This time, twelve years ago, I had a real problem. My first business - which I started in my lounge room after dropping out of college - was growing strongly. A digital marketing agency, Google had just appointed us as one of their first Asia-Pac Analytics Partners, the business had almost two dozen staff and we were a year away from winning a Business of the Year award.
The problem, then? I had no idea what was really going on in the business. I couldn't tell you who on the team was productive, or whether a project was profitable until it was finished (and even then, not with any confidence).
While the accounting system gave me the score-board - in aggregate - for how the business had performed, it only helped me look back over the month or quarter. More often than I'd like to admit, I'd go through the numbers and think “how did we put in all those hours for this to be the profit" (or even worse, "how in the hell did we end up losing money working so damn hard?")
Thinking back to those days, it was like I was driving a bus along a winding mountain road - with the windshield blacked out. The accounting system was a rear-view mirror telling me where I'd been, but I had no idea what was directly in front of me, much less a glimpse of the road further ahead. Gripping the figurative wheel - rarely daring to take a vacation and routinely working 60+ hour weeks - we bounced off guard-rails and side-swiped cliff faces. As we grew the team, the chances of us crashing and doing irreparable damage only continued to grow.
It turns out, I wasn't the only one experiencing this problem. Every service business owner and manager I spoke with - be they accountants, architects, consultants, designers, engineers or IT service firms - expressed a similar frustration: technology had made individuals more productive, but it didn't help with running operations in an accelerating world. The choice was between either using an integrated, specialized but horribly out-of-date and hard-to-use system or to use a cocktail of modern yet disconnected tools that did a good job with individual tasks (like timesheeting or ticket tracking) but didn't help actually run the business.
Millions of other people running service businesses and teams didn't know what happened today, much less have visibility into tomorrow.
It was around this that time three friends and colleagues of mine, designing and building online software for clients, decided to see if we could succeed where others had failed - we wanted to see if we could create a system for running the operations in a service business. We knew it wouldn't be easy - you can't put a barcode on someone's time, and no two clients or colleagues are ever the same - so automating operations with software that worked and that people wanted to use was incredibly ambitious. We'd lived the pain first hand, so knew what we were shooting for, and we also knew that technology changes - the cloud, automation, and machine learning - meant the time was right. What SalesForce did for sales, and later HubSpot did for marketing, we're doing for running client service operations.
While we didn't know it at the time, we were trying to create a new category of product, which today we call Service Operations Automation, or ServOps for short.
While we're the first company to deliver a ServOps solution, I don't expect we'll be alone for long. As one of the largest and fastest growing sectors in the world, this problem is too big and compelling for others to ignore. With the ability to automatically understand what's going on in a business by connecting to the cloud-services people are using today, and combining this with an operations platform focused on the specific needs of service businesses. Finally, the stage is set for the people running service businesses and teams to have the system they deserve and need to get back to doing the work they love.
I hope you can join us :)