They say it's an ill wind that blows nobody any good, and the switch to remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic has helped AgileXperts win business, Cowan told iTWire.
Organisations became comfortable with the idea of their own staff working remotely, so potential clients in Sydney or Melbourne became less concerned that AgileXperts is based in Brisbane. There's now no expectation that AgileXperts will work at clients' sites, he said, although the company does now have staff in Sydney and Melbourne.
As its name suggests, AgileXperts is an Agile consultancy. What's unusual is that it uses the payroll function to get a foot in the door. Clients then see the excitement and delivery that agile uplift brings in that context, he said, and ask what else AgileXperts can help them with.
Improving payroll is seen as a risk mitigation activity in the light of recent well-publicised cases of underpayment.
“The major fallout of some of Australia’s most iconic brands is that they are identified in the media as underpaying their employees, this impacts their brand perception and loyalty. Too often, customers come to us after they have unintentionally underpaid their staff for some time, while completely unawares,” said Cowan.
Payroll is "an under-appreciated function," he observed, but people quickly lose trust in their employer if they are not paid correctly (or on time).
The strategy seems to be paying off, as the company has seen a 250% revenue increase in 2020.
AgileXperts has a 50% growth target for 2021, but Cowan predicts it will probably achieve 100%.
The nature of the business means headcount grows in line with revenue, but "it only makes sense to a certain size" due to the limited supply of quality staff.
The company is looking for project managers and business analysts with at least 10 years' experience, plus HR specialists with at least 10 years experience in payroll including systems implementation.
But Cowan isn't relying on attracting staff from other employers.
"We're looking to take on some graduates because they bring enthusiasm and energy," he said.
He's not particularly concerned about their field of study. What's important is a positive attitude, a belief that achievement is possible given the right opportunities, and a realistic attitude towards advancement.
Cowan said he will provide these recruits with an opportunity to display their talent, but they will need to realise they have a lot to learn.
That doesn't mean they will be expected to sit down, shut up and listen: inexperienced staff tend to ask useful questions that provide an organisation with an opportunity to improve, he said.
After 12 or 18 months there will be "potential for them to shine," said Cowan. "We definitely want that fresh perspective."
AgileXperts' graduate intake will be in addition to the headcount growth mentioned above.