OWEN: My guest today is Jack Barmby and he is the CEO of Gnatta and the founder of FM Outsource. Jack, welcome to the show.
JACK: Hi there, how are you doing?
OWEN: Good. Usually when we get guests on the show we usually have them talk about a specific company they have which is one company. But your case is unique because on one hand you have the service part of the company which is FM Outsource where you provide the people to do the work. And you have the other one which is Gnatta which is where you’ve actually created the software to automate the work that your team actually does. So this is kind of unique. So we’re going to get both sides about the systematization of operations as well as what you did to automate the task so that the computer can do most of the work. Let’s jump right in.
OWEN: The whole interview is all about getting entrepreneurs like yourself to talk about how you’ve been able to systematize your business so it runs without you successfully. So what are some mind blowing results that you now experience as a result of going through that process of systematizing and automating your business?
JACK: For us, as you said there’s two parts. Gnatta actually, it is the system. That’s what it’s designed for. It’s actually in place because of a lack of systematization that exists in the area that we were in. What Gnatta does is there’s a very thin layer between the conversation that someone’s already having about our business and those operators that actually deal with them. If you have a large company you’ll be able to systemize the rooting from that message being received by whatever channel that comes into straight into the operator should be dealing with it. For us of course Gnatta wouldn’t exist without that lack of systemization in the first place. And then the FM Outsource, we’ve got about 200 staff that sit within our business. So for us systemizing even the simplest of process is absolutely necessary because we’ll talk about later only about 40% of our staff base are actually in office. So we rely really heavily systems to actually do our day-to-day jobs. So I’d say it has a pretty sizable impact on our businesses.
OWEN: And so how has your company been transformed as a result of systematizing and automating your business?
JACK: The process for Gnatta, we’ve systemized the entire customer contact piece. It essentially takes all different types of digital channels. Things like Facebook, Twitter, webchat, Trustpilot, emails, SMS messages, all those sorts of things and pulls them all into one singular place. Because like you and me are talking right now it flows really well. An email should be the same as a physical conversation. There’s no reason that a tweet should be more difficult than in a Facebook message or text message. This should all work the same way. So what Gnatta does is it effectively removes the barriers between different channels and conversations. If we take an example of that, our best example for businesses that we’ve done that with is a British company called ASOS. They deal with between 150,000 and 200,000 contacts a week. They’ve got sort of over a thousand staff doing those queries 24 hours a day in eight different markets across the world. And all of that contact roots in and then is dealt with by the system. Without a system that can actually manage that process it becomes really, really difficult, and it reduces a lot of the overhead. And essentially it automates all of the human making decision processes about how they actually answer a query. So if you were, say, getting an email into a box that email could have many different topics and many different origins for what that person’s going to do in the first place. And the system helps make the decisions about the right operator that should be dealing with those interactions without a human actually ever touching them.
OWEN: And usually I wait later on to kind of give the listeners a context of what the business is about, but I think because of the unique situation [Unintelligible 00:03:51] let me see if I can make it even easier for them to understand the context. You probably work with a lot of e-commerce businesses and the e-commerce clients that you have, they have their customers sending emails, making calls, tweeting them, using Instagram and all that. And what you decide to do is instead of managing all these different conversations that they’re having with customers on all these different platforms you were able to create the software which is Gnatta to kind of bring in all the conversations where they’re having a tweet or a Facebook post on their Facebook page, wherever they’re having it on the internet, we get them altogether into one place. That’s kind of what the software does, right?
JACK: That’s absolutely right. So that’s what the software does. And then FM Outsource is a digital customer service solution that actually mans the people behind Gnatta who would answer those queries on behalf of our clients. So that’s how the system synergize with each other.
OWEN: Gnatta is a tool that aggregates all these conversation happening on the different platforms on behalf of your customers. It brings it all into one place. And then FM Outsource is a service where you provide over 200 staffed customer support reps handling these conversations on behalf of your customers.
JACK: That’s exactly correct.
OWEN: I’m glad I was able to put together the picture for the listeners. So since now you guys have systems [Unintelligible 00:05:15]. How has your personal life been transformed as a result of systematizing your business?
JACK: There’s a couple of parts. With 200 staff having systems is really, really important. For me to be able to talk to my staff base, we’ve got about 40% of our staff in the office. It’s basically on a personal level and a professional level it’s the main systems that I use in order to communicate with my friends, and my family, and the people I work around. So for me on a personal level it’s all about free time. So with the businesses that we’ve got our free time is shrinking. And as you look at the younger and younger demographics the attention spans of people are getting shorter and shorter and shorter. So we need systems that let us contact each other quickly and effectively without any kind of latency whatsoever. One of the systems that we use through and through, a really big advocate of this company is Slack. Slack allows me to get notifications out to anybody at any time and lets us integrate with all the external systems that we use to make sure that everything’s all in one place. And that means that I get a lot more free time and I can consume a message very, very quickly regardless of where a person is. So now we’ve got people all over the UK and the US and some staff out in the UAE. We can talk to those guys. It doesn’t matter where they are. It’s super simple, super easy to talk to those guys. It really has been, if you look at the amount of time I spent speaking to people even down to you and me we’ve used the system to communicate in 100% of our conversations, that’s made possible by systemization.
OWEN: Since we have systems in place in the business what’s been the longest time you’ve actually been away from having to run the business?
JACK: Now in the times I never spend more than four or five days away from the business. It was originally a university project of mine, this business. So I used to be able to take a lot of time out given that it was almost a part-time project. But since we commercialize the business, I was in south by southwest in March which was awesome but I managed to get I think five days completely away from the business for that time. But apart from that it’s pretty much we’re probably talking hours.
OWEN: So I’m wondering, is there a reason why you don’t take that much breaks away from it or…?
JACK: Personally for me I love the job I do and I have a very blurred line between personal and business life. For me we’ve got to a point where from a university startup three years ago to a team over 200 just takes a lot of time and hours. And I really love what I do so I don’t feel like I need time off in short.
OWEN: I get that. You’ve mentioned how many employees you have but to break it down for the software part as well as the service part how would you break it down?
JACK: We’ve got about 190 to 200 staff that I can outsource, and then we’re team of just under 30 within Gnatta. And Gnatta’s side is mainly comprised of developers. And then the FM side is mainly comprised of customer service stuff.
OWEN: Okay. Are the companies profitable. What was last year’s annual revenue and what do you expect to do this year? Feel free to make a total, detail of each of them.
JACK: So both business are profitable, both businesses are debt free. And because it was a university project of mine it was something that I didn’t immediately require revenue from. I already had an income anyway. So I invested all of the money back into the business. So we never had any debt, we never had any bank loans, we never gave any equity swaps away for cash injections or anything like that. Probably across both businesses it’s about 1.2, 1.3 million pounds net profit.
OWEN: Net profit, that’s awesome. Wow.
JACK: Just over 2 million for Gnatta and then the rest is made up in FM which would probably take us to about five and a half million.
OWEN: That’s awesome. Take us back, because the reality is the business wasn’t always the way it is now where it’s systematized and you even have an automation software built to handle how the service business is run. But take us back to when you didn’t have all the systemization and automation in place. Let’s talk about what was wrong with it. And I’m thinking you probably want to start with FM Outsource right? Start from where you want to start from.
