The Business Owner: Lee Murphy, Pandle
In this week's Business Owner, we talk to Lee Murphy about small business recruitment, and what the government is doing right
Name: Lee Murphy
Location: Upton, Wirral
Proposition: Pandle is free, cloud based accounting software made with real people in mind- focussing on sole traders and small businesses.
Size: 25 employees and over 3,000 clients
Describe your business model:
Our model is a favourable one to small businesses. We have a freemium model which means that start-ups can use our software free of charge and then opt to pay a small fee later for more advanced functionality. Our model for professional partners such as bookkeepers and accountants is very unique. We do offer a standard partner account which offers a significant discount for them along with a white label solution.
This solution is not like others on the market (usually a logo change and a few other minor changes) but a truly separate instance of the software accessed from a separate domain name. This is as good as a partner developing their own software but for a tiny fraction of the price.
How is your business different from what’s already out there?
Pandle’s platform rivals the often expensive and complicated services offered by other providers in the market; it minimises user error with the use of checks and algorithms to ensure that the data being entered is complete and accurate. Along with its core cloud accounting software, Pandle also offers a white label solution for bookkeepers and accountants to benefit from.
How did you finance your business?
We did take out a few small loans along the way but the method of financing was reinvesting all our profits, otherwise known as bootstrapping. This has its pros and cons, but I felt it was right for our business as we want to remain as agile as possible and have full control over the direction we go in – rather than answering to investors.
What is the most important thing to keep track of in business and why?
Monitoring the most requested features/changes to the software is the most important thing. We speak to users every day about this and get a feel for what they want. The most popular requests are actioned straight away if they are small, and the larger ones are added to a priority list.
For example, lately we have had a lot of requests to open Pandle up to places like Canada, South Africa and Singapore so we have started work earlier than scheduled on the Pandle Global account.
What is the biggest day-to-day challenge you face?
Although it’s not day-to-day, the biggest challenge we find ourselves facing on a regular basis is recruitment. When your business is small finding and hiring quality staff is very difficult to do.
There’s a lot of competition when it comes to attracting and recruiting the best employees, which means that you have to find new ways to entice talent, and then incentivise those employees to stay long term. This process has been the limiting factor for our business growth; learning to refine these practices, and the packages offered to employees, is vital.
What marketing techniques do you use to attract new customers?
We have spent time on creating quality content for potential users along with user recommendations and a small amount of Facebook ads. Our biggest source of customer acquisition is via referral from existing users.
Do you think it’s important for small businesses to export, any tips?
I think if it’s possible for a business to export its product or service then they absolutely should. However, I would recommend that small businesses prove the concept in their home market first before moving to others, otherwise it could be a costly mistake.
What’s the business app you couldn’t do without?
I use a lot of apps for business but I suppose Trello would be the most important. Trello allows me to organise my day and future tasks in a very efficient way which saves me a lot of time in efficiencies.
Describe your company’s culture in three words:
Jovial, hardworking, focussed.
What would you like the government to do for small business?
I think the UK government has been and is doing great things for small businesses at the moment with things like the introduction of RTI and Making Tax Digital. I think we are lucky to have such a forward thinking government. That said, I think they really fall short in getting funds to small businesses.
They are allocating capital to companies like Funding Circle to distribute to small businesses but it doesn’t go far enough. There are lots of great businesses that cannot get the funds they need to grow just because they little in the way of tangible assets for the loans to be secured against. This does need to change.
Who’s your biggest small and medium enterprise hero?
Although he’s by no means a small or medium enterprise owner, my favourite entrepreneur is Elon Musk. The reason being, that his businesses are not focussed on making money but rather on solving, or advancing us towards solving big problems. I think more entrepreneurs should be focussed on solving issues that are important rather than working on yet another social network or chat/messaging app.
Where do you want the business to be in three years?
Providing small businesses with the best accounting software all over the world.
What’s your top tip for keeping it lean and making profit?
The best advice I have is to work on the business, and not in the business. This might not always be possible, especially in the beginning, however I have always tried to adhere to this advice and will spend at least half of my day progressing the business rather than working on day-to-day issues.