Episode #043 How to Survive and Thrive Locally (In An Offshored Industry) With James Gatward and Peter Nelson

Melbourne-based Web Developer, James Gatward and IT Provider, Peter Nelson worked on a number of projects together. As things were changing dramatically in the Web Design and IT space, they realised it was the perfect time to start a business together. Urban IT Services, is an IT Support and Managed Services company, which joins the forces of these two down-to-earth guys who truly love helping business with websites and technology.

In this interesting episode, James and Peter share openly with Amy about how offshoring has changed the IT industry. Together they explore helpful ways that bookkeepers can apply the same principles they've used to differentiate themselves so they don't have to compete on price.

Podcast Info

Episode: #043

Series: General

Host: Amy Hooke

Guest speakers: James Gatward and Peter Nelson

Topic: How to Survive and Thrive Locally In An Offshored Industry

Useful links

Connect with Peter Nelson on LinkedIn >>> https://www.linkedin.com/in/peter-nelson-87631633/

Connect with James Gatward on LinkedIn >>> https://www.linkedin.com/in/jgatward/

Join James & Peters Facebook group: IT Business Help Melbourne and Australia >>> https://www.facebook.com/groups/327804781174531/

Read transcript

Amy Hooke:
All right guys. Thank you for joining me again this week. As promised on our last episode, I have Peter Nelson and James Gatward with me. These two guys are working in the IT industry, so they both have separate business but they've come together in a partnership. They're going to talk to use today about … There's an issue that's happened for some time in the IT industry with regard to offshoring. We're experiencing the early stages of this in bookkeeping, so we're going to talk about that. But first, thanks for joining me James and Peter.

Peter Nelson:
Thank you.

James Gatward:
Thank you very much for having us. This is fun.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, yeah. Should be good. Should be good. So just to give you guys a bit of a background, I met James … When was it? It was a couple of years ago now.

James Gatward:
Yeah, yeah.

Amy Hooke:
I did an SEO course with James and another business buddy of his, and so we trekked out. Myself, William, my husband who you all know, and one of our employees. We trekked out and did this SEO course, which opened a whole can of worms in our lives.

James Gatward:
Cool.

Amy Hooke:
So we're now very into the SEO space. Find that quite a fun thing, but I remember that course. We rocked up and James and his buddy gave us some … like really the fundamentals of SEOs. That was where we met, and then from there I've just seen you … You're all over Facebook. James, you're in a lot of Facebook groups, a lot of Facebook groups that the bookkeepers are probably also in like Business, Business, Business and then obviously you guys have your own group now.

Amy Hooke:
Do you want to just kind of … Just introduce yourself, let everybody know who you are aside from SEO guy, that kind of thing. Go for it.

James Gatward:
Thank you. I've been working … I started my business around probably four, five years ago just as a freelance web developer. That's grown into I guess what you'd call a full blown agency, if you call it that. So doing SEO websites, web hosting, things like that, and using social media and things like that to meet business owners such as yourself, and grow my business organically through that.

Amy Hooke:
Yes. You're a real conversation starter in a lot of the groups, which is good. I remember, I'll join a certain group and then the next thing you pop up starting a conversation with something about somebody, so really I like the way you're able to network online. Obviously not just looking for business, like you're really helpful. You post a lot of really helpful resources or conversation starters and things like that in groups, which is really great.

Amy Hooke:
Okay, so you started out in web development back … You've been doing that for about six?

James Gatward:
I've been doing that for about six years. When I was at university I was just dabbling in it sort of in the weekends. Just tinkering, building various websites, breaking them, seeing if I could fix them. All that sort of stuff. My experience around that just comes from all-nighters and many hours' problem solving stuff that I wanted to know how I could fix.

Amy Hooke:
Yes, and you've brought back another memory for me. Breaking websites. That's how I first spoke to you. It was before the SEO course. I put a message. I'm like, “Oh my goodness, I've broken something. Can somebody who knows websites help me?” That was back in the days when William and I first started, and so you helped us fix something. You were very generous with your time. You jumped on the phone to me and you gave me a few pointers and stuff like that. It was all around some DNS records or something like that. I was just like, “Oh my gosh, I'm over my head.”

Amy Hooke:
“What does this all mean? What do all these letters and numbers mean? What do they do?”

James Gatward:
Yeah. No worries at all. My pleasure.

Amy Hooke:
It's such a stressful area for people. Even for people who are sort of technical minded, it can get stressful. So obviously IT can be a very complicated area for lots of people.

James Gatward:
For sure.

Amy Hooke:
So really great that we've got people like you guys helping out wherever you can. Helping people to unbreak their websites. And so what made you get into website design? Just what were you doing before that?

James Gatward:
Well, I had been at university studying digital marketing, and just as much as I enjoy digital marketing, I just happened to develop a passion for websites. Mostly more so WordPress.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah.

James Gatward:
So yeah, honestly it just happened by accident. And then when I came to Australia, because I'm a Kiwi, and I'm sure the accent probably shines through. Yeah, just pure fluke. I was just staying with a friend. My friend said, “Hey, if it's of interest jump on Gumtree. You can help me pay some rent, sell a couple of websites.” It just started like that.

Amy Hooke:
There you go.

James Gatward:
Yeah.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, great. Very good. And so you're a real Melbourner now. I see you're always posting all these interesting, cool pictures of different things in Melbourne. I always think, “Gosh. I didn't even know that existed.”

James Gatward:
I'm just inquisitive I guess. If I see something or … I go and see what it is. Yeah, no it's a passion.

Amy Hooke:
It's always the people that come from overseas, they find all the cool stuff. Whereas when you live here, you're just like, “Yeah you know.”

James Gatward:
But that's always the way. That's always the way.

Amy Hooke:
I know. That's right. That's right. Okay, great. And so Peter, what's your background? What are you doing now and what's your background?

