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Founders at Work: An Interview With Ahmed Humayun Murshed, Faisal Mahmud Sajeeb, and Mezarul Musrufe Ontu, Founders, Accfintax

Ahmed Humayun Murshed, Faisal Mahmud Sajeeb, and  Mezarul Musrufe Ontu are founders of Accfintax, an independent professional services provider with distinctive local strength and understanding in Accounting, Finance, Tax, VAT, and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO).

Founded in 2017, the company has experienced steady growth over the past years and worked with a long list of clients from across sectors and verticals using a combination of excellent service, commitment, and local understanding.

In this interview, we caught up with three founders of Accfintax Ahmed Humayun Murshed, Faisal Mahmud Sajeeb, and  Mezarul Musrufe Ontu to learn more about the origin of Accfintax, Accfintax’s business today and ambition going forward, imperatives for entrepreneurship, and more.

Future Startup: Could you please tell us about your background and your path to entrepreneurship?

Ahmed Humayun Murshed: Thank you for this opportunity to share our story. Ours is a story like many others. We are three partners at Accfintax. We founded Accfintax together – I, Mezarul Musrufe, and Faisal Mahmud Sajeeb.

All three of us come from a humble middle-class backgrounds. We wanted to do something at which we are good at and build an organization that will last a long time. Accfintax is very much something that the three of us have been working on even before founding the company. We came from an accountancy and finance education background. After graduation, we worked in corporates and Chartered Accountancy practices. When it came to building something of our own, it came naturally to us, that what we have learned and have been doing all along and love to do, could be our ideal playground.

The transition to Accfintax has also happened in a very natural manner. Before starting Accfintax, we were individually working on various advisory projects around finance, accountancy, and tax. These works eventually culminated in our collaboration and then the founding of Accfintax. We have taken a practical approach to building the company. We have wanted to build a sustainable operation from day one. From the beginning, we’ve focused on consultancies and providing excellent service to our clients, which eventually has helped us to develop a steady client base.       

Future Startup: When and how did you get started with Accfintax? What motivated you to start Accfintax? 

Faisal Mahmud Sajeeb: As Murshed has already mentioned that starting our own advisory firm was always a priority at some level. We finally started Accfintax back in June 2017.

We saw a large gap in business advisory and consultancy considering the population and number of businesses. In Bangladesh, the total number of companies and firms registered with RJSC stood at 243,728 from 1947 to April 2020, according to RJSC data. Among them, 358 are listed companies in DSE and CSE till now. There is a constant requirement for compliance and advisory firms like ours’ that can play a pivotal role to meet the outsourcing requirements of these companies.

A lot of foreign consulting firms in addition to local CA and BPO firms are working here to serve this demand. We wanted to take the opportunity and serve our local entrepreneurs and companies.

It has been a great decision. We have seen steady growth in our business since our founding. There is a lot of demand for the service that we provide if you are professional and competent.

Future Startup: What went into building the initial operation of Accfintax? How did you put together the initial investment and other things to get started? Please walk us through what the first few months of your journey were like and the challenges you faced.  

Mezarul Musrufe Ontu: The initial motivation to formalize Accfintax was to work together as long-time friends. We enjoy working together and we wanted to do that more often and share our expertise for mutual benefit. That you could say was a major motivation.

Our initial investment came from our savings. Each of us put our savings as our initial capital. We also paid a lot of attention to generating revenue from day one. This drive was hugely useful and helped us to finance operations in the early days. We are in the service business. The resources that we need most of all are our expertise. So our investment requirement was not that much. We had to forego some opportunities ourselves individually. We had to plan for six months of operational expenses. And we did that quite successfully. We launched with two clients from the E-commerce and RMG sector which helped us to finance our operation smoothly in the early days.

When you plan for growth, you need new clients, need new recruitment to support the client and it goes on and on.  An engagement might not be for the full year but your incremental value will be there after that job. So, you look for new work always.

Initially, the biggest challenge was to create a reputation for timely quality service at a competitive price.  

Future Startup: Could you please give us an overview of Accfintax in terms of the services you offer, how many users you have, the size of your business, etc? 

Faisal Mahmud Sajeeb: Accfintax is an independent professional services provider with distinctive local strength and understanding in Accounting, Finance, Tax, VAT, and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO).

To supplement these services, we also work in management and financial consultancy, financial restructuring, business process review, and business planning.  

Currently, we are fortunate enough to work extensively in a pool of diversified sectors including RMG, Real Estate, IT, eCommerce, and Logistics. We work with quite a few startups as well from different verticals.  

Future Startup: From a product perspective, how does Accfintax work? How do you work with your partners and customers?

Ahmed Humayun Murshed: Most of the clients come to us for a particular type of service or problem in their operation. We initially discuss their needs and offer service to them as per their requirement.