JACK: Let’s look at FM first. In the early days actually it wasn’t too much of a challenge mainly because we were a team of three or four in the outset. So if we take the problem that we were trying to solve and then look at the people behind that I think that would be a context as to why we needed to do systems. Initially when our first commercial contract as a team, we were a team of four. And we essentially needed to answer social queries on behalf of the client that we had on board.
OWEN: Social media queries, okay.
JACK: Exactly. We were all on Twitter and we were answering queries. But as we got quite busy we’d start to double answer things or not answer things, stepping over [Unintelligible 00:10:42] because there’s nowhere to work flow and coordinate the work we were getting. So we ended up using a Google Doc to answer our tweets. So we have a Google Doc open and then we’d all kind of put down the tweets that we were doing and then we’d update them as they happen. But then the Google Doc will crash and no one will have any idea what was going on. It was just an absolute disaster. And as the team started to grow and you start to worry about things like shifts and people that are off and all that sort of stuff. These are challenges that the listener would have, small or big businesses. No matter how big you get there’s always the dependency and the difficulty in people that are off or people that are ill, or anything like that. Or even just basic communication, when we do shift swaps who dealt with what and where we’re up to and all those sorts of things. The first challenge was finding a way that we could have a more robust solution in place to actually deal with the volume of messages that we’re receiving. And the second was about how we actually manage the people in that team, and that was really tough. Getting those two parts, that’s where effectively both businesses spawn from. So in FM we take the headache away from having to manage the people, and the staff, and the skills that you need. And at Gnatta we remove the headache behind actually collating all that contact in the first place. So we respond from a lack of systemization which is great for us but that’s kind of where we originally grew from was because of that problem.
OWEN: And I’m glad you’ve mentioned that because the reality is we face… I want to look at you from Twitter for instance. You can be on Twitter and just refresh your screen, like a thousand new tweets have come in. Now if you’re dealing companies that are dealing with consumers, reaching out to them and all these other places. Now I could totally understand that first problem, how do you know and keep track of the conversation you’re having with somebody on Twitter? How do you keep in the right medium where the team can see what has been said and what is not being said. So that’s the first issue and I get that. And so back when the business was not systematized, when you didn’t have any kind of automation software in place to solve that problem. What was the lowest point? Describe how bad it got.
JACK: Probably what springs to mind is we’re always talking of the Google Doc. We are busy period, so we were vary linked to retail because our clients tend to get a lot, lot busier in the Christmas period. So we would get a massive surge of contacts over that Christmas period. And when we didn’t have a robust solution in place that had sort of [Unintelligible 00:13:20] process. This is not our sexy stuff. We talked about the Google Doc. As fantastic as Google is for collaborating with the few people on a Word or Excel document. When you’ve quite sizeable team running against that, and really hammering in making those changes, but that would eventually crash. That’s effectively the system that we’re using, just having a complete failure. During that period where it just goes completely black. Trying to catch backup is a really tough. We had periods where we just kind of wouldn’t, would that just have no idea what was happening and obviously the guys knew well enough to put all those systems back in place and all that sort of stuff. But we were born from a necessity of a problem that we were having and we started to work our way in Gnatta with FM posing the problem. We would sort that thing out. But we got to a point where what matters really good out now is while we look at Twitter, what Gnatta does is it collates across channels. So if we have a Twitter conversation and then an email conversation that they’re probably linked in some way. Most of the time they’re linked together so Gnatta finds links between them. But there was a point where we thought this is actually really tough. There’s a reason people haven’t done this before and can we actually work our way to make conversations fluid regardless of where they’re coming from. And there was a point where there were so many variables, and so many edge cases, and so many ways and means a conversation could go to let a system make human decisions. It was a real challenge and there was a point where we thought that we really didn’t know if we could manage to get this process slick. And that was probably the lowest point. To kind of summarize that we had the people problem stemming from the lack of system where our systems would fail. And then when we actually came to develop the system itself to solve the problem it kind of became quite evident why that hadn’t been done before. It’s not easy to help automate the process of talking to human beings.
OWEN: Yeah. And so what was the breaking point? Do you remember a specific event that happened that you were like, “I’m just going to go ahead and create this automation tool.”
JACK: I think for Gnatta we started with Twitter. Then we made the natural jump to Facebook. And this was around sort of 2012, 2013 when contacts on social was a relatively new endeavor. And we wanted to become a social contact tool. But then we kind of realized as I spoke about before, whether we’re having a physical conversation, an email, a text, a tweet, whatever it might be, it’s all just a conversation between a person and a business.
OWEN: Yeah, regardless of the channel they’re using. It’s just the same person having a conversation.
JACK: Exactly, it doesn’t matter. That kind of tipping point for us was to say, “Let’s go and get the classic mail channels, let’s go and get things like email, let’s go get SMS, let’s put phones in there.” And then we thought where else do people talk? Review sites is one, so places like Trustpilot. And then we’re looking into things like Amazon, eBay, and the market place channels in the future. Because pretty much, no matter wherever someone’s talking about you we want to be there. And that’s kind of the tipping point for us where we realize that that was a system that would help pretty much anybody anywhere regardless of where they are in the world, everyone has this struggle. If you talk to a teenager and you said people didn’t use Twitter for customer service 10 years ago they might look at you and think like, really? Whereas now that’s normal. Things will move on and things will progress. No matter where these channels come from you look at things like Snapchat. And now businesses are starting to talk to people there, on a different way, but still starting to talk to people there. So we will just keep doing that and keep integrating with the new channels so that we’d constantly a system that helps businesses talk to customers irrespective of where they are. And I think in terms of the business, not just the system, we’ve been developing the system for a while but actually it was ASOS coming on board with us was probably one of the biggest tipping points because that’s when we knew we had something that really works. That’s when we knew that what we were doing actually had impact in a big way for a big company. So as one of the biggest e-com suppliers in Europe those guys taken on board really was affirmation that we’ve done something right. And that was probably a pretty interesting tipping point for me.
OWEN: Let’s talk about the steps you actually took to systematize, because yours is unique because we got to talk about what you did to automate the business by creating that platform as well as what you did to systematize the operations where the human beings actually do some of the work as well. So if you can break it down with your answers that would be awesome for the listeners. What would you say was the first step you took to systematize or even automate the business?
JACK: I think the first part is we were having a frustration with something in the first place. The listeners all have something that pops into their mind where they think, “That winds me up, or I can’t do that properly, or I wish that was slicker.” We all just got into a circle and went there’s some stuff that’s really obvious that we’re doing wrong where there’s a gap. But let’s just literally sit down with a pen and paper and write down the problems that we’re having. That’s a really, really simple and easy way to say, “Look guys, what are you struggling with? What can you do? What is it that you need to solve?” When we kind of came to the realization that we all had a similar problem with communication, and communication was one of the main ones we wanted to reinvent the wheel in terms of thinking about the process and the problems that people have but doing it in a different way. Because we genuinely thought we’d come across a problem that other people were having but no one had solved yet. That was kind of the first point, getting most of the ideas together…
OWEN: On a piece of paper. And I’m wondering when you took the time to write down those problems, just to give us some context, what did you guys discover when you did this write up?
