Started at the bottom, now they're here! Set to Scale sees the cultivated success of Wise-Sync's earliest customers, from maneuvering the rocky road to reconciliation, with manual nightmares and expended resources, to now, equipped with the right tools, and empowered through having optimal financial efficiency. Ready, set, automate -
Here to talk syncess, Wise-Sync sits down with Phillip, Director at KPTech, on his journey, the dos and don'ts when getting started, and of course, how he transformed from a one-man band to a company set to scale...
Q: Phillip, thanks for joining us today. To kick things off, can you tell us a little bit about your background and KPTech?
Phillip: I've been doing this IT game for a good 30+ years, I've worked in all areas of IT: Cybersecurity with MacAfee in the early 90s, retail environments like ComputerLand, wholesale distribution, and channel sales with Compucon, or VAR and some commercial sales with Choice Connections. I've run companies as a one-man band back in 2002, to having my largest 24+ staff, with business partners, the whole lot!
I became an MSP back in 2006 when there weren't a lot of people doing it at a small business level -
My focus now, hasn't been trying to get the biggest customers with supposedly the bigger profit margins and so on. I went the other way, I focussed on smaller-micro businesses, and use efficiencies within my own company and my own staff, so that we can make money that way, and look after smaller micro businesses better.
Q: Amazing, and does the P in KPTech stand for Phillip by any chance?
Phillip: No, no (laughs), when I was at my largest, it was originally 'Knowledge Plus,' and so when I jumped out, I basically created 'Knowledge Plus Technology' but then wanted to move away from the 'Knowledge Plus' name altogether, so I shortened it to 'KPTech.'
Q: Incredible, great name! Phillip, you've been with Wise-Sync for almost 10 years now, so I know this will require travelling back in time, but can you recall what your situation was like when you first discovered the need for Wise-Sync?
Phillip: I'm pretty sure it was late 2013 when I was spending probably 8-10 hours a month just on invoicing and reconciling. Because I run a small business, I've got multiple hats! I didn't have the accounts person sitting in one office and the finance guy behind another. I was spending a good 8-10 hours a month on invoicing, and then at least another 5-6 hours a month chasing finances; chasing customers for payments and stuff like that -
And honestly, because a lot of those clients had already been with me since the Knowledge Plus group, it was pretty good - most of them paid on time.
Q: Wow, of course! And how else could you have spent that time?
Phillip: Well because one of my hats was Sales - if I'm busing chasing money and invoicing and doing other financial admin, then I'm not doing any sales. And if I'm not making sales, then what money's going to come in to feed the rest of the KPTech family?!
Q: Exactly! And what did your financial processes look like before automation - were you doing manual entry?
Phillip: A lot of it was manual, I was also shifting from Autotask PSA to ConnectWise [Manage]. We ran Autotask for a few years, and it just didn't click with anyone, including myself. At that time, I threw my hands up and said "Something's gotta' change!" I was also, at the time, shifting from MYOB retail manager, and that was kind of like working with Autotask but not working well... and so, I did a fairly large company change of everything; Autotask to ConnectWise, got rid of MYOB altogether and went to Xero, and then started automating everything in ConnectWise, especially the agreements.
Back then, there were a couple of options, and I remember implementing another tool before Wise-Sync, but the fact that any time I had to fix an error - I had to unbatch the whole lot, redo it, and then rebatch the whole lot... just didn't work for me.
Q: If you had to pick one word to describe how that whole manual process made you feel, what word would it be?
Q: Did you ever find yourself manually checking every entry?
Phillip: At first, yep! In the process of shifting from Autotask to ConnectWise, I did everything twice in both systems for eight months.
When I converted over and finally flicked the switch on ConnectWise, the customers came back to me and said "Oh, I like the new format of the invoice!" That's all that they noticed when I totally changed my whole backend system, is that it looked different. So, that was a successful change (laughs)!
Q: And within your first year of using Wise-Sync, ConnectWise Manage, and Xero, how were you noticing the amount of work that your finance team were doing?
Phillip: For starters, any time that there was an error, I could just unbatch the individual entry and rebatch that single entry without having to do the whole lot -
Q: Yes! Our single-record batching feature that our CEO-Founder Paul came up with!
Phillip: Paul MacNeill... (*Phillip gives praise with his hands in a prayer gesture*) -
Q: Incredible! And at that time, was it just yourself doing all of the manual processing?
