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Gone fishing

Accounting and MBA school enabled Nader Seifen to go from commercial roles to running a pizza restaurant to now consulting SMEs to ‘fish’.

Gone fishing
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  • Linda Santacruz
  • October 26, 2018
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For Nader Seifen, studying accounting wasn’t initially a part of the plan. In fact, after graduating high school he had hoped to work in mechanical engineering.

But after one year in his course, Mr Seifen began having second thoughts.

“I dropped out,” he says. “I thought mechanical engineering was about cars, but all we talked about was air conditioning. I ended up working at an American company called Avco Finance, which did consumer lending.”

It was this job that ultimately led Mr Seifen down the path to studying accounting, which sparked his interest in business strategy and helped him obtain a variety of commercial roles. His new skills even brought him to Saudi Arabia for a few years to work for TNT Australia, which at the time was considered a start-up.

When Mr Seifen returned to Australia in 2002, he decided he would skill up once more – this time obtaining a Master of Business Administration. To put his knowledge into practice, he chose to leave the corporate world and do something a little different.

“I was disillusioned with the corporate world, so I went out and took on a fast food franchise for seven years. Here, you have this mind that’s full of fantastic strategy from the MBA to running a pizza restaurant,” he says.

“What I learned in accounting and MBA school was for that business to run without me. I refused to have cameras at home to watch my staff. So, I had to have processes in place so when I’m not there, it was running just as good as when I am there.”

And it worked. Mr Seifen’s processes eventually arrived to a point where he was working only three and a half days a week. So, to avoid growing bored, he began helping others in network with their business issues. This has led to the business consultancy Mr Seifen runs today, known as Spindletop Strategists Advisors and Mentors.

“I needed mental simulation other than making pizzas. So, my network of friends began approaching me to help them with different problems,” Mr Seifen says.

“Since then, I’ve done some amazing things. I’ve done strategic plans for an independent school, manufacturing businesses, cleaning businesses. I’m amazed at the businesses that I’ve helped where I’ve had no prior experience. This is why I love strategy.”

Playing the game

For Mr Seifen, a business is like a game.

“You play by the rules. You play to win. Whether it’s football or baseball or running a small business or a large business, there are lots of things in common there,” he says.

“There’s training, there’s discipline, there’s a goal, there’s focus. There is a strategy, assessing your opponent and discarding the home ground advantage or the audience or the weather. A strategy looks at all sorts of factors.

“That’s what enabled me to move from a different variety of businesses.”

This unique point of view helped him become a mentor and presenter to franchisees in the National Franchise Convention. Mr Seifen later started writing articles targeted to small businesses, which allowed him to indirectly grow his consultancy.

“Becoming a subject matter expert is a fantastic way of promoting yourself,” he says. “But this was not about promoting myself. This was more about simplifying business concepts, taking what I learned in the MBA and simplifying it into 1,200 words.”

Another way Mr Seifen says he was able to grow his consultancy was by “staying true”.

“I don’t work with any businesses that are after profit at any cost. I am far more interested in businesses that want to lay good foundations to build a good business on. So, they can get rid of me, having the foundations,” he says.

“The more my clients become independent of me, the more gratified I am.” As for the name of his firm, Spindletop, Mr Seifen says it’s a metaphor to describe his mission.

“The original Spindletop was an oil well in Beaumont, Texas. In 1893, a man had the intuition that there was crude oil at that spot. In eight years, several impatient investors lost faith and abandoned the project. In 1901, Spindletop became the biggest oil well in the world,” he says.

“It took two weeks between the time the derrick struck oil and the time they managed to cap the well. In those two weeks, 800,000 barrels of crude oil gushed into the air. Today’s value of those 800,000 barrels is billions of dollars in refined petrol. The inspiration here is that over 95 per cent of businesses (bell curve distribution pattern) have deep potential and hidden potential.”

He continues: “These are two very different things: Many businesses know their deep potential and strive for it with varying degrees of success. Most businesses do not know their ‘hidden’ potential and never realise it.

“In the case of Spindletop, the hidden potential was billions and billions of dollars.”

Leaving a legacy

When it comes to future goals, Mr Seifen says he will be focusing on working with accounting practices, as he believes the sector could use some strategy improvement.

According to IBISWorld research, the accounting sector has achieved an annual growth of 1.5 per cent between 2013 and 2018, while inflation has grown by an average of 2.42 per cent per year since 2013, and GDP grew by 3.1 per cent last year.

Mr Seifen believes this demonstrates an opportunity for accountants to grow their businesses, which can then set a good example for their business clients.

“That’s what I’ve been working on for the last year and a half. Trying to get accountants to understand that the kind of strategy that they do and the kind of strategy that I have learned and that I do are two different things,” he says.

“Why has the professional accounting business advisory sector grown by only 1.5 per cent? I see this potential for the profession, members of the IPA and their clients, to grow their respective businesses. There is a Spindletop opportunity to strike oil.”

Mr Seifen believes part of the problem is that services offered are being commoditised, rather than being differentiated.

“A commoditised offer is based on price, whereas a differentiated offer is based on value,” he says. “It means that whatever is offered by the sector, the value is not appreciated by the consumer. This could mean some accountants don’t know how to communicate their value.”

Another goal for Mr Seifen is to have more consultants who are wanting to teach companies to ‘fish’. The term derives from a proverb, which states: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.

“I’m all about teaching people to ‘fish’,” he says.

“[My goal] is to have more consultants to simplify the concepts and imparting that knowledge to accountants, to businesses and to clients.”

But the overall mission of his consultancy, Mr Seifen says, is to leave a legacy behind.

“My mission is leaving a legacy. And that legacy is intelligent, educated people that can take what I’ve learned and apply it and even pass it on,” he says. “My goal is a legacy of simple ideas and passions of how to put a proper foundation.”

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