Over the past few months I have been extremely lucky to work with an amazing Business Woman by the name of Lucy Milekovic from Ultimate Business Solutions. Lucy owns / runs a Bookkeeping Agency South of Sydney in the Sutherland Region. I have known her for a few years and she is a very sharp, witty and ethical character who has built a rock solid business over the years.
I have worked with over 1,000+ people now and I have met characters from all walks of life. From the good to the bad (with everyone in between), I have developed an eye for those people that are awesome and stick around forever. Lucy being one of them – she has a great team of staff and does Premium Bookkeeping for businesses across Sydney & Australia. In this rare interview with such a sharp operator, due to a silly technical error on my part (I deleted the recording off my phone before I backed it up!) it was our second take on the interview.
We both had Hot Beverages in hand and was sitting on a park bench outside an office block. It was great hearing her success starting from humble origins and the difficult circumstances of retrenchment! Listed to her interview included and refer to the amazing transcript below.
If you like what you see / hear and want to learn more about Awesome Small Business Sales & Marketing and Success – then make sure you check out my Awesome Marketing Vault. A powerful Online course right here!
Thank you for the read and your attention and make sure you visit Lucy’s fine website.
Edward Zia – Marketing Mentor who loves awesome successful Business Women Success Stories!
Edward: Hello everyone. This is Edward Zia here and I’m sitting here with the amazing Lucy who I can’t pronounce your last name. How to pronounce your last name, Lucy?
Edward: Milekovic, Lucy Milekovic. Is that right?
Lucy: That’s it.
Edward: Now Lucy Milekovic is a up and very lucky to work with the amazing Lucy. She runs a bookkeeping agency and you’ve got heaps of staff, haven’t you? How many staff have you got Lucy?
Lucy: I got five staff.
Edward: Five staff and you have sorts of work too and you’ve got this beautiful bookkeeping firm based out in the southern region of southern Sydney.
Lucy: Yes, that’s right.
Edward: We’re about what, 25 kilometers South of Sydney CBD for our North American viewers.
Lucy: Yes, yes. About that.
Edward: Yup and it’s been absolutely amazing and this is actually quite an embarrassing thing for me to say but we’ve actually done this interview before and I didn’t back it up and accidentally deleted. Am I bit of a silly Billy, Lucy?
Lucy: Yes, you are Ed.
Edward: Yeah. My fault. I’m wrong and here I am recompense of the full and redoing the interview. Now, Lucy and I, she’s sitting on a pot bench drinking, what are you drinking Lucy?
Lucy: Skinny latte.
Edward: I’m drinking a soya hot chocolate and I just want to really, Lucy is an amazing business woman. She has achieved a level of independence and success that is quite rare and really is a marketing mentor that specialize in helping out small businesses signers. I thought your story had to be told, Lucy.
Lucy: Thank you.
Edward: Now, this is second time to trade. Yeah. It’s repeated. Tell me your story again like how did you start this business and where did you come from?
Lucy: Okay. I started UBS 15 years ago and I was working from time for a company. One week before my second daughter was due to be born, I was retrenched and lost my job because they sold the company to a corporate overseas company. The whole accounts department was retrenched. I had my daughter Vicky and then a few weeks after that start about UBS.
Edward: Wow. Absolutely amazing. You just started off your business and I remember last time when we did this interview the first time, you had a bit of trouble didn’t you? What happened to you before you had your daughter and all UBS thing? Didn’t you get fired or something like that?
Lucy: Yeah, well I went retrenched.
Edward: Yeah. How did that go for you? What was actually sort of going through your mind?
Lucy: It was very traumatic because I had my whole life plan was worked out and it was all going along according to plan which I’m a very organized person. I was very happy about that. For something out of your control you happen through a spinner in the works and I had to rethink everything. It’s worked out for the basics though. When I started the company, I started from a Zero client based and just went through the paper looking for a job. There was a job there for a bookkeeper and I rung them. Basically convinced them that they didn’t really need an employee in-house they could outsource to me and have it done remotely.
Edward: In other words you were pregnant, before you were pregnant with your child you were retrenched and it must have been a very horrible experience.
Lucy: It was.
Edward: I guess I suppose that’s horrible experience is create entrepreneurs don’t they?
Lucy: They do, yes. You had no choice.
Edward: Exactly. You went through this horrible experience that must have been not a fun thing to deal with, so you went through this experience. Afterwards you got your first bookkeeping work by ringing up potential job interviews and talking them out of hiring someone.
Lucy: Yes, for that first one. Yes. The accountant of that client of mine rang me because he liked my work and rang me and said are you looking for more work and that’s where it all started to flow from there through referrals.
