Zoo Group founder, Pawl Cubbin

A guide to growing your business’ footprint the Zoo Group way

Sam McKeith

One of the biggest challenges for a growing business is knowing how to expand while not overextending yourself.

While there’s no textbook guide on what approach to take here, ZOO Group founder Pawl Cubbin shares some advice on branching out and how to take your start-up to the next level.

Cubbin, who kicked off his creative agency in 2010, now has offices in Australia, Asia and New Zealand. He said his big word of advice for those looking to grow their business’ footprint was not to be afraid.

Pawl said, for him, start-up expansion was a matter of staying alive in what was an increasingly connected and competitive industry.

“It’s a pretty risky thing to do and you have to want to do it because it’s a lot of work. But I think it’s really important because we have to survive,” he said.

“I’m really big on looking three to five years ahead … it used to be that if you were a really good agency you had work, but what I've noticed is that the work starts to shrink in each market as multinationals buy your clients out.

“That means you have to be national organisation, but what you now see is the multinationals buying out the national guys, so then you have to be global.”

“It’s a pretty risky thing to do and you have to want to do it because it’s a lot of work. But I think it’s really important because we have to survive.”

From his experience, Cubbin urges start-ups looking to expand to make sure they were surrounded by an experienced and ambitious team.

He said that was imperative because as your business’ footprint grew there was more pressure on your time and expertise, making getting the right people onboard essential.

He said when moving into a new market, he made sure to engage headhunters to find the best managing directors for each new office, before inducting them into the business.

“We do an induction which is pretty thorough and distilled and we know they’re right,” he said.

Another tip was to get your expansion plan locked down before you moved into a new territory.

For Cubbin, that plan was usually to establish a foothold as fast as possible, get the team together, then source clients, a process he said could take about a year.

“You’ve got to have work, or have a plan to get work quickly, and you’ve got to work out how to survive financially while you’re doing that,” he said.

“If you don’t have work our model is to move into a place, get office space and hire some really experienced people and try to build it from the ground up.”

Based on that model, Cubbin said you need two things: “lots of money and … a pretty good business strategy for that city or that region.”

Sam McKeith

Sam McKeith is Sydney-based media professional. He has contributed to many leading publications including The Huffington Post, The Australian Financial Review, The Australian and BRW Magazine. He was previously a senior reporter at the Australian Associated Press where he covered national affairs. 

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