When did you know you wanted to start your own company?
I decided I wanted to start my own company after reading the 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. Previously, I had worked for large organizations my entire career. This came with many pros. However, one of the drawbacks was work-life balance. I often worked on weekends and sometimes even during holidays. I was ready for a change. The book inspired me to have more control over my schedule. I learned the best way to do that is through entrepreneurship.
What was your original idea for this company, and are you still doing that (or did you pivot, if so, what is the new focus & why)?
Fortunately, we have not had to pivot from our original idea. Although we have run into plenty of challenges, we’ve had product-market fit from the beginning. The original idea for the company was to provide home care to seniors living in Australia. And that’s what we do today. We have actually expanded our service offering and now also provide home care for disabled individuals.
My business partner is a registered nurse, which has helped a lot since my background is in management consulting and IT. In 2016, we noticed the home care industry was going through major regulatory changes and opportunities were opening up for new businesses to compete with incumbents.
How long did it take you to finally take the leap, and what was it that pushed you over the fence?
The biggest hurdle to starting my own business was giving up the stability of my corporate job. I had a senior position and was compensated well. I also have five teenagers to support. My situation was different from a recent college graduate who has nothing to lose. I was able to reduce the risk of jumping head first into entrepreneurship by starting my company on the side while I continued to work my main job. Once we had proof of concept and started generating substantial revenue, I made the leap.
Who inspired you to pursue your dream, and why do you think they believed in you?
My wife, Emily Gillett, was always extremely supportive of the vision I had. In fact, 6 months after it was launched she resigned from her own corporate role to join me to build the company. It was a big risk at that stage because it was still small but growing quickly. It makes such a big difference to build something with someone who believes in you and trusts you.
Who is your favorite mentor and why?
I love the work that Tim Ferris does. His approach to experimenting with an idea, and then quickly pivoting when it doesn’t work, or more likely, half works is a great way to build a business. You never know what will work and what won’t, so jumping in and giving it a try instead of being stuck in analysis paralysis or just talk, gets you ahead much faster.
What was the hardest thing about starting your company, and what did you do to make it through the first stage?
The biggest challenge was cutting through the red tape. The home care industry is highly regulated in Australia. In the first year of business, we were audited 7 times by government agencies. We had to hire a consultant to help us with all the paperwork and legal requirements.
What has been the hardest lesson to learn?
The hardest lesson we have learned has been how to delegate work to other managers. I’m a very hands on CEO. I like to be involved in each aspect of the business. However, as the company has grown, this has become more challenging. I don’t have enough time to be involved in every important decision. Being a CEO requires a different mindset from managing a department within a company. That’s something I’ve had to adjust to.
What has been the most amazing thing you have experience while running this company?
The most enjoyable part of running the company so far has been the positive feedback we receive from our customers and their family members. We are caring for people’s health and safety. It’s a big responsibility. We have helped many of our customers regain their autonomy and save on healthcare costs. That motivates me to continue.
What is the weirdest thing you have experienced while running this company, and how did you react to it?
The realization that you get what you focus on. Whatever your problem is, if you focus on that you will inevitably get results. Also, whatever you do not focus on will quickly start to break. So building a successful business is a matter of quickly solving problems, and then moving onto the next area. Like once you get marketing working, sales will be a problem, then once you fix that, operations will start to break, then to fix that you will have to fix IT, and then recruitment will stall, then back to marketing. Around and around in a circle. The good news is that the more problems you solve, the bigger and better you get. The bad news is that the problems never stop.
What is the best decision you’ve ever made while running this company?
Building our own IT systems. Even if you buy them, you will have to integrate them and that’s just as bad as building them in the first place, so having once large cohesive integrated system that gives you full control is a major advantage.
What is the biggest mistake you made while running this company, and why do you think it happened?
Not hiring some other really experienced and skillful managers until 18 months in. We tried to do everything ourselves for too long, and so our growth was not as explosive as it could have been. Having more people to tackle the big tough problems early would have given us a bigger advantage. Its worth the outlay.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your company?
Fortunately, the coronavirus has been well controlled in Australia so far. We have been largely insulated from the problem. We experienced a 66% decline in sales in March, largely because seniors were worried then about interacting with healthcare workers. However, our revenue has rebounded since that time because the pandemic has been so well managed in the country.
What keeps you passionate about your company?
I love the challenge of scaling the business. That’s what keeps me passionate. We have operated exclusively in Perth for the past three years. We’re now ready to expand into other parts of the country. We are opening offices in other regional offices.
What daily routine have you developed to help you take care of your mind and body?
I make sure to go for a walk outside every day. I live in Perth, Australia, which has nice weather year round and lovely beaches.
What one thing would you like people to take away from this interview?
I hope people realize that you don’t need to raise a lot of money or invent a disruptive technology in order to start a successful company. You don’t have to aspire to be the next Facebook or Google. We’re a service-based company in a competitive industry. We’re profitable, growing, and self-funded.