Peter Nelson:
I'm more sort of the computer and server and email kind of guy for our business. I've been doing it for about 20 years now. I started out as a helpdesk manager helping multiple businesses, had a passion for it. I love technology and tinkering, doing that sort of stuff. I started my own business about 10 years ago now I think. I started that out part-time while I was still working full-time. You've got the spot the kids, and have that income and everything. Just slowly built it up and yeah.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah. Great.

Peter Nelson:
It's started to thrive now. It's really good.

Amy Hooke:
Beautiful. And so-

Peter Nelson:
I just enjoy helping businesses and just getting…

Amy Hooke:
How did you first get into IT?

Peter Nelson:
I always liked it at school. I went to TAFE and did a course there, and then I got a job early on. Just started out as a junior technician and then just built from their basically.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah right. That's great.

Peter Nelson:
Always learning.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, yeah. That's right. Well it's good. You're very at home with the technology nerds. Bookkeepers, we're a different type of technology geeks but we're definitely in that space of just … you know? There's so many different apps out there and every bookkeeper's tried to … We're all trying to find this ideal network of all of these interconnected softwares, and it's sometimes seems impossible but it's good fun to kind of be … Like to be in the world of technology, it's definitely fun. And also it's kind of cool because … I don't know. I think because it's something that a lot of people think is so hard. Like with bookkeepers, everyone thinks numbers is hard. Everybody thinks technology's hard except for the people that know how to do it. So it kind of makes you seem like, “Oh this guy's really smart. This girl's really smart.” That's cool. I love it.

Amy Hooke:
It's good. You're very at home amongst this community here, although IT is definitely … When you were talking about the type of stuff that you do, I was thinking, “All the scary stuff.” That's the really, really IT stuff so that's good. Servers and … I don't know. I don't even know what they are.

Peter Nelson:
I guess if you're not sort of doing it every day, but once … Same for you guys, you do accounting every day and bookkeeping, it's second nature to you.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, yeah. Exactly. And so Urban IT Services is the amalgamation of your two skillsets and passion for business. Do you want to just tell us a little bit about that before we dive into our topic?

Peter Nelson:
Sure.

James Gatward:
Okay. Through Facebook, as we were discussing before, and Business, Business, Business. That wonderful group.

Amy Hooke:
Yes.

James Gatward:
By Linda and Clyde, fantastic. Shout out to them.

Amy Hooke:
Yes, yes.

James Gatward:
I met Peter. I had been seeing posts by Peter, interacting a little bit. We'd chatted a few times. Peter also helped me with some stuff I was having issues with for the client. Then it dawned on the both of us, that actually my web clients are often needing more than website support and help.

Amy Hooke:
So true.

James Gatward:
And then vice versa for Peter. His bigger customer were needing some more SEO driven help, or maybe specific website or web hosting help. And so this thing just kept popping up over and over again in client meetings and things like that. And so we're just like, “Look, we're both in Melbourne. We're both passionate about this stuff. Let's put our skillset together and do it.”

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, why not.

James Gatward:
It's cool.

Amy Hooke:
That's great. So your business is Urban IT Services.

James Gatward:
Yes.

Amy Hooke:
And then your group, your Facebook group … I'll share a link to your profiles and your group and everything, but your group's IT Business Help Melbourne and Australia.

James Gatward:
Yes.

Amy Hooke:
So when did you start? That's been there for a couple of months I guess?

James Gatward:
Yeah, that's quite new, probably-

Amy Hooke:
Quite new, yeah.

James Gatward:
Look, three or four months maybe?

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, okay. Well I'll post the link and if any of the bookkeepers want to jump in there and join that, they can.

James Gatward:
Lovely.

Amy Hooke:
Fantastic. All right. I guess we can jump in to talking a little bit about the topic. The topic is around the impact that offshoring has had on the IT industry, and I guess as you guys share things I'll see if I can try and join the dots between what's happening for bookkeepers. But from the way I can see it is that the IT industry is much further along in that journey, so I don't know … I mean when did it become evident to you guys that offshore IT was really seriously becoming a thing?

Peter Nelson:
For me, I just noticed when I started calling a lot of the vendors, and also people like Telstra and things. I just noticed they'd started shifting and their call centres have gone over to … I think maybe India or the Philippines.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, okay.

Peter Nelson:
And then I've noticed in a lot of our-

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, because when was that? When do you reckon … I'm trying to think when we noticed it as maybe outsiders.

Peter Nelson:
Probably in the last maybe two to three years I reckon. Just a ballpark figure, but yeah. In a sense just sort of snuck in there and yeah.

Amy Hooke:
Yep. Yeah, because you started out as helpdesk and that kind of thing.

Peter Nelson:
Yeah, exactly. So I was looking after close to about 50 or 60, like big staff clients. So you'd always have to call MyoD, and all the vendors and stuff for support. I just noticed that they started to shift overseas. Then they tried to automate a lot of things as well.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, okay. So the big companies were moving first and then … yeah. Okay, and so what's-

Peter Nelson:
Pretty much how it starts.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, that's right. That's right. And then-

Peter Nelson:
Big ones start and then the little ones follow.

Amy Hooke:
Yep. Yep. I just want to get a bit of a picture of what did it look like within the IT community. I mean, I don't know … I assume the IT community meet online, because that's the cool place to meet if you're into online stuff. I don't know if … Do you guys have Facebook communities or you have like-

Peter Nelson:
There is a few, yeah.

Amy Hooke:
… IRC communities, or whatever they're … What's thing called? Like that chat?

Peter Nelson:
Yeah, used to be … Is it ICQ? I'm not sure anymore.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah. Secret networks and stuff.

