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In Dynamic Business’s Time to Move Beyond Basic Accounting Software webinar, Robert Pizzie, co-founder and CEO of Easy Living Home Elevators, discusses what it took for him to grow a business to national scale and how he overcame various challenges along the way.
Robert started Easy Living Home Elevators in 1998, when the elevator market was dominated by a handful of large multinational companies. Daunting, to be sure, but with a combination of technical experience in the industry and sheer determination, it didn’t take too long for the company to start making big moves.
“We sold 3 lifts in the year 2000 and we thought we were doing okay. In 2001, we went back to our long-term supplier and said we were prepared to be a distributor in Australia. They told us if we sell 20 units next year, we’d have the distributorship. We sold 28 units in 2001 and 48 units in 2002. From there, we just kept growing,” Mr Pizzie said.
The sudden and unexpected growth meant that Robert and his team had to keep up with the demands of a rapidly growing business: from expanding cross-country and acquiring competitors, to hiring new staff and adapting novel systems.
Mr Pizzie explained: “We’ve got five offices now and we’re looking at opening a sixth before the end of this year. We have bought four other businesses on our journey. The opportunity to take on companies that have either opted to get out of the industry or have made some bad business decisions is always on the agenda for us.”
As part of the new cross-office collaboration and coordination requirements, Robert reflects on making a series of changes including switching from paper to digital document-keeping and incorporating new enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions like Oracle NetSuite.
“We’re a typical business that started off with our own MYOB, accounting software, a series of checklists and approvals on paper – but you really do have to make sure that your internal controls are up to scratch,” Mr Pizzie said.
“It’s a big step to change your entire platform that you work on. Your systems have to be robust enough and controlling enough to make sure that things like mandatory fields are put in place.
“In a world of scarce resources, you’ve got to make sure that you’re getting bang for your buck. The ability to automate your processes and still get the vital information out of it is the first priority of where we’re heading in our next phase of growth.”
Lifting his business to new heights
Robert says the switch to NetSuite means being part of a community of developers, apps and solutions and having a platform that can be adapted to the needs of businesses in various industries – even specialised ones like his.
“We documented what we wanted early in a very simple spreadsheet, line by line, and we gave that to our good friends at NetSuite prior to signing up, so we were all singing off the same hymn sheet,” Mr Pizzie explained.
“It was perfect timing because the operational load-out on sites was the lowest it had been in a long time. It gave us the time to analyse how the system was performing and how we were enhancing it.
“Even though there are some quirks with regards to the technical side, some of these add-ons, like the Net Promoter Score (NPS) and apps, are fantastic for us. And we’re getting some really good customer insights that are essentially automated.
Robert has also welcomed more flexible working arrangements to Easy Living Home Elevators as part of the company’s growth trajectory. In his case, the move to a faster, cloud-based system resulted in the improved productivity and satisfaction of employees.
“We’ve changed the way we work because of COVID. We did have some flexible arrangements around a couple of the young mums in the business, but we’ve pushed that out to more people. It’s all about outcomes, not so much presence and attendance,” Mr Pizzie said.
Despite the added flexibility, Robert adds that one of the biggest issues the company currently faces is a shortage of tradespeople, although he is confident that investing in a robust system is the first step towards a long-term solution.
“The next phase of all this is the training of technicians. We’ve just established a training centre in our Brisbane office, because we’ve got some very good, capable trainers and tradespeople there,” he explained.
“This is all about locking down the processes on-site and having checklists with mandatory fields. It’s safety assessments on arrival and all of that is within the system now. This bolt-on ability to add the whole product to the NetSuite platform is essential.”
The slow and steady path forward
If Robert’s success story shows us anything, it is the importance of taking the time to slow down and pay attention to what and where you can improve in your business. He says if he could have done anything differently, it would be to start doing this earlier.
“I would have gone for a phased implementation – accounts only first and then pieces of the business as the need arose. It’s a massive change to the business,” Mr Pizzie said.
We’re only really starting to see the benefits of the system now, because we’re learning so much more about the capacity. I’ve known it for months, but other people are now seeing it.”