You will also discover how is able to run his business on the go and live a location independent lifestyle!
OWEN: My guest today is Tim Hoopmann and he is the managing director at Cornerstone Group. Tim, welcome to the show.
TIM: Thanks very much Owen, a real pleasure to be here. I’m all the way from Australia.
OWEN: Awesome. So this interview is all about us getting entrepreneurs like yourself who’ve been able to systematize your business and automated so it runs without you successfully, and I want to share how exactly you would do that. Before we even talk about how you’re able to transform the business so it does that let’s talk about what are some mind blowing results that you now experience as a result of going through the process of systematizing and automating your business.
TIM: Probably one of the most important of mind blowing results has been much happier employees. I’ve got happier employees that lead to a calmer environment, which then leads to happier customers. So what we’ve done is implementing process and systematizing and help save time, effort, and that’s a great result for everybody. And really, if I’ve got a nice and calm environment in the office then my customers further benefit of that. And what I also get is clarification in the office, clarification with my team, and then clarification with the customers. So they’re probably the big, mind blowing things for me, much calmer, much happier people around me.
OWEN: Awesome. How will you say your company has been transformed as a result of systematizing your business?
TIM: One of the key areas is the ability to be mobile. With the changing world we live in, we’re all moving around, people what to run their business in different places. The ability to be mobile is one of the key benefits that I find personally for me because I’m mobile, I travel. In fact I’m going to the US next week, so I can run my business and go. I have everything online. I’m not relying on how you could go into the office, sit at my desk, and sit at my computer. And I can work anywhere and my team can be available. If they’re away from the office for the day they’re still connected. And we can still cooperate and work together.
OWEN: Awesome. Besides being able to be mobile and work from anywhere in the world I’m wondering how else has your personal life been transformed as a result of systematizing your business?
TIM: For me it is a bit about being mobile, it’s being about not stuck in the office. What I like is I do all of the business development, so I’m out meeting customers, I’m out talking to people, I’m out at events, and I still get to be connected. I’m not sitting at my desk waiting for the best next idea to come along or waiting for the customers to call. I’m out in the marketplace and travelling around, and I’m able to get access to the office, I’m able to connect into the team. And also able to connect into reporting and the information that I need and why I need it.
OWEN: That sounds like a lot of stuff to do with your business, but I’m wondering on the personal, non-business side how has your life been transformed as a result of systematizing the business?
TIM: Two things I really, really love, one is travel. So it’s a big part of who I am and for my family. So we love to travel. For me now to be able to have a systemized business it means that I can travel. I can go on vacation. I can sit like I did at Easter time in Hawaii by the pool with my family and friends. And I could still run by business. So that’s really important. I also like to entertain and take people out. And so that’s another thing I like to have, people around my house. And so if I could be doing what I love in my personal life and still be connected with my business, connected with my team, and it’s not being such a chore then that’s a big reward for me.
OWEN: Since we’re talking about traveling what will you say has been the longest time you’ve actually been away from your business so far?
TIM: It’s probably 3-4 weeks. So first here in Australia we get four weeks annual leave which is a real bonus. Mind you, we live a long way away from everybody so we need that to travel. So for 3-4 weeks is probably the most that I’ve been able to step out of my business. But I think that’s a pretty good result because I know some people struggle to get away for 2 or 3 days.
OWEN: Just so the listener gets some context as to what your business is and what you guys do, what exactly does your company do and what big pain or problem do you solve for your customers?
TIM: What our business does is we manage the finances and the books, or the bookkeeping for our customers. So we’re like their outsource financial control or outsource CFO. We manage the business, we do it in the Cloud, we help them become mobile, and we help them systematize their business. And so then what we give back to our customer is we give them back time. We do parts within the business that allows them to go on and make the sale, talk to a customer. Big mobile keep their employees and their customers happy while we get on doing their financial work for them.
OWEN: I think you also mentioned something about helping your customers being compliant. What is that?
TIM: Yes. In Australia running a business has many and varied compliance areas around tax, around GST which is our consumption tax, around paying employees, around paying superannuation. There’s a lot of compliance work in Australia, there’s a lot of work you need to do with the Australian tax office, there’s a lot of work you need to do in terms of dealing with your supplies. And we help our customers stay compliant. So they can run a business. They can do what they do really, really well. So if they’re in manufacturing, if they’re in real estate or something they can go back doing that and what we’ll do is we’ll go about keeping their business compliant so that the tax officers are happy, the customers are happy, and your employees are happy.
