Ben Willis & Byron Pugh
Written on the 23 November 2009
Ben Willis & Byron Pugh
BETWEEN the Big Four accounting firms and a plethora of sole practitioners, migration lawyer Ben Willis says there weren’t many other options in the past for those looking for advice on their visa applications.
That was until he started Australian Migration & Visa Lawyers (AMVL) with his partner Byron Pugh.
“When you look at our industry it’s dominated by sole practitioners and some have the view that a migration agent is just a step ahead of a real estate agent,” says Willis.
“We wanted to bring something with a corporate mentality that was reputable and credible into the industry.”
The company started consulting with private individuals and companies, growing staff numbers to 25 after three years, with offices in Singapore, Malaysia and Ireland.
“With our overseas offices we did corporate work, but we also have a big focus on the mums and dads – we then got approached by another visa service Greenberg International in Canada who wanted a provider in Australia,” he says.
“To the year ending June 2008 Greenberg Australia had a turnover of $50,000 as a start up entity, but as we took it over it went from that to $2.1 million in 12 months.”
The growth follows the overarching trend of connectivity in world labour markets, with multinationals preferring to deal with a one-stop shop, as Willis plans to open more offices abroad.
“We can get clients anywhere in the world, whether it be in the UK or Dubai or wherever and they can initiate online and we then send emails to candidates, which allows us to go in with a lower price structure as there’s less hands on work,” he says.
Willis highlights Brisbane as a great place to dominate the visa market with a very large international student population and ‘countless clients’ in the engineering and mining sectors looking for skilled workers.
With a fixed-fee basis that doesn’t ‘reward people for incompetence’, Willis’ business model is to get a result in the shortest time, which has helped his companies win high-profile contracts.
“The big players’ pricing structures are a stretch beyond ours and when we went head to head with one of them recently on a tender with the Brisbane City Council, we actually won,” he says.
“We also do work with Queensland Rail, Ford Motors, QBE Insurance, and recently we signed with Telstra, so we’re taking clients away from the Big Four and another large provider.”