Peter Nelson:
We're a member of Facebook groups as well, dedicated to IT guys.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, okay. And so did you start to see these things cropping up in conversations? Or did people put … like what we do. We do screenshots. Like, “Look! This person's offering bookkeeping for $3 an hour. How can they afford that?” That sort of thing and then everyone-

Peter Nelson:
A little of that, yeah. I think people ask, because they know certain providers and things like that. Yeah, there's always questions.

Amy Hooke:
Okay, so it's-

Peter Nelson:
Some people don't like the answers, some people do.

Amy Hooke:
Yes. That's right. That's right. So what would you say … When it sort of first started coming out, were people getting upset about it? I mean I guess … I don't know. I'm going to make an assumption here that the IT industry is more male.

Peter Nelson:
You'd be surprised actually.

Amy Hooke:
Is it? It's changed across now?

Peter Nelson:
Yeah. There's probably more male but-

Amy Hooke:
Is it 50/50? Yeah, okay.

Peter Nelson:
Maybe a little bit more towards male side, but I've actually met a few female IT entrepreneurs and they're doing really well.

Amy Hooke:
That's good. That's good, because I think the accounting industry … So in the accounting industry, we've got about 50/50 now in the accounting industry as a whole.

Peter Nelson:
That's good.

Amy Hooke:
But in the business ownership, so owning practises, it's still very heavily male. Like probably in the 90% or more. Whereas in the bookkeeping industry, we're 85% female, so obviously … I mean most of the bookkeeping practises are owned by women, so it's quite different in that sense. But I don't know, I guess I was just … I'm sort of trying to get a picture of these Facebook groups. The demographic in our Facebook groups are very highly female, although we have quite …

Amy Hooke:
I think we've got about 25% male listeners, so I was thinking, “Where's that extra 10% of guys coming from in the accounting industry who are listing to the podcast.” It's quite interesting, there's a bit of a shift happening there as well. Just trying …

Peter Nelson:
That matches up with my … I look after a few accounting firms in previous jobs and they were all predominately male owners. Then I've got a few bookkeepers as well, and yeah, it's the same.

Amy Hooke:
Same, yeah.

Peter Nelson:
I see what you're saying.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, so we've sort of got these groups. Obviously the ladies spot, “There's someone out here and they're a competitor.” They're doing all these things to try to figure out … I don't know if guys do the same thing.

Peter Nelson:
Yeah. No, it's always good to know your competition.

James Gatward:
Absolutely.

Amy Hooke:
Yes.

James Gatward:
I think what's been interesting the most, is we're now … and especially with IT, especially with websites, SEO, the whole suite of things is the price point. It's just for people, that is truly the bottom line, price point. What will this cost me?

Amy Hooke:
Yes.

James Gatward:
And that's been a very interesting thing to see change. You know? Because, yes I know that you can jump on YouTube and look up Office 365 tutorials, and that's fine.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah.

James Gatward:
But there will be a call out fee to come and fix it, because you're calling us for our …

Amy Hooke:
Yes.

James Gatward:
So it's an interesting …

Amy Hooke:
Yeah. The call out fee. That's something that's different to our industry. That would be something that you guys have to implement otherwise … Because you sort of think, anyone who's got a friend who's an IT person is always like, “Oh hey, can you just help me with this?” And I guess you'd get asked … Camera's going off there.

Amy Hooke:
Everyone's got this IT friend who they're asking for free advice. It does happen a bit with bookkeepers. We get … You tell someone you're a bookkeeping and they go, “Oh, can you do my tax return?” It's like, “No, we don't do tax returns. We specialise in GST.” But yeah, so the call out fee is not really a common thing in our industry.

James Gatward:
Sure.

Amy Hooke:
I guess in your industry it would probably happen quite a bit more. And so yeah, that's actually an interesting thing to kind of look at. When you're talking about pricing … I mean how do IT consultants charge for their service? Do you charge packages, or do you do hourly billing, or do you do a bit of both?

Peter Nelson:
Yeah. We like to … We come in and we meet a business and we go through all of their IT services, web hosting-

James Gatward:
That's right.

Peter Nelson:
… your emails, your backups. We like to create a fixed monthly fee.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, okay. So you sort of do a high level bit of an audit of the system structure and everything.

Peter Nelson:
Manage all, but a bundle packaged together.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, okay. So they'd sort of pick out … You'd give them a quote and then they can pick which bits they want you to manage, and that kind of thing?

Peter Nelson:
Yeah.

Amy Hooke:
Okay.

James Gatward:
And we try-

Peter Nelson:
Helps them budget as well.

James Gatward:
That's right. And we try to tailor it to their … So if they're a 50 person sized business, obviously it's going to be different to a three to four staff company.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah.

Peter Nelson:
Tailored to the business.

James Gatward:
Yeah, that's right.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, okay. Okay, so you saw a change in prices when the offshoring became more popular. Because I mean, are a lot of business owners going directly to offshore providers now rather than going to a local company to … What's the sort of structure of it? Are people going directly overseas or are they going through middle providers. How does it work?

Peter Nelson:
For the IT side of things, for the computers and servers, I think they still prefer that sort of local presence.

Amy Hooke:
Yes.

Peter Nelson:
Because if something goes wrong, you've got someone there who's … You've got that piece of mind that someone can just hop in. Whereas if it was overseas, I'm not sure what would actually happen there.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, okay.

Peter Nelson:
But with those guys, I think that would mostly … a lot of people wouldn't go overseas.

James Gatward:
Yeah, it's an interesting one but it's definitely the topic of conversation. How much is all this stuff going to cost us? A few of the companies that we engage with, their son or a friend of theirs has set up the IT.

Amy Hooke:
Oh yeah.

James Gatward:
You know?

Amy Hooke:
Yeah.

James Gatward:
And that's fine to start, but longterm you need an investment.