Edward: I get it. Bad thing happened to you, you got immediately back on the horse. You rang up someone, you talked them out of hiring a staff member and outsourcing it completely to you and you’re working from home at the time weren’t you?
Lucy: Yes, I was. Yeah. I had two children at that stage and I need to work for home it was all but very small.
Edward: Wow, so you’re like the true example of a working mom. You’ve got children.
Edward: You’re busy playing entrepreneur and kicking ass at the same time.
Lucy: Yes, that’s right.
Edward: That is just amazing. See, the thing that I think most people ask is when you first crack the surface and you’ve taught your first client. What happened? What was it like doing the first amount of work not only as an employee also like going from suppose the employee mindset to the business mindset out, Lucy?
Lucy: It was very difficult and I think for a long time I still had an employee mindset for a very long time because the focus really was the kids I guess and the business was something on the side. Then as the kids grew, the business grew and then the business became more of a focus.
Lucy: As a business not a job.
Edward: I got it. Originally you did traded a bit like a job but you’re just working at home but overtime as the kids grew, you started what thinking more as a business person.
Lucy: Yes, that’s right because I got to the point where I keep getting clients and I got to the stage where I couldn’t manage it myself anymore. I had to make a choice of getting people to help me, having staff member or actually getting rid of some clients because I was in a position where I couldn’t look after them promptly.
Edward: Yeah. You obviously chose to become a powerful business owner in extent.
Lucy: Yes, I did.
Edward: My head goes off to it. It’s an amazing business that you built and the thing I know because I visited your office quite a few times. Every time I walk in there, the staff seemed really happy and focused on their work.
Lucy: Yeah. They’re good. I’ve got a very good team behind me and I definitely wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing if it wasn’t for them.
Edward: How did you build? Again as you know I’ve worked with I think actually over a thousand people now.
Edward: I’ve been through workshops on one on one. I worked through a lot of people and I’ve been on all sorts of offices across south Sydney. As you say but the point being is how did you build such great productive comradely?
Lucy: I guess with the production side is to check with simple stages. Everyone in staff like that because they know what they need to do and then what is expected of them. That I guess makes for more content work base for them as well. They also know if there’s a procedure there that said they’ve got a payroll deadline. They wake up and seek that time I can’t make it into work. They know because we have their systems in place that another staff member will be able to do that job for them. There’s no pressure on the people to have to show up when they really can’t. If they can’t, somebody else can step up and do that job for them.
Edward: You’re saying you’ve got a form of redundancy that protects the staff from burning out while they’re sick.
Lucy: Yes, that’s right. Exactly.
Edward: It’s funny to say that because I like to just be straight out with you but I understand these small business signers around town but if I have a staff member that’s sick, it’s like basic of the volcano exploring in Pompeii.
Lucy: Yes, that’s right.
Edward: Yeah. Do you see that sort of stuff across town much when you’re in troubles?
Lucy: I do and I mean we have experienced that before ourselves but that’s where you put systems in place so that you don’t end up in that position again. Whenever we do have a problem and we’re feeling pain, I try and put something in place so that that won’t happen again.
Edward: I got it. Whenever something goes P shaped, you create a process to prevent anything going P shaped again in that regard?
Lucy: Yes, that’s right.
Edward: That’s very, very clever adoptive learning because don’t you see all the time I see this quite often. People just get angry and blame someone and don’t improve the situation.
Lucy: Yes. Yeah. That didn’t really shape anything and it makes you just keep falling into the same track over and over.
Edward: Exactly and I’m not being a smart aleck or anything but it seems to happen quite a bit. A lot of people just get angry in this sort of game that I actually deal with these productively as you do, Lucy.
Lucy: Okay. I guess I would say that sometimes but generally speaking, a more proactive approach is definitely going to solve the problem.
Edward: I love it and I’m glad that truck just moved on.
Edward: There you go. I’m sure everyone can hear us. Going back in your original story, you got the business going. You got your first client and you started getting good referral from there.
Edward: How did your business go? Was it working now? Did you do any other forms of marketing? What did you actually do to make the powerful, from the side of the marketing point of view? What did you do to get the size or mass that you have today, Lucy?
Lucy: A lot of networking. Most of my business comes from referrals. I go to networking events regularly so that people get to know you and develop a relationship with you. For someone to hand over the bookkeeping, I found that they’re not going to Google a bookkeeper or anything like but I want someone that I can trust. They’ll usually ask someone else that they know in business or their accountant if they know a bookkeeper. If you are part of a networking group where all those people know you and you can develop a relationship with them then they will refer your business.
