Scaling Upwards: The Remarkable Success Story of Percept’s $125k/Month Growth

In your own words, what does your company do?

Percept is an Australian branding agency specializing in Strategic Branding, Brand Identity, Packaging Design, Visual Communication, and Digital Design. We work with businesses in all industry sectors, helping them to amplify their performance. Basically, we transform good companies into great brands.

📈 Monthly revenue: $125,000

📈 ~% Churn: 20%

📈 ~% Net profit: 30%

📈 Funding: Bootstrapped by a small personal loan at start-up

📈 Initial cost/investment to start the company: $20,000

📈 Number of team members: 10

📈 Number of founders: 1

📈 Started 1997, July

How does the company make money?

💰 Brand Strategy ($25k/mo). Brand agency, Percept consults with you in a workshop environment to help define your values, personality, brand positioning and tactics. This is part of our brand strategy process and it’s what separates a good brand agency from regular brand agencies. In addition to what we provide in-house, we also work with some of the best brand consultants in Australia for high-profile projects where more in-depth or specialist brand strategy is called for. Whatever your brief, regardless of the size of the project, brand agency, Percept, will apply strategic thinking in an effort to make the design output as effective as possible.

💰 Brand Development  ($15k/mo). When you partner with a brand agency such as Percept, you’ll benefit from expert brand development advice. 

We keep an eye on your industry as well as our own. This helps us guide your brand strategy. If we believe you should be adapting to stay in front of your competitors or if there are any opportunities to be had, we’ll be sure to let you know. 

Continual assessment and evolvement of your brand’s touch-points is key to remaining relevant within your target audience.

💰 Brand Design ($30k/mo). Each client is different, but PerceptBrand Design is an experienced brand agency, designing everything a company may need to build its brand identity. From corporate stationery and website design, to marketing communications and advertising campaigns, we can create any combination you require. 

As an integrated brand agency, versatility is one of Percept’s strengths. We can work on a project-by-project basis and cover all types of brand design output, including print, digital and environmental. For more information, see the full list of creative and design services above.

💰 Brand Identity  ($40k/mo). Percept is a brand agency in Sydney with specialist skills in brand identity.

Starting with the development of brand naming and logo design that best represent companies and products in competitive marketplaces. These elements, along with any other assets that are required for a particular business are created to form a brand identity which symbolizes their ideals in a unique, ownable and memorable way.

The resulting brand identity system effectively distinguishes our clients as a preferred alternative to their opposition.

💰 Brand Communications ($15k/mo). Percept offers more than your average design agency, we help define your messaging, and create clever brand communications across both print and digital platforms.

We also make sure these brand communications align with your brand identity and all other assets to reinforce your company’s look and personality.

Brand communications style is crucial, with attitude, language and tone of voice as important as the aesthetics of the brand design itself.

When you choose to work with the brand agency, Percept, the outcomes are always creative in concept, achieving cut-through, but they bring about a desired response because they are based on sound thinking and a solid brand strategy.

3 strategies that have worked to attract and retain customers? 

There was no formal plan or launch strategy, I just knew I needed clients. I initially used my social network (verbally, because there were no social media back then) and relied on word of mouth to build my client base as friends of friends would bring their brand design projects to Percept through recommendations or referrals.

As most people do, I hated the idea of cold-calling and I didn’t want to pound the pavement. The thought of attending events for networking purposes also made me cringe. I wanted to work with people who wanted to work with me. This idea of mutual respect and growing organically through reputation was idealistic and perhaps pig-headed, but I knew I wanted to do it my way, building slowly and with integrity. 

As a result, in the first few months, times were lean, so toast was eaten for many meals, and my own client work needed to be supplemented with freelance projects that I was lucky enough to be given from a previous employer who had more on than they could handle.

I didn’t have a website, there was no Google, it was just more a case of who you know rather than what you know, but this led to clients such as SMP Clothing and Wakakirri. The main breakthrough that got me established with these clients initially, was personal relationships. One direct with the owner of the company I knew as an acquaintance, and we got talking in an elevator (my first elevator pitch – literally!). And the other was a friend of the IT guy I bought my computer through when setting things up at the start. 

From small opportunities, bigger things developed and that has been the theme of our evolution since.

✅  In the early days, when a new client came along, everything was done to impress them. This meant underquoting and over-delivering. A great deal for them, and at the time I thought it was good for my business too because as word got around, the client base was building, the projects were flooding in, customers were happy, and a good reputation was built.

Although after a while it became hard to sustain. There was only 1 of me, I was working long hours without great financial compensation. To meet demand, I took on an employee, and then another, which meant I had to lease an office. We got more work, even many projects from Toyota, meaning more staff and a bigger studio.

My friends and family thought I was very successful. In fact, so did I. But the more I thought about why I started, which was to have independence and a good work/life balance, the more I realized that success was not achieved yet.

✅  Fast-forward a couple of decades and our NBD method remains the same, but a lot of other things have changed. At Australian branding agency, Percept, we are a fully integrated, strategic branding, design, and creative agency. Our clients include Unilever, DuluxGroup, Rio Tinto, and the Australian Government, as well as many lesser-known names that value strategic design and allow us to produce good work because they trust our advice.

So what changed at that time? Plenty. It certainly wasn’t an overnight transformation, it’s taken a long time to get where we are now as a remote business and for me as an individual, but I have finally achieved that get rich plan I had at the start… rich in time and quality of life. I own my business, it doesn’t own me!

3 things that you’ve learned about hiring and retaining great talent?

The biggest change has been getting the right people in the right roles. To do so we had to work hard, wear various hats and do a bit of fake it until we made it. But all this is a way of earning the right to become what you set out to become. Our pricing structure change enabled us to employ better staff as we were able to offer competitive salary packages that attracted the industry’s best talent. 

This, in turn, raised the standards of work we were able to produce, which in turn, attracted a higher caliber client with larger project budgets. This cycle continues to snowball to this day, with our momentum ever-increasing.

Our entire existence has morphed from a graphic design studio that offered a commodity, to a brand consultant in the form of a strategic branding agency that improves the performance of larger businesses. Those who value strategic branding from their design agency and importantly, have the budget to do things properly.

This happened in incremental shifts through lessons learned. To be honest, we couldn’t have moved to any next stage without having experienced the previous stage. That’s how you progress and that’s how a business develops, well my business at least. I guess every story is different.

The transition from a design agency that carried out customer requests, to a strategic branding agency, means Percept is a partner that helps transform organizations with strategic advice and problem-solving with design thinking has been our journey. This transition from adolescence into a more mature business model has really only taken place over the past few years. It has moved our market position from being one of the thousands of design agencies in Australia offering aesthetic deliverables, to Percept being among a handful of strategic branding agencies with the far more refined offering of actually improving the businesses we work with.

Employing remote creatives allows us to assemble best-of-breed personnel, meaning Percept provides the best branding services possible, regardless of where we are based. This increases the quality of our offering and opens up our market globally.

Even when we’re not advertising specific roles, we’re always on the lookout for talented individuals that can help Percept be the best branding agency possible. Go to the Careers page of our website to submit your information for consideration in your desired role.

In a service-based industry, your people are the key. Their skills, capabilities, attitudes, and personalities will make or break your business. Employ the people you know will be the difference, even if you can’t quite afford them. Good performers are good investments.

Reputation is everything.


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