JACK: it wasn’t surprising actually. The main thing for us was the death of their job that they were doing actually was fundamentally made more difficult by the lack of system. But kind of moving past that one because we’ve discussed it. I think one of the main ones was it was the simple stuff that we were having troubles with. If we move past the kind of we couldn’t all collaborate on one platform. We’ve covered that. The main parts was some of the stuff that was quite simple to do people didn’t know how to do because people that had worked a little while they kind of knew everything inside out. But at the start of business you’ll always have, and this is the mentality of every startup is that you’ll have the first employees know everything about everything. But they don’t tell anybody else because startups and entrepreneurs always want to do it within themselves and I’m still a victim of that. But it’s very, very difficult to get people to sit down and actually write down just the simplest like how to run an email campaign, or how to actually target a specific audience on something you’re trying to do, or what is the process of managing this customer query, or that customer query, or the other customer query. We actually found that some of the quite minor details were being missed and we wanted to find a way to actually note those down and making sure that anybody that came along as a new employee in the future would actually know what to do. So that was kind of the first point.
OWEN: Okay. And so moving forward, what was the second step you took to kind of systematize the business?
JACK: From the concepts that we’d drawn together, we drew out the main points that we wanted to solve and then we just ran iterations around them. We were talking about mainly simple day-to-day processes and fluid communication internally and externally. So we threw away a lot of the stuff that we thought these ideas, some of these are linked so we’ll merge them together. Some of them are completely separate, and some of them just aren’t in our agreement so we’re going to throw those away. We’ve got rid a lot of the stuff that we just knew we couldn’t do and focus on a few key points and build out systems that actually would help us solve those problems.
OWEN: Can we even make these clear for the listeners? Use an example, something specific to apply to what you just mentioned.
JACK: As we started to grow, we were probably at around 40 or 50 staff and over half of them weren’t based in office. People using different ways to chat, some people were using Skype, some people were using Link, some people were using tech, people would just get in-touch with each other in all sorts of different managements’ ways to manage a lot of different processes that were really important to our business. So general communication was one while we’re at work but another one was our ability to manage Rotas. So if you take, now we’re a team of 200, we’ve got a lot of sickness and we’ve got a lot of people online and offline and swapping over all the time because we run 24 hours a day. So a way to actually make sure we knew people online, make sure they knew they had to be online, we sat down and we thought how do we actually manage this process because running an Excel spreadsheet right now really doesn’t cut it.
OWEN: The scheduling of the actual staff to do the chat on behalf of your customer.
JACK: Exactly. That was a huge challenge for us. Using an Excel spreadsheet was the way it was done in the early days and that worked. But when we look back to the same problem of volume we’ve got more than one person managing a Rota, well you’ve got more than one Rota. When you’ve got multiples Rotas running in collaboration with each other…
OWEN: What is a Rota?
JACK: A Rota is just a big schedule of work.
JACK: Yeah. If you look, you’ve got multiple different sets of people working at the same time, they’ve all got their different skill sets, all the sorts of things. It’s finding who’s available to work, which hours should they work, which hours can they work.
OWEN: A roster, right? Roster, is that what it is?
JACK: No, it’s Rota. It may well be an English phrase. I’m not sure.
OWEN: I don’t know. That’s why I was confused. I think it’s scheduling of the time. And I think that’s important because you guys are essentially selling the hours that they’re going to do the work on behalf of the clients. Was that the case?
JACK: Yeah, exactly.
OWEN: Okay, go ahead.
JACK: If we don’t have a way of dealing with the inevitable sickness and the inevitable absences our business fundamentally can’t run. So we needed to find a system that could manage that process but it had to link to lots of different areas. So take it for example, we’ve got 200 staff, they’ve all got different skills, they all want to work different hours, some of them are in different time zones, some of them can work certain queries and can’t work certain queries. From all of those different pieces you got to be able to, without having a really in-depth knowledge of absolutely everything, you need a system to guide you through that process. And that’s one of the areas that we looked out first because it was something that gave us quite a lot of pain and we really, really need to focus on.
OWEN: I get that. So you started by looking at the area that gave you the most pain. So that was one of the things that you jumped into first. And what other steps you took to systematize and automate the business?
JACK: Especially in the digital space you’ve got to intuitively look at the solutions that you have in place. We all know the term legacy software. Big business have old software that they just never rolled into new versions of. And it’s one of the parts where we make sure that we quite relentlessly iterate through the business all of the bits and pieces that we use to systemize because some of them get old. We might need to throw our old systems in place of new systems. We talked about Slack. Slack is a relatively new endeavor. It’s only been around a couple of years in force. Our developers use Slack because it integrates with Jira, and it integrates with Trello, it integrates with all the different bits and pieces that we used to manage our work. But for the type of work that they do they need to integrate with lots of systems. But that’s different for different parts of the business. So our CS staff don’t use Slack as much because they don’t integrate with as many systems as the devs do. So it depends. You got to make sure you’re purposing and iterating and having the foresight to replace things that might have better solutions available. And most importantly we keep asking people what they’re having difficulty with, so that whole pen and paper process that I spoke about in the start. We take our entire business and we split it to four houses. So if you’ve ever seen Harry Potter it’s a very, very similar concept. We break our entire business down into four houses. And what we do from there is essentially these people and their houses, they’re all in different teams, they all do different things. And they all talk about each week in the huddles that they do they talk about the problems that they’re having and the things that they want to solve. And then the house captains feed that information back to the managers who can help iterate through the problems. What that means is we’re constantly getting real-time feedback from the people who are working sort of full working weeks with these issues because we have a mantra in both businesses, the kind of waterfall, top down approach to implementing systems doesn’t really work. You’ve almost got to go bottom up because normally you’ll find that the problems that we have tend to come from the bottom where people are doing… when you look at things like we talked earlier about processes that people don’t understand, that’s not something that a manager would ever have a problem with. You talk about how you answer a certain query, that’s not something a manager would ever struggle with. When you talk about the Rotas, again, certain managers wouldn’t have that problem. So we kind of start at the bottom. And then if we’re finding something that exists throughout the entire business we make sure that we find a way to iterate and implement a system that helps them solve that problem.
OWEN: How did you even prioritize the order of steps to take? How did you decide what systems to create first and next. What was the reasoning behind it?
JACK: It sounds a little crass actually but we just kind of go with whichever or whatever shouts the loudest type approach. I think there are certain things, especially listeners will do the same, they all think about things that immediately cause them pain, and they’re the things you should focus on first. We just look at the things that are having the biggest blockers on people. And that’s not always in terms of throughput for the business. These could be things that cause upset just actually to do with work environment, it could be to do Rotas, it could be to do with processes for actually answering queries, it could be about how you get trained, or how you get promoted, all these bits and processes about how things happen in the business. We look at the things that are really causing us pain first and start that. We still do that today when we use the house system, when the guys meet every week, what we find is that by getting people that would not never normally talk to each other together, they tend to talk about issues and problems that we tend to get really honest answers because within the teams that we have in FM and in Gnatta when you’re in one team it’s quite hard to see where you might be having struggles. Whereas if you get a fresh set of eyes on a problem often you’ll get a different answer. So we like to mix things up and get different people looking at each other’s issues. And we make sure that once a week we go through the process of saying what are your problems, what are your issues, how can we help, what can we do? And that really kind of helps us continue to be efficient and have happy stuff which is ultimately the perfect formula for us.
