Founders: Paul Morffew and Daniela Athan
Revenue: $2.1 million
Head Office: Queensland
Industry: Trades & services
While working on a large engineering project together, Paul Morffew and Daniela Athan realised that the way the project’s team was put together was, in Morffew’s words, “haphazard”.
Rather than require clients to pull together individuals from different firms, often with conflicting ideas on how the project should operate, Morffew and Athan’s start-up MRS provides entire teams to quality manage the work.
Launched on the eve of the global financial downturn, with $300,000 fund raising via ASSOB, MRS had to overcome several hurdles. Most pressingly for a firm that employs contractors that command salaries north of $250,000, cashflow was a major problem.
“There were about three months in 2008 where I didn’t get a wage,” says Morffew. “At one point I didn’t think we’d get out the other side, but we had a lot of work lined up.”
“Cashflow is still a big problem as we grow rapidly and put on two or three people a month. You need a lot of cash in the bank to pay these people, so you need to grow gradually.”
MRS’ offering was one quickly taken up by clients, with strong processes, such as cloud-based access to systems, aiding its expansion. Morffew says that MRS has had to rapidly switch its thinking from start-up to fast-growth, established company.
“It’s tricky because everyone still expects that I will come out and do every job, as if we’re a one-person business,” he explains. “One of our directors raised succession planning at the first company meeting and I was taken aback, but I realised that we need to be more than one person.”
“If I get hit by a bus, the business will continue. We want to get the right people in and get them trained up.”
“I’ve always tinkered with small businesses and moving from a medium- to large-sized business is fairly easy, but it’s hard growing a small business into a medium-sized one. We had to get out of the ‘mum and dad store’ mindset and think of ourselves as a large business.”
MRS certainly has the reach of a large business – it is undertaking a major project in Qatar for the 2022 World Cup. Turnover is expected to top $10 million this year.