OWEN: Awesome. How many full-time employees do you guys have?
TIM: We’ve got five full-time employees and we’ve got two casuals and a contractor. And for our business we have some of those in Australia, and we have some of those overseas in China.
OWEN: Awesome. And so is your company profitable? What was last year’s annual revenue and maybe what do you expect to do this year?
TIM: One of the things that I pride myself from over the years I’ve run the business is that we’ve always been profitable. Things haven’t always been easy when you grow your business and developing, it’s not always easy but we’ve always worked hard as a team to stay profitable. And that’s a very important thing for me as a personal goal. So last year we turned over just under a million dollars which was a great result. We’ve had a really good profit. It was [Unintelligible 00:07:17] a year before.
TIM: We have to grow about 10%-15%. And one of the key things that’s helping us grow is having a systematized business and the technology that we can use to help have that and makes us more profitable.
OWEN: We’ve been talking about what you get is you now enjoy as a result of systematizing your business, so we’re talking about what’s happening now. Let’s go back to when the company was not systematized. Take us back to when they company was not systematized and automated like it is now. What exactly was wrong with it?
TIM: Okay. So how long have I got? In the early days one of the key things was that the team were doing their own thing. There wasn’t any consistency. People coming to the business, they would do what they thought was right, there would be issues, errors, they wouldn’t be clear on direction. One person will do it one way, another person do it in another way. And it became quite disorganized and everybody was disconnected.
OWEN: Can you remember a specific instance of something like that that happened?
TIM: Yes. We talk a lot about compliance. I’ve talked about non-compliance before. One of the really high moments for me was I had two corporate stuff and I had a customer that had two separate businesses. Here he was running a restaurant and was doing a really good job of that. And then we have had diversified and bought not a big restaurant but bought a small cafe. I thought it would be a really good idea to have two different staff working on those two accounts. It sounded like a great idea, it wasn’t in the end. Same customer, one restaurant and one cafe. The staff are doing the work completely different from both. And while it was relatively correct, they just did it their own way and then the customer was confused. “Why for restaurant do you do the work this way and why this cafe do it this way?” It was a real aha moment for me because I went, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got no consistency, I’ve got no systems in my business. What I’ve got is a lot of people, nice people, good workers, by their doing their own thing.” Here’s an example of a customer that’s getting two people doing their own thing in different ways and he’s confused. And he wasn’t really happy with that. So that was probably the main trigger that set about meeting down and going, “We have a problem here and how are we going to deal with that if we want to run a better business, keep happier customers, and grow?”
OWEN: Was that the breaking point? Because I’m wondering is there something that happened besides it just hits you in the head like a ton of bricks and say, “I have to change the business the way the business runs.” If there is what was that specific instance? What did you learn from that too as well?
TIM: Okay. We deal with the Australian tax office a lot for our customers. And probably one of the other key breaking points was not getting the compliance correct. So we have to submit on a quarterly basis, business activity statements based on consumption text here and we’ve got it wrong, and we were late, and the customer got informed.
OWEN: Yeah, I totally understand with these things and all that deadlines, especially for accountants like that in the US too.
TIM: That was another real breaking point for me because I pride myself if I’m doing the right thing, the team doing their best, and no one’s perfect. That was pretty major in the business and it was time for me to sit down and go, we need to regroup here and we need to serve and support because get away with maybe once or twice but the Australian tax office isn’t going to allow that. And the customers won’t either.
OWEN: Yeah, and you start losing customers too. Now that we’ve talked about the breaking point I’m wondering what was the very first step you took then after you reached the breaking point to actually the very first step you took to systematize your business.
TIM: I think the very first step for was for me personally to sit back and have a look at the whole business and decide how I’m going to tackle it. So what I did first was I looked at the business holistically, I stood back and went, “What are the key pieces of the business, or the key functions, or the key areas of the business and how am I going to go about tackling that?”
OWEN: What did you find out then was the focus of the business then?
