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Right on track

LEAVING Perth’s biggest advertising company to form a start-up competitor has paid off handsomely for Lori Canalini and Adam Barker.

Mr Canalini and Mr Barker started Gatecrasher in August 2001 and have rapidly built an agency with 12 staff and annual billings of just more than $5 million.

Good people, a good reputation in the market and a healthy dose of good fortune have been the key ingredients in their success to date.

Most of the top people at Gatecrasher came from Marketforce, where Mr Canalini and Mr Barker were joint creative directors.

The third shareholder in Gatecrasher, client services director Tony Scampoli, also came from Marketforce.

A more recent addition to the team is former Marketforce general manager Paul Yole, who joined Gatecrasher in January as an account director and strategic planner.

Mr Barker said the addition of Mr Yole provided a timely boost, since it enhanced Gatecrasher’s ability to pursue several new business opportunities that were emerging early this year.

Another major step in Gatecrasher’s success was winning the HBF account.

"That was pivotal in our growth," Mr Canalini said.

In particular, it allowed Gatecrasher to quickly move towards its desired staffing and resource level.

"A lot of people in the industry learn the ropes here and then move east. We’ve managed to find the right people," Mr Canalini said.

He said it was fortuitous that HBF, which hadn’t changed its agency for many years, sought a new agency soon after Gatecrasher opened.

It also fitted Gatecrasher’s target client profile, based on its experience in branding, finance, insurance and social marketing.

Gatecrasher’s other accounts include Chippers Funerals, Curtin University, the Office of Road Safety, the Cancer Foundation, Betts Kids, Colli Hardware and Diabetes (WA).

While Western Australia has been the major focus to date, Gatecrasher is looking further afield.

It has won project work for Melbourne-based Masters Dairy, helped by past experience with WA dairy company Peters & Brownes, and is planning to chase Federal Government work.

Gatecrasher will be helped in that pursuit by an alliance with media planning and strategy group ergo media, which assists with government work.

Another ‘alliance’ that has helped Gatecrasher is Iain Rowe’s strategic consulting work on the HBF account.

Like many people who start their own business, Mr Canalini and Mr Barker were motivated in large part by a desire for greater control over their lives.

"It’s about being in control of your own destiny. We wanted control over our staff and our client relationships," Mr Canalini said.

They also appreciate not having to answer to external shareholders, whose only focus is profit.

By the same token, they recognise the need to put in a solid effort to generate financial returns.

"We’re working harder now than we ever have," Mr Canalini said.

After the breakneck growth of the past 18 months, Mr Canalini and Mr Barker agree that Gatecrasher needs a period of consolidation.

"We want to focus on service and quality," Mr Barker said. "We need to be able to absorb the culture of our clients."

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