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How to Grow a Business and Give Back to Community
Season 1, Episode 6
Ash Platz, director of FC Lawyers, shares the story of the firm and its growth on the Sunshine Coast. He emphasises the importance of being authentic and real in business marketing. Ash discusses the challenges of marketing in a crowded legal space and how FC Lawyers differentiates itself by being personable and approachable.
On episode 6 of Coast and Commerce Podcast, our guest, Ash Platz highlights the importance of building relationships with clients and fostering a positive culture within his firm. FC Lawyers is actively involved in the community and supports various charities to solidify their presence and differentiation.
- Be authentic and real in business to go a long way.
- Building relationships with clients is key in professional services.
- Differentiate yourself by being personable and approachable.
- Invest in your team and empower them to build relationships with clients.
- Get involved in the community and support charities.
- Focus on growth and solidify your presence in current locations.
00:00 Introduction and Background
01:27 The History of FC Lawyers
02:24 Expansion and Services
03:02 Challenges in Marketing
04:06 Differentiating from Competitors
05:33 Building Relationships with Clients
07:33 Fostering a Personal and Approachable Culture
09:04 Empowering Staff and Staff Retention
10:56 Community Involvement and Giving Back
12:38 Expansion into North Queensland and Sydney
18:15 Future Growth and the Importance of the Sunshine Coast
20:04 Keys to the Success of FC Lawyers
Note: the following transcript was generated by AI and therefore may contain some errors and omissions.
The staff and your team are the key because they are the sellers of your business and they’re also our service I guess is what the client is getting from our team. So I think the main thing is just be real. I think that’s the easiest thing, just be authentic and real on the Sunshine Coast and you’ll go a long way.
G’day and welcome back to the Coast and Commerce podcast. I’m Ben Amos from Innovate Media and this show is all about sharing stories, insight and inspiration from business leaders across the Sunshine Coast and beyond. And another one of those amazing business leaders that we have here on the Sunshine Coast and right here in our studio today is Ash Platz from FC Lawyers. Ash, welcome to the show. Thanks for having me, Ben. So I’m excited to kind of find out the story. I think anyone who’s been in business on the Sunshine Coast for
any number of years has probably come across FC Law, FC Lawyers, or Ferguson Cannon, as you guys used to be known. So can you tell me a little bit about your story and kind of what led to you being now director of FC Lawyers and how that all got started? Yeah, basically Glenn Ferguson started the company with Byron Cannon back in the day, in 1995 actually, in Marootjadal. So we’re in newspaper place to begin with, which is sort of like the hub, I guess, in Marootjadal, the old school hub. It was, yeah.
So yeah, they started that up. I’m obviously Glenn’s son. So naturally during school, sort of getting the part-time jobs there, full-time jobs now. So it’s pretty cool. Moved along the ranks and we’ve just grown since then. Excellent. So, you know, from the start there was there a particular type of law that you guys were focusing on, you know, back with, it was Byron and Glenn there. So, or is it just across the board? Basically, back then they were young.
straight out of the articles. So they didn’t really know what was happening. They just wanted to start their own company. And I guess they started that and just did anything they could, I guess. They now focus on a lot of key areas, but back then anything you get your hands on, I think was the go. Awesome, cool. So tell me about FC Lawyers today. So what’s changed and where do you guys focus your services now? Yeah, so we’ve actually grown to 30 staff at the moment. So it’s quite a big operation.
We have offices in North Queensland, still in Merichador, so in the Contiki building in the middle of Merichador now. We’ve got a Brisbane office and a Sydney office. So we’ve grown quite a bit with our services. We sort of stick to our five sort of main areas, which are the business and commercial, the migration, the property.
the wills and estates and litigation. Excellent, cool. And your role from early on as well is my understanding it was in marketing. Yes. So, you know, in those early days of taking on that marketing role within the firm there, what were some of the challenges then and how’s that different now? Well, I guess the online.
side of things was not huge back when I started. That was like a new, we were still on ADSL, sorry, not even ADSL, Dial Up. Yeah, yeah, Dial Up. So we had a lot of challenges with the online stuff. And we were competing against big guys, like Shine and all that sort of stuff, even though they did personal injury, they flooded the market with marketing. It was very hard to differentiate from those sort of people. We had a lot of community events, a lot of…
staff. At one point we were up to 55 staff. So that was quite a bit of a challenge across those offices. But it was also a lot of fun and a lot of business coming through. So since it’s all changed now, I guess it’s all online stuff, I guess it’s pretty hard to get away from there.
but we’re trying to focus on a lot of referral and word of mouth and meeting people, networking now. So it’s changed quite a bit, but I guess business overall in the last sort of 10, 20 years has changed quite a bit as well. Yeah, awesome. So you talked about differentiation there and standing out from competition, you know, the big noisy guys like Shine and so on. Yep.