OWEN: You mentioned something that I think is important to talk about, because you said the way you decided back then which systems to focus on first or creating a system for whatever problem to create a system for first by looking at which problem was shouting the loudest to get your attention. But you also said something about how that didn’t also mean that that problem was the most critical for transforming the business. So given that you might be [Unintelligible 00:30:37] and then it might not also be the most critical one to work on, how did you handle that disparity of that issue?
JACK: I think a lot of it comes to how easy it is to solve as well. I think you look at something like let’s go back to the Rota example. That’s actually quite easy to solve. There are quite a lot of systems out there that you can use to sort out who’s online and who’s working when. But when you look at a process problem may be focused around things like employee happenings. That’s not as easy to solve. And it needs probably a more long-term solution. That has a lot more questions. So the business problem is my staff aren’t as happy but the answer is simple. When you look at Rotas, let’s sort it that out, that’s easy. But when you look at things that are going to be intangible they’re a lot harder to approach. So they’re things that we can’t fix as immediately. And I think that’s the key as well. One of the big things for us is as a young business that we need to be able to move quickly. So we like to get things done that are easy and quick to solve to have the most change as quick as you possibly can.
OWEN: So I guess the way was kind of like, is shouting the loudest but looking at how to solve it, can we quickly solve it? If the answer is yes, okay, is shouting the loudest and we can quickly solve it, now let’s put it on top of the list, let’s get that done. But if shouting loud is not easy to solve then maybe we might have to shove it down into the shelf so that you can think of a much better way to solve it. That way you’re not focusing so much in [Unintelligible 00:32:18] and solving something that’s going to take a longer time to solve.
JACK: I think so. If you look at Gnatta, that is actually a solution to a problem that has taken us now just over three years and we’re still not there yet.
OWEN: You’re still building the solution as you go.
JACK: Exactly. Whereas if you take again the Rota solution that’s kind of go out, buy it, plug it in, and you’re pretty much done. That’s pretty simple and pretty easy to do. It’s important I think to know that just because it isn’t easy to solve doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. You take employee satisfaction’s actually quite a good one. Looking at process can actually help with that quite a lot but it’s not easy to do. That’s doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. You should still put a lot of time and effort into the things that you struggle to do. And because normally the things that you struggle to do or aren’t immediately obvious will reap the best rewards because that probably means that there’s not as many solutions out there to solve your problem. Which means that if you do manage to solve that problem you’re probably quite unique in that solution. So I suppose it has its positives and its negatives. I think it’s important to look at the easy things first, but equally I think it’s about picking which you think will be most transformational for the business.
OWEN: Okay, I like that. I’m glad I asked that because it gives the listener a way to, when they’re making decisions of what to focus on or what to filter it by. There are things in your business that you automated that have Gnatta which is [Unintelligible 00:33:44], but there are also things that you had to have human beings do because you have both sides of the business. For those things that you had human beings do I’m wondering how did you even document procedures and processes for the business and what tools did you even use?
JACK: It’s quite shameful when we’re talking about process and breaking down process. I think one of the biggest problems in the early days is we didn’t document what we were doing, and that was one of the biggest pain points that we’ve had going forward. I think if you look at when it was a startup we’re a team of four and five you don’t need to document stuff because your team understands what’s going on, you won’t know what’s going on. But then when you chuck on a couple of hundred more people in the team then those little things that you didn’t process behind actually now becomes severe pain points for the business. We’ve had to go right back to basics and think, let’s find a way to document even just the really basic stuff like how to do your job is really key. When we used to bring new employees on board it was a case of one of the team would train them and they knew everything so that was absolutely fine. But now we’ve got so many people at so many different points in their jobs and careers with us that some people can train, some people can’t. And we didn’t actually document any of that stuff and it was pretty much completely unorganized and we’re still actually working on that now. Thankfully we’re pretty much there now. Everything’s got strong documentation behind it as soon as someone joins the business, even if they’ve got a myriad of things that support them in their day-to-day work. But that took a lot for us as automation that we could sort of adapt and learn from. We need to keep doing that. I talked earlier about iterating through process and we need to make sure that we keep documenting, keep processing, and systematizing our business otherwise you start to fall behind. Especially it’s a digital company as quick moving as ours needs to be, it’s really important that a simple [Unintelligible 00:35:58] first.
OWEN: I get that initially you guys were not doing that and now you’re actually documenting procedures and processes. I’m wondering what are you guys using to do that now, just so the listener know.
JACK: We’re started by using an internal system because we thought that would be the best solution, but it wasn’t. People have been working on this problem for a long time. And we actually ended up using, for the time being we use Dropbox for a while. And then as we got a big bigger we move to SharePoint to document pretty much everything that we’ve got at the moment. But I would probably say that I think that’s one of the areas that we need to look at as a business a little more carefully because I think SharePoint and Dropbox in terms of collaborating places where you can share documents and stuff is fantastic, but I think that there are pieces of software out there that can do that more effectively in terms of processes. SharePoint’s fantastic for documenting but not so good for kind of helping you with process. We use things like Trello, Jira, it depends on where you’re looking. If it’s developers we use Trello, we use Jira, for our CS staff we use SharePoint. But as I said I think it’s a point that we need to look at in terms of how we automate process a little further. I think we need to look a little deeper into that problem.
OWEN: And I’m glad you’re honest with it. I’m also wondering at the time when you were systematizing and automating the business what books or even mentors had the most influence with you and why?
JACK: It sounds quite crass again but we’ve got an average in business of sort of mid-20’s, so we’re kind of coming from sort of quite self-taught culture. The answer is normally a little magical search bar called Google that takes out most of the answers that we’re looking for. And that works really well in the early days. That was fantastic. But because we’ve got quite a young staff base and that’s fantastic. And we tend to have an Achilles heel of inexperience. And so we wanted to start putting qualifications behind the teams and behind the individuals that will become the managers and become kind of our top guys because ultimately self-learning only takes you so far. So I think it’s a blessing and a curse having a young team and we still continue to be quite self-taught. We’re in an era now where having to read a book to get an answer to something is something that we’re not as dependent on anymore. But I still think that it’s important to put some proper qualifications behind key people but we were quite a self-taught culture.
OWEN: Just to make sure that get that clearer context because you said for the most part you guys self-learned but the sitting positions you had to get qualify people. Can you just give an example of what you mean by that?
JACK: I think in terms of some of those that the guys take up, there are some things you can’t completely self-teacher. We can’t bring on brand new guys and call them developers. So it depends where you’re looking. If you’re looking at marketing team a lot of that can be self-taught. Pretty much you’ve got a lot of the answers that you need out there on Google and somewhere else. Someone else has already run through that problem, and documented it, and put a process in place for all those different marketing processes that you need and want. Whereas I think for specific managers we had to put proper qualifications behind those. Developers are a prime one but you take things like the market managers and the sales managers. That kind of can’t be self-taught because you need to have a good educational backing behind that to make sure that the guys know what they’re doing. I think it depends which roles you’re looking at.
OWEN: Okay. I get that. I’m also wondering, if you talk only about what you did and what you’ve been able to achieve, and we don’t talk about the challenges that you had then we’re not giving a full picture of what was really happening. What will you say was the biggest challenge that you actually experienced when you initially tried to systematize and even automate the business? How did you even solve it?
