Dunstan Magro believes calmness and serenity are key attributes in business

Dunstan exudes calm, dignity and tranquillity – even amid the hustle and bustle of a city hotel. When I first meet Dunstan in a hotel lobby in Malta, he’s having a power nap. All around, people are milling about in groups, checking in, checking out, queuing for taxis and the like.

Meanwhile, Dunstan’s eyes are tightly shut. As I sit down next to him unsure if I should introduce myself and wake him, Dunstan slowly opens his eyes and smiles: “It’s important to catch a power nap when you can, wherever you are. Very nice to meet you Andrew.”

Keep calm and carry on

This overwhelming sense of peace, but also penetrating attentiveness is why Dunstan is so successful and why he has clients who stretch back decades. He builds a similar rapport with everyone he meets – clients, friends, and acquaintances like me.

“Whatever I do, I love to spend time on what I’m doing,” he says quietly. “Let me give you an example. We’re having this conversation. I’m getting to know you slowly… I may have another meeting soon. But I’m giving my time to you and I won’t go for that other meeting until we’ve finished and I’ve given you my undivided attention. I’ll reschedule that meeting if necessary. Right now, it’s just you and me.”

And it’s the same story with clients: Dunstan listens, learns, and then makes the judgement call based on what he’s understood from the meeting – and it always involves his undivided attention. That’s the key to his business.

“Clients complain to me – ‘I tried to call you a million times’. Now the truth is that a million times is a couple of times. But people tend to exaggerate,” he laughs.

“And I tell them, ‘Yes, I know you’ve called me, I did not answer the phone because I was with another person.’ They then understand that nobody comes between me and that person. So I give you my time because I believe that respecting the person you have in front of you, giving them your time, listening to what they have to say, is very important.”

And this philosophy has paid off handsomely with a string of big clients and invaluable professional connections across several continents – as well as with his traditional Maltese clients. Dunstan’s approach essentially takes the stress out of life and business.

WDM International

WDM International has its origins back in the 1970s when it was first established by Dunstan’s father. Dunstan finished his accountancy studies in 1997 and worked for one of the big four firms for a while. He then joined his father’s business in the early 2000s. The practice continued to grow and after his father retired in 2009, Dunstan took over the business with his wife, both as managing partners. “We’ve never looked back since that time,” Dunstan says.

Shortly after taking control of the firm, Dunstan started to search further afield for opportunities beyond Malta, attracting more international clients and building a wider business portfolio: “We slowly ventured into new avenues and got more clients by offering new types of services. Originally, under my dad, we were an audit and accountancy firm, but we soon started to add taxation and corporate work. By adding those services this developed our international tax and business advisory offering.

“So, basically, if we look at how the clientele developed, I can say that from a predominantly Maltese-based client base, we’ve moved to a healthy mix of foreign and local clients.”

Global client base

This client list is global – from Canada and the US to the UK, Germany, Italy and even Libya: “We will never shy away from local clients, because they have ultimately been the mainstay of our business. But from an international perspective, we have a number of clients who have set up offices in Malta.”

Two of his big clients, for example, are energy recycling businesses, turning waste into clean energy. Both were listed on two different stock exchanges and Dunstan’s firm became the service providers for them – this involved much international travel, tying up all the loose ends for compliance and governance.

“For new clients – particularly from overseas – we try to understand what they want to achieve. If they tick all the boxes, we carry out our due diligence. Once they pass the due diligence, we provide our services, which includes tax advice, structuring and corporate structuring, as well as normal accountancy services.”

IR Global Membership

For Dunstan, the IR Global membership is key to helping his business attract mid-sized and big international clients. He signed up as a member 10 years ago and in his own words “has never looked back”.

“You don’t reap immediate benefits on day one, so you have to be patient; you have to be focused. But every time you interact, you are planting a little seed. In time that seed will grow and if taken care of it will start to yield benefits.”

Dunstan believes the benefits of membership don’t solely involve opportunities for work but also allow access to fellow professionals with important skillsets that can be shared: “With members you get to discuss certain issues and look at them from different perspectives. If clients need our firm to help them grow somewhere, we know where to go knocking.

“If they need to form companies or they need special advice from different jurisdictions, we can liaise with our counterparts and provide the client with that advice. Plus, there is a real sense of brother and sisterhood. I’m speaking in these terms because I consider myself to be part of the furniture now.”

Training and mentoring

These days, the business includes Dunstan, his wife and four managers, along with seven warranted accountants and junior support staff. As well as running the business, he likes to focus on training and mentoring the younger staff – asking them their views on developing the business going forward.

“I sit down with them and say, ‘I’m thinking about this idea or this service. How do you see it?’ We discuss things knowing that by doing so I’m giving them exposure and I’m helping them to grow. I then know they’re the right person for the business and the culture we’ve developed.”

For Dunstan, this is key to bringing in younger, fresh talent and growing the business long term. “Yes, mentoring is so important in developing the business. I have a very good working knowledge on almost every topic that one can come up with at the office. I can then help colleagues to specialise in that while it also gives me the opportunity to network to grow new business.”

Client referrals

Dunstan admits he does a lot of marketing to generate business, writing expert analysis and taking part in virtual series with IR Global. The business also has a Facebook and Instagram page. Nevertheless, his favourite method of growing new business is through referrals from current and past clients.

“I am more of the traditional view that I prefer clients who are referred to me through word of mouth. Because that is a clear indication that existing clients or other people in the profession feel strongly that I’m someone they want to recommend.”
When Dunstan is not devoting all his time to the business, he likes to travel, study history and he’s also a keen follower of motorsports. But, above all, he loves a quiet, happy space where he can relax and turn off his mind.

“To really relax I’ll have a whisky and a cigar and spend a couple of hours all by myself, thinking about nothing. Just focusing on enjoying the whisky and the cigar. It’s the time when I focus all my energy on just me.”