TIM: What I did is I did break it into four pieces. I had the whole HR or people and culture, so how I employ teams and how they have to behave in our values. I had a piece around customer service, that’s very, very important in the business. I had a general piece around administration, and then I had another piece around probably more technical, so more of the accounting…
OWEN: The operation side, the delivery…
TIM: Yeah, the operation side of it. Actually looking back now that was the best thing that I did because if I had to try and [Unintelligible 00:13:01] the whole business I would’ve failed and probably I would still be doing it now. But taking the business, cutting it into bite-sized chunks, whatever they are in your business it doesn’t matter, those would’ve fall in line, and then going in and picking up each of those pieces. Talking, sitting the team down, getting alignment with them, talking about how we’re going to move forward and what their report will be and what they also think about the issues is a really key starting point in the process of systematizing.
OWEN: I get that you brought the business down to the different component parts so that you can figure out where the different parts of the business you start systematizing, and you mentioned the parts. But I’m also wondering after you did that what did you do next? Which of these parts did you jump into first to start systematizing? I want you to work us through what you did.
TIM: Okay. I have to see the team down and having a talk because they were in it as well. They were working day after day. They were also seeing the problems. So after discussing them what we decided on was that we look at the operation piece first.
TIM: The operational piece, because that’s the engine room of the business and it probably was a fairly large piece and it was quite complex. So we decided that we will have to break that into pieces and that we will tackle that first because it was probably the most important piece. So doing that and also it meant that some of the team, not all, needed to be involved in that journey from an operational piece. But we decided to pick that first because the challenges that we were facing in the business around some of the issues I’ve talked about earlier were really mission critical and it meant we needed to get onto that piece first. Could we have started on one of the easy pieces? Absolutely. But we decided that we will tackle the area of the business that would have the highest impact as a result. And so the operational part was where we began. And again, we followed the same process taking operational piece and dividing it into pieces. Because again, going into this and going, “Oh, we’ve got a fixed operations.”
OWEN: That’s big.
TIM: …a big statement, but it’s too hard and it was too challenging for people to think, “Oh my god, do we have to really be involved in that?” But once we’ve broken it into pieces and said, “We have a little time here and you can work on this piece.” It’s someone you know that section of the business really well in terms of operational. You know how to manage payroll for example really well so what we’ll do is we usually look at that little piece. That created a much better environment to get some action happening and get some movement in terms of systematizing.
OWEN: We didn’t ask this during the pre-interview but I’m wondering can you talk about when you now took the first piece of the four parts of the business which you now took the operations and actually delivery part, and now you wanted to break it down into subparts so you can figure out which of the subparts of the business one should we focus on. Do you remember what you broke it down into? Does it come to mind?
TIM: The pieces?
TIM: Yeah, absolutely. In my business we talk talked before about how we provide accounting, bookkeeping services. We’ll do, a lot of it’s around tax. So it’s actually when you stand up high… For our customers we manage their payroll and superannuation, so we pay the staff, we pay the superannuation so that it’s one piece. We record all their expenses, the company expenses of staff or investments, using another [Unintelligible 00:17:04]. We help our customers by generating a sales invoice for their customer. So there’s another little section. We do financial reporting. So at the end of [Unintelligible 00:17:17] our monthly quota we would prepare a profit loss in the balance sheet so there’s a whole reporting piece that we do within that. And then there’s some additional compliance work such as in Australia we submit business activity statements, we do payroll tax. There are a number or compliance things. So what you could see is very quickly we took a big section of the business and started to break it into bite-sized pieces. And all of a sudden, I don’t know if the business can see this, but me talking about how to fix operations and the promise of what does that mean, versus what we did in our business was we looked at payrolls and superannuation so keeping the employees happy we do managing of your expenses. Managing even to your customers which is a big thing. So already you started to put it into pieces that are easy to, A, and understand, and B, and to deal with.
OWEN: I get that you like to break that into multiple parts. I like how you broke it down for the listener. But I’m wondering how did you even prioritize which steps to take in terms of which of these sub parts, the first to work on for you. Making a decision as to which ones to you prioritize and handle first?
