numbers – led him to a role at White Sky, a Melbourne-based accounting firm that specialises in helping musicians and entertainers manage their finances.
A decade later, Luczak launched The Gild Group. Musicians represent the bulk of his client list and they include some of the biggest names in the industry, including ARIA Music Award winners Tame Impala, Tash Sultana and Angus & Julia Stone.
The practice provides everything from basic bookkeeping to more complex tasks such as building tour budgets, royalties management and navigating the global business and taxation landscape for recording and touring artists.
“From a music industry perspective, our knowledge helps our clients to improve their overall business outcomes,” Luczak says.
Most of his music clients work globally and require a big-picture strategy. Luczak and his team assist in coordinating global accounting partners for his clients, as well as international tax planning and compliance.
“We’ve had the pleasure to have worked through more than 1000 artist touring cycles, which has given us the special privilege of seeing the good, bad and ugly when it comes to running a successful international music career. We’ve got plenty of valuable IP that we love to share with our clients.”
Specialist service in a niche market
Luczak acknowledges that specialising in a niche market can limit opportunities for growth. A recent business partnership has seen The Gild Group expand into accounting and advisory services for the hospitality and building and construction sectors.
“The partner who joined us was once CFO of one of Australia’s largest pub groups,” Luczak says.
“He has a hospitality and construction specialty, just as my specialty is in music, so it has allowed us to grow our branding strategy across those different areas. We’ve got great systems and processes and the business runs really well, so we can just replicate that model into different industries.”
"We've got great systems and processes and the business runs really well, so we can just replicate that model into different industries."
Luczak says The Gild Group is growing by an average of 45-50 per cent per annum. He now employs a team of 26 people across his Melbourne and Manila offices, and invests about 90 per cent of his time in the sales process and managing the practice.
“A traditional public practitioner may still be signing off on compliance, whereas my role is focused more on building networks, the sales process and creating opportunities,” he says.
An offshore engine room for an Australian public practice
Prior to leaving White Sky to form The Gild Group, Luczak says he was in a unique position.
“I had a strong network that allowed me to kick off my new practice with some great clients. This gave me the opportunity to think, ‘OK, what does the modern-day public practice look like?’,” he says. “How should I set this up in terms of organisational structure, systems, processes, people and pricing?”
These questions led Luczak to develop an offshoring strategy. His client-facing Melbourne office is supported by what he describes as The Gild Group’s “engine room” in Manila.
Offshoring presents a steep learning curve for most small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs). In 2018, Luczak joined former Deutsche Bank global CFO Adam Conrad CPA, to form Intogreat Solutions, a company designed to help Australian SMEs with their offshoring strategies.
“Australian SMEs are getting lured to creating global work teams to help drive down compensation costs and access a greater pool of talent,” Luczak says.
“However, the reality is a lot of the BPO [business process outsourcing] companies that are out there will help with recruitment and then say, ‘Off you go, good luck’.
“We saw a real opportunity to step in,” Luczak adds. “Our [offshoring] clients still retain their IP and can build their culture, but we provide additional support, from process engineering right through to the management of the staff, to help a business get up and running on their offshoring strategy and make it work from day one.”
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Nurturing client relationships
Staff in Luczak’s Manila office complete tasks such as bookkeeping, finance controlling work, tax administration and preparation of Austrade grants.
“We’ve got an incredible team of staff in our Manila office that come from the top four [accounting firms] and mid tiers,” Luczak says.
“The focus in the Melbourne office is client relationships.”
Nurturing these relationships is vital for success in public practice, says Luczak.
“I believe the firm of the future must be able to solve problems for clients. That requires having a deep understanding of their business and industry,” he says. “Compliance is still a critical revenue stream, but I think it would be harder to have a great growth strategy without a specialisation.”
"Clients value an accountant who knows the nooks and crannies of their industry."
For other practitioners wishing to develop a specialisation, Luczak suggests they “get under the hood” of their chosen industry.
“Clients value an accountant who knows the nooks and crannies of their industry,” he says.
“Go beyond the tax compliance relationship and into that advisory piece, whether that’s working through bookkeeping and accounts management, or helping them with cash flow forecasting, business structure and HR and general marketing strategy issues.
“The better you understand your specialist industry, the better you’ll be able to solve your clients’ problems. That’s what more clients will be expecting in the future.”
Keeping in tune
The Gild Group’s new office fit-out may appeal to Luczak’s clients in the creative fields, but he says it is designed with employee satisfaction in mind.
“Our clients are all around the world and right across the country,” he says.
“We could be sitting on a beach in Mexico doing what we’re doing because about 90 per cent of our communication is done on email, phone and video conference.”
Before settling on accounting, Luczak considered a career in music and this has fostered a special appreciation of his client list.
“From an Australian perspective, I’ve already got quite a lot of artists who I’m really excited to work with and who I think of as being pioneers in what they do,” he says.
“From an international perspective, it would be good to have a top-end star like a Kanye West or a Radiohead. Although, I have to say, we have a pretty amazing client list from Australia.”