JACK: Probably the biggest problem for me, and this is probably the biggest takeaway for me from everything that was spoken about so far is that adopting a new process or a new system is just a total bitch. It’s a total bitch. It’s one of those things where we talk about top down. I talk about top down mentality where you’ll come up and you’ll look at a system you think, ‘This will be amazing. This will transform my business. This will be absolutely fantastic.” The more established you become, you have employees, like the old system, and they like the way you used to work. Although it’s got kind of a few warts and it’s a bit ugly, it doesn’t work quite right they know it really well. And it’s one of those parts where if you can’t communicate to your business, why something needs to change and why you need to put a process in for it, it’s going to die. It doesn’t matter how good it is, it needs to be easy to understand, and easy to comprehend, and easy to adapt to get the people behind it to do that. And we’ve kind of come before and said, “Look, here’s a new system. It’ll be amazing.” And everyone just sort of said, “No.” We struggle to get it in. So we have to pick our battles. Using the houses is a fantastic way to do this. We give people a level of autonomy where they can help actually make decisions about the types of problems that they want to solve. And then the business can come back to the individuals within the business and give them a solution to that problem. Adoption is really, really key. You need to make sure that not even the minor majority but the absolute majority of your staff actually are on board, and taking on board, and accepting, and enjoying, and loving what it is that you’re trying to do for them, otherwise it just has absolute no chance.
OWEN: Adoption was the big problem. What I get from that is if you’re trying to make a push for them to adopt something new you have to make sure that the thing that you’re having them adopt is easy because there’s going to be that natural challenge towards it. So if it’s hard then, plus the natural challenge to us adoption, plus being hard, it’s just going to kill it.
JACK: And they’ve got to understand why you’re doing it, why you’re actually making that change. Take our house system, I said, “Guys, I know you’re all busy. But what I want to do is I want to take some time out of your day to talk to you about other things in the business. And everyone went, “Why?” But when you actually explain what’s going on, how it’s going to benefit them, how they’re going to get more autonomy, and we’re going to solve more problems, and you’re going to meet other people that you never would’ve met before, it’s going to be fun, people understand that. Whereas if the way you do it isn’t right, and the way you explain and comprehend why you’re actually trying to do something isn’t clear then people aren’t going to want to do it. It’s like, “I’m busy. Why would I want to come and sit with a bunch of people I don’t know, talking about a lot of stuff. I don’t understand when I could just be doing my job.” And it’s about trying to get it right so the people actually love what you’re trying to do and make change with.
OWEN: I get that. What was the second biggest challenge that you experienced when you initially tried to systematize and automate the business?
JACK: It’s probably focused around the… A lot of the systems that we put in place have a lot of moving parts or dependencies on other systems. Let’s keep using the house example. While it’s a fantastic concept to sit a quarter of your business down at once and I’ll talk about the problems that you’re facing, and the things that are going on, and the [Unintelligible 00:44:02] to this happening. It’s actually quite hart to collate what’s going on in my business. But actually getting those answers by what’s happening is difficult. If we can’t, we had the system in place and we knew what we wanted to do with that house system. Actually getting the information all over the business about everything that’s going on and putting that in a comprehensible manner where people just understood it and it wasn’t overcomplicated. So if I’m going to talk to my developers about what’s going on in the development world we’ll get super complex answers that we won’t understand and no one would get it. And the marketing team will talk about ROI, and click through rates, and all sorts of stuff that we just actually the wider business doesn’t want to know about. So it’s about getting it and doing it the right way because putting the system in place is probably only half the battle, but actually using it in a way that works for the people within the business actually using the systems you’re putting in place is important. I’m often really frustrated by how process driven big corporations are. I think one of the takeaways to me is that while we try and put systems in kind of throughout the business it’s really important not to over process. That sounds as though it’s really [Unintelligible 00:45:15] thing. But I deal with a lot of businesses where process is kind of in place to the point that it’s actually counterproductive. I think it’s one of the key questions for someone who wants to implement a system to ask themselves. Worst case scenario, or best case scenario depending on your outlook, where could this end up? So if I make a process out of this problem where will I end up? Will I end up at a place where I actually am choking the business. Because as businesses get bigger they have to get surrounded more process because there’s more and more people involved in any decision, things slow down, and that’s a real shame. That’s why being in a startup’s so much fun because you get to make decisions quickly without having to go through change process and all those sorts of things. They’re necessary but it’s really key for me to try and make sure that we don’t over process within the business to a point where we’re just choking it. Otherwise that you did it in the first place will actually start to cause that damage.
OWEN: I get two things from this question where first of all, the data you’re getting back from different parts of the team, how do you simplify it so that anybody else across the company can actually see it and know what the answer that you’re getting back from another team is. So is that like simplify KPI’s or something like that?
JACK: Yeah, it’s a learning curve. It’s actually turned out for us to be one of the most fantastic things we’ve done because what we do is we force our staff to be able to comprehend what they’re doing in a very, very simple way. If I ask the listeners to try and breakdown what they’ve done in the last week in a few sentences it’s tough. Whereas if I ask those guys to do that actually what it does is it gives good training to themselves to sort of say, “How do I actually comprehend what I’ve done to a layman.” If a developer has to describe what they’re doing they’ll normally talk about it now instead of in terms of the technical implementation about the features. What marketing will do is they’ll talk about the new clients that they’re dealing with, not the specific KPI’s. The CS staff might talk about the numbers of new people that have been trained, not specifically the process that they’ve put in place to make sure they can answer queries faster. It’s one of those things where it comes over time, and that’s probably one of the other parts I think is quite important. Almost no process that you put in work straightaway. In fact for a lot of the time, in fact almost every time I’ve done it actually is a little worse to start with because it’s new, and it’s fresh, and it’s confusing, and people don’t get it. But you’ve got to kind of have the power in your convictions. With the processes that you’re putting in place, and I go back to that when I said earlier about picking battles, you need to choose a few things and really, really focus on them because one of the biggest success points past adoption is probably the drive to make it work. Because otherwise putting systems in place is never just the plug and play solution most of the time. It always takes a lot of refinement to get to a point where it really, really is driving back value, and I think that’s really important.
OWEN: And another thing I got from your answers, because as your business gets bigger, and in your case you have 200 employees, so it’s really big. You have to be careful not to have process just be put all really in there because it can actually become counterproductive. So you’re making sure that you keep an eye on that.
JACK: I think it’s really important. I think big corporations have to be very, very process-driven. They have to be. But I think to a point you need to make sure that you’re just doing just right, that it’s supplementing the business, not driving every single decision just for the sake of process.
OWEN: And we hear that a lot with government institutions and stuff like that where there’s so much red tape. So that’s what you’re trying to avoid by not having the systems essentially having red tapes in your company. It needs to drive progress but not hinder progress from happening or things happening fast.
OWEN: Given all these challenges that you mentioned earlier I’m wondering why did you even stay committed to the goal of systematizing the business?