Amy Hooke:
Definitely. Yeah, that's right. There is a real similarity there as well. It's similar in bookkeeping, you maybe have a family member who sets things up and then you kind of have to come in, maybe do a little bit of a rescue job and set things up correctly. I think it is a certain point in a business, because I'm thinking of … I run two companies, one's a bookkeeping business and the other one is our business that actually we work directly with bookkeepers. We mainly help them with their pricing. We also do web design as well, but we're really helping book keepers to actually price their services. So it's interesting what you also said about pricing and obviously the family member setting things up, and that kind of thing.

Amy Hooke:
Obviously, when you first start your business you want to save as much money as possible and then … So you're sort of DIYing as much as you can, and then you reach a point where it becomes too complicated or too time consuming. So what is that point for a business owner? What sort so sized businesses need an external IT provider? What's your sort of ideal client?

Peter Nelson:
I've noticed the same. You get your cousin or someone to come in and set up your IT and stuff, and then I reckon that as soon as you get to the point where you need to hire people, I think that's where you need to start looking at … But it's also good to have those systems in place before you start scaling I guess.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, to start sort of thinking about it. Yeah, okay. And so are most of your clients … I mean are your IT clients … Are you onsite with clients, or are you remote?

Peter Nelson:
We always like to-

Amy Hooke:
Or a bit of both?

Peter Nelson:
A bit of both. Some I do remotely but majority where they have an office or something, I do like to just pop in their office maybe once a month just to have a meeting and go through how their business is going. Yeah, it's important to have that relationship I reckon.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, exactly. And then when you've got your … I guess with your onsite work, I mean that's something that an offshore company can't replicated.

Peter Nelson:
Exactly, yeah.

Amy Hooke:
The level of service or the type of service that you can give when you're …

Peter Nelson:
Yeah, we're very big on customer service and rolling out the red carpet and making everything go smoothly.

Amy Hooke:
It's good.

Peter Nelson:
You can't sort of do that over the phone I guess.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, exactly.

James Gatward:
There's also a lot to be said for accountability and shaking hands with people.

Peter Nelson:
Yeah… Presence as well.

James Gatward:
Just that traditional, good old physical presence. If somebody living in the same city as you, might even be sharing the same interests of say a sport like AFL or whatever.

Amy Hooke:
Yep.

James Gatward:
It just gives people just that feeling of, “Okay credibility. We like these people. We like working with them.”

Amy Hooke:
Yes. I do remember when we first met you, and then I think you and my husband talked about rugby for quite a while.

James Gatward:
Yes.

Amy Hooke:
I was like, “what they're talking about.” I don't even know if it was rugby. I don't know if that's the right name for it, so I apologise if it's not.

Amy Hooke:
Good, good. Yeah, okay, great. What else do you feel has changed in the industry since people have been going offshore? What have been the other impacts on your business? Has it effected you, or not really? Sort of somewhere in the middle?

Peter Nelson:
Another big shift I've noticed lately is a lot of people used to just buy things outright, now that's sort of shifted into this subscription model where you've got to pay the monthly fees.

Amy Hooke:
Yes, totally.

Peter Nelson:
Everything like Spotify, and Dropbox, and … It just gets out of control. Yeah, so we try…

Amy Hooke:
It really adds up.

Peter Nelson:
It does get very daunting as a business owner.

Amy Hooke:
Well it seems good at first because you think, “Ooh, I can get these amazing programmes for just $15.”

Peter Nelson:
Correct, yeah.

Amy Hooke:
But then what happens is you're like, “Oh, but I need this. And I need this. And I need this.” And then you end up with so many of them, and then you've got to do sort of a little bit of a cull. Yeah. I mentioned this, I think, James you'd come and introduce yourself in an accountants Facebook group, and then I responded to you about … I think you were asking about does anyone have any specific IT issues, and one of the things I was talking about is how you can end up with this whole system of all of these different apps and then you find …

Amy Hooke:
And for me, the massive issue, or the biggest mistake that I made with our IT that cost us … Oh my gosh, I don't even want to think about how much money it ended up costing us in the longterm. What we did, because as a bookkeeper, I'm like, “Okay, obviously Xero is the centre of the universe.” So in my world of IT I'm like, “I'm just going to look for add-ons that integrate with Xero.” Everything has to integrate with Xero. But what I started to realise is, as the business grew it's like, “Well the accounting software doesn't need to be the centre of everything.” And then I realised, “Okay, we needed actually really good CRM.” And so we made an investment in implementing HubSpot into our business.

James Gatward:
That's quite good.

Amy Hooke:
That's when I realised, for us … Oh my gosh. I remember when I first looked at it and I nearly died when I saw the price. I was like, “What! This can't be happening. No one pays that much.” But I realised how much money I would have saved if I'd just signed up for it on the first day. And so I think we've just finished moving from ActiveCampaign to HubSpot. Myself and our tech person, who's an internal employee. Her and I, we logged 90 hours between us to migrate our CRM. I'm just like, “Oh my gosh.”

Amy Hooke:
We told HubSpot, they were super interested to hear that. But what I've realised now is because we've shifted platforms so many times because we were trying to centre everything around Xero, which doesn't really have much to do with most of it.

James Gatward:
Sure.

Amy Hooke:
And now that we've got HubSpot as that centre point, we've not got a little connection of software platforms that we don't ever have to change for the entire life of our business. And we've been able to cull all of these extra things.

Peter Nelson:
Yeah.

Amy Hooke:
So I realised, for us as a customer-centric business, our CRM and our project management tool, these are two critical tools in the business that need to be the centre rather than the accounting software. Big, expensive, painful lesson learned there. But I guess you sort of … When you start, everything's trial and error and then you like …

Peter Nelson:
Absolutely. Yeah.

Amy Hooke:
Oh my gosh.

James Gatward:
For sure. In a way, that also relates to something that we see where we'll talk to a company and, great, they sign up with us. Excellent, that's fine. Then we go to the point of onboarding them, and then when we onboard them we need to contact one person for the domain name. The second person we need to contact for the host. The third person does all the passwords to Office 365. The whole thing is just a big, big mess.

