Darren Brown Podcast Transcript

Listen to what Darren has to say


Darren: Expense Check was born on the premise of being a small business owner, myself and Nigel. We were always I guess being frustrated about always calling around suppliers, and retailers and Googling late at night, about better ways to save money for our overheads. I guess here in Australia there’s plenty of us small business owners, and people out there that do exactly the same thing. We said to ourselves there’s got to be a better way of doing this. There’s got to be some kind of thing that tells you whether they are still experiencing inertia and the ability to change over too, so I guess Expense Check borne on the premise of around a pain point. So that was kind of we went around and created some Excel spreadsheets, and some message formulas, and get around from business to business, and comparison methods.

We are excited and got a chance to go from one business to the next, and we learned a lot along the way. We got a bit of funding along the way, which is now taking us to our current day, and our platform is along that. All my files are on a desk top; it’s really encouraging. It’s a platform where you can always ensure you’re on the best deal uploading an invoice onto our platform, that’s about it. Actually it can be by Xero integration we have the capability of that, by Gmail integration which is even better. If you receive your bills by email that’s perfect. We can go out and do the comparison. It can also take a photo of your bill and upload it that way . We do the comparison and we have the technology, and within 90 seconds you can change any part of the service. It’s very cool. It’s never been before on the reporting market. It’s pretty exciting for us and we got around 3000 business on board now, so it’s really encouraging.

Morris: So what are your main channels for getting up to the very intimate businesses? How have you been operating to date?

Darren: It’s been a little bit of back and forth really. So we’ve kind of gone out to a few bookkeepers and a few accountants. Obviously we were at Xero last year and really saw first version of the dashboard, and we got the second version as from last week. I guess from that we kind of build a bit of network around the bookkeeping society in Australia. We’ve got in touch with quite a few bookkeepers via the telephone interested in chat about their pain points.

I know there’s a big thing at the moment about heading towards more of the advisory as opposed just compliance. We’ve been doing a lot of research and a lot of conversation with bookkeepers, and bookkeepers are a big thing for us because they are looking to add value and what we do we can help them that way.

That’s certainly a key message for us on our side. As a hub we encourage our bookkeepers to be much more client focused, and obviously deal with the compliance stuff. But really for opportunities to help their clients make money and save money. Expense Check is obviously a very important component of the save money strategy. I think we are all used to seeing comparison sites and most of us in business will have received offers, about saving money on power bills and all that. So let’s just drill down into how that could work at the coal face, with say a bookkeeper with a range of clients from one man shops, right through to probably 25, 30 clients and ranging from a few hundred thousand dollars revenue, to perhaps $4m, $5m dollars a year revenues. So how would that operate in a practical sense? Is there a typical scenario that you can illustrate to us?

Darren: I will just touch on the point first about the comparison websites out there at the moment. Maybe I’ll select kind of compare the markets in the world, and most are good.

They give you lots of comparisons and they give you all the best deals in the market, and its live. However if you’ve logged on to those comparison engines and then 10 seconds later you’re get that 10, 15 calls from their guys, and they are going to try and harass you to get deals across the line. I guess we’ve learned along the way and we are definitely not that. The deals that we present are very personal to the consumer, based on their usage. We have favouritism about that; we’re very selective actually in our retail partners. We don’t just choose everybody in the market. We are very selective.

There is also going to be a great customer service involved, I think that’s super important. First of all business owners need to be assured that, not only are they getting the best deal, but actually we would be great for each other. Going down the track that’s really important for us. So to your question there about how as far as the bookkeepers can use our platform; we see a sweet spot as far as savings go. So all the bookkeepers using our platform we actually have a partnership program, which I’m not too sure many people know about. We only just created it

in the last couple of weeks, which is really about incentivizing them to use our platform for their clients.

So we have different users, subscription or a trial period; we actually want bookkeepers to use it. So we got a partnership program where the more you can use it, the more clients you add, the more clients you save money, and you get a credit point, which is really interesting. Its concept is out which is on our website which is really cool. It could be freelancers, sole traders, could be for cafés, restaurants, real estate agencies; it could be anything. We cover lots of different kind of trades and industries. Somewhere in the range of 1-15 as far as staff is where we a sweet spot. The guys haven’t got the procurement teams, haven’t got those resources in place, to always constantly search for those. If we can be a resource for them then that’s fantastic. They can spend a bit more time on building their business. Our platform is very bookkeeper oriented in the sense that it can keep adding businesses and control from one dashboard.

Morris: I guess the obvious places for savings are communication systems, power. Are there any other areas that come up as the kind of hot spots bookkeepers can scan for and access, perhaps sell the story in a convincing way?

Darren: So your electricity, gas and your telephone, your main kind of expense areas; we are covering business insurance which will be really interesting.. All of our channels will be opened which will be really exciting. So we have electricity, gas, telephone, business insurance, office goods, cleaning, and freight as well. There’s lots of value across the board. I think why we did those kinds of channels is because we know obviously there’s a lot of focus out there, and all of our accountants rely on one industry, so we want to cater for everybody. I guess its adding value and telling a story to a client. There’s no better way of introducing the concept; say John at the Fish and Chip shop for example, and say hey John I just had a quick scan on your expenses via Expense Check and can save you $20,000 this year on this, this, this and this, and suddenly they are like wow, okay this is a bit of game- changer. So the value add I guess is not just your electricity and your main utilities, or your overheads. It’s more of the bigger things like your business insurance, or freight and all of that stuff and it all adds towards the end. I think that’s what’s super important for us.

Morris: Any plans on attacking the big elephant in the room, the banking sector?

Darren: Yes we are in discussions. At the moment we’ve got a lot of requests coming from all sorts of different angles as far as what we can do with our technology. So it’s a case of watch this space. We are about to release new product which is really exciting, so this is kind of the system website to Expense Check which will be consumer face. So if you are residential and homeowners and what not. So that will be catering to that market, not just business owners but residential and average consumers which will be really exciting. I feel like our technology is at this stage now, and it’s starting to do some great things. So who knows where it will take us but we are in discussions with a few things.

Darren: As far as bookkeeping goes, they got so many different kinds of subscriptions. They work with Xero or Quick Books, Receipt Bank, they all kind of add up based on subscriptions. And then that obviously go back to the client and defray some of those expenses. So we decided okay we want bookkeepers to be able to use this platform to add value, not just to their clients but to themselves. So we decided there is no kind of subscription, no cost associated, or trial period: completely free to use. The partnership program we put in place was because we know how hard bookkeepers actually work for their clients.

I guess over the last 6, 12 months, we really kind of had some great chance to allow bookkeepers in the industry to get an understanding of their life and how it actually works. So we wanted to reward that not just giving direct money, but some of it they can spend those points on whatever it may be. It could be for themselves, could be their family, could be end of the week drinks for their staff, it could be for their clients. Really there’s no kind of limit on that. We don’t charge the SME here to come on to the platform; we don’t charge the bookkeeper to use it for their client. We actually charge our retailing partners for customer acquisition, it’s really that straightforward. I guess that comes back to the retailers that we have on board. They are going to be super competitive.

They are going to be great retailers. So if