Edward: Because I understand historically you used to actually run a few networking groups, didn’t you?
Lucy: Yeah. I was president of my BNI group for over a year.
Edward: Wow. What was it like?
Lucy: It was great. Actually it was really good and a big learning curve for me. Things which I learned there I could also apply to my business in terms of having to be organized and do things well. If you’re heading up a group like that, people notice you more. You want them to notice you for the right reasons so you need to do a good job of it.
Edward: Of course you weren’t paid for that position?
Lucy: No, not.
Edward: You actually volunteered as a networking leader to develop your own skills and actually with your own business and all that.
Lucy: Yes. Yeah. I use to really struggle with networking events and I would be very nervous and very shy, don’t know what to say but it’s sort of practice. You put yourself out of the comfort zone and you get good at it after a little while.
Edward: Yeah. It’s funny because I’ve been in business for over three years only about over one and a half year fulltime now for me personally. I found that when you just push yourself a little bit harder every day, you’re totally a different person six months later.
Lucy: You are. Yeah. Now, you have you to push yourself out of the comfort zone otherwise we won’t achieve anything.
Edward: In fact the way I think as I purge in marketing mentor here at Sydney. I reckoned, I suspect that I think most people don’t have the success they have in their life because they’re not willing to change and not willing to push themselves every day.
Edward: Yeah. I think there’s something, you’re a smart operator, Lucy. What’s your view on that thing adoptive and changing and pushing yourself?
Lucy: You have to. For you specifically at the minute, if you weren’t prepared to change and get along with modern technology in terms of third based accounting. I said to my staff that unless we’re all prepared to do the training and put clients onto that new package, we could pretty much close our doors within five to 10 years. We would be out of business if we’re not prepared to move with the changes.
Edward: Absolutely. What I’m saying is you fully operated and you created a partner in the Xero cloud based accounting software.
Lucy: We all are. Every staff member is, yes.
Edward: Well, and that’s just working amazingly well for you I understand.
Lucy: Mm-hmm. I love it, I love Xero.
Edward: What is so great about Xero and I’ll ask a general question actually. What is so great about cloud based accounting, why is that do you think?
Lucy: I said cloud based generally because your accounting can access it, the client can access it and so can you. Whereas the old desktop version of MYB, you would have to e-mail data files and then there was always potential that someone would be entering data into the wrong data file. People would not have up to date information all the time whereas the cloud based anyone can access that at anytime.
Edward: Wow. That’s very, very powerful and a thing that I found and we spoke about this in our first take of this interview. Was that I know there are a lot of bookkeepers out there that are just recalcitrant on the bond of Xero and I know this is very unethical practice by the way. I know there were recalcitrant because they believed they’re going to get less bookkeeping revenue if they make it easier for their clients.
Lucy: Yes, that’s right. Yeah. Ease more string line and more efficient. Most of the clients that we’ve converted over from MYB to Xero have actually got a 20% discount on the bookkeeping phase with us.
Edward: Wow. You’ve converted them over. Looking at from your point of view, I think your ethics and what you’re doing for your clients are amazing, Lucy but what about your own profits. How do you deal that 20% hit in profitability for a client.
Lucy: It’s not a hit so much on our profitability because we are getting through it faster and what it has done, it means that I now don’t need to recruit for another staff member for a little while now, overstaff. I’m looking for more clients to feel that gap. I’ll be able to feel that gap with that old recruitment and the training costs and it’s very expensive to put a new staff member. There’s a good six months training involved for them to get around the UBS processes. That’s quite expensive and takes a lot of time so it’s well worth it for us to increase our client base without having to increasing our staff base and that’s what Xero and I just need to do.
Edward: Wow. That I think is a very interesting insight. In other words you’re able to, that’s actually is really good. You’re able to actually make your business more profitable and make it cheaper and more affordable for your clients and embrace new technology.
Lucy: Yes. Everybody is.
Edward: I see what you mean. I could imagine that the bookkeepers there will be out of ignorance or poor ethics. The ones that don’t embraces new technology, there’s no way they’d survive. No way whatsoever.
Lucy: Unfortunately I don’t think they will which is a shame because there’s plenty of work out there for everybody really. Um, but I think that if you’re not prepared to change with the time, that’s not bookkeeping, I would consider that for any profession is that’s the way the market is moving and affects what people want. That’s what you need to keep them if you want to stay in business.
Edward: It’s funny to say but talking with my own business, I mean I’ve been in business about three years now. I’ve been really fulltime over one and a half years now and even at that time my job’s been totally different.