James Gatward:
And so me and Peter's thing is that we streamline all them to one account. You've got everything.

Amy Hooke:
Yes.

James Gatward:
Should the day every come-

Peter Nelson:
You always know who to talk to.

James Gatward:
Exactly. Should the day every come where we need to handover something, or whatever it may be, it's James and Peter. Urban IT Services are looking after the lot. It just makes it so easy.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, definitely does. Definitely. And so it's cool because we sort of started talking about offshoring and that type of thing, but it seems to me like you guys have really been able to make it work. The offshoring's come in and it hasn't been the end of the world. Life has gone on as business owners and you've been able to make it work for you, and you still continue to give that personalised service, which is great. And I think that's a great thing to be able to share with our audience in that I guess it doesn't have to be as scary a thing as everybody thinks it is because …

Amy Hooke:
James, you mentioned security is a big thing for you, specifically website security. Obviously security, that's a topic that a lot of bookkeepers are concerned about, especially when people talk about offshoring because we say, “Is it safe to have our data offshore?” And that kind of thing. So do you want to just talk a little bit about security? I mean, I don't know. You said you were passionate about that topic in the email. Why do you love security so much? What's so cool about it?

James Gatward:
So for me, it's as you mentioned. It's security of websites more so, and then Peter can then touch on the more server-side and data management and stuff. I love it because it's something that's perceived as quite scary, but it's actually really easy to if you have a website, like a WordPress website, can lock it down rock solid just using some free plugins, you know?

Amy Hooke:
Yes.

James Gatward:
And a few little bits and pieces that you can pick off googling the information. You can also tighten up things like user passwords that you're using on WordPress. I mean how many times do we see admin1234? It's frightening.

Amy Hooke:
Note to self, change password.

James Gatward:
Exactly. But then there's also-

Amy Hooke:
I have done that before.

James Gatward:
Look-

Amy Hooke:
I don't know.

James Gatward:
Look, we're all guilty of that for sure. And then there's the other side of “security” which is backups, because if you've got a solid backup regime in place, security just sort of becomes like the byproduct of that.

Amy Hooke:
Okay.

James Gatward:
Because if you're backed up and there is a breach, you just rollback, re-harden and you're good.

Amy Hooke:
Yes. Yeah.

James Gatward:
In a nutshell.

Amy Hooke:
Yes. Yeah, we've definitely enjoyed having websites backed up at certain moments in time. I don't know how many times I've crashed our website but quite a few times. I'll just go … I'm a big fan … Our tech person always says to me, she's like … Her motto is, “Don't delete anything.” I just love deleting stuff. I'm like, “Let's tidy things up. Delete. Delete. Delete.” When I was 10 years old, Dad bought me a Mac. I was like, “Oh my gosh, I love this computer.” So I explore all the files. I'm like, “Ooh, what's in here? What's in here?”

Amy Hooke:
I'm like, “This looks so messy and unorganised.” So I'd just delete stuff and then the computer would die and Dad would have to take it to the IT shop.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, that's right. Like, “Yeah, you deleted some system folders.” He's like, “Okay, don't do that again.” I'm like, “Oh, what's this file that's like 5?$.” Like all of these weird numbers and stuff. It's like, “Oh, we don't need that.” So I've crashed out website quite a few times. It's a bit of a scary experience when you first do it. You're just like, “Oh my gosh. I've just deleted my whole life.”

James Gatward:
I think for those running an internal server that's storing a whole heap of data and things like that, that's an even more scary thing to crash.

Amy Hooke:
Yes.

James Gatward:
If you're running a 50 person business and all the emails go down or they're hacked …

Amy Hooke:
Yes.

Peter Nelson:
I've seen that before and it's, yeah.

James Gatward:
Yeah, exactly.

Peter Nelson:
It's not a… It's scary.

Amy Hooke:
Definitely. Definitely. Exactly. And I guess the only thing I can relate it to is we've got … What's it called? Google Drive. I set everything up on Google Drive, and then I realised one day … Didn't realise until after somebody deleted something. After it was deleted I realised Google Drive doesn't back up onto your hard drive backup.

Peter Nelson:
Yup.

Amy Hooke:
That was the first day … Before that, I never really cared that much about security and backups, but until something actually happens, it's a really scary thought. You just think … And for me, what it was … The other thing is all the contractors come in and they log in with their own email address, and then they leave and they take all the files with them, and all sorts of things. You start to realise, “Oh my gosh. We're getting bigger as a business here. We can't just let our contractors leave with all our documents. And we can't just have our files disappear and then not be able to get them again.” You reach a point where you're like, “Oh my gosh, this is scary. What do I do?”

Peter Nelson:
Yeah, I've noticed that with a lot of smaller … like when people are just starting out they use Dropbox and Google Drive. They think that's the backup, but it's not actually. It's actually a backup.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, exactly. I guess you see all of these sorts of newbie mistakes all over the place. And so, yeah. I guess something that's happening in the bookkeeping industry at the moment is people … because everyone is very security conscious, what they're doing is they're investing in these software platforms where you can put all of your stuff inside it. It's like … I don't know if you've heard of Practise Protect, for example.

Peter Nelson:
Yeah, I've heard of that.

Amy Hooke:
It's a central login, where once you login there everything else is kind of inside it. I don't really understand how it works but do-

Peter Nelson:
Yeah…

Amy Hooke:
Yeah. What do you think of those types of things? I mean obviously …

Peter Nelson:
Yeah, I think it's a good idea.

Amy Hooke:
Are they helpful?

Peter Nelson:
Yeah. It protects … Like if an employee leaves you can … You don't have to-

Amy Hooke:
You just change one password.