JACK: We ultimately want to systemize because it makes the business better. It’s one of the challenges that we’ve had where when you have to break something down into a step-by-step process it challenges the understanding of the things that you do. So it’s really kind of helped us because, go back to that sort of 5 employees to sort of 200-employee gap. And you go up to businesses that have a thousand, and two thousand, and ten thousand employees, being able to break what you do down into a step-by-step process so that it’s really, really easy to understand is actually so important. Because it kind of links up to one of the points I’ve made earlier about making the system work. And one of the challenges behind that is actually trying to break down what problems and processes you’re trying to implement, it’s really simple thing, like if you take something silly like the process behind how to make a cup of tea. We all know how to do that, but when you break that down into a process there’s actually a lot more steps to it than you kind of first anticipate, and there’s a lot of different parts and pieces to it. So its’ one of those parts where understanding the problem that you were trying to actually solve in the first place isn’t always as easy as you think it might be. While that’s the cause, you used to make a cup of tea process, we think about how that works, it’s about keeping it light enough so that it’s not just completely choking. While it needs to be in-depth to understand and to actually complete it needs to be not so in-depth that it’s just overwhelming. And that’s a really difficult balance to strike. That’s really, really tough. Especially among some of the more complex parts of the business where there’s a lot of decision making processes, a lot of if’s and but’s, and what happens if this and if that. It becomes very, very complex to actually work out what parts of the process you should have and that’s been a struggle and it continues to be a struggle going forward. And it’s something I think that a lot of businesses do struggle with.
OWEN: I’m also wondering at what point in time did you feel that for the most part, most of the business had been systematized and even automated, and it could actually run without you successfully. Was there a specific time in the story?
JACK: I still think it can. It’s a point where… I spoke earlier quite honestly about how we struggled to systemize or didn’t systemize in the early days. We really, really struggled to catch back up with ourselves and get all sorted. There’s still not a point where I talk to anybody about how the biggest time we had was in a five-day period. And that’s partly because I love what I do, but partly because the business still has a lot of learning to do. And the original employees that are still here within the business need to continue to help impart their knowledge and kind of offload into different processes how we work. If you look at our development team, because development actually, this is one of the areas that any listeners who have developers will understand this problem intricately is that… Especially the first developers have kind of full [Unintelligible 00:53:03] knowledge and they know everything about the system that you’re working on. The new guys come in, although they’re full qualified developers, I don’t understand what’s going on at all. Our system’s quite complex. There’s a lot going on. And because of a lack of documentation and a lack of process that’s something where our original developers, our CTO’s, and our longstanding IT staff, if they kind of left all at one, we went away for a week, the business would just really, really struggle. There’s some key guys in there that we need and that’s one of the biggest challenges for us to stop that from happening. But long story short I haven’t come to a point where the business can’t run without me. And that’s true of many different people within the business that need to be around. We’re systemizing in the wrong way. We’re systemizing things that we should’ve been systemizing years ago. And so we’ve got a lot of catching up to do and we still have a lot of learning to do to get to a point where their business isn’t more dependent on any particular or staff than on the other.
OWEN: Okay. Just to give the listener a kind of percentage, because the goal most of the time of this interview is to get people who can say beyond a doubt that their entire business is systematized and can run without them. But you’re saying that there are certain areas that you still feel you have not been able to 100% be able to systematize and have it run without you or any of the key stuff in there, basically become plug and play. In terms of percentage how close are you to that point?
JACK: I think we’re probably a sort of 95%. I think there are a few key people that we really, really need. But I think pretty much now we’ve got to a point where the vast majority of our business can run without any particular member or staff needing to be there. All the key staff could theoretically, god forbid, all just go away 2 weeks and it’ll be okay. Whereas 12-18 months ago that wasn’t the case. And that’s been quite a difficult process for us to get to.
OWEN: This is an improvement from 0%. So 95%, you’re almost there. Some of them can even say they have 10% of their business so it’s an improvement, way better than what it was before. I’m wondering because we always want to give the listeners a context as to the different parts of the business and what’s happening behind the scenes. So imagine there’s a conveyor belt. On one end a big e-commerce company like ASOS is having this issue where they have their customers reaching out to them, all these different social media platforms and they want to be able to communicate with their customers having questions on all these different platforms that are out there. And on the other end of this conveyor belt that same e-commerce company is now your customer and raving about you guys, telling people in the industry, “Hey, this is what we use for handling a customer request regardless of the platform it’s in. But behind the scenes, for that person to go through that transformation there are different parts of your business making that happen and that’s what I want to share with the listener. What are the different parts of your business. And feel free to start from the part where you’re acquiring this customer in the first place.
JACK: Okay. I think there’s probably two in the kind conveyor belt question if you will. There’s probably two major processes that I go through. The first is we talk about the sales process. For us the first part of the conveyor belt is how things get on the conveyor belt in the first place. For us as a digital company it just kind of made sense that we gravitated towards digital marketing. So it starts with content, articles, attending events, going and meeting new people, basically creating awareness, that’s kind of what it’s about in the early days. This drives leads and then it goes to, hopefully, if you’ve got your process right it turns into sales. This is another one of the parts where we kind of had a lot of process to run through. As a small business you will be the salesman, you will do the marketing, you will do the initial introduction, and you will go to the meeting, you will flip it over, and you will be involved right at the end in doing the work as well. For us as we got bigger, we needed to grow that process up. The marketing team grab the stuff, do all the events, and get things through to a point where a lead is generated. But then it goes in a few different directions. It might go down depending on the nature of the type of work that they want, it can down any number of a few different other conveyor belts that helps them get to the end point that they want. So that could be based on size, all the kinds of channels that they want, or whether they want the service or the people, or anything like that. I think for us at the minute for the sales process it all runs in one fluid direction. And so until we actually work out what kind of client that is and what kind of stuff that they want. And then it will go down probably one of the three or four different conveyor belts to their end points.
OWEN: So let’s assume that it goes into the sales. And someone from there it goes where next?
JACK: The salesman will do the passing to key account management. And there will be an assigned person who deal with their queries. But then that manager will link into the teams that actually deal with the clients. If we think we’ve got marketing, drives into a salesmen, drives to a key account manager, who then drives to the teams that actually manage the work. And then from there they manage the process from that point on. I think one of the key things for us as a growing business is trying to work out who are the right people for those areas. So the first thing that we did was for example the person who actually drives the leaves needs to be their own person. There’s a very specific type of person that can deal with that stuff. For a while we had the salesmen and the key account manager, or sometimes be the same person. Because they understand the sale, they understand who it is, so that might be the same person. I think as you get bigger the process that we’re in now is quite segmented. But I think depending on the size of the business it might be quite a lot shorter because essentially, although the process is the same the people sometimes share different roles. With Gnatta it’s a lot more complex. I would think of it more like an airport conveyor belt system than a linear conveyor belt.
OWEN: Because that one is one way of you actually building the tool that is being used with the developers and all that, the software one.
JACK: Absolutely. If you think about feature request for example, that being kind of the main part where we get requests in from. Rather than having one main point where leads come from we now have, every client has their own set of things that they want to have in the product, or things that they want to and hand some of the product. Or sometimes, and hopefully it’s quite rare, books they exist within the product. All the clients that we’ve got are their own effective conveyor belt which feed things in. But then we need to make sure that the developers who sit quite far down the other end of the process aren’t just getting hit with all of this stuff. We get things come in. Then we have a support team who deal with those queries. They will flush out any of the things that they think aren’t relevant, or can’t be done, and maybe already at a development pipeline somewhere. And they will act as a kind of a guardian who will only let certain requests through. But then it depends on who those requests came from. So we’ve got a client team who deal with client requests. We’ve got a product team who deals with the core product. So that will go down its own respective path, but then that will end up in Jira is our system that manages the actual request. So we’ll create a ticket from that process. But then that will be put in a timeline which will then be worked in a specific order. And then from then on it become more complex still because once something actually been developed that then goes into developer testing, then internal testing, then some clients might want to UAT that in their own testing environment. Then we might go to production. And then from the production point you would hope that that would be it, but sometimes if the function and feature isn’t what they wanted sometimes there might be another process of enhancing that again. There’s a lot of different things going on, going to different teams, and ending up in different places based on the type of feature or request that comes through the door.