TIM: Okay. Like any of business we have a process, we’ll go to manufacturing but we have like a conveyor belt. And so for us to be able to get to the end result of producing profit and loss statement for our customer we need to build from the base. So we need to manage their expenses and we need to take care of that. We need to raise the size of this. What we did was we tracked the flow of information that we build up to the end result, and then we pick those pieces first. Because we process map the whole process and started at the beginning. So we started at if we’re going to manage and do the financials and bookkeeping for our customer we start with the expenses. Then we move to raise the size of the investment, and then we move to doing payroll and super. Some of those things happen in parallel. But if you’re building that to developing profit and loss at the end of the day or in addition compliance work for the ATA you need to have all of the pieces in the software system that knows we’re managing for the client. So the interesting thing about that was it also helped us learn more about our business and how our business worked. And once I knew that seeing the right people, that’s how we should know how the business [Unintelligible 00:20:09]. Sometimes a team go through these processes, you go all out. And the team are like, “Okay, I never really thought about it like that or if I don’t do this bit at the front here well then I won’t go and do the other end at the end no wonder I get so frustrated.” It is interesting. And that was our journey and that’s how we learned stuff along the way.
OWEN: Awesome. How did you even exactly document procedures and processes for the business at the time and what tools do you even use?
TIM: What we did was there’s a lot of information available on the internet, having 6 years of doing this really well. So we went and had a look at what we were doing, and what other people were doing best practice. Also, I’d come from a very corporate background, so I have a lot of those skills. But the first thing we did was basically map it out, simply we got people to write on process. We had a very clear structure in terms of how we wanted each of the pieces to flow. So what was the purpose of it? We had the vision and then each of the steps, and we had a lot of visual information. Because we found that if we had visuals as a way other people could easily learn, one of the tools that we use to house all these information at that stage was Microsoft had a product called SharePoint. So we house that because it was like our internet, it was our little website internally. So what was really important was not only starting to map this information, starting to write it out. But then having available for the team to be able to view in one spot. And again, when I talked about they may but not only in the office but also out of the office. We also did a lot of work of work on making sure we had the right checklists, summary sheets that went with that, because you don’t want to sit there and read an operational manual every time you do a job. Sometimes you just need a summary or you need a checklist.
OWEN: So that if you felt like you’re not sure about certain parts, you can go in and look at the details of that point in the checklist, I get that. And so, at the time when you were working on systematizing and also automating the business, I’m wondering if there were any books or even mentors that had the most influence on you and why will you say so? Just to remind you what you said during the pre-interview something about Lion Nathan as well as, you also mentioned other companies too, Shell and the rest. Talk about that.
TIM: Okay. I’ve been fortunate enough over my career, before I go into my own business to work in corporate. I worked for the Shell oil company which most people would’ve heard of. They were a great organization, very, very systematized, very, very organized and high quality people. So I had a great company to work for that I learned a lot of when I left university. That was an excellent organization. Then I worked in Australia, there are two major beer companies. One is Foster’s Beer Company and one of them is a company called Lion Nathan. And I worked for Lion Nathan for 12 years and I worked in many areas there. I worked in operations, I worked marketing, I worked in sales. And they’re very good at writing posters, they’re very good at having that available [Unintelligible 00:24:03]. And in fact I worked on number of projects around systematizing [Unintelligible 00:24:08]. So from that perspective I was able to take big organizations, ideas and plans, and how they did, and bring it into my small business.
OWEN: And I’m just wondering, in retrospect, back when you’re working then, just trying to systematize your own business. So I guess you left that job and now you’re trying to so systematize your business, I’m wondering what big key points did you really feel had the most impact that you took from the bigger businesses like Shell and Lion? I’m just wondering if there’s something specific that you can point on.
OWEN: It’s okay. I know it’s been quite a while so I’m just wondering if there’s something that really had a big impact that you actually borrowed and used in your company while you’re trying to systematize your own company.
TIM: Okay. I think there is a number of things. One in particular was ensuring that when you systematize and you have that in your business that you also have the right system to run it. So you can have the right process, but what I also learned was you also have to make sure that that process is available in the right system so that people can access it anytime. Because what I observed early on in my career is often people would have that systematized and correct processing in particular that correct manuals, books, and things like that, and then no one will refer to them. But what I found in Lion is that certain process have them systematized but also made it available online. And that was probably one of the key things that I know that if I wrote in my small, little business a whole lot of manuals and I didn’t have them available in the right system then the uptake and the usage would be much lower and we did find that. So that was one of the most important things. The second thing that I probably took from both organizations is that you don’t need to make it too difficult. Sometimes simpler or concise is just as good as long as it’s getting the result that you want. And again, I observed over the years projects where they just went into so much detail about so much information that it was too overwhelming. So what I learned from that was that if I was going to have my little business, and I was going to use big business ideas I couldn’t swap that little business with too much detail and too much process. Because the people need to be engaged by it, so they’re probably two of the key things that I took.