Peter Nelson:
Yeah, exactly. In a way, we're kind of doing a similar sort of scenario where you create a cloud server and you can have single logins to that and they can get all their emails and all their data and it's all in a bubble. Yeah, in a similar way but obviously not quite as advanced as them.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, okay. I mean how do respond to … I mean do you get clients who are really scared about technology? Or putting things in the cloud?

Peter Nelson:
Yes, that's another-

Amy Hooke:
Like, “Where's it going to go? Is it safe?” What kind of concerns do you get from people?

Peter Nelson:
They just want to know, one, where their data's being kept.

Amy Hooke:
Yep.

Peter Nelson:
That's most important. If you're storing your data in a … say it's a US based company. Your data's actually in another country so there's all different regulations and laws and things like …

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, okay.

Peter Nelson:
I'd like to know where my data's stored. That's usually a major concern. For us, we pick local companies where …

James Gatward:
That's right.

Peter Nelson:
We've got a data centre in Melbourne which we use. So we make sure it's all kept local and they know where it is.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, okay. So obviously that's important to a lot of people. And then you've probably got people who just don't really know or don't really think about it, because we live in a cloud world where a lot of people will just … you know? I don't know, you just … I mean think 10 years ago, who would have put their credit card on the internet? Whereas now, everyone just puts their credit card on the internet. It's like, “Whatever.”

Amy Hooke:
You sort of get used to it and you don't really think about it until something goes wrong.

Peter Nelson:
Thing is, you sign up for Facebook or something, you're already putting your information out there. Yeah, times have changed.

James Gatward:
And the old adage, that old chestnut of, “That won't happen to me.”

Amy Hooke:
Yes, that's right.

James Gatward:
Until it does. And then-

Amy Hooke:
Until it does, that's right. Yeah, exactly.

Peter Nelson:
Office 365 is another big one as well. People always used to have their own mail servers in their office now and it's all moved to the cloud, although … Yeah, has been a really good change I find.

James Gatward:
And what's interesting too though is there's also the other side of what happens when a staff member, say, leaves?

Amy Hooke:
Yes.

James Gatward:
We want to be able to say, I don't know, recover some of the data that they were sending, or maybe emails that they sent, or-

Peter Nelson:
It's important to back them up as well.

James Gatward:
Exactly, and we want to make sure that it's all systems go for us but they're locked out. Just little things like that.

Peter Nelson:
Yeah, something that has checklists and processes in place.

James Gatward:
Yeah, that's right.

Peter Nelson:
I've actually seen someone … Like they lost their job and they still had access to their computer and they fully deleted all their emails and things.

Amy Hooke:
Oh my gosh.

Peter Nelson:
But yeah, that happens. Then they start copying all the data off the server.

Amy Hooke:
Oh my god. Yeah, you don't even think about this, do you?

Peter Nelson:
You've got to have system in place to action.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, that's right. And I guess the bigger the company gets, the bigger the risks are. You might have employees get upset or …

Peter Nelson:
I guess to some degree, if you're outsourcing to an offshore place, you don't know are they trustworthy? There's a bit off, what do you do there?

James Gatward:
And do they care?

Amy Hooke:
Yeah.

James Gatward:
They could quite easily wash their hands of it. Being in another country it's not their concern. They get up and have their day as normal. Whereas for us, yes of course we care. It's our whole-

Peter Nelson:
We almost feel a part of the business that week look after, like we're an employee.

James Gatward:
That's right. It's our livelihood, it's our … Yeah.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, that's true. I mean that's something that I think about working with … I mean, I'm not against working with overseas or offshore workers. We have some overseas team members on our team and that kind of thing. We do work with some various providers. I mean some people say, “Well every software platform that you're using has their data in the US, or in Asia, or wherever the servers …” Some people wouldn't really know, unless you're reading all the terms and conditions on everything that you join, where your data is.

Amy Hooke:
But I think there is a little bit of a feeling of when you're working with an offshore provider you think, “If that person just decided to stop responding to my messages, for example, there's absolutely nothing you can do.”

James Gatward:
Yeah.

Peter Nelson:
That's right.

Amy Hooke:
There's not really even … It's like who can you call? Or who can you … if you wanted to … Let's say it happened here and someone stopped calling you, there's ways to take legal action or to follow up on things, whereas there's sort of a blank sport in my mind of what happens … I don't know. I'll just make up an example. What happens if a bookkeeper changes the password on a Xero file. That probably couldn't happen, but let's say something like that happened. They changed the password and then they just disappeared and then you can't actually find them.

Peter Nelson:
That happens a lot with websites.

James Gatward:
Yes.

Peter Nelson:
The website guy just goes AWOL, and people are stuck, can't do anything.

Amy Hooke:
That's right.

James Gatward:
Then a rescue job.

Peter Nelson:
Yeah, and that's one thing that we're big on as well, having everything documented and we actually give it to the owner of the business and say, “Your login. This is …” Everything-

James Gatward:
Full transparency.

Peter Nelson:
Yeah.

James Gatward:
Full transparency.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, that's good. Yeah, to me that's … Seeing it from the perspective of a different industry helps to … It just helps it to give it a bit more depth because you sort of get in this place where you're like … I don't know. It becomes a little bit about … Obviously, as bookkeepers we can be like, “I feel threatened by someone who's charging less than me and I don't know how to explain myself to somebody else, to help them to see the value in that.”

Peter Nelson:
Yeah.

Amy Hooke:
How do I explain to a business owner, if I want to charge 80 or 100 dollars an hour and someone else is offering it for 15 bucks or 10 bucks an hour, how do I explain that to them that I'm at least 10 times more value than that?

Peter Nelson:
Yeah.

Amy Hooke:
How do you explain that? How do you guys explain that? If someone says-

Peter Nelson:
Actually, I'll tell you a story. The other day I did a job and I was there for 10 minutes and still charged the full hour. He was like, “Why is it a whole hour?” I'm like, “You're paying for the 20 years of experience that I know how to fix that problem in 10 minutes.”