Phillip: I hate to remember, yeah, but when I got out of that massive company, I didn't actually take on any staff initially, because I was changing the whole model to MSP, and I wanted all of the policies and procedures in place before I took staff on -
In the end, I ended up taking a whole bunch of Knowledge Plus staff afterwards, but for the first three months, I didn't take on any staff. Back then, I had employed an internal bookkeeper to do all of that, so that was a wage.
Q: So, did you have this internal bookkeeper before implementing Wise-Sync?
Phillip: I did. Before Wise-Sync, and this is back in the early days of KPTech, I used to have a part-time bookkeeper but as time went on, with a little bit more automation, I still found myself, in 2013, spending roughly 12 hours a month on admin -
I suppose if you wanted to look at it now - in April, I did 330 invoices so threefold, and I reckon in a month, I probably spend two hours making sure things are in and chasing money.
If there were any errors, most of them these days are just rounding errors so that's no big deal -
Q: And Phillip, because you're one of our OGs, how's life now with Real-Time Sync (RTS) and not even needing to press a button?
Phillip: Yeah, that's awesome! That's been happening for a few months now and basically, once I go in and batch invoice and then batch email everything, I know that I don't have to physically jump into anything else and go to sync -
The only thing I still have to do, which I was talking to Bec (Customer Success Manager) earlier this week about, is the purchasing; getting all of that automated a bit more, which is coming! So, that would mean all of my purchasing is automatic, all of my invoicing is automatic anyway; it's just another thing that doesn't tie me up for 5 or 10 minutes - I just don't need to dedicate that time anymore.
Q: And what's your situation like now - do you have a finance team, or just a bookkeeper?
Phillip: I have a bookkeeper, but she doesn't really get involved in the day-to-day stuff, it's just me.
Q: Wow, so essentially, it's just something that you can manage yourself?
And the fact that I don't have to employ extra people to do it for me, my bookkeeper basically can check in on the Payrix and Wise-Pay side of things just in case they want to look up something or need to reconcile something, I don't need to get involved - they can take care of that. And that rarely happens anyway so, like I said, I can spend more time doing what I need to do, which is run the company.
Q: Amazing! Phillip, we often talk about the financial accounts, which of course are important, but how about your 'happiness account' - how's your mental state, especially now that you have financial visibility over your company?
Phillip: It's funny, when I was using MYOB Retail Manager, I spent even more time trying to get things right, and I was never really quite sure where I sat.
Now however, with Wise-Pay, Wise-Sync, the tight integration with ConnectWise [Manage] and Xero, and the fact that when I had the onboarding with Wise-Pay -
Wise-Sync weren't just onboarding Wise-Pay; they were onboarding knowledge and best practice accounting for a business - the Wise-Sync team set up all the watchlists for me properly, so I could see what was coming in and out of Wise-Pay to make sure there was always some balance -
It's all fantastic, really.
From a work-life balance, one of the main reasons why I got out of Knowledge Plus was because, I was about 30 years old and my body had a breakdown because of stress. Basically, I was in a bad place health-wise, mentally, and I didn't even have to do half the financials back then as part of such a big company.
There's one thing I know, you can't run a business if mentally, you're stressed. It doesn't work. You'll never achieve what you want to achieve if you're constantly stressed. So that's why I got out of Knowledge Plus and I started KPTech; I had spent a lot of time getting things organised and structured before I took the staff on -
When I shifted from the MYOB and [Datto] Autotask PSA to ConnectWise [Manage] and Xero, straight away I knew that I had to do work on things that would make my life easier because my body didn't like stress; it had already told me, it already warned me once.
Now, I can spend a healthy 40 hours a week at work, and the job's done.
Q: And to be your own boss -
Phillip: I've been my own boss since 2002, when I had my first start at building my own business -
I was working for a major wholesaler, and my wife at the time, had our baby, so I became Mister Mum at home while she went back to work. And after about six months, the IT game started catching up with me; some old resellers started catching up with me saying "Hey, can you build this? Can you do this?" and so on, so I registered the business...
...and from there, it went crazy! I had a good network, and I also had a good client base from my former work experience to start the business from. So, from that little one-man band, me at home with a very young son, to now, having grown very quickly; I had changed business names three times in that period -
Between 2002 - 2006, the business grew from me, to 24+ staff across four divisions.
