I moved to Australia in January 2009. Why? A better life. A new adventure. For the weather? The usual reasons that an Englishman decides to emigrate. As exciting as it was, it was also scary. It’s not a move I took lightly.
I worked for Laser Group as a Support Manager. I hadn’t been there that long when they made a decision that unwittingly changed my future. That decision was to migrate to Xero, the cloud accounting platform that’s become a massive part of our business and my life.
I was heavily involved in the project, working closely with our technical team, our partners and the team at Xero. As first experiences go, it was pretty full on. My mind was blown. Compared to what I’d experienced before, Xero was intuitive, flexible and powerful. And, remember, this was before there were the hundreds of add-ons that are available today.
I changed roles a couple of times during this period, but the truth was, I wasn’t in a great place personally. I was struggling to find a sense of purpose and I was unhappy. The black dog was creeping in and I knew that I needed to make a change. I left my role and took some time out to myself.
Then I made the logical decision. ‘Let’s start my own business.’ Now, I know what you’re thinking, if mental health was an issue as an employee, surely it would be even worse if I had the responsibility of running a business? That’s not been my experience. Yes, there are stressful times, but this time the stress is something I can cope with, because I’m in control.
I set up Waypoint on the 3rd July 2013. It was all a bit surreal. We were a team of one, me. I used my experience of working with Xero and SimPro to help small accountancy practices and their clients make the shift to cloud accounting. It was a mix of consultancy and managing the technical implementation of the project.
As any small business owner will confirm, in the early days, it’s a bit feast and famine. While you’re busy delivering a project you’re acutely aware that you have no idea at all where the next client is coming from. Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place. I was stressed and had the overriding feeling that I wasn’t cut out for this. A classic case of impostor syndrome.
While Xero setups were easy to do, I always had a sense that it didn’t quite go far enough. My business management degree made me look deeper. I knew that many of the businesses I helped migrate to Xero could get so much more from the platform if they reworked their own processes and added some simple add-ons. That combination could change not just their Xero experience, but could make a huge difference to their business.
I worked on projects across a range of industries, including retail, trades and hospitality. I couldn’t quite get away from the feeling of being an impostor once again, as I didn’t have the industry knowledge.
At this time, I also hired my first team member. Now it wasn’t just my mortgage on the line, it was theirs as well. Being responsible for someone else, although scary, was also hugely motivating.
I made a really important discovery during our second year. Focus is everything. We’d taken an approach of taking on everything and anything. It was exhausting and it was inefficient. Trying to keep up with over twenty different Xero add-ons was, in hindsight, folly, but it’s what I thought we had to do.
We also expanded from a team of 2 to a team of 4, but that didn’t last long and we returned to be a team of 2 again. Why? Because I hired the wrong people for the wrong roles. The people were great, but my understanding of what the business needed was all wrong. Then, I used logic to help me define what was needed instead of going with my gut. That decision allowed us to regroup, grow to a team of 5 and move into our first office. It felt good. It felt grown up. Real businesses have real offices – don’t they?
Well, no. At least not in our case. We experimented with the concept of remote working. Not only would it save us money, it suited who we were individually and the evolving culture of the business.
This was the pedal to the metal stage. We had the processes, people and the projects that fuelled us. We were more confident in who we were and what we did. We narrowed the focus and grew the team.
90% of all our projects now fall into two distinctive camps – inventory management and service operations. Having that understanding meant we could grow the right team. We’ve managed to recruit a team that have the relevant experience and who embrace the idea of remote working.
It’s also the year where we’ve taken on our biggest clients and our biggest projects. And, we showed our ambition for the future by opening our first overseas office in the UK. That was a big moment for me personally. It was a sign of my confidence in what we can do.
We’re about to make some very big announcements over the next few months. It’s a hugely exciting time for the business, the team and our clients. The first of those announcements is our change of name. We are now Waypoint. It’s the biggest decision we’ve made, but the time was right and it feels great to be starting 2018 with a new name.
While the name change is significant, it’s just the start. All the changes we’re about to make are about doing what we do better and ultimately what that really means is offering our clients the best possible experience.
I’m excited about the year ahead and so are the team. We’ve come a long way together in a short period of time, but in many ways, at this moment in time, it feels like we’ve only just begun.