OWEN: Awesome. What will you say back then was the biggest challenge you actually experienced when you were initially trying to systematize the business and how did you solve them?
TIM: Okay. The first one was change management. I’m the sort of person that loves change, I’m looking for the next new idea. I’m quite a visionary. But that’s not how lots of people operate. And I do live in an environment where I employ good, quality accountants, financial-type people. They’re a little conservative. They like to get their numbers right but they’re much more conservative and more methodical. So the change [Unintelligible 00:28:01] impact at the time was really, really important. I couldn’t push too hard in that area and swapped it because that would’ve just been unreasonable for them, and I wouldn’t have got the best result. What I meant to do was manage the change not swap them, and as oppose what I need, there were a couple of things that I needed to do was be positive and lead from the top. So if we were going to implement change and systematizing the business then the leadership had to come from me. I needed to live and breathe the changes that were happening in the business. And if I didn’t then I couldn’t expect my team to follow.
OWEN: I like that because that whole change management theme, having an impact. And I really want to make it more concrete for the listeners, if we can give a specific example of something that happened and how change management, and how you worked your way through it given the restrictions you had with working with the accountants that maybe didn’t like them changed. I guess I’m digging deep, trying to make you go back, right?
TIM: Yeah. Let me just think. There’s probably two pieces to that. One of the areas around systematizing was making sure that people used checklists and forms. One of the mistakes that I made early on was I wasn’t completely consistent with doing any reviews, so in some cases when I would review work. For example if we do payroll and superannuation we will go through a review process before [Unintelligible 00:29:55] to the customer. Now, when we have… Just take that little example. I remember the mistakes I made early on was when we had a checklist for payroll and I wasn’t consistent across the team in making sure each would have that checklist. So if I was a bit distracted or a bit busy I was not consistent in going, “Where are the documents, where’s the checklist? I’ll review when I have all of that. I’ve got a meeting now. Quickly, I’ll just go over the for you.” And then on the other hand with some other people I’d be like, “Where are all the forms and where’s all the details?” And I’m not going to approve it. So my mistake is that I wasn’t consistent. And therefore the team felt glad if there was no consistency why should I do it? Someone over here gets away with not doing just because you’re busy [Unintelligible 00:30:52]. That was a big learning for me, the consistency if you’re going to make some change in the business and lead from the top we need to be consistent across the team.
The other area was when we’re looking at the different pieces how we acted and operated in customer service, because we had to be a bit more quick, agile, change things to adapt to the customer. What I found that in the first part of that I would bring accountants into that process and that was a bit too overwhelming because they were needing to be consistent, accurate, and timely with your [Unintelligible 00:31:40] process. So if they are trying to drag them into customer service which was a bit more about, it was all about the customers, all about being agile, all about responding to and working out how the process is going to work. That was just too much, so from a change perspective. And so what I learned very quickly was get the right people in the business working on the right set of processes that they’re comfortable with. And so in that case I learned very quickly that the team shouldn’t be involved in all of the change.
OWEN: So find the right person who you think would be the right fit to put on while you’re working on the process, while everybody else is doing what they’re doing. I get that. The first lesson was you had to be consistent. If you want to make them play by your rules you have to also play the game as well. And then when you’re building certain parts of your process for each of the individual parts we’re talking about, only get the right team members on board with you. Don’t get everybody else involved because that can become challenging for them to start thinking of the process with you. I think you also mentioned one more thing too about having these believers who really believed in the need for processing and all that. Talk about that because I think that’s huge.
TIM: I had to laugh because no matter how systemized in terms of your businesses I cannot [Unintelligible 00:33:07] all the time so I just believe it. I love people giving me feedback. I love people to provide their thought on a process or a system. But I really like it after they give another try. And what I find really interesting, and in fact I’m still experiencing now in particular with new people into my business is just belief. I’d like to challenge you on that process now. I’ve had a look at it and I’m pretty sure that it’s not going to work for these reasons. So how about I just don’t follow that process? And I found that really interesting because it’s easy to comment and make observations on a process from the sideline. But once you jumped and used it then you can give some more insight into it. So my response to them is absolutely love to hear your feedback so that you got to use this process for 3 to 4 weeks, then you come back and sit with me and let’s go over that. We think we can do it better, because I’m more than happy to do that and I’m more than happy to listen to you but not unless you give another try.