Law is a pretty crowded space, right? I think there are, I don’t know how many law firms are on the Sunshine Coast alone, right? And they all practise law, right? So if you have an issue that needs some law help, then you can find a lawyer. Throw a stone and you’ll probably hit one, right? But how do you differentiate? So over the years, how have you guys figured out, or have you figured out how to cut through, how to be different, how to find the clients that are right for you, and so they stick around as well? Yeah, I guess.
The easiest, the hardest way to get a client is just straight cold calling or straight through just online. Yeah. You have to sort of become friends with them in a way, I guess, sort of create that relationship, the personal relationship, which is very hard to do when people have limited time these days. They see us as, oh, we don’t want to spend money, we don’t want to do X, Y, and Z, but we’re humans like the client as well, so we understand the challenges. So I think…
differentiating ourselves is that we’re personable and we’re approachable. You can speak to anyone in the firm, it’s not a you only get to speak to the lower level, you know, the low level paralegals, you can speak to anyone at our firm anytime. It’s easy. We’re personable, approachable, everything like that. Yeah, cool. I mean, the reality is, and it’s true for any business. So, you know, someone listening or watching this podcast today might not be in a law firm, but
every business is about people buying from people, right? And in professional services like law, I mean, even in marketing like what we do, people are ultimately buying in to the people who are gonna deliver the result that they need. Whether that be law results or whether that be marketing or whether that be, I don’t know, buying a coffee from a coffee shop. Even in a commodity-based thing like a coffee shop, you do go back there because of the people, right? Maybe the quality of coffee too.
law advice needs to be right too. So that relationship thing is really critical. So how do you guys foster that? Like is it just about being nice and friendly and wearing cool shirts? We don’t always wear cool shirts, that’s the other thing. So some days, Fridays, we’re always allowed to wear a cool shirt. But I guess fostering it is different for every client. There’s no one thing fits every client. They’re all different. They’re all…
Different age groups, demographics are all different. Their experiences in life are different. So I think what we have to do is sort of understand what our client wants, what our client needs, but also how to get them from A to B. Not the easiest way, but the best way for them. And I guess fostering the relationship is not just sending an email, not just sending a text message, it’s just being there, I guess, through the easy times, through the hard times.
I guess lawyers only want to, people only want to see us, I guess, when they have a problem, but we can also like safeguard your future in a lot of different ways as well. And that’s just a simple conversation, I guess. And that’s where we sort of come in with the whole approachable, you know, we want to speak to you. We don’t want you just to talk to us when you have a problem. We want to hear from you every so frequently. Yeah. So I guess that’s how we differentiate and that’s how we sort of keep
our clients and we’re very happy with our clients. Our clients are like our friends in a way. We have a lot of clients who are now friends with our staff outside of the office.
So I think that speaks volumes for just how good our staff are and how good our clients are as well. So it’s about breaking down those barriers or those perceptions of law firms typically traditionally used to be up in their high towers, wood paneled offices, receptionist in the way and they start the billing clock every 15 minutes and that kind of thing. I guess you’re breaking down that kind of perception. Yeah. And we have gone away from that fixed billable…
It’s kind of an old school methodology for a lot of people. So now fixed fees is just the way to go because you know what the client wants, they know what the price is going to be and they get the exceptional service from us straight away. So that’s sort of another thing where you can sort of differentiate from the big guys. So as a director of the company, having that mindset around relationships focus and building those real human connections with your clients for that longevity of that service.
you know, relationship, that’s great from a director’s perspective, but you mentioned you got that 30 or so staff, right? How do you build that into your culture, into the team and kind of get them all on board with the same idea? Well, we got a few plans and reports in place. So we got them sort of following us, I guess, in a way. So the directors sort of lead their teams. I don’t say we cracked the whip, but we, we try to lead them so that they can do their own thing as well. So we,
I’m trying to find a better word for this, but we want them to be more involved in the day-to-day of the clients as well, rather than just the directors being in charge of everything. We like all our staff having their own relationships, their own clients, all that sort of stuff. So to us, it gives them a bit of an empowerment and a bit of a…
you know, they feel like they’re really looking after people, which is a great feeling for everyone, great morale booster. The client also feels good as well. They get to speak to the person that’s actually dealing with their matter as well. Yeah. I imagine that kind of mindset is also quite good for staff retention as well. Does it lead to that? Like people enjoy practicing law? I think that’s the hardest part when people…
for example, watch Suits and all that sort of stuff. And I think they get a Ferrari straight out of law school and all that sort of stuff. You don’t? Well, none of us do. Not yet, anyway, there’s still time. But, you know, I guess it’s good. You want to keep staff because you invest in staff. Your team is basically a marketing tool for your business. So the more you can keep them on board, the.