When we work with our clients, we enter into a mutual agreement with them, in most cases, we use a written agreement. In some cases, we work on electronic confirmation as well. But in both cases, we particularly define our scope of work and performance obligation to bridge the expectation gap.         

Future Startup: What is your business model? How do you generate revenue? 

Mezarul Musrufe Ontu: When it comes to growth, we have developed a sustainable strategy where we focus on quality instead of the number of clients.

We have a simple business model: to provide knowledge-based service to our clients from which we ensure their satisfaction by adding value to their operation and obtaining a financial benefit from the client. We have invested development in our team so that we can serve our clients better.

Future Startup: How big is your team? Could you tell us about your culture at Accfintax? 

Mezarul Musrufe Ontu: Currently, we are a team of 30 people. We started as a small team of three people. We have maintained our growth MTM basis for the last 3 years. We are hopeful to grow at a similar rate in the coming days.

We literally handpicked every member of this team and they have not disappointed us. We are proud of this team that strives for excellence through learning, self-motivation, and professional development.  

Future Startup: How have you attracted users and grown Accfintax? Could you tell us about the strategies and activities that you carried out to achieve growth? 

Ahmed Humayun Murshed: We have agreed to segregate our activities into the following three different segments: 1. operation, 2. quality assurance, and 3. strategy and growth. All three of us brought our individual strengths to the table. We have identified that we work best together as a team. Hence we address the segregation of work with respect to differences of opinion.

We have implemented a 3-stage review system allowing our workforce to contribute to all three segments of our activities. We value the opinion of our exceptional team and bring new ideas to streamline our services.

We have focused on providing quality service at a reasonable price and timeline, which helped us to build trust in the market. This has helped us attract more clients over time. We have invested in technology and launched service related to technology which has helped us to maintain pace with the constantly changing business environment.   

Future Startup: What are some mistakes you’ve made, if any, that you want other entrepreneurs to avoid? 

Faisal Mahmud Sajeeb: Mistakes are natural in business and life. As you embark on your journey, you try new things and explore new areas of growth. Things may not always happen as per your expectations. You will make errors and fall short of your expectation. There will be a cost for every lesson. But your priority has to be as low as possible to sustain and grow henceforth.

We could not avoid mistakes altogether. And listing all of them would be unwise. What we have strived is not to make the same mistakes twice. I think that’s the biggest lesson we have learned. As a professional advisory and consultancy, there is no room for error in our operation. The review system that we have developed works magic here.

Future Startup: How do your sales and marketing work? 

Mezarul Musrufe Ontu: It is your performance and on-time delivery of service that matters most. Your work will speak for you. In our case, it just worked. Sometimes you need proper planning for your prospective clients and identify the value you can offer. You should always offer value to your clients.

We initially used Facebook as a marketing platform to build an identity. However, we later identified that we can grow if we maintain our focus on quality service. In our service sector, clients are willing to pay as long as they see value based on their requirements. We have worked hard from day one to build a reputation and gain the trust of our customers. And always your satisfied customers are your best marketers.

Future Startup: Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous in the process of building Accfintax?

Faisal Mahmud Sajeeb: Yes, we certainly know by now, our SWOT. We try to keep everything simple, do one job right, and repeat.

Future Startup: How do you deal with the challenges and stress that come with being a founder? 

Mezarul Musrufe Ontu: The key factor of being an entrepreneur is perseverance - being able to keep going despite the challenges and setbacks. However, sometimes you also need to take a break and count your losses.

There are sleepless nights, no specific hours, lots of patience from family members, and definite personal sacrifices.

We share our work among the whole team and look after one another – this practice has been of great help. In the end, it all comes down to a whole team effort at both professional and personal levels that help in dealing with the stress.

Future Startup: What advice would you give to founders who are just starting out?

Faisal Mahmud Sajeeb: Before starting your organization, learn how to lead. It is important to learn how to lead before your turn to lead comes. You can work for corporates or any organization ideally suited for your initial career. This helps to build a solid foundation of knowledge, skills, and a network that will come in handy when you finally come to need those skills in the real world. Early-stage entrepreneurs should build on their strengths and focus on sustainability over profit.

Future Startup: How do you stay productive as a founder? How do you start your day and ensure that you accomplish what you set out to accomplish?

Ahmed Humayun Murshed:  You set your goal in the short-term, mid-term, and long-term. When you have goals for different time frames, you always know what should be your next course of action for the next 3 months, you then break down your 3 months' goals into monthly goals and then into daily action items. This is how we work each day to maximize the highest possible output.

We need to study regularly to stay updated with local laws, rules, and regulations; attend various seminars and webinars from time to time. In the end, you need to enjoy what you do on a day-to-day basis in order to find meaning and stay productive and we certainly love what we do.   

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