Simon Maddox | Practically Partners

What's your 30-second elevator speech?

I have a niche small business advisory called Practically Partners.

Our niche is small architectural/design practices with an unrecognised problem. For every 4 small practices - 3 are NOT commercially sustainable, and 2 of those 3 don’t even know it - because they’ve  been robbing Peter to pay Pauline. They’re working overtime and under-paying themselves to cover the shortfall and taking commercial risks for little reward.

However, they ARE brilliant creative technicians (even genius at times), passionate about their clients’ projects, but having suffered an initial entrepreneurial seizure to start their business, they’re now stuck on a hamster wheel they can’t get off and they have no clear vision about their own future or how to get there – they just keep running in the same spot as martyrs to their projects.

My mission is to help them fix it, to stop them striving and start them thriving. I’m passionate about assisting these firms to step up to their next level - by helping them define their vision - then transforming their project-passion into sustainable prosperity, by creating their freedom through structure, with small improvements that make a big difference to reaching that vision.

The soft infrastructure we create together, makes them more successful and resilient through ON-Business simplicity, rigour and measurable improvement.

In return, the freedom gained - allows them to focus on their passion for projects - working IN the business – knowing where it will take them, instead of stressing about it imploding around them.

Who inspires you the most to be the best you can be as a person?

I’m endlessly impressed by people who are driven by a vision for the greater good and live by their values to achieve it, especially when no-one is looking (think Mandela) but I’m not a fan of the “Tony Robbin’you” self-promoting psychobabble gurus. I was always inspired by my parents and their values they instilled in our family. My dad died when I was 15 years old but I find myself decades later, living by his core values of being trusted for your intent, integrity, capabilities and results, because trust is hard to earn but easy to loose.

Can you tell us a little bit about your business?

Practically Partners is my 8th business and is built on the knowledge, experience and wisdom gained from creating businesses in workplace design, project management, architecture, retail design, strategic facilities planning, a building systems start-up (now ASX listed) and PMO software. Its genesis was, as a 25 year old Interior Architect and project manager, I took over a struggling workplace design practice and grew it from 3 architects/designers to a staff of 25 over 5 years and was rated as one of the top 3 in NSW. It’s success was based on creating systems and structure that could be relied on to deliver our performance, thereby freeing time to be creative. My basic commercial instincts started much earlier with my first business at 13 (with my school mate/neighbor), making 50+ custom surfboards over four years, supplying surfers at 4 schools and allowing me to buy my first car a year before I was eligible for my ‘L’ plates.

Can you tell me about one of your client success stories?

I recently worked with an architect who’s practice has been running for over 20 years. She has a steady supply of good projects and her work has be published nationally and internationally but she always felt the business was on the edge of chaos and financial disaster. So in the first two sessions we broke down her Profit/Loss position, Fee Agreement and invoicing process, then developed and implemented new systems. Within two months, the business was cashflow positive and accumulating cash reserves, additional works were being tracked and cost recovered and new clients were signed up to a more favourable Fee Agreement. We’re now working on other improvements and she no longer stresses about the business going forward.

What’s your favourite thing about working at Motive Coworking?

I really like the sense of community that Perry and Jack have fostered at Motive, as well as their passion to continually improve what they offer. There’s always someone interesting to chat with whilst you’re making a coffee or when we gather together for the Friday BBQ. The crew here are considerate of others that are working and all the support facilities you might need are available. It’s also close to home and there’s parking…yay!

What does life look like outside your business profile? What do you like doing for fun?

I have two sons who both live in Narrabeen with their wives and I became a grandfather for the first time at the start of the year. I’ve enjoyed some success in kart racing and have had a lifelong passion for surfing, but sadly my ability no longer matched my desire, though I still enjoy being part of the North Narrabeen Boardriders Club. Having purchased my first house at 22, I spent two decades of any spare time (when not raising a family and building a business) designing and building new (or renovating) four family homes, so now I enjoy a great group of intergenerational friends, swimming, surfing, walking, having a coffee or visiting northern beaches as a vesparado.

Is there anything you would like to share? Or anything you’d like to offer help with?

In any small business it feels like you have to be CEO, CFO, COO, CMO, CIO and Rain Maker – it’s easy to be overwhelmed and even easier to be busy, busy, busy but not productive. Have your vision and your strategy for getting there, then simplify (organize, reduce, priorities, time, systems and synergies) then improve each of your business functions one planned step at a time. If you’d like to invest an hour in discussing your challenges and possible solutions - and you feel four decades of experience and wisdom might help, get in touch ($150 members only).

Bonus Question: If you were a sandwich, what sort of sandwich would you be and why?

Growing up in the 60’s, my mum wasn’t just a home-maker, she taught yoga and inflicted health foods and natural remedies on all her children, which made it impossible to trade your Vogel’s bread, vegemite, celery and walnut sandwich with anyone at school who had a Devon and tomato sauce on white bread sandwich. These days I’d just be leg ham and salad on fresh sourdough.

Practically Partners