From a one-man band to a fully-fledged company growing alongside the team, Dave Gorter’s journey in the cloud has been unique. Having started as a sole practitioner, then expanding with a remote team, he made the move from a virtual office to a bricks-and-mortar office to invest in team development.
A MAJOR SHIFT IN PHILOSOPHY
Dave Gorter founded Sky Books in August 2008 in Sydney, Australia. For the first four to five years, Dave was a one-man contractor with a few clients. Back then, his business model and philosophy were very different. What’s more, accounting involved “a lot of paper and manual processes.”
“I was frustrated by the state of the industry, and even considered changing professions,” admits Dave. “I knew I needed to either move on or find a better way.”
“Then, almost six years ago, I was introduced to Xero and discovered Receipt Bank shortly afterwards. Initially, no-one likes change but when you see the advantages of cloud-based software, you can’t help but jump in with both feet. The two [Xero and Receipt Bank] really complement each other, and I was able to be much more efficient. This gave me the time to focus on the things that would add value to my clients rather than just simple data entry.”
“In six months, we automated and streamlined as many processes as we could. That was the start of the journey from focusing solely on internal accounts on a contractual basis to scaling the business and better servicing our clients.”
“In the early days, the technology was still fairly new with only basic functionality. I learned quickly to find more of the same clients to apply our automation learnings. This is how I developed a specialization in cafes and restaurants.”
“When I started working from home, we would pick up paperwork from clients’ offices, come back and key them into the general ledger. Then, we manually filed the paperwork and prepared it for payment.”
“With Receipt Bank, we no longer had to do any data entry. Then as the app developed further, our clients could upload paperwork themselves.”
MORE REAL-TIME REPORTING FOR CLIENTS
“Receipt Bank has developed a lot since then,” remarks Dave. “The big change was the turnaround time. It used to be a two to three day turnaround to get data, and now it’s anywhere between twenty seconds to eight minutes.”
“Two other game-changers were Supplier Rules and Auto-Publish. These really make Receipt Bank the tool that it is. Ultimately, it’s helped us grow our business, give close to real-time reporting for our clients, and deliver much faster turnaround for reporting and compliance. We no longer have to chase for information.”
“As a general rule, what used to be an hour to an hour and a half process is now down to about 10-15 minutes per client with Receipt Bank.”
THE POWER OF FIVE-MINUTE CONVERSATIONS
We often talk about the benefits of going virtual, yet Dave Gorter has a different story. Having started as a virtual firm, Dave decided to invest in a physical space for his team.
“We got to a point 1.5 years ago, where we had all the systems in place for remote working. I’ve always been big on tech, and driven to get maximum efficiency for our clients. We used tools like Slack, Trello and Xero Practice Manager, yet we were getting to the point where those technologies enabling us to work remotely were actually starting to slow us down in team communication and development.”
“I still believe in remote working,” Dave emphasises, “yet, as the core team took on more and more responsibility, it became harder to develop them as staff members. Rather than ask a quick question - it's easier to teach a team member something in person than explaining it via slack.”
“It was at this point that I felt investing in a physical office was the right next step to develop the practice. I debated getting a hot desk, or co-working space. Eventually, we found a great space in a building we were interested in for a while.”
“The amount I saw the team develop and increase efficiency through five-minute conversations was incredible. It was a leap forward in efficiencies and staff development.”
“Soon after, we hired a new staff member who was early in his career. I’m very proud of his development in such a short space of time. I don’t think this rapid growth in skills would have been possible had we still have been working remotely.”
“You get to a point where you need people who are more client-facing, who have good communication skills and can talk to clients. Moving forwards, my staffing structure looks like a core local team and a remote team for back-end systems that don’t need client communication.”
“Yet, we still are not complacent with technology and integrations. Just, the human element of being in the same room is invaluable.”
“DEVELOPING INTO SOMETHING THAT’S NOT JUST ME”
Sustainable growth is now on Dave’s agenda, while keeping his team’s professional development at the heart of the company’s growth.
“At this stage I’m not looking to develop into a large practice, but a focused practice helping our restaurant and cafe clients [as well as other industries] better understand their numbers to help ensure their success. My current focus is growing the team and developing those staff members. I want them to be able to spot things in our client's financials.”
“From working with many restaurants, cafes and business owners, I know what will help them know their business better so that they can make better decisions. For us to scale, I need to share that knowledge and train my team how to help our clients be successful. Right now, the business is in that adolescent phase where there are some elements of independence but other areas that still need my care and attention. I want to develop it to a point where it’s a living, breathing entity irrespective of my input.”
“When you’re the sole partner, you’re still involved in a lot of client work. I’m now starting to focus more on internal processes, building out workflows and guiding staff. For me, working on that is quite rewarding because you can see the results of those improvements. That being said, I’ll always enjoy working directly with our clients. They’re the major reason why we’re where we are.”
And Dave’s proudest moment?
“Developing the business into something that’s not just me has been great. In the early days, I was the beginning and end of all processes. Every inquiry and process fell back onto me. Using Receipt Bank, Xero and other cloud-based tools has enabled this efficient growth, and more time to spend problem-solving with staff and developing the team. That’s the rewarding part.”