The Initial Launch: How Flat Planet Started
Flat Planet started with an ideal. We wanted to unlock the high value talent of South East Asia so that smaller businesses could also enjoy the benefits that, up to that time, were the preserve of the large corporates. More than that, we understood that the future was not just about low value jobs in call centres, rather it was about tapping into the vibrant energy of a new, emerging, highly-educated and aspirational middle class.
Flat Planet was born to break down barriers. To create a level playing field for business, providing pathways for building better businesses, and to also create a level playing field for talent, providing opportunity and pathways to a better future to aspirational, highly-educated professionals.Hence our name, and hence our reason for being.
On October 1, 2010, Flat Planet was born.
The Journey: Challenges and Milestones of Flat Planet
Visited Penang in Malaysia and spent a few weeks researching the kernel of the idea and forming a concept.
The key was to find a way to balance two ‘goods’ for society:
(1) The good of unlocking access to globally competitive talent for small to medium businesses in Australia.
(2) The good of using opportunity as a way to unlock the door to a better future for young people in developing countries.
We then visited the Philippines and fell in love with Makati, which eventually led to the decision to start up in the Philippines and relocate the family.
On October 1 2010 Flat Planet was incorporated in Sydney.
Our first office was the garage under the mother-in-law’s house in Sydney working on plastic trestle tables. It was from here we made our first sales calls, won our first client, and made a decision to hire in the Philippines a young lady named Princess who, on November 29, became employee #1.
Chris flew to Manila on Jan 2 and started the first of dozens of three-week stints away from family as the business slowly came to life.
The original idea was to have two weeks on and two weeks off; but Chris and his then partner, David, realized it would not work – that to run a sustainable business in the Philippines required a full-time focus.
The decision to relocate Jenny and the kids was delayed for a while – with the family waiting in Sydney for the business to be a ‘going concern’ before fully relocating.
Flat Planet slowly grew, including a major sales win with a firm in Brisbane for a bunch of seats – HUGE! But the founder and CEO of that company had a heart attack and died at his desk, and we lost the deal.
Victoria joined the company as employee number 7 in May 2011 as a teleprospector. Today, Victoria is our Client Operations Manager having completed both an undergraduate degree and an MBA while with us.
By the end of 2011 Flat Planet had about 25 staff.
Financial Year 2012, ending June 30, was Flat Planet’s first full year of trading. We turned over just over half a million.
Biggest news of all, Jenny and the two kids, Bella and Will, aged just 8 and 5, relocated permanently to the Philippines in August which was a huge vote of confidence in the business.
March that year also saw the first regular pay cheque for the two partners, Chris and David.
We moved from several small offices in a serviced office centre to one large office with our own meeting rooms, door, reception, work area and pantry.
This is also the year of the Manila floods – the monsoon hit and it rained for 26 days in a row non-stop, including the first day where it rained more than 500mm in just one day.
Through the Business Process Outsourcing agency, we went out with the Philippine Army to visit some flooded areas to see how people were coping – and learnt more about Filipino resilience and patience.
March 2012 saw the arrival of a new client Next Digital – a company that enjoyed so much success once established in Asia that they eventually relocated from Melbourne to Singapore and became a huge player renamed to Asia Pacific Digital. It was a very mutually beneficial relationship and by the time they set up independent operations in 2014, Flat Planet was securely established.
By the end of 2012 Flat Planet was about 70 staff.
We broke the $1m revenue barrier and was named in BRW’s Fastest 100 for the second time. Flat Planet also made its first profit!
By now, Flat Planet was about 70-80 staff strong and was starting to develop momentum!
However, 2013 was also the year of Typhoon Yolanda, a megastorm that killed more than 10,000 in the provinces of Samar and Leyte. One member of our team lost 15 family members who were all sheltering together when the storm surge came in and they drowned. Many other staff lost family.
Flat Planet has been researching the possibility of setting up an office in Tacloban, Leyte, in the time before the storm so we were familiar with the town and the people. It was a great tragedy.
Flat Planet’s first offshoot, Xilch is born! It is a company dedicated to providing Xero bookkeeping services to smaller businesses in Australia. It is a partnership with Sydney accounting firm WLM and continues to this day.
Flat Planet also broke through the 100-seat barrier in 2014 and continued to enjoy fabulous growth right up to October. In October, Asia Pacific Digital left to take up its own entity that they had established earlier and took about 50 staff with them.
Flat Planet did recover quickly, thankfully, due to its now established reputation and steady stream of new business opportunities. We also said goodbye Asia Pacific Digital on very good terms and continued to support them for a year or two after their departure.