OWEN: Let me clarify this for the listener. The thing with the software you guys built is you built it internally, but also now you opened it up to people who do not want to use your service where you’re providing them the agents that can actually just take the software itself you guys built and use their own agents. So that’s kind of what’s happening there.
JACK: Absolutely. That’s probably the key point. That’s really important. While FM will manage solution for you where we actually use the software and have people behind it, Gnatta is a SAS-based licensing product where you can just buy it and use it. What we like to do is make sure that the people that are using our system have a say and how that develops, and what goes into it. It’s really important that the conveyor belt as it were moves effectively so that they can get the features that they want.
OWEN: Because at the end of the day agents who you guys are providing are the ones who actually are using this. So they’re kind of internal customers towards the software itself?
JACK: That’s right. For us the customers that we have are the most important part. If they don’t like it we talked about adoption. One of the main ways to get adoption to rise is to make sure that the guys look the software. And if they’ve got problems, and features, and things that aren’t right for them that’s not going to be the case. So you need to make sure and we need to make sure as a business that people love what we have, people love the system that we’ve put in place because Gnatta is effectively a system and we need to make sure that our user base loves the product that we give them, otherwise the adoption won’t happen and then ultimately we will lose business because of that because it won’t take off within the clients that we have, and it will ultimately be phased out.
OWEN: And so speaking specifically about the FM Outsource which is the one where you have agents, I’m wondering, how did the agents know what exactly they need to be doing. Is there a tool you guys are using for that to track workflow and stuff?
JACK: We started quite unsystemized. We started with people kind of having quite a lot of autonomy over what they do there today. If we take our customer service teams the entirety of what they decide to do is dictated by Gnatta. It takes all of the decision making process out and lets them receive things that they are skilled to answer and can answer effectively and quickly based on a load of business rules that sat in the background, which means that they just receive work. But depending on the team, so while Gnatta takes care of the customer service teams the dev team in Gnatta itself, they’re driven by client requests and sometimes demands. For us we’re at a point where now that the software is essentially, with the user base that we have there’s always things that our clients want to do or want us to implement. For us the system there was really, really important and we’ve tried quite a lot of different systems to make it work. We tried the to-do list concept in things like Trello. But we found that once you get to a certain size for complex tasks that development pieces, that doesn’t work so well. We ended up landing on Jira which we really, really loved. But there are a lot of different processes and a lot of different systems that will help you with that.
OWEN: Let me see if I can break this down for the listeners, because I have to be doing that given your unique situation. For the service side which is FM you basically built into the app itself that you guys built a way in which when the work comes in it’s routed through the, by work I mean the requests on all these different channels come in routed through your tool to the specific agent who can do it. And so they can go into the tool and start answering questions that came and sale through it or whatever. And I’m assuming your tool then routes the responses back to the platform that the questions came in for that very customer. Then on the software side the tasks are being managed by a software development tool that you guys which is Jira. So this is where the developers are managing features and bugs, and know what they need to do and getting it more managed there, right?
JACK: Exactly right. Those two splits are exactly right. I think one of the important part for us… we talked about Slack before. So for development we Slack each other, and that’s probably one of the other important bits as well. So as you systemize your business and start to get quite process-driven you need to make sure that there’s a way that you can let your team see all the stuff that they need to see without having to log in to loads of different systems at once. So that’s what Gnatta was for the customer service piece, and we use Slack for the internal piece for all our stuff. So that gets all of us so you know if you look at our dev process we use Jira, we use Octopus, and we use TeamCity to do our deployments. But I as a kind of manager of that process don’t need to have log-ins to all of those different things. I use Slack just to see all of it because it does all the integrations with the system. As I said, it depends on the type of team that you’re talking about. So for the developers that kind of covers that off. I think for the customer service teams we needed something we call a wiki to actually manage all of the processes. Let’s take the courier industry. Let’s say you have a person talking to you about a damaged order and you’re not sure what to do. That’s a process driven thing an employee should know…
OWEN: I think I get what you’re saying now but I want to even break it down for the listener. You have a customer now, say ASOS, who you guys are managing their customer support for their e-commerce platform. So within your tool you probably created a wiki for ASOS so that those kind of routine, frequently asked questions for that very company, your agent who’s working that account would know where to get those answers for that very company, right?
JACK: Exactly. And that might be different from company to company. So each client has their own version. One of the other major processes that we put in place is something called WalkMe. And what WalkMe do is they’re an automated walkthrough, an onboarding tutorial that initiates where to use and logs in to the software. So if they log-in and they can’t quite remember to do something they can just go into search bar, type in the question that they’ve got, and then the system will run them through exactly how it’s done. And every time we do a deployment we add in the new features and let the guys know what’s going on. And it just kind of makes it really, really easy for somebody to learn and understand the new processes and the new features that we put in place.
OWEN: That is awesome. How do you then track the results delivered by your employees? And I’m sure that you have two different answers based on if it’s the software itself or if it’s the service part of the business.
JACK: One of the cool ways that we do it and I’ve talked about it before is the houses as well as looking at the problems that we have. We share a lot of information and we talk about the big wins that people have had, the cool and great stuff that people are doing. But the overarching part for the customer service and this is probably where I’ll be able to drive more value from the answer is we use something that is an internally calculated thing called the scorecard. What we do is we take any one of the teams that we have. So we have lots of different teams working for lots of different clients, that they want a lot of different outcomes from the conversations that we’re having. So some people might be interested in throughput, some quality, some might be interested in boosting their sales, or whatever it might be. So there’s loads of different ones here. But what we do is we use a scorecard that measures each individual based on the things that they’re trying to do for our clients. What we’ll do is we’ll take every month each employee, we’ll do a quiz which summarizes questions about their specific job. We’ll look at customer satisfaction ratings, we’ll look at their efficiency and how many contacts they’re doing per hour. And that will roll up into a score. And what happens is each team has their own version of the scorecard and we normalize that score across the 200 people in loads of different teams that we can measure them all against each other in a kind of uniform way to say… When we look at our employees here’s who’s good, here’s who’s not so good, here’s who’s in the middle, here’s who needs improvement, these guys have got better, these guys have got worse, why is that? And with the huddles and the house system we can normally get quite responsive real-time answers into issues that people are having. Because what that helps us do is if we have employees that are behaving really well or not behaving really well we can look at…
OWEN: You can see it based on the data.
JACK: Exactly. And then we can make process decisions on why that happened, why somebody got worse. Because sometimes these decisions their reasons outside of their control. Its things as fundamental having an argument at home with your partner, or whatever it might be. That can be the reason. But some of the time it gives us a bit of insight into what problems they’re having might be something to do with the business, which with the house system in turn gives us a really clear answer in terms of weaknesses within the business is processing which we can fix ongoing. So I think that’s probably one of the key ways that we see where we need to be better. Because we always know exactly how well our team are doing, it gives us a lot of insight back as to how we can make that better still.