Amy Hooke:
Yes.

Peter Nelson:
And so I just showed the value of my expertise and that's why … And then he's like, “No worries.” And then he paid it straight.

Amy Hooke:
Okay.

James Gatward:
It's like when you lock your keys into your car and you have to call somebody, and all they bring is an old coat hanger. But they're the person that drove out there with the coat hanger because you didn't have it.

Peter Nelson:
And the knowledge of where to …

James Gatward:
And the knowledge of…

Amy Hooke:
And the bit where you …

James Gatward:
Yes, it's something you could have done yourself, but you didn't, couldn't or wouldn't.

Peter Nelson:
Yeah, you're paying for the …

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, okay. And do you find you have to have the conversation very often? Like when you give someone a quote, do you ever have someone say … like challenge you about your fees? Or complain?

Peter Nelson:
I've sort of developed the process of an assessment, like when someone comes along and we ask certain questions. We get a feel whether they're the right … Not everyone's the right fit for us.

Amy Hooke:
No.

James Gatward:
It's for them.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, that's right.

Peter Nelson:
Some people are really focused on being the cheapest price, but we're more about providing the value.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, so you don't take it personally.

Peter Nelson:
No, absolutely.

James Gatward:
No.

Amy Hooke:
Some people just want cheap price and some people don't.

James Gatward:
Exactly. We totally understand that and we're quite happy they can go someone else.

Peter Nelson:
And they may come back later on.

James Gatward:
Exactly. Every now and then we get a phone call going, “Okay, actually this didn't work out. Come onboard.”

Amy Hooke:
Yeah.

Peter Nelson:
Yeah, and sometimes it takes them time to grow their business to a point where they go, “Okay. We need your services now.”

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, well that's right.

Peter Nelson:
… argue. As you said, just want to do it yourself.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, that's right. I guess when you're starting out you're trying to save as much money as possible, and if you've got to choose between paying an IT person or paying a marketing person to get some sales in the door, or something like that, you're always looking at, “Right. How do I prioritise spending this money and what's going to get me the best return.” And so I think things like IT, and things like bookkeeping, they're quite similar in terms of people don't necessarily see the immediate return. It's not like sales. It's not like I spend a dollar and I get $10 back. It feels like I'm spending $100 and I'm not even getting a dollar for this.

Amy Hooke:
Until something bad happens, then it's worth it. But it's sort of like insurance in that sense. It's like, “Why do I have to pay all these fees?”

Peter Nelson:
Yeah…And then hopefully something goes wrong so I can get my money's worth.

Peter Nelson:
Exactly, yeah. It's like you've got to invest into it rather than think of it as a bill.

James Gatward:
It's an investment.

Peter Nelson:
Into your business.

James Gatward:
It's not a cost to your business, it's an investment to your business.

Peter Nelson:
Yeah.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, okay. In the IT industry, is there any regulation or anything like that? So for example, in our industry we had … A minimum standard was introduced, which is a bookkeeper has to be a BAS agent in order to do certain tasks within the bookkeeping function. Is there any kind of regulation or minimum requirements in the industry?

Peter Nelson:
It's an iffy sort of subject.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah.

Peter Nelson:
I did my TAFE courses, and I've done a few online courses on things but there's no, “You need to have this level of … ”

Amy Hooke:
No. Yeah, okay.

Peter Nelson:
But I found having the hands-on experience far more valuable than the actual-

Amy Hooke:
Than the qualification.

Peter Nelson:
… doing the course.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, so true. So true. Okay, and then-

Peter Nelson:
Got to have that life …

Amy Hooke:
Exactly, yeah. And obviously web design, I mean I guess anyone can … These days you can anyway because back in the day you used to have to know how to code, whereas now you just instal the Divi Builder and click away. That's good. And so-

Peter Nelson:
I was going to say, at my previous job I had to train up people. There's people that come straight out of a course and they'd done all this stuff, but they just had no life experience. So the person who had the life experience, they just excelled really well.

Amy Hooke:
Well that's right.

Peter Nelson:
Yeah.

Amy Hooke:
We're you going to say something James?

James Gatward:
I was just going to say, yeah, that's exactly right. You can have all the accreditation in the world, but if you haven't been in a-

Peter Nelson:
You've got to have the people skills and …

James Gatward:
Exactly. And if you haven't been in a disaster recovery situation-

Amy Hooke:
I was about to say.

James Gatward:
You know?

Amy Hooke:
Yeah. You have to have gone through the things that go wrong, the things that can go wrong so that you know how to handle them when they do go wrong sort of thing as well. Yeah, you can't learn that anywhere. And so, okay great.

Amy Hooke:
I mean with web design, I guess a little bit back on the offshoring topic, I mean webdesign has been … I don't know. Has there been a different timing with actual IT services versus webdesign being overseas? I mean there's been a big influx of … There's a lot of people in India and the Philippines. Mostly India doing sort of web stuff, web development, coding.

Peter Nelson:
Yeah.

Amy Hooke:
Like on-

James Gatward:
I personally think that that's been happening for quite a bit longer.

Amy Hooke:
Longer, yeah.

Peter Nelson:
Yep.

James Gatward:
And look, I get it. I totally understand that there's a place for it. I mean we've all started a business, saved some money and in the process grown the business.

Amy Hooke:
Absolutely.

James Gatward:
I think too, outsourcing has raised the bar because it's had to.

Amy Hooke:
Yes.

James Gatward:
Raised the bar on the expectation for those local providers. The only downside of it too is it's also considerably brought the price point, sorry, the investment point, down significantly. A couple of years ago it was much easier to sell a two and a half, three and a half grand website with all the mod cons, SEO, digital marketing.

Amy Hooke:
Yep.

