Real business story

Get your fingers burned

Tom Simmonds has always invested in technology. As the Chief Executive of AllSaved, a fire safety business, he brought in a project management system which helped his people focus on what they do best and opened up a route to scalable growth

We asked Tom about what he has learned along the way, if you want to hear more you can listen to a podcast or watch a longer video below

If you don’t invest in it, if you don’t believe in it, if you don’t properly do it… you haven’t got your fingers burnt, you’ve burnt them yourself

Tom Simmonds - AllSaved

Setting your objective

Tom was keen to increase efficiency by helping his staff focus on what they did best, and getting rid of as much of the repetitive processes and standard paperwork as he could. Having used technology extensively in previous roles in the printing industry, he knew software could provide a solution

You intrinsically know if you're running a business where you pain points are, the things that niggle you. Write down a list of all the things that take you away from what you do best, and then see what software you can buy to address that

Tom Simmonds - AllSaved

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Justifying your budget

When AllSaved first invested in their project management system, the onboarding costs were a month of Tom's wages. He didn't get paid that month but looking back at years of expansion and scalable growth he knows that was a risk that was worth taking. It took courage, but Tom felt confident that it was the kind of radical change which could help set his business up for success

Watching my team going to site, then coming back and spending as much time writing up a fire risk assessment as they did on site doing the survey - what is that! I'm taking a qualified and experienced guy who really cares about what he does and turning him into a typist"

Tom Simmonds - All Saved

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Creating your shopping list

Tom had two main objectives when he started looking at options. Firstly he wanted something modular and scalable, which could grow with the business, adding new features as they went. Secondly he wanted something that could help his team focus on what they were best at. He also knew that he might want to integrate the system with other products further down the line, so he insisted on a system with an open API, which made it easier for them to make it their own.

This clarity his meant that rather than trawl a long list of solutions, AllSaved were able to focus on a handful which were most appropriate.

If you get technology right it's the best thing you can ever do, but if you get it wrong, and there were systems out there at the time which would've been wrong, it would've sunk me

Tom Simmonds - AllSaved

Buying with confidence

Tom thinks about all project management software as 80% right out of the box. AllSaved used a standard, off the shelf product for the 80% of their business which was similar to other firms, such as leads, quotes, sales, scheduling work, invoicing etc. For the other 20%, which is specific to their industry and their business, they decided to build their own software, because they felt they needed something which fitted them perfectly. This meant building a document management system which could make 30-40 page fire risk assessment documents, whereas an off-the-shelf product could do 3-4 pages. They then integrated the two products so they had a solution fully tailored to their needs.

Technology has gotten us where we are. It's given us opportunities. And its gone from something which has sped up our back office processes to something which is now key, core, and driving our business forward

Tom Simmonds - All Saved

Making it work for the team

When they first implemented their management system, Tom and his team cut some corners and didn't do it properly. It ended up needing to be rebuilt. Tom looks back now and knows that was their mistake. The systems don't make mistakes, it's all about putting the time into getting things set up properly so you can succeed

Keeping his team motivated and happy was a crucial part of why Tom decided to invest in technology in the first place. He wanted to help his staff operate at the top of their skillsets and take away the mundane tasks which were taking up too much of their time.Yet even with clear benefits to staff there can be challenges. When it was first introduced the system accelerated some organisational changes, creating greater ownership and accountability and a bit of tension along with that. The new visibility even scared Tom a little at first, suddenly everyone could see his diary!

That's how you get exponential growth. You have happy people doing what they're good at in an environment where the nonsense is taken out of it

Tom Simmonds - AllSaved

Getting your money's worth

For AllSaved this has been an ongoing learning process. Tom sees getting your fingers burned is part of the journey, but appreciates the lessons he has learned along the way. For him a large part of what will make you successful with software is how much you put into it. Ultimately the technology won't do it for you, you have to absolutely commit

In business, there are no guarantees, you only gain if you risk. You have to be prepared to lose money, time, be stressed, be frustrated, all that negative stuff is the beginning of it. You have to accept that that's going to happen

Tom Simmonds - AllSaved

Watch the full video

Listen to the full discussion

We carried on our discussion with Tom once the cameras stopped rolling. You can listen to the rest of the discussion here.

Tom's top takeaways

If you're running a business, you know where your pain points are... write down a list of all the things that niggle you, get in the way and take you or your employees away from what they do best. Then find a solution which does that.on

Getting your fingers burnt can be part of the journey (and a frustrating one)... but as Tom says, don't lose sight of the benefits that the technology delivered in the process. What would it look like if it did do the things it was missing? What if there was a solution without the issues you’re experiencing? The learning from those experiences will likely help you find the better solution that’s out there.

As with nearly everything, there are no guarantees and you only gain if you're prepared to take a risk. You have to be prepared to invest money and time up-front and work through the stress a new solution sometimes causes, because without it you won't be able to scale your business.

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