Community connection runs deep

1644 848 In Good Company | Northern Rivers

Connect Business Solutions

1 Wyangarie St, Kyogle

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Community connection runs deep

Connect Business Solutions can be thought of as the glue that holds a business community together. As a company that provides tax and accounting services, as well as financial planning and business finance solutions, Connect is an essential cog in the economic life of the towns it serves: Lismore, Casino and Kyogle and their wider surrounds.

Owned by Melanie Serone and Andrew Stevens, Connect was established in February 2016 with a team of just four. Yet the ambition at that early stage was clear, for both what the business would be, and what it would not be.

“The business was started by a group of professionals who had formerly worked in a large corporate organisation and no longer felt aligned with the corporate model,” says Melanie. “The desire was strong to create a small business with a team of people who were passionate about connecting with their clients and the local community. The guiding principle was to provide good-quality service at a fair price, and treat our clients like family.”

Today, Connect employs 35 staff across its three sites. The business has also won a plethora of awards in its nearly seven years, including the Business of the Year award for Lismore in 2020. It has become a hub of local financial talent, thanks to its expansive trainee program. This is a true Northern Rivers success story, with Connect enjoying outstanding business achievements, as well as becoming a beloved fixture in the local economy.

However, things have, of course, been challenging in recent times. The Lismore office suffered devastating flood damage in February 2022. The Casino office was also affected but was able to reopen relatively quickly. The floods required the Connect team to adapt – and fast.

“With only two locations operational for five months post-flood, we were staring down the barrel of temporarily standing down administration staff,” says Melanie. “We made a financial decision to push through and keep everyone in full employment. This meant we had some [Lismore office] staff travelling to the Casino and Kyogle offices to work, and our Lismore-based staff would meet with clients in a car park.”

Since July, the Lismore team has been safely ensconced in new offices on Cook Street. However, the hardships the Northern Rivers has faced in the last three years continue to affect businesses throughout the region – and a financial services company such as Connect must play a crucial role in helping companies negotiate the aftermath of floods, pandemic and bushfire. So for Connect, resilience is not something to look back on – it is something they both observe and practice in their day-to-day operations.

“To be resilient means being able to help others who are struggling and to make sure they don’t get left behind. At Connect our mission is to use connection as a way to build support and hope for better times ahead.”

“At Connect our mission is to use connection as a way to build support and hope for better times ahead”

A particularly important service Connect has provided recently has been to modernise many businesses in the region – to update their technology and systems, to ensure that any future floods do not impact important financial records and information. “Both COVID and the flood event have shown that those who have embraced technology have felt less impact,” says Melanie, who adds that Connect has assisted many clients in moving to cloud-based accounting in the wake of the floods.

As well as providing its diverse range of financial services, the business takes care to engage with the community in ways that go beyond its primary business purpose. Connect sponsors sports clubs, events, and academic initiatives in schools. They also won the Corporate Challenge as part of Lismore’s Darrell Chapman Fun Run in 2022, raising $2000 for the Our Kids charity. But given Melanie, Andrew and the team’s focus on connection and support among local people, maybe these things are not separate to the business’s services after all – they are part of them.

“If you go into business with the sole focus of making money you will fail,” says Melanie. “This is a relationship business, and to truly be a trusted advisor, you need to connect with your clients and have their best interests as your number-one priority.”

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