One of the issues that tend to hound sole traders and small business is accounting. Sure, there are numerous packages that help you to keep on top of your finances, however many are convoluted, filled with accountancy speak and in short, quite off putting.
KashFlow was set up by Duane Jackson to counter the complexity of accounting, offering users with an easily understandable package that’s easy to use, understand and keep tabs of finances with. From credit control, to banking, to reports on balances and P&L accounts, KashFlow covers them all in an easy to manage way.
Of course, one of the reasons KashFlow is so successful is that it was built from the ground up by its own founder, Duane Jackson, a man irritated with the often needless complexity of bookkeeping programs. Upon setting up his own business, Duane saw the need for easy to use accountancy software and being a man of action set about building it. What resulted was KashFlow.
KashFlow was created after Duane became irritated with the current options, having set up his own business upon leaving prison. Having learned his trade on a ZX Spectrum in a children’s home, the KashFlow owner ended up spending 2.5 years in prison in the US and UK having made some bad decisions.
However, upon leaving he began a web development business with the help of the Prince’s Trust; saw a need for a simplified accounting application and with the backing of Lord Young, set up the hugely successful KashFlow in 2006.
Aside from taking the jargon out of accounting; why do you think KashFlow has been so successful?
I think KashFlow has had the success it has so far largely due to the fact that I was its first customer. What I mean is that I was scratching my own itch. I knew what problems I was facing myself as a non-accountant business owner who just wanted to get the books done and automate things without unnecessary complexity. This meant I could develop something really quickly without the need for focus groups and huge amounts of research.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Do something. There’s way too much talking about doing things, rather than actually doing them. You don’t need to wait for everything to be lined up first. The sooner you take action, the sooner you start moving to your ultimate goal. Even if you get those first few steps wrong, you’ll still learn a lot. And make sure you’re working on something you strongly believe in. It’s going to be hard work, and if you don’t have that passion and fire in your belly then you’ll be giving up pretty soon.
Where is the most astonishing place you have ever been?
Standing in the House of Commons having a chat with Bill Gates - that was pretty surreal!
It was a few years ago now and I was having a friendly dig about him about Microsoft’s then “software plus services” being a poor substitute to the real “Software as a service” model that’s now dominant.
What were your biggest challenges with KashFlow?
The biggest challenge has been in hiring a management team to take complete responsibility for different areas of the business. The biggest single step was bringing in Raj Patel. He’s totally transformed the business and has helped me hire the people we need.
Do you think you could have been as successful as you are without the mentorship you received?
The mentoring and guidance I’ve had over the years from Lord Young has been so incredibly useful. I have no doubt at all that I wouldn’t have grown the business to the extent I now have if it wasn’t for his support. He makes the whole mentoring thing look very easy. Now I do a little bit of mentoring myself I’m discovering that isn’t the case. But, I guess as with a lot of things, it only looks easy if you’re really good at it.
How do you feel about efforts made within the system to help people in situations such as the one you were once in?
I wouldn’t have been able to get started in business if it wasn’t for the help of the Prince’s Trust. No one else would have put the faith in me they did – and really it was more about the belief and support more than the cash – although that certainly helped too!
So I’m pleased to see any efforts in this area. I think we do need to be careful about pushing people into setting up their own businesses though. It’s not for everyone and we can be in danger of setting people up to fail.
What do you think about low cost programming options such as the Raspberry Pi computers and do you think such an item will encourage people to code?
I think devices like the Raspberry Pi are great. When I was younger it was the ZX Spectrum that inspired me to get coding. Closed systems like iPhones are too abstracted from the nitty-gritty and don’t inspire a hacker mentality. The Raspberry PI does exactly that.
Do you think entrepreneurs are born or made?
I still can’t make my mind up on this one. I certainly wasn’t your Richard Branson type, running the school tuck shop at age 7 and all that. But I think there are certain personality traits that heighten the chances of you being a success – such as tenacity and thick skin.
What’s has been your greatest achievement?
Getting a big chunk of cash out of the business. When you build a business that’s been fairly successful and has a good profile like KashFlow, people automatically assume you’re loaded. But it’s quite hard to convert that success into cash without selling or floating the company. It was quite hard work realising some cash and managing to hang on to a majority stake. It was worth it just for the look on the Estate Agents face when I bought a £1m house for cash. Less fun when you visit the bank wearing jeans and t-shirt and you can tell they’re stalling you whilst someone in another room is checking whether you’re legit or not.
Finally, Cat or Dog?
Cat, definitely. We recently got a Pug puppy. What’s that saying? The grass is always greener and less poo-filled on the other side.
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