OWEN: I like that because it actually forces them to help you with upgrading and improving the procedures and processes you have in place because they’re forced to actually give feedback only after using it then that’s what naturally will happen.
TIM: Yeah, and one of the things around that is I’m constantly reviewing and updating the processes and the systematization of the business. And it’s an evolutionary thing, and I think that that’s really important as well. Just because I put a new post a while ago it doesn’t mean that that’s the end of it. And in particular, with all of the new tools, technology, everything that’s going on around us it’s fantastic. New things come and go all the time that make the processes.
OWEN: And given all the challenges that you’ve mentioned so far and even how you’ve solved them, I’m wondering, why did you even stay committed to the goal of systematizing or automating your business? What was the underlying key goal that you were trying to achieve I’m wondering?
TIM: I kind of goes back to the beginning. I would like the business to run independently of me, and in a number of ways independently of my staff. That doesn’t mean that I’m not important. That doesn’t mean that all the staff are not vital and important, what it means is that I don’t want the people to be the job. I want the process to manage the job, and I want the people to add value to the job, to the customer, to my business. And I want to go on holidays.
OWEN: Yeah. So that’s the selfish part, is that you wanted you wanted to get out of the…
TIM: But I firmly believe that the job shouldn’t be the person because they want to go on holidays as well, or they want to take time out, or they might… There’s all sorts of different things for different people that I don’t want them tied to the job. And I see time after time, and in fact I went to a company yesterday that we’re looking at helping them systematizing what we do. And the lady said I haven’t had a holiday for 6 years. I’m like, oh my gosh. I never wanted that type of business, and I never wanted my staff to be that chained to the business either. It doesn’t create a great environment, and nobody wins in the end. So, definitely something turned on the pieces around the team and myself not being tied to the job and then go selfishly in the business. I want to go on holidays, and I want to be able to step out of the business. And also when we do that it’s great for the staff. If they feel confident, if they believe in the process, if they know what to do they love the boss being. Give it a try, they do. Most of us in the early days reference in the business of [Unintelligible 00:07:49]. I’ve worked hard to get a process in place and step away from it. Sure, you still have to keep an eye on them, absolutely, it’s your business. But in a way you start to shine and allow it to shine because they’re following the process of and then they’re working in a great environment, not because they’re tied to this job and got to be there every minute of the day.
OWEN: Yeah, that’s a good point. I’m also curious now to bring us to more of the current times. At what point in time did you feel that the business itself or the entire business was systematized and it could actually run without you successfully?
TIM: It probably would take about 2 years to get to that point. Two years for some might be a very long time, for others it might be really quick. But it just depends, in my small business it was about 2 years. There is a lot of work that goes into systematizing, there is a lot of work that goes into process change and in terms of changing the habit of the people. So I think 2 years was actually a pretty good result. But as I mentioned earlier it didn’t stop at 2 years, it’s actually part of who we are at my business now around continuous updating and looking for ways of doing it better. I’m actually really pleased that what we’ve done by having this basic system types, having important systematization of the business and the process is that we use that platform now to make things easier. So I’m not one of these people that goes on, “We’ve got this big process so we’re never going to change that now.” And now we’re taking it in the same idea that, “Hey, if we can see a way of doing it a bit easier then the boss will be up for that. You can have a discussion. Let’s put that in place.” It just takes some of the process out of the business, that’s great.
OWEN: That’s awesome. We’re talking about the present now but I want to give the listeners some kind of behind the scenes of how the business is right now. What are the different parts of your business and what systems you have in place on each one. Think of it like a conveyor belt where on one end is a customer who needs to get some clarity to their finances, because they’re behind these chaos with numbers and all that. They need to get that clarity. On the other end that same customer now has that clarity. They’re seeking finances and the team is delivering so much that they’re out there raving about you guys. But then behind the scenes is this transformation has happened. Feel free to talk about the different parts of the business as making that transformation happen for this very customer, and even feel free to start all the way from the point where you even acquire the customer within the marketing if you have a system in there, stuff like that.
