Some words from our Director on our our 10th birthday:
10 years ago today I had just finished my Bachelor of Urban and Environmental Planning at Griffith University and had one more exam left. I had already been an undergraduate planner at a planning/surveying company in the city and strived for something more. There and then, I called a friend of mine who made me a website and designed me a logo ('www.steffantownplanning.com') and I started my journey into the world of small business. A very bold move considering I was only 21 and hadn't even officially completed my studies and I had no idea how to run a business.
My first job was for a friends father who was doing some house extensions in Logan and we quoted him $1000 for the DA. Getting a bloody bargain, he signed up the next day and just like that, I quit my job and went into full-time consulting. Still living at my parents house in the backstreets of Beenleigh, I had no overheads so I spent my first $1000 on a $500 A3 scanner/printer and had a sales rep from Yellow Pages come over and book in a 2 colour ad.
Now that I was broke again, I needed a quicker way to get my next job and although my SEO skills were okay, I found people in this industry want to connect with their consultant and learn to trust them. This led me to suiting up and walking straight into potential referral partners offices and offering my planning services to them. My first client was a Building Certification business in Loganholme. From there, I was learning very quickly about all things PI insurance, PL insurance, Cashflow, Tax, GST.
The industry at the time was dominated by a few big consultant groups and there was only a handful of smaller private consulting groups so I saw a good gap in the market to provide a high level of customer service whilst also paying close attention to getting the best outcome for my clients.
My first annual turnover was $32,000. Not much, but it was the most money I had ever made in one financial year so I was cheering. It gave me some confidence to grow the business, and I couldn't do that working from my parents basement so I moved into share house in Red Hill and set up my PO Box (that we still have) and started specialising in 'demolition control precincts' applications.
Yellow Pages was dying and people were starting to Google to find their consultant so I studied SEO and started doing everything I could to boost our ranking for the typical searches. We came up with a unique way of getting found by providing alternate landing pages for every single suburb in SEQ (e.g. 'Camp Hill Town Planning Consultants', 'Coorparoo Town Planning Consultants') and it really started paying off. That was until soon after Google penalised websites with alternate landing pages and we had to get rid of them and spend another few months getting the website back up to the first page.
From those first few years until now has been quite a blur. I worked out of a dilapidated share house along Musgrave Road (Red Hill) for 5 years and played around with an office space in the Fortitude Valley until I purchased a small studio apartment with my partner in Fairfield. I worked for another few months out of a home office until I realised I had about $80k worth of debts that I needed to follow up. I gave that assignment to my partner Ali and offered her a job to help me with the admin side of the business which was becoming a major part of the daily routine. She managed to get the number down to $0 and she won herself full-time employment (also paid for her first years wage in her first few weeks ha).
1 year later, with someone taking care of the administration, we purchased a house around the corner and kept growing the business and a year or so later we took on our first full-time town planner. With more time to work on the business and in the business, we were growing very fast and 3 months later we took on a student planner and out-grew the home office.
After working for myself, by myself, and at home for almost 9 years, it was scary making this thing 'more official'. Not that the business wasn't going great and we weren't offering an extremely professional service, I was now 'a boss'. This led to new challenges but challenges I was eager to take on and improve on. I was fortunate enough to end up with a great team of employees and we all share a similar outlook on life, humour and passion for planning so it made it all quite easy.
That brings my to October 2018 where I am writing this post from our air-conditioned office in East Brisbane with an ever-growing business that is now officially 10 years old. If I had to write a list of everyone who has helped Steffan Town Planning along the way, this post would be almost endless, but I would like to give my partner Ali Smeal a special mention who has both supported me personally and also helped take the business out of our studio apartment into a great office space along Stanley Street in East Brisbane.
Thank you everyone, I'm looking forward to the next 10 years.