Sophia Symeou, CEO of INS Career Management is a woman with a big vision. When she and her business partners were brainstorming their business, they wrote out their full business plan – vision, mission, values, shareholders agreement and exit strategy – on three big pieces of butcher’s paper.
They knew they were onto something big, but the key to their success was finding the right person to believe in them.
An Accountant with a personality….surely not
Sophie went along to a networking function one day and heard Jim Vass from ATB speak. She was deeply impressed with him because:
He was an accountant with personality’, and secondly because he was talking about something that really resonated with me.. being a partner in a business, not just working the numbers.
It was a decision that paid off.
All we had was an idea. We didn’t even have staff when we started with Jim. And we rocked into his office and started telling him what we wanted to achieve. And to his credit, actually, he heard us out. I think most other accountants would have gone: ‘who are these three ditzy women?’
Yet Jim was as invested in their idea as they were.
He could see the passion, he could see the potential.
Thus, a beautiful partnership was born. ATB signed on with INS Career Management.
Understanding the vision
INS Career Management look after the entire lifecycle of employment – from onboarding to outplacement and everything in between including HR consulting, programme reviews, restructuring…
…whatever a client might want in HR.
Their market is government contracts, but it is a vision which is expanding every day.
Support at just the right time…
He guided us from the very beginning. Our banking, our structure. Our establishment. And he was there when we hired our first fifteen people and had our first induction. He came in so that people understood the relationship between us and ATB as a partnership not a supplier relationship.
Once that relationship was formalised Sophia says that it drove every aspect of her business.
That’s what’s been critical from day one. He is my CFO and my strategist even though he’s not in my business.
A strong working partnership
Sophia found herself having to deal with the tidal ebbs and flows of business.
Suddenly she had lots of people depending on her and the responsibility of managing a business and looking after everyone was daunting.
We’ve had some situations where contracts have finished and we’ve gone from earning big money to no money and big numbers of staff. So how do you do that from my cultural framework of caring for people and not just cutting?
How do you do that and give a little more than people are entitled to? And still have that sense of financial propriety? Jim has managed to guide me through all of that.
Jim proved to be her rock during the tumultuous times. He helped her create a sound financial blueprint that meant she knew where the business was heading and could budget and anticipate and thus look after her employees.
He actually does things like our tax strategy which is critical. He actually insists on me managing my cash flow. And he sits down with me and shows me how to do that. He’s so patient. He does it every month and in between as well to make sure I stay on top of my cash flow.
Structural changes… and some big decisions
Three years in, INS went through massive change. Three became one when Sophia Symeou bought out her business partners, an acrimonious and painful process nurtured and guided by Jim.
Extraordinarily, Jim supported all three business partners equally and fairly, so they could all continue their journeys.
‘It’s the emotional maturity of the man… it’s about the importance of people, not just figures.’ Sophia says.
A Fabulous Mentor
What would life without Jim have meant for Sophia and her business?
I probably would have had to close my doors. That’s the truth. Without his guidance I would not be where I am now. We’d not be in a position to win awards. To be comfortable financially.
Sophia says its blossomed into a healthy working relationship, where Jim pushes her to be tougher and she will push back.
But yet they’ve found a happy medium. And having worked together through so many hard times they have total respect and trust in each other. Sophia knows how invested and passionate Jim is in her business.
He’s an accountant with a head for figures and a heart for community. He’s the person that I call when I just don’t know what to do. Jim is the person who knows my business inside out.
Jim is more than just the accountant for Sophia’s business, he’s the CFO, a trusted mentor and good friend.
He’s a fabulous mentor. In fact I have no head for figures. In fact I don’t know if that’s true so much as I hate figures. And he is patient. He wants me to understand. The way I act with my clients when I want them to be independent of me, he’s the same with me. He wants me to understand my own financial situation, he wants me to be independent.
Play to your strengths – meet your virtual CFO
Jim and the team at ATB are the Virtual Chief Financial Officers for INS Career Management.
And because of their diligence and vigilance, Sophia is able to focus on her business goals, and scaling the business for growth…
…rather than on the day to day accounts.