Q: Wow, Congratulations, Phillip!
Phillip: Well, you can say Congratulations, but at the end of the day, I reflect back on that time as a period where I was very sick -
I still made sure that I had all of my large infrastructure backend systems, and it was just a case of making them work for my new model. Of course, I changed it a few times (laughs), but undoubtedly, Wise-Sync and Wise-Pay took care of the whole financial admin side of things for me, so it was just one thing I didn't need to employ someone for -
The bookkeeper still goes in and checks over things for me, but they don't have to spend any time in it.
Q: As a business owner, how's having cloud accounting to facilitate that real-time access whenever you're on the go?
Phillip: I'll be honest, I don't really need to access the numbers anymore -
The fact that Wise-Pay handles downpayments... it's funny I was talking to Bec from the Wise-Pay team just this week, and she was saying that downpayments isn't a dirty word; if they're willing to pay - grab the money! And once she showed me how it worked in Wise-Pay, it's simple! Even I can get it, of course, my bookkeeper gets it - but even I can get it!
Q: That's awesome. And so, I guess you're no longer chasing payments?
Phillip: The important part, is knowing that if I send out $100,000 this month in invoices - I know how much of that will come in within seven days because it's already booked through Wise-Pay. I've got a long list of clients who are signed up with Wise-Pay; direct debit, automated, and it just happens.
I don't need to get involved because it's automated -
So in terms of looking at numbers and so on as a whole, you've still got to do that but at least all of those clients that I've spent the time convincing this is a good thing etc., are there. All of my monthly invoices (we do at least 300 invoices every month and it just keeps growing), 80% of those are direct debit, so I don't need to chase or worry...
Q: How has this automated solution stack enabled your business to scale?
Phillip: The only way to scale, especially with my business model, is that things have to work because I'm not chasing that 80-20 rule where I'm chasing the 20, no... I'm chasing the 80, I'm chasing all the small guys, and the only way I can look after (we've got 430+ clients that are working with us on a monthly or yearly basis) all of our clients, and to do the sales, is if everything else is automated.
So, my staff look after all of the support aspects. Yes, I've got a bookkeeper that helps me out with my BAS and Super and all the things I don't want to do (laughs) but basically, the reason why my company is growing while not creating more stress for me, is because I've got automation. I've got the tools and the backend set-up, you know, ConnectWise Manage - the more time you spend in it, the more you understand how much you can do -
And it's the same when implementing a tool like Wise-Pay or Wise-Sync, the amount of time that it can save you, and time is money, is massive. And also, the experience that it gives my customers, is also really good - the formats of the plain documents, the default templates, they're really well done - they look good! I didn't even have to go in and change any of that stuff.
Q: For fellow business owners out there like yourself, that could be reading this interview and perhaps, are in the same situation you faced over 10 years ago, where they're not using automation and are stuck doing it the hard way, what would your advice be?
Phillip: Don't do it.
You're never going to become an MSP if you're doing things manually; they don't go hand-in-hand. If you're a break-fix type of operation, then your days are already numbered. If you're looking at jumping onto the MSP wagon now and it's not too late, then you pick your tools, and you spend time learning and getting into those tools - your PSA, your RMM, your accounting package that you pick -
Obviously, there's more to it when starting a business; you've got to get your customers onboard and make sure that you set the rules in the beginning that any MSP agreements, whether monthly, yearly, etc., are all direct debited - make sure that happens, but then Wise-Pay takes care of all of that. And then let Wise-Sync take care of all your invoices and all of that stuff going into Xero or QuickBooks, and that's something you can scale on -
That's something you can build on, so no matter how many more customers you get in, that job won't increase. So, that's scalable - that's workable, long-term.
Q: And finally, the MSP industry can sometimes feel quite isolating with many partners not in communication with one another, which is why we pride ourselves on providing a community resources platform -
For those MSPs, especially the one-man bands and smaller companies who are just finding their feet, is there any resource you'd recommend?
Phillip: We're part of SMBiT, and based here in Adelaide I have a great network of interstate IT companies that can help me with boots on the ground Australia-wide. The SMBiT group is quite good for resellers, and I highly recommend to anyone who's reading this who isn't already part of the group, to have a look at joining SMBiT. There's a huge amount of knowledge and information that's shared without hesitation there, especially helpful for those business owners in need of support.
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