Cofounder, Etax Accountants; Producer, The Australian Voices; Producer, Meme Juice Productions
Scott Griffin's resume reflects a collage of experiences: entrepreneur, singer, and athlete.
Scott Griffin (Sydney, 2003-2006) is just 31 years old, but already his CV is full-to-bursting.
Among other things, he is cofounder of Etax Accountants, the leading online accounting firm in Australia; CEO of the bookkeeping firm Accounts Etcetera; CEO and travelling member of The Australian Voices, Australia's premier a cappella ensemble; and an endurance athlete who competes in ultramarathons and ridiculously long bike rides.
So, is Scott an entrepreneur, a musician, or an athlete?
"The answer changes depending on who is asking, but I think my career—and my life—would be best described as a collage of experiences," said Scott.
The entrepreneur, he says, is the strongest part of his personality, but only in as much that it is a means to an end.
"I want to make a difference in the world," he explained. "It is not money that drives me but the idea that if, through my businesses I can create resources, and I can then do something positive with those resources then, maybe, I can make an impact."
Scott was still a teenager when, in 1998, together with his father and brother, he cofounded Etax Accountants, an online personal tax service for individuals. Another of his companies, Accounts Etcetera, provides traditional bookkeeping and administrative services to small- to medium-sized businesses.
While both firms offer supportive relationships in a similar field, each has differing business models, marketing and sales strategies, and methods of service delivery. Etax Accountants is completely online while Accounts Etcetera is, for the most part, offline. The staffing of the two companies is also dissimilar. While Etax tends to attract younger people interested in online operations, Accounts Etcetera is staffed by people who have worked as bookkeepers for 30 to 40 years—people, Scott says, "who really know their stuff."
"It’s interesting to see these two generations at work," said Scott. "The older generation brings a very strong work ethic to the job while the younger generation tends to be more creative and interested in trying new things."
For Scott personally, no two days are the same—that’s the nature of having multiple businesses going at one time. "I’ve got start-up issues, marketing issues, financing issues, you name it," he said. "I outsource as much as possible to create the flexibility and time needed to handle anything that might pop up."
His best coping strategy is to start each morning with a list of the top three things he’d like to accomplish during that day. "That’s a trick I learned from one of my BCG managers in Sydney and it has been helpful, particularly when there are a large number of requests on my time and I’ve got to prioritize," he said.
Busy as he is, Scott’s energy and passion dictate that his life is equally full while away from work. "I believe in balance, and as much as I need work, I also need to make time for my family, exercise, and a social life," he said. "If I sense I’m investing too heavily in business, I’ll turn to my music, or some type of athletic pursuit."
In Scott’s case, however, this does not mean simply hooking into his iPod and jogging around the block.
An accomplished vocalist, Scott has been touring the world for 12 years with The Australian Voices (TAV), an ensemble dedicated to promoting and recording Australian choral music. "Our goal is to commission Australian composers to write pieces we can perform around the globe," he explained. "We’re at a point where we’re developing from being an amateur ensemble into an international, professional brand. It’s very exciting."
A recent YouTube post highlights not only that professionalism, but also that choral music can be both contemporary, and fun. Toy Story 3 = Awesome! (The Facebook Song) is available for sale online and was reviewed in the Sydney Morning Herald as "One of the coolest, nerdiest, funniest music videos doing the cyber rounds."
Scott lists TAV’s performance of the choral work "Horizon" before 600 people at Brisbane’s The Cathedral of St. Stephen as being "right up there with the stuff I’m most proud of."
On top of all this, Scott, who sings second tenor in TAV, has also mastered harmonic overtone, or throat signing. His own YouTube post—Harmonic Overtone Singing - sing 2 notes at the same time!—has had almost 70,000 hits.
Speaking of doing two things at a time: in 2010, in the space of just a few months, Scott completed both the inaugural Red Heart Bike Ride—from Uluru in the middle of the continent to Brisbane on the country’s eastern coast (riding 3,500 kilometers in 19 days) before tackling the 250-kilometer Racing the Planet cross-country footrace across the Kimberleys in the western part of Australia.
He says he’s amused by the way some people react when he tells them he does endurance events. "You tell somebody you’re training for a 10K or a half marathon, and they’re genuinely impressed," he said. "Ironically, when you say you’re going to ride your bike half way across Australia, they’re somehow less impressed. For some reason, they feel they must tell you, ‘Yeah, well I heard about a guy with no legs that rode his bike ten times farther.'"
Scott remains undaunted. "I’m doing this largely as a personal goal," he said. "It’s nice on one level to be measured against folks that are doing something completely crazy. You can always find something more challenging."
Let’s review what that run involved. We’re not talking about nice paved roads here; this had people slogging directly through untamed bush. Scott had to lug a backpack with his equipment and enough food for a week. On the final day he had to run a full 100 kilometers.
"OK, so it was a bit arduous," said Scott. "I had to learn how to puncture my toenails with a needle to relieve the pressure that had built up under them. Regardless, I lost five toenails. But over time the memory of the pain and discomfort fades and you’re looking around for the next big challenge."
This brings us full-circle to Scott the entrepreneur.
The Racing the Planet run raised $2,000 for The Australian Voices. The bike ride raised $20,000 for mental health research, and spawned an idea for yet another business.
Together with two friends, Scott developed Red Heart Ride, a company that creates epic cycling adventures designed to let participants "experience the magic of cycling and the beauty of the Australian landscape." Red Heart Ride donates 10% of its profits to charity and encourages individuals and organizations to create charitable and fund-raising events.
"People often think being an entrepreneur just means starting businesses and making money," he said. "I believe that if you’re fortunate enough to have an education and resources then you should be using those to help in some way."
"Search online and you’ll find a thousand ways to contribute as a social entrepreneur, from micro-farming to banking, from health education to the arts. There are fantastic new technologies and countless opportunities for entrepreneurs to tackle many issues."
While Scott says that his entrepreneurial spirit was forged long before he came to BCG, he adds that his time in the Sydney office was a natural step in the path he’s walking today.
"I learned skills at BCG that continue to help drive who I am," he said. "This might sound silly, but one of the most powerful technical skills I learned there was the converting of ideas into slides. I’m amazed at the power that a ten- to 20-slide presentation can capture. Encapsulated ideas can be presented to employees, customers, or even a board of directors."
"In addition, having BCG on my CV helps open doors and takes conversations to a higher level; it adds credibility and makes people more willing to listen."
"Lastly, BCG taught me to take a bird’s eye view of large organizations. I believe I now have a better understanding of how such businesses operate and the challenges they face."
Scott remembers, for instance, a case he worked on for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra as being right up his street. But his most satisfying memory, he says, was a pro bono project with the aboriginal community in Mossman Gorge in the northernmost part of the state of Queensland.
"We worked to close a public road and give access of that land back to the aboriginals so that they could control their own natural resources," explained Scott. "This involved negotiating with various interested parties and government groups. We got the road closed and transferred access rights back to the aboriginal community.
"I’m still very proud of that and grateful to BCG for providing the resources to make it happen."
Today Scott is settled back in his hometown Brisbane, happy to be among friends and family. But this hardly means he’s sitting still.
"Ideas continue to evolve quickly in my head. While I’m happy with the categories in my CV, I’d love to do more of the same and do things better," he concluded. "There will be more endurance projects, more singing, and I’m going to grow my businesses larger and better."