James Gatward:
Now, you mention to people two grand, and it's, “Wow, two grand?”

Amy Hooke:
Like, “Oh, two grand?”

James Gatward:
You know?

Amy Hooke:
Yeah.

Peter Nelson:
– or something.

James Gatward:
Exactly. My cousin's-

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, Airtasker. You can get a website for $50.

Peter Nelson:
Airtasker as well, yeah. Absolutely.

James Gatward:
Exactly. And again, that's totally fine. That's all … I get it, you know?

Amy Hooke:
Yeah.

James Gatward:
But yeah, no, I think it's-

Peter Nelson:
We do a lot with virtual receptionists and things like that where they take your calls for you and stuff. We've noticed that has become quite popular lately.

James Gatward:
True. True.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah.

Peter Nelson:
And to some degree in IT, I've seen a few … Like the helpdesk part of their business, they've outsourced that to a call centre. That is often offshore as well.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah.

Peter Nelson:
But you don't want to put everything offshore, I wouldn't think.

James Gatward:
No.

Amy Hooke:
No. I mean I like what you said. It sounds sensible about having your servers locally. I guess that gives people a really sense of security, sense of trustworthiness to your company as well. What about you James, do you do your hosting here as well?

James Gatward:
Yeah. Either Melbourne or Sydney based servers. Yeah, I do.

Amy Hooke:
It's quicker too, which is good.

James Gatward:
It is quicker too. That's right. And I'm completely transparent with people about, if you want to look up where this is hosted you can. You can do so. If you wish to move you can do so. So yeah.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, I've seen you're quite big on that. Because it's quite difficult, like you were saying before, when you come into a company and all their stuff's with all these different providers and everything, and then you've got situation where web designers are actually holding the client hostage to their hosting services and things like that.

James Gatward:
Pretty much.

Amy Hooke:
It's not good.

James Gatward:
Crazy stuff.

Amy Hooke:
I think that's something that I like the fact that … I've seen you mention that quite a few times in Facebook groups. I like the fact that you have that openness to be able to allow them to come and go, and things like that. You're not … you know?

Peter Nelson:
Yeah

Amy Hooke:
That gives people confidence as well.

James Gatward:
Exactly. And look, not every relationship that you have in your life will work out.

Amy Hooke:
That's right. Well that's right, exactly. Sometimes you're going to want to go to a new website.

James Gatward:
Exactly. And that's not personal. I think approaching it from that angle … Yeah, it's good. But this comes back to the offshoring. The offshoring has brought in that need to operate like that.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, that's right and to be able to … Because one thing we say in the bookkeeping industry is … We sort of … It's a little bit of a defensiveness, like, “I shouldn't have to justify my value to you.” But I try and say now … I used to say that myself, but I've gone through such an experience of going to run a business that's not a bookkeeping business, and have experience of what it's like to be a business owner trying to hire a bookkeeper and going through those processes myself and just sort of seeing it from the other person's perspective.

Peter Nelson:
Exactly, yeah.

Amy Hooke:
And so I think that's really helpful. I mean I think it's great what you guys have done, and it seems to me … I mean it seems like you've come through the offshoring changes relatively unscathed, and you seem to have a very positive attitude. You're not sort of looking at it like a negative thing, which is fantastic.

Peter Nelson:
Sure.

Amy Hooke:
And so I guess just to finish up, what advice would you give to bookkeeper who's potentially maybe still stuck in that space of feeling like, “Oh my gosh, how do I compete with these cheaper providers? How do explain my value to the client? How do I compete? How do I not compete on price?” What advice would you give?

James Gatward:
Okay, thanks.

Amy Hooke:
James, you go.

James Gatward:
For me personally, it's offering something that is so jam-packed full of value that you can't say no.

Amy Hooke:
They can't say no. I love that.

Peter Nelson:
The red carpet treatment.

James Gatward:
Basically that red carpet. Yes, you can go to somebody overseas for $7 an hour, but will they pick up the phone at 3:00 PM on a Sunday when their-

Amy Hooke:
I thought you were going to say 3:00 AM.

James Gatward:
Well …

Amy Hooke:
Maybe.

James Gatward:
But yeah, exactly. I mean-

Peter Nelson:
It's giving that wow factor that makes …

Amy Hooke:
Yeah.

Peter Nelson:
Blow everyone else out the water that price won't even be an issue.

James Gatward:
But also too in a sense, and this might sound a bit strange. Also too, ignoring what others are doing and just completely focusing and staying in your own lane. What happens when you do that? Something happens in the air and it just seems-

Peter Nelson:
You just become…

James Gatward:
It just seems to work itself out.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah.

James Gatward:
I know it sounds a little bit … a bit odd.

Amy Hooke:
It makes sense. It makes sense and it does come back to what you said before about not every client's a good fit for us.

James Gatward:
Correct.

Peter Nelson:
Exactly.

James Gatward:
Yeah.

Amy Hooke:
Yeah, great. Love it. Well thank you guys for joining me today. It's been very insightful to hear that other perspective, but also to see how well you guys have come out of this, and that you've come together with your two complementary skills in the IT industry. I'd love to invite our community to come and check out your Facebook groups. I will post that in there. If there's anything else that you want to share with the group. If you have any … I don't know. I guess that you mentioned that you do provide services to bookkeepers and accountants and that kind of thing, so if you've got anything that you'd like to share with our audience, feel free to send that through and I'll pop the links in the helpful notes.

Peter Nelson:
Awesome.

Amy Hooke:
Thank you again for your time.

James Gatward:
Thank you very much for having us.

Peter Nelson:
Thank you.

Amy Hooke:
No worries.

James Gatward:
It has been a lot of fun.

Amy Hooke:
It has been. Thank you so much. All right guys, well I will see you all next week. Have a wonderful week and enjoy your weekend. See you later.

Peter Nelson:
Cheers.