A very solid year of hard work and one of our most profitable.
In 2015, Flat Planet matched the revenue of 2014 despite the departure of APD. It was a great year.
But it was also the year that David, our business partner, called it a day. He now had a young family and wanted to focus on opportunities at home in Australia.
We all stayed focused on work while we worked through the issues, continuing to grow and build our executive management team.
Flat Planet was back well over 100 seats and it was increasingly clear that with David’s departure, we were going to need a strong local management team and some leading-edge technology – hence GAIA was born!
GAIA today is the ERP/HRM system that ties Flat Planet together. It is the key to the sustainability of the systems that underpin Flat Planet’s operations not just in the Philippines but in Vietnam and Malaysia as well.
As David left Flat Planet, a new journey as a family-owned business commenced with Chris and Jenny taking up the reins.
Flat Planet Insight was born – an iPhone and Android app that our clients can use to track the performance and whereabouts of their teams in real time.
The business continued to grow, but is now increasingly reliant on its home-grown executive management team led by individuals who had come up through the ranks of Flat Planet over the previous few years.
Flat Planet joined Family Business Australia and Chris took up a role as a Director of ANZCHAM – the Australian New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines.
We also opened a new additional office in a new location – Aguirre Street in Legaspi Village – spreading across two completely different locations.
Flat Planet Malaysia was born.
Matt Cowan Prospecting was born.
Flat Planet attended Cebit Sydney for the first time with a great concept stand and knocked the ball out of the park.
Cebit was not only a great success, but also a great fun, with a small group of our Philippines-based team members flying down to attend the event – they were all given the option of extending for a week afterwards to enjoy a rare holiday ‘down under’ after the week at Cebit.
Flat Planet was then operating in both the Philippines and Malaysia, and has also secured a joint venture with English teleprospecting guru, Matt Cowan, to offer high-value prospecting services to the big end of town.
Later in the year, Judy Horan, our fabulous Regional Manager for Australia, joined Flat Planet as did Brian Butler, our much-loved General Manager who went on to serve for three years.
The strength of the management team continued to grow as GAIA was also continuously being developed.
Flat Planet Vietnam was born – Flat Planet now has offices in Manila, Philippines, Victoria, Malaysia, and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Flat Planet attended Cebit Sydney for the second time with another crew flying down to enjoy a week of fun and then, their choice, staying for a week afterwards. We heard some made it to the wine region in the Hunter Valley.
Flat Planet continued to invest in its technology platforms and in the quality of its management team – while also continuing to consolidate and grow.
Big plans were afoot for 2019…
In 2019 Flat Planet bought its first company – Joe Riley and Associates (JRA) – on April 1, 2019.
JRA is a specialist IT recruitment and IT contractor business serving a number of major global firms with teams in Manila.
This was also a breakout year in terms of revenue with a surging 25% growth in that year on top of an already solid performance over the previous years.
A major new Singapore client joined the company, meaning we now had clients in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, Hong Kong, the UK, and Singapore.
We signed a lease on a floor at the Republic Glass Building and organised for a professional fit out to commence Feb 1 2020 – for the first time, Flat Planet was to have an entire floor of a building with a fit-out done exactly how we wanted it! Very exciting!
This year finished on a high and we couldn’t wait for 2020 which was bound to be HUGE!
Arriving back to Manila from Sydney on Jan 1st, Chris and his family were pleased to escape the choking pollution of the bushfires.
Three days later, Taal Volcano erupted less than 60kms as the crow flies from Makati and everything was covered in volcanic ash while the teams had trouble getting to work.
Eruptions continued for a while into late January which was a terrible start to the year.
Then along came COVID-19. Who would have guessed?
Manila went into total lockdown, massive drama, huge effort, all businesses around the world in the same boat… so it is not really news what happened.
October 1, 2020 marks our 10th year in business.
2020 finishes as our best year ever after another 20% surge in growth during 2020.
But we are not really celebrating. For a start, we can’t as the general lockdown is continuing so groups are not allowed to gather. Secondly, we are quite sobered by what has happened this year.
In 2020, our thoughts are for all those other businesses, the restaurants, the resorts, the hotels, retailers, the gyms, the barbershops, and so many others that have not been as fortunate as us this year.
We hope to celebrate our 11th birthday with a huge party, but this year our thoughts are with all those others.
Blast from the Past
Flat Planet is what it is now because of the brilliant people behind it. We’ve shared struggles, challenges, everyday moments, small and big wins that made us grow successfully. Browse through some of our memorable events through the years… A few snips of what makes the Flat Planet a family.