The City Leaders Forum is a joint initiative between Griffith University and YP Gold Coast showcasing the people in our city, who are driving innovation and change within the business community.
Newly appointed Young Professionals Gold Coast co-vice president Flynn McFarlane has been in business since his teens, is a director of a flourishing digital services enterprise and sees enormous future opportunities for his firm and the Gold Coast.
Along his pathway to success Flynn, aged 28, has gained two degrees at Griffith University while, at the same time, operating a profitable DJ-events business, then a part-time online marketing consultancy, before, in 2013, co-founding Stead Lane, a rapidly expanding full-digital services provider.
Flynn is a fast traveller in digital space and a passionate promoter of the Gold Coast.
It is a space Flynn sees as a universe of opportunity, not just for him and his business associates and others like him, but also for the city he embraces.
He sees the Gold Coast as a fledgling city with the potential to “own” the digital services space in Australia and he is a strong advocate of local professional service providers.
“The Gold Coast is the perfect place for the digital industry with relatively low establishment, running and labour expenses, compared to the capital city costs,” said Flynn.
“There are no disadvantages associated with being on the Gold Coast and the capital cities are very focused on old ways of doing business, especially in terms of professional services.
“We have the opportunity to invent ourselves and we can be leaders in the digital space.
“The Gold Coast, is not “old school”, it is still a new frontier as far as I am concerned.
“We should be promoting the digital sector a lot more.
“We hear a lot of comment on unemployment and the lack of opportunities, but the sector for innovative professional services is absolutely exploding - it is an exciting space and I really believe the Gold Coast can own it,” he said.
Flynn’s modest business endeavours as a teenager, student and young graduate have funded his expanding enterprises – he has paid his own way, done his own thing and he encourages other young people to follow his example.
Now, along with Stead Lane co-director Adam Stead, he is taking his business to new levels, with a strategy to double the size of the groundbreaking enterprise within the next two years, capitalising on a market that is rapidly consuming the company’s comprehensive menu of online goodies.
Stead Lane has a full-time staff of seven servicing an array of clients in sectors including, eCommerce, tourism, education, all levels of government and the professions.
HITCHING A RIDE ON THE INTERNET ROCKET WITH NEW, INNOVATIVE STRATEGIES
Flynn witnessed the impacts of the global financial crisis on the Gold Coast while studying and recognised the need to establish a new kind of business not reliant on the Gold Coast’s mainstay tourism and property sectors.
The opportunities were clearly aligned with the rocketing Internet phenomenon and he timed his venture into digital business realms on the Coast to perfection.
While studying from 2007 to 2010, Facebook and social media’s general use in marketing were emerging and, in their infancy, considered with skepticism by many in business – the blind who could not see the ultimate potential of the internet, or lacked the knowledge of how to use it effectively to produce significant growth and to reach new customers.
Flynn was not among the doubters.
As part of his Griffith BA, Flynn majored in digital writing, a little known field at that time.
However he was convinced it would become a valuable asset to a digital professional services business.
While the Gold Coast market had become stacked with producers of basic websites, there was a lack of more sophisticated operators in the digital space providing specialist, innovative services that were results accountable.
Flynn capitalised on a global business climate driven by writing more than at any other time in history - with millions embracing Facebook, Twitter, using blogs, email and a host of other online avenues to communicate with the written word.
This presented a significant opportunity for Flynn to use his specialist skills, supported by the administrative and business governance knowledge gained from his business studies.
Effective creative writing digitally mixed with images and graphic design, applied to commerce with strategic planning nous has proven to be an effective formula for success for the Stead Lane team.
CITY OF GOLD COAST CAN LEAD THE NATION WITH DIGITAL SERVICES
Flynn is convinced huge opportunities are open to the Gold Coast in the digital space and that the City can lead the nation in this field.
“Part of my role at YPGC is to link professionals from a range of industries as we aim to help grow the city’s business culture".
“The purpose of this is to build connections that will in turn foster an environment that supports the city’s innovation centres such as the Health and Knowledge precinct and Southport CBD".
“If the Gold Coast is serious about becoming a centre for innovation we need business and government to work together on a long-term, cohesive strategy that supports innovation and fosters a start-up culture".
“YP Gold Coast aims to help the city to develop targeted programs to support innovation and business that are outcomes focused and achievable”.
SHOUT OUT THAT YOU ARE PROUD OF BEING ON THE GOLD COAST
Flynn says the local business community needs to be more positive about being “Gold Coast”.
“A lot of professionals still think it is more reputable to be based in Brisbane, which is counter productive when we are trying to deliver the message that Gold Coast businesses can cut it with the best”.
“We can use digital to step out from where we are to take advantage of the opportunities”.
“We should not try to be like the capital cities – we are the Gold Coast’ and should shout out that we are proud of it; we are not all property developers and we are not just a ‘tourism town’ - we are an extremely innovative city with much to offer entrepreneurs and anyone prepared to work hard and to have a go”.
DELIVERING A FULL PACKAGE OF PROFESSSIONAL DIGITAL SERVICES
Stead Lane has a full-time staff of seven, and services a wide range of clients from as far afield as Sydney, including listed companies.
Clients include Navitas (ASX:NVT), RDA Gold Coast, McGrath, City of Gold Coast, and the Federal Government.
“We help clients by assessing their current strategy and needs, then identifying the best possible way for them to increase leads, sales and efficiency in their business through the use of digital assets,” said Flynn.
“We build long lasting relationships with our clients, provide ongoing strategic advice and strategies as they grow by leveraging digital marketing and technology.”
“When we started with some clients, their online revenue represented five per cent of their business and now it produces 25 to 30 per cent; we are helping clients to change their business models, which is very exciting.”
In most cases Stead Lane clients utilise more than one of its services, which embrace digital strategies, websites, ecommerce, digital advertising, web applications, CRM integration, email marketing, branding and social media.
While Stead Lane services interstate clients effectively its plans for expansion are based on development of its South East Queensland market.