TIM: Okay. A customer will come to us because they want us to manage their finances. In Australia we call that bookkeeping. And bookkeeping’s is I think depending on which in the US, I’m not sure if you call it that but we call it bookkeeping here. It’s all about names and finances and they’ll attached on the pieces of that before. When somebody comes to us what we do now, the very first thing is that we move them to a Cloud accounting software. So in Australia we use a company called Xero and a company called Intuit QuickBooks Online. Some of the listeners might have heard of Intuit in the US, it’s a big Fortune 500 company, and QuickBooks is one of the main accounting software’s that is used for small business. So we use both of those, and they have revolutionized the market. Because if you talk about systematizing, and if we talk about being mobile, and if we talk about reducing time and stress those two products allow customers to do all those things and have access to their information everywhere. So we revolutionized how we work with our customers. In addition to that both of those organizations use awesome apps that help new business in different ways. One of them is we use an app called [Unintelligible 00:42:35] to go paperless. So the whole digitization, the whole removing of paper. Sounds a bit odd when you’re dealing with an accounting or bookkeeping business, but it’s available and it’s happening now.
The very, very first step in the process is having all of that information available online, having it in the Cloud. Having it on your iPad wherever you are, on your smartphone. So that’s the very, very first thing. And then what we do is we go about talking to them around what we need to deliver for them. So yes, we’re doing a payroll for 25 people and we’ll do it weekly or fortnightly. Yes, we’re going to raise your sales and invoices to your customers, and you’ll give us a template, and this is what we’ll do. So we then pick all the pieces that we’re going to do for them. We agree upfront on how we’re going to work. Then I will say in my business we have bookkeepers or accountants that work on that. And we also have customer service team. So people are an important part of that process by engaging with the customer from the beginning and we’re working together as a team. We like our customers to look at us not just as a supplier and outsource function but a key part of their team because we’re looking after the finances. So we have to be really careful in doing that because this is real money, and this is people’s lives. So we want them to feel that we’re part of a team. And the power of having that information online is that we can interact with the wherever they are. An example of that is we have fish wholesalers who imports fish. He travels all though Asia, sometimes to the US all the time. We are connected with him. He’s able to approve time sheets online. He’s able to approve sales invoices which we need to send out 3 and sometimes 4 times a week. So his business is on the go. He’s selling to restaurants, he’s selling to large wholesales in Australia. His business can’t stop just because he goes overseas. So with the systems, the process, and the technology that we use, we’re connected with him all the time.
OWEN: That’s awesome. You also mentioned something about the customer service team and yourself, and how you manage the discussion and the tools you use for that with your customers.
TIM: From an accounting perspective it’s Xero and QuickBooks Online. And then the customer service team and myself… One thing before that is what we’ve done is when I sell our services how I sell it now is that the team [Unintelligible 00:45:49] will be delivering it and they’ll say, “I’ll have a role in that. Our customer service team, the bookkeepers, and the processes that are overseas.”
So we’re all working as a team to deliver the results, say for example for this fish wholesaler. What we do is we have generic emails. So we moved away from individual emails to a generic system. We use Help Scout. Other people would’ve heard of ZenDesk, same sort of products. So I had complete visibility to every single email that comes into my business. It gets filtered. We have a 48-hour turnaround to get back and resolve the customer query. We monitor ourselves on that result and we’ve created a really nice environment rather than customer emailing, [Unintelligible 00:146:40] at my business, or surely at my business they’re emailing support. And they get responded to in a timely manner. So if someone has stepped out of my business or [Unintelligible 00:46:51] the job sort of goes on for that customer. We love all these tools like Help Scout. We use other tools in our business such as Asana for tasks. This is like in Basecamp for collaborating and discussing information about customers. We love using the power of technology to make the customer experience better. And we could do that because we have clear process and we’re systematized.
OWEN: That’s awesome. The question I have now is basically now you have all these free time in your business, what do you focus on now and why?
TIM: Pardon? I think I must have mistaken that, all these free time? I think it’s interesting because I have no time to spend in areas that I want. Yes, certainly that can be considered free time. I don’t seem to be less busy, but what I seem to be is less stressed and not in the state of react and chaos. That results in more free time, and that allows me to put my time into exactly what I want to do in the business. We talked earlier about growing. The only way to grow the business is to get out in the market and sell, sell, sell. That’s where I’m putting more of my focus over the coming years, build the systems, build the process, build the team, and now take that platform and go to [Unintelligible 00:18:42]
OWEN: As we’ve come to the end of the interview, for the listener who’s listening all the way to this point, what would you say is the very next step that they should take if they’re trying to transform their business so that it can actually run without them just like yours does?