We’ve got a great retention rate in terms of longevity. We’ve got probably five staff that have been there for 10 years at least. So that’s quite a big achievement in most businesses. Probably about another 10 for the five year mark as well. So it’s been quite a good retention. And I guess it’s important because you invest in people. You need good people in your business. It’s as simple as that.
I love that. So, you know, one thing that I recognise from the outside looking in at FC Lawyers as well is you don’t only focus on the good people in your business, but you also look at how you can add more value to the wider community as well. So, you know, I see, I often see you guys doing things out and about in the community, whether it be sponsoring events or whatever. So I’d like to talk to you about that. So why do you do that sort of stuff as a law firm? I guess.
A, it’s a good marketing tool for a lot of things. But also you help a lot of people in the community that need it. I mean, we don’t wanna be seen as the, like I said earlier, the scary law firm that’s in the ivory tower. You know, we’re people. I guess the community is one of our biggest strengths. They’re part of, you know, they’re our clients as well. So we’ve gotta look after everyone. The community is just, the events we do, all that sort of stuff. It just adds to morale of staff.
you know, we’re helping people, which is always great to see, you know, you love the same, the smiles, the thank you, the recognition, but it’s not about that. It’s about just helping people in general. Yeah. So you founded here on the Sunshine Coast and obviously head office here on the Sunshine Coast. And you do a lot in the Sunshine Coast community, but you mentioned your North Queensland offices and Sydney and others. So how do you kind of work in those other spaces as well? You know, do you also kind of invest in those communities? Yeah, so our Innisfail North Queensland office
Fairly new. We partner with a local firm on the coast, Brandon and Gullo, so they just focus on personal injury. But we have an office together up in Isvale. So it’s only brand new, but I guess the focus for 2024 will be we have a lot more networks in there and a lot more people going up. So it’s literally a stone’s throw away when you hit up Bonza and go on the local company up here. So it’s beautiful. But yeah, that’s a key area that we’re gonna go with. There’s a lot of people up there.
and a lot of great people as well. We’ve done a few events there this year and they’re just lovely, country. Don’t really like the big city, but it’s a good vibe up there. Yeah. Sydney is the same thing. We’ve got an office in Balmain.
got to get going a bit as well, but that’s just a 2024 sort of focus at the moment. So our two key officers are Meruchador and Brisbane. Yeah. Okay. Awesome. And you know, when you, I guess, when you go into these regional areas as well, like the North Queensland, do you think there’s benefits being from a regional area? You know, Sunshine Coast, they call it regional, but you know, but we’re not the big city guys, right? No. Well, some of us could be, but you know, we’re not. We choose not to. No, you want to be regional.
like Chloe is the president of the QLS at the moment. So for this year. QLS. Queensland Law Society. Thank you. Sorry, used to speaking in law areas. Just making sure everyone listening knows where we are. Yeah, so she’s gone up to North Queensland for a lot of North Queensland events this year. And she’s met a lot of people through there. We’ve run events at the Innersvale Show, which is the big sort of town, Nambor show sort of style for us on the Sunshine Coast, but up there.
met a lot of great people. The networking up there is unbelievable and they’re all just happy to see people. It’s a great vibe, but yeah, not big city slickers. Yeah, cool. So, we talked about the benefits from the firm’s perspective about…
getting involved in community and supporting charity and things like that. How do you bring that down back into the rest of your culture as well? So I guess what we do with those sort of charities and community events is we give our staff and our team a chance to sort of nominate or put forward what they want to do for the year. So we go through a yearly planner and make sure that we’re looking after as many people as we can. It’s not just looking after one organisation.
And then I guess they get the sense of they’re looking after their own charity in a way. So we go as much as we can to support a lot of charities. But when the staff member brings it to us and says, you know what, I want to do this. And we go, you know what, we’re going to support you. We’re going to go with this. And there’s not many we knock back. But, you know, we’re very happy to be involved in the community. Yeah, gives us all a sense of joy in that sort of thing. And I guess when you help people like that, I guess our clients sort of can see how
We help the community, but we also help them with their legal side as well. We’re not just doing one or the other. It sort of resonates with our team that we are humans and we love to help people. That’s the core of business as well. You have to help them. So I guess both of them are just hand in hand at the moment. Yeah, I love it. I really love that idea of empowering the team to be able to put forward.
things that matter to them that the firm can get behind. Because the reality is, is for many people who are, you know, employees in a company, regardless of where they’re at in their career, they probably can’t personally do as much as they want to for things that matter to them, for charities that matter to them. So.
