We chat with Stefan Goldfinch, founder and Managing Director of Absolute Office about his business journey so far.

Hello! What’s your background, and what is your business?

Since l was 15 years old I’ve always looked at being in control of what I do, with many ventures under my belt e.g. organising public dances/events etc before I was 20yo, manager of a Pub in Auckland to Mcleay Motels in Potts Point to Fine wine stores in Sydney & Brisbane, managing retail stores at World Expo ’88 in Brisbane, after that I had a marketing company doing shopping centre promos and group advertising for small suburban groups of retailers.

I lived life in the fast lane but at the age of 36 I decided I needed a break and came to WA to see my family, 28 years later I’m still here with my business I started in 1997. My business is to offer a turnkey solution for everything office fits.

What motivated you to get started with Absolute Office Interiors?

I was working as a stationery rep for a local business and it was purchased by an American company with a fat cheque book and no idea of what they were doing. After 6 months I was the last to be retrenched and went home and printed business cards, order, invoice & purchase order forms and started what is today Absolute Office Interiors.

The American company went bust 6 months later :-).

Who is the ideal customer for Absolute Office Interiors? Why would they benefit?

My ideal customer is a business which requires someone to handle their Office fit out from the very concept to handing over the keys, as a one stop shop we can supply everything required.

I’ve had many mentors from within our industry, they just don’t know they were my mentors.

Looking back, how has your business evolved from initial idea to now?

When I started from 1 room in my home I was looking at just earning a good income from there, by the time I had taken over 3 rooms of the 4 bedrooms it was time to either ease off and reduce the size or move forward to commercial premises.

I’m not one to elect to go backwards so I moved into my first small premises with, 3 more moves and we are now in 400sqm office, showroom & warehouse.

I grew from sole trader to 13 full time staff and 6 casual during the boom, after the bust we shrunk to 2 +2 briefly and now we have 6 full time and 2 part timers with a totally different way of trading, we use more contract staff rather than employing.

If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?

Stay at school longer, get educated, work for someone in the business you want to start to learn how it is and not done.

How do you market Absolute Office Interiors to attract new customers?

Approx 16 years ago, we created one of the first online shops, there were 9000 stationery & furniture items with credit card facilities, a real 1st for that period, unfortunately no one was trusting the internet with their credit cards in those early days and the technology was not there to enable me to update the website easily so it became a catalogue but remained online as we changed it over the years.

Because of this early start online, today’s website is popular with google spiders and customers find it easily. This is where I have always got my business from, I’ve done very little advertising anywhere else and because I’ve been in business for over 21 years we have lots of very satisfied repeat customers to tell others about us.

What has been your biggest challenge as a business owner and how have you met that challenge?

My biggest challenge was the mining bust, the reduction of staff was devastating and created more tears than I’ve seen in a lifetime. My challenge was to hold it together while watching the business reduce to a size of 12 years before, and working out how to stay in business awhile a lot of my competitors where falling over and closing down.

What trends have you noticed in your industry, and how are you evolving to meet them?

Trends in our business are created visually by whats seen in advertising, internet and world wide trends. We strive to have great looking QUALITY furniture at affordable prices and work with our factory to design and manufacture these.

Have you had any mentors or role models that have influenced you? How have they helped?

I’ve had many mentors from within our industry, they just don’t know they were my mentors.

I’m great at learning from what other people do and don’t do, I look, I take note and change where necessary.

What do you attribute your business success to?

Staying ahead of the game, changing quickly to a fickle market and having the right people around me.

If you weren’t involved with Absolute Office Interiors, what would you be doing instead?

If I wasn’t involved with Absolute Office Interiors I would be doing office layout drawings, design & 3D imaging online while holidaying on some island that has fantastic weather and good internet, this is also my retirement plan, lol.

What is unique about your business?

The most unique thing about my business is that ‘we give a damn’ and we are a turn key business so we say yes to everything (within reason) and if it’s not in our already huge range of existing products and services, we’ll add it, find it at the best price and supply it.

How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?

My skills are all totally self-taught, I left school at 15yo and started an apprenticeship which I completed and never used again.

I relied on work experience / opportunities to learn the skills I needed to start my own business 21 years ago (it was not my first business but certainly my longest), if you have faith in your own decision making, you’re not afraid to make them and you’ve done your homework, it’s a great start, but don’t be afraid of failure, just try to minimise it.

What do you wish someone told you, before you started Absolute Office Interiors?

I wish someone had told me to stay at college longer, it took me too long to teach myself the things I needed to know, I could have been retired and living the dream by now.

How did you acquire your first 20 customers?

When I was ready to go it alone I already had a client base that I’d accumulated from working for other companies over the years, I didn’t poach them, they insisted I take them with me because I had been looking after them for over 9 years at that stage.

What are the main goals of Absolute Office Interiors?

The main goals of Absolute Office Interiors have always been to listen to the customer and give them more than what they expect, ‘A happy customer is a happy business’ and will create the goodwill and ongoing customer relationships required for the business to continue during the up & down periods.

Another main goal was to design and create our own exclusive products for wholesale and retail which was has been accomplished for over 16 years now.

Do you have a favourite business book, blog or podcast to recommend? Why?

Books are for my time off, I prefer personal networking, industry magazines, International industry expos and google to get the information I need to tweak my business and to keep us going in the right direction.

We’ve outlasted a lot of our competitors in our industry during this WA low economical period, so we are now getting ready for the upturn by becoming a lean machine with a great team.


Websitehttp://www.absoluteoffice.com.au
Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/absoluteofficeinteriors
LinkedInhttps://www.linkedin.com/company/absolute-office-interiors/
Twitterhttps://twitter.com/aointeriors_wa
Established1997
Employees8
Locations12 Wright Street, Bayswater, WA, 6053