TIM: One of the things I would recommend first is sit down and write out your goals. Sit down and write a plan. Understand where you are now, understand where you’d like to be in 1, 2, 3, 5 years, whatever the horizon is for you, and think about the goal. Think about the plan. Decide what’s really, really important for you as the business owner, or the person running that section of the business. And only then, depending on what the outcome is for the plan and the goal, set about that change in your business. Because I think if you understand what’s really important for yourself, if you understand what your short and long term goals are and you set a plan around that, you’ll get there. Sometimes you will surprise yourself, how well you’ll come to achieving that plan or that goal. And so, if you’re talking about systematizing a process, setting yourself some clear goals, be clear about how it’s going to impact the business and what’s important for you and the team. So that’s probably the very first thing.
The second thing to do is we have this wonderful tool called the world wide web which when I started working at Shell we didn’t have. So that’s a fantastic tool to go and learn and research what’s best practice in the industry that you’re in. Go and have a look, read, check out blogs. There’s just so much information at the moment. People are actually willing to share. They’ll be sharing on the internet, they’ll be sharing in groups, there might be industry bodies that you can attend, and you’ll be really surprised at how people are willing to share and willing to help one another. And I think that that’s fantastic. So I would suggest the next step would be to go and look in your industry, and find out what best practice to do. And then from there you go and find a company such as yours or others in the market that their specialty is systematizing and process. And they’ve got templates, they’ve got tools, whatever they have. Then you go and have a look at those and test some of them out.
OWEN: That’s awesome. I would like to add this question. I’m wondering, is there a question that you were wishing that I would’ve asked you during this interview that I didn’t ask you. Post that question and the answer, something that you think would even help to round out the interview even better. And if there’s none that’s okay.
TIM: Why did you go in to business for yourself? That’s probably something. We’ve talked about me being in business, probably stepping from corporate into my business.
OWEN: Yeah, why did you do that? As we round out the interview.
TIM: Thank you Owen, that’s a very good question. I love working in corporate but I wanted to build something myself. And I think that was one of the key benefits or one of the key goals for me is stepping out, because I wanted to see and test myself in building a business or building a practice, in my case building a practice. That was one of the real benefits for me. And I look back now and I think, I’ve actually done and I’m pretty proud of it. But it was a real direct goal. And the other one was some freedom. And while running it on business is very challenging and sometimes I’ve made mistakes. I come home I’m not a bit happy. But at the end of the day not withstanding that it does give me freedom. And getting my systems and people right is a real joy. And that has led to some great freedom and the ability for me to step out of the business. I think they’re probably the two key reasons.
OWEN: That’s awesome. How best for the listener to reach out to you and thank you for doing the interview? What’s the best way to contact you?
TIM: A couple of things, they could follow me on Twitter, they could read my blogs. I’m doing a lot of activity in Australia. I’ve just recently spoken at Xero. I talked about following my supplies, XeroCon, they’re a big national conference. I’m actually heading to the US to QBO Connect which is a really large QuickBooks Online conference that they’re holding in November. I’m very fortunate that I’ve become very active in the market. I’ve talked to a lot of businesses. I’ve talked to a lot of suppliers. And so following me on Twitter, following me on LinkedIn, those are the things you’ll get a sense of who I am and how I’ve done things. And you’ll be able to see a little bit more about how I’m bringing to life some of the things that I’ve talked about today.
OWEN: That’s awesome. Now, I’m speaking to you the listener, you’ve listened all the way to this point so obviously you’ve enjoyed the interview. So if you liked the interview I want you to do us a favor and give us a positive review on iTunes. The reason why is that would get us exposure to other entrepreneurs like yourself that would also find the interview valuable. And to do that go to sweetprocess.com/iTunes and that would redirect you to our iTunes page. And then if you know who another entrepreneur who will find value from this interview please feel free to share with them. And finally, if you’re at that point in your business where you’re tired of being the bottleneck and you want to get everything out of your head so your employees know what you know, sign-up for a free 14-day trial of SweetProcess. Tim, thanks for doing the interview.
TIM: Thank you Owen, absolute pleasure all the way from Australia and I wish your listeners a wonderful evening.
OWEN: Awesome. And we’re done.