“I don’t really do what is understood as ‘accounting’ at all,” he laughs as we sit down at a large bar-height wood table that speaks more to the type of clients Rob typically works with than the traditional number cruncher.
Clearly we needed to back up just a bit.
As the founder of Measure Accounting, Leadley has carved out a niche that he labels performance management accounting, something he admits few people fundamentally understand before they meet with him for the first time.
“I sort of fell into this,” he explains. “I’m an accountant, my father, uncle, sister, grandfather are all accountants, and I grew up in this industry. That’s sort of what baked in this ability to have a different perspective.”
So, what’s different? Well, Measure doesn’t do bookkeeping or tax preparation. Instead, they’re focused on an entrepreneur’s fundamental goals, taking into account both the best version of their business and the best version of their life.
“I’ve found that in my career that if any one of them is out of balance, it all is,” he explains. “If you’re making a lot of money and you’re loving your business, but you’re life is a mess, you’re not going to be happy – and if you’re lifestyle is great, but you aren’t making any money, you’re not happy either.”
The What, How & Why
Measure helps businesses align their goals by building a strong positioning strategy (which often includes specialization), solid operational practices and future financial performance.
“Positioning is a big part of business strategy – identifying how you can be the best at something, make the competition irrelevant and have a line up of clients out the door.”
That business strategy is then translated into a forecast model that Leadley uses to predict future financial performance and the all-important bank balance, because whether clients like to admit it or not, that number has a huge impact on decision making and motivation in the business.
“I meet with clients on a monthly basis to look at the metrics and make fact-based decision in real time,” he explains. “Business value is based in measurement. It’s the Silicon Valley approach to doing business – don’t build a crazy business plan, just start doing it and then test it, and if it fails, iterate.”
Leadley originally worked with a variety of businesses, but soon noticed that many of his clients were design studios who needed his help and were more in line with his approach. So, he followed his own advise and specialized, and that has made all the difference.
“The design industry is awesome and very important to our society,” he notes. “But it’s also a tough industry and most businesses are in the sh*t.”
As his web site states, Leadley finds his greatest rewards in ‘helping fellow entrepreneurs emerge from years of professional anxiety with a new sense of purpose, challenge and optimism’.
“What I really care about is whether someone is fundamentally happy in their business,” Leadley explains. “If I’m fighting any good fights, that’s the one I’m trying to work on the most.”
Know This Sh!t
Visit the Measure web site and you’ll notice a header that hints further at Leadley’s distinctly different approach. Know This Sh!t is a result of Rob’s frustration at not being able to work with all the companies who’ve approached him for help.
“I can only take so many clients at a time and I don’t want to scale a team or become a complex business myself,” he explains.
“The downside is that there’s a lot of work I turn down and I was feeling badly about only being able to do a few coffee meetings to give advice.”
If he had the time, Leadley could probably write a book, but for now, Know This Sh!t offers some proven methods to help businesses. It consists of a series of articles that he penned early last year and then offered up on the Measure web site for anyone to access.
“I was in Mexico when I came up with the idea and my design guys loved it,” he recalls. “I had almost decided that I didn’t want to do it anymore, but they kind of made me see it through.”
The Gastown Vibe
With a client roster full of creative companies, Leadley has never wavered in his decision to make Gastown his base of operation.
“When I look around at the buildings I can see through my window, every single one of them has a client in it. The second, third and fourth floors in this neighbourhood are home to some of the smartest people I’ve ever met.“
Citing that the area is ‘way cooler’ than any other part of the city, Leadley had an affection for the small town feel that Gastown offers. Coffee shops are gathering spots where he’s constantly running into friends and colleagues – and he never has to wear a suit. He doesn’t even own one. In many ways, he notes that it’s a lot like his home base on Bowen Island – just a bit noisier.
“There’s killer work being done here, for Fortune 500 companies in the US, huge companies in Canada, really ground-breaking stuff happening in all these little offices that no one really thinks about. It’s a powerful neighbourhood.”