OWEN: And so compared to earlier on when you first started the business and now I’m sure that you have more free time now than earlier on. I’m wondering with that free time that you have which areas of the business you focus on now and why?
JACK: For me I’ve chosen personally to focus on Gnatta. For me…
OWEN: The software company, okay.
JACK: Yeah. For me I think it actually boils down to something really simply. The entrepreneur in me just wants to make cool stuff. For me the exciting part about getting into what I was doing was that I found a genuine gap in the market that I saw that existed. And I wanted to just deliver something that really helps provide value back to people irrespective of where they are in the world, or the businesses they’re in, everyone fundamentally has a challenge to be able to talk effectively with their customer based. And what Gnatta does is it gives them a way to do that.
OWEN: All in one place, yeah.
JACK: Exactly. And that gives me the motivation, and that’s what I’m really passionate about, and that’s what I really, really wanted to focus on.
OWEN: Could it also be because the software is more scalable than the people service?
JACK: For sure. FM’s a great business…
OWEN: The technology is scalable. People, you have that inherent people managing people.
JACK: Yeah. It’s one of those things isn’t it where if you take the software isn’t bound by things like employee count…
OWEN: Our hours…
JACK: Exactly, whereas the outsource business is. And the ability to scale up Gnatta is a lot greater than that of the outsource business. Because it’s really hard to find the right people to come on to the business and onboard them, and train them. It’s probably not one of the most PC things I’ve ever said but people need chairs, and lights, and food. Software doesn’t need that sort of stuff.
OWEN: I totally understand, and I’m not judging by saying that, I just want to make sure that we’re covering that point, because at the end of the day technology is more scalable, so I can definitely understand why your focus is there. What is the next stage of growth for the business? Feel free to answer that on both sides what the next stage of growth for the outsourcing FM business, the people one, as well as the software if you want to talk about that too.
JACK: I think for FM we want to expand into new verticals and we’re going to be quite UK-centric for a while. For the outsourcing business things like culture are really important. If you take Arabic culture as oppose to European, UK culture vastly different. So if we were going to go and open a business in Dubai or somewhere like that, the way that business works there is much, much different. So the learning curve in order to expand is quite steep. And the propensity for failure is quite high. So I think for FM there’s a gridlock in terms of there are some culture in UK… UK culture is quite similar to things like… relatively simple to things like American culture, also the mainland European culture. But there are some areas where I don’t think we can grow. So we’ve decided to grow in the UK and parts of mainland Europe for now. But I think for Gnatta, Gnatta’s already written in eight different languages. And fundamentally as I said the problem of what Gnatta solves is universal. So you guys understand what the business is trying to do and pretty much anyone in the world would understand that they have a challenge to talk to their customers and do that in an effective way where they don’t have to be logging into multiple systems or multi [Unintelligible 01:16:44] and then based on the type of channel that they came in on, and all that magical stuff. For Gnatta we’re going to be rolling out to mainland Europe and then the rest of the world based on just wherever the biggest markets are. All it takes for us to be ready to roll into a new territory technically is the ability to have the app in that language. Of course there is still cultural barriers there. To have a sales process in another language obviously isn’t an easy feat. But the inhibitors aren’t as…
OWEN: …human beings, yeah.
JACK: …aren’t as great.
JACK: I think that’s probably the kind of direction that both businesses are going to be going in.
OWEN: Okay. The one where you’re providing people which is the outsourcing while you’re going to focus most of your work in Europe because you feel culture would not be an issue, so it’s much more easy if you focus building your base more in Europe. But the software, because you don’t have that issue you’re going to scale as far as you can.
JACK: Absolutely. Yeah, of course.
OWEN: And so as we come to the end of the interview what will you say is the very next step that the listener would have to take in order to transform their business so that it actually gets to the point to where it can actually be systematized, automated as much as possible, and can run without them. What would you say would be the very next step that they should take?
JACK: I think it’s about baby steps. It’s about taking it a little bit at a time. Because we’ve chosen the sort of should the loudest method, but the challenges adopting and not systemizing in a way that kills especially the creative process. So if you take quite a creative process and you cover it in systematization that actually can be quite stifling. I think taking baby steps is important because you need to make sure that if these systems are actually going to remain in place for a long time and really benefit the business that you need to have optimized them and thought them through, and let them get adopted quite gingerly and slowly by the employees and the teams that are going to be using them otherwise it won’t stick. And I think that’s probably one of the biggest takeaways, to be able to do it in a little piece by piece steps to make sure that it works.
OWEN: Awesome. And so as we come to the end of the interview the last question, is there a question that you were wishing that I would’ve asked you during this interview that I didn’t ask that you feel maybe might round out the interview more, go ahead and ask that question and looking for the answer.
JACK: I think one of the biggest things for me is I like to look at the mistakes that we’ve made in the past. I think that’s quite key. I think it’s all fine and we’re talking about the stuff that went fantastically well. But I think looking at the things that we didn’t do so well is really, really important. And I think it’s quite a fluffy answer but it kind of ties back into the things that I’ve said before in terms of… The baby steps again is really, really important because I’m quite a passionate person in terms of if I find something that I like I’m like, “Oh my god, we need to do this. Let’s do it now. Let’s just do it.” Whereas [Unintelligible 01:20:16] you take the time to work out how you comprehend why this is going to be done and why it’ll make a difference. Because I talk quite passionately about the house program that we’ve put in place, that was abolished the first time we did it. Completely abolished because we didn’t think about the messaging, we didn’t think about how we put those teams together. We knew that the system would work but our approach was too [Unintelligible 01:20:43] thought processes in place and the right systems in place to make sure that what the people were spending time doing and the work in there actually drove value back to their job. And that was abolished first time, we came back to it about a year later, and now thankfully it works. But that was a massive flop the first time and it took a lot of effort and a lot of time to effectively do something that didn’t work. And it’s probably one of the biggest things for me is that you need to make absolutely certain that what you’re doing is clear, and crisp, and comprehensive to people that are going to be affected by it the most.
OWEN: Yeah. What’s the best way for the listener to connect with you and thank you for doing the interview?
JACK: You can grab us on our Twitter handle @gnatta. And you can email me if you like from firstname.lastname@example.org. Give us a tweet, drop us an email, that’s probably the best way to grab me.
OWEN: And so I’m speaking to you the listener now. If you have enjoyed this interview what I want you to do is leave us your honest review, hopefully a 5-star review on iTunes. And to do that the link to our iTunes channel is sweetprocess.com/iTunes. Leave your positive review. And the reason to do that is the more positive reviews we have out there the more entrepreneurs like yourself who are browsing the podcast channel on iTunes will see our podcast and come check it out. If you’re at that stage in your business where you’re tired of being the bottleneck and you want to get procedures and processes for what you do so that your employees know what to do. And actually assign tasks to your employees and be able to track their workflow as they do their task feel free to sign up for a free 14-day trial of SweetProcess. Jack, thanks for doing the interview.
JACK: Thank you so much. Thank you for your time.
OWEN: And we’re done.