I imagine that being able to do that through your workplace is a really positive thing for, and again, for staff retention. But also, do you find that it also kind of opens the eyes of the rest of the team to charities or, you know, concerns that maybe they hadn’t considered before? Yeah, I feel like when we sort of promote it, not everyone follows what we do 100%, I guess, in terms of…
what we’re doing, but we have those charities where the day of what we do, people go, oh my god, I didn’t know that is happening, or I don’t know that this is the cause, I don’t know it’s happening on the Sunshine Coast or Brisbane or North Queensland. There’s different reactions to every event we do. And it’s not just a huge event we do, you know, just sponsoring someone for $500 can make such a difference to so many lives. And it’s just something simple in our eyes, but something that not many people take for granted.
So I guess the team sort of goes, wow, you know, we’re doing a lot. And I think when you look back over the 2023 or every year we do it, we go, we helped 30, 40, 50 charities in the year. And we, you don’t realise how much you’re actually doing every month, every week, all that sort of stuff. And a lot of it is you go back and go, wow, we’ve actually made quite a, quite a difference in the community. Yeah. That’s so cool. As a company, do you set any, any.
giving targets or do you have any kind of goal setting at the start of the year or the financial year to say this is what we intend to do this year? We have budgets and that sort of thing for sort of sponsorships and stuff like that but I guess we have a lot of lawyers that do pro bono work for charities as well so that’s something else we’re pretty proud of where we give free time I guess to some clients but they’re very worthy and they need it. Not all of them have.
the money from the grants and all that sort of stuff from the government. So we’re very happy with that sort of thing. And we do like to sort of set targets. I can’t tell you them now, but we do like to help as many as we can. Yeah, excellent. So as a, as a Sunshine Coast based business, as I said before, and now offices in Brisbane, Innisfail and Sydney as well.
What’s next? Do you plan on keeping and moving around the country and keeping on growing? Growing numbers would be a great start, but I guess the four offices we have, just solidifying where we are would be great. We need to grow into those areas that, like I said, were new in North Queensland and Sydney, and it’s very hard. You mean, you talk about Sunshine Coast competition, Sydney’s quadrupled that at least.
I think we’re not looking to expand any more offices at the moment. That might change, you never know what happens in 2024, but I guess looking after just the communities that we’re involved in already would be a great start. And what does the home base of the Sunshine Coast mean to you in the Sunshine Coast business community, both in your growth plans, but also personally? Personally, I think…
I’ve been here most of my life, I think 32 years at least at the moment. So I find the coast just one of those places that you probably don’t want to leave once you’ve been here. I mean, I have no desire to move to Brisbane, Sydney, anywhere else like that. Very relaxed coastal town. It’s getting busier. But, you know, I like the flow of Sunshine Coast. I love the people, the community, everything we’re involved in. So for me personally, I think the Sunshine Coast is just growing at a great rate.
and it’s only going to get better. Business wise, I think you’re popping up with businesses everywhere on the Sunshine Coast. It’s just growing every, almost every day. There’s a new business coming up somewhere, which is great because it means a lot of people want to get involved. A lot more opportunity for us, which is kind of good as well. Very good. But you know, it’s just, it creates more of a community on the Sunshine Coast. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with growth.
and that’s what we want to see on the Sunshine Coast growth. Absolutely. So just in closing here, Ash, I’m interested to, if you could identify, you know, what do you think or how would you summarise the keys to the success of FC Lawyers so far? You know, I know that it’s probably not always been sunshine, unicorns and rainbows, right? But, you know, what would you say has kind of got the company to where it is today?
And how is that going to hopefully inspire someone else to maybe improve their business or hit the ground running? I guess as we talked about earlier, the staff and your team are the key because they are the sellers of your business and they’re also our service, I guess, is what the client’s getting from our team. So we’re very happy with our team. We’re investing in our team, we love the team and I guess the clients.
love our team as well. So I think the main thing is just be real. I think that’s the heart. That’s the easiest thing. Just be authentic and real on the Sunshine Coast and you’ll go a long way. Yeah, I love that. It’s a great place to end. Ashley, thank you for joining me here on the show today. And for you guys watching or listening, hit subscribe on whatever platform you’re listening or watching to this on so you don’t miss any more stories and inspiration to help you do better in business and hopefully grow a great team like
these guys over here at FC Lawyers. All right, we’ll see you in the next episode.
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