Edward: It’s like I’m a website guy these days. All I do is just keep online marketing advice. Seriously it’s quite funny when I start it out. A lot of my advices now is based around social media and stuff like that.
Edward: It’s just funny how fast moving it is these days, isn’t it Lucy?
Lucy: It is. It changes very, very quickly.
Edward: I’d say because you’ve been in business for 15 years, haven’t you?
Lucy: Yes. 15 now.
Edward: What are some of the big macro, I mean obviously internet is one but what are some of the other more unique macro trans that you’ve seen occur or appeared, Lucy?
Lucy: The internet would be the biggest one. When I first started they weren’t even really e-mails weren’t popular at all. Websites about 15 years ago, so that’s all very new. Just the way that you process data I guess has changed so much. With products like Xero, there are list data entry involved because the system does it for you.
Edward: Wow. That’s amazing. I think it’s very interesting how you done it and what I like about your story is that I really admire how you’ve done it. You started off networking, you got your business going originally. That truck has moved on, thank god. You saw this originally, you did great work, you got referrals and you used actual face to face business networking and being a networking leader to really build your business and get up there.
Lucy: Yes. Yes, I do. Networking is very important.
Lucy: Most of our business if referral based. I did try a few other attempts that dropping fliers and that kind of thing for marketing but it didn’t work.
Lucy: Now I have used my marketing mentor. Things have picked up again because we have now the newsletters going out which I talked about doing for seven years and never did. That was good. It’s good to say now that I have you on board I have those marketing KPIs as well which keeps me on track.
Edward: Thank you Lucy and it’s been a pleasure having your as an awesome client as well. The other thing I find interesting that’s why I think you’re a wonderful client and you pay your bills on time which I totally love. Beyond capitalism is, I hate to say a lot of it bother that my clients today are fantastic but if I go back not too long ago, you have a lot of clients that would pay me for advice and then either debate me from minor advice although I agree with that men do nothing about it.
Lucy: That’s a waste of money.
Edward: It’s crazy I think but it’s a quite common. What I’m telling you is when I first met you Lucy, I actually thought you’re a business coach, I thought you’re really sharp. Do you think of that all the time at the business stage?
Lucy: Sometimes I do, yes. If you ask me about that, yeah, but I’m not.
Edward: Because I almost was going to say I got a thought about it because I think beyond being bookkeeping around your business, I think you’re a very, very excited business woman. Have you ever thought about Monday doing a bit of business consulting?
Lucy: I have thought that but yes.
Edward: What if you use that. I think you’d be amazing at that.
Lucy: I don’t know. I think the thought of loading something up from scratch again. It’s not quick.
Edward: Tell me about it.
Lucy: It’s a lot of hard work. Yeah, I don’t know. It’s an idea that I have played with a few times whether I’d actually do anything about it or not, I don’t know.
Edward: For the record Lucy. I’m sure the audience which would be hearing this recording the years to come thousands of times all agree. That you’d be an amazing business consultant. I can just imagine you walking into businesses and telling them what to do next to make everything super more awesome, Lucy.
Lucy: Thank you. I have seen a lot with the clients I’ve had. I’ve seen them succeed, I’ve seen them fail and I’ve seen why they’ve succeeded and why they failed as well.
Edward: A question, I mean I’m just talking generally here obviously. In your experience, why does someone fail? What makes someone fail in business?
Lucy: There’s a lot of different reason. Some of it is out of the control and it will be killing the economy. People who don’t want to change on the technology side that we’re talking about, I actually do from the business that’s going fast because of that. Other ones just because people are now a little bit more careful with how they’re spending their money and they might not value things the same way that they used to and we’re also now playing in a global marketplace. People get things done overseas.
Edward: Let’s say supplying that could be done oversea is a lot cheaper, you got to watch out.
Lucy: Yes, that’s right.
Edward: Yeah. It’s funny actually because ironically tonight we’re off to a manufacturing form and talk about the actual declines in manufacturing in Australia. I mean you must have seen a lot of manufacturers on the board overtime, Lucy?
Lucy: Not to many but I have seen manufacturing companies struggle because a lot of it now is done in China. For manufacturing to succeed, they’ve got to have something which they can do which is special and different to everyone else that they need to specialize in something which can’t be done overseas.
Edward: I got it. In other words going head to head with China will get you …
Lucy: You’re not going to win.
Edward: You’re not going to win but if you’re making unique technology that cannot be replicated then the Chinese have got nothing on us.
Lucy: Yeah, that’s right. You need someone who’s pretty switched on and who can possibly create and invent new things for people who are having a problem and don’t know how to fix it and you need to find somebody who can then create a solution for you and make it, yeah.
Edward: Technological innovation, research, that sort of thing.
Lucy: Yes, exactly.
Edward: It’s facing it. I’m actually helping the Cumberland Chamber in getting government support for this issue.
Lucy: You got it.
Edward: Sounds quite the amazing Lucy from Ultimate Business Solutions as the hub of manufacturing inside.
Lucy: Very good. Thank you.
Edward: This interview is being recorded and yeah, yes it is. Yeah. That’s great Lucy and I like the sort of advice and thinking that you’re coming from, Lucy. You’re doing amazingly well waiting from here. What are your future plans Lucy? What are you conjuring out for the audience?
Lucy: Just to keep growing as much as I have in the past which is good, to keep that going. I’ve got, certainly got room for more growth with the current staff base I have and if it grows past that, I’m more than happy to recruit for the next staff member as well. We’ve got a junior who is getting trained up so soon shall be a junior bookkeeper and then we’ll get another junior in. Gradually people will get promoted up through the stages in the office which is good.
Edward: Wow. Continual growth building in what you have more expertise.
Edward: I think that’s an absolutely amazing work that you’re doing. I was going to say as well Lucy, if you could go back in time 15 years and you can talk to your younger self. What advice would you give yourself, Lucy?
Lucy: Do it all earlier than I actually did. I was at the point where I was working from Home where it grew to the stage where I couldn’t manage it anymore. It was taking up all my head space. It was taking up half the house and I should have moved out into an office earlier than what I did and got staff earlier than what I did. I got too scared at that time to take that leap and should have done that much earlier.
Edward: Okay. What eventually made you take that leap? Was it just the fact that your blender was covered in paperwork?
Lucy: My husband Pete said go, go because we actually owned an office at Sutherland which we didn’t have a tenant at the time and he said go use it. Without that push, I don’t know whether actually we would have done it.
Edward: Is that your office over there, is that the same office?
Lucy: Yeah, same office. Yeah.
Edward: You’re actually on the building?
Lucy: That office in the building, yes.
Edward: You’re like a high in property investor. You’re a commercial property investor, Lucy.
Lucy: Regarding for that one, yes.
Edward: Well done. You have money bags now. No wonder you buy the coffee all the time. I admire it successfully. I’m just nearly trailing in your footsteps and I think it’s amazing and I was going to say as well to anyone that’s stepping into business. Well I met women here because obviously you’re very, very, you’re obviously a female and you’re obviously a very successful female. In particular to women in business, what’s your advice speaking more to women in business and often the very sexist word?
Lucy: For a woman in business. I guess sometimes it can be very hard to do the juggle with family and business and I think that’s something that women have to do more than men as a general world, not all the time.
Edward: Absolutely. It’s a fair comment.
Lucy: Yup. You just have to try and make both work and it’s not always easy. I remember one time I was about to go and see a potential new client and picked up my daughter who I think is six months old at the time and she vomited all over me right before meeting. Things like that will happen and you just have to ring the people and be honest with the people I think that’s the main thing. Don’t say you’re stuck in traffic or anything like that. Just ring and say I’m sorry we’ve had a disaster and we reschedule and in that case that client in that other ones you might miss out because things like that happen that you just have to accept that.
Edward: Yeah. I think it’s amazing because I mean, as a guy being single for a while actually. I’ve had a few fiancés that just doing quite go over the line. I always find amazing what the whole thing of balancing a family especially young family in a business, it must be a huge challenge especially for women.
Lucy: Sometimes it is very difficult. Yeah. It can be but it gets easier as they get a little bit older as well.
Edward: Yeah. I totally admire what you’re doing I was going to say. This has been great Lucy. I was going to say do you have any other pearls or wisdom or gems that the audience is just begging to hear out, Lucy.
Lucy: No and probably not, just don’t wait. Just go and do things if you think that you might want to do it, just go do it.
Edward: Absolutely and you heard it yourself from the awesome marketing with Edward Zia. Lucy.
Edward: Milekovic channel. Lucy has done an amazing job and a business by the name of Ultimate Business Solution. So to go to ultimatebusiness.com today and check out her absolute magnificent. Let me tell it again. Her absolute magnific …
Lucy: Absolutely magnificent website.
Edward: Absolutely magnificate … You know what, I’m going to stop, her great website, her website is brilliant. Make sure you check that out and I just want to say a big thank you, Lucy. It’s been a very amazing interview hearing about your marketing and business success.
Lucy: Thank you Ed.
Edward: This is goodbye from Edward Zia.
Lucy: And Lucy.
Edward: Have a great day and night everyone and make sure you surf through the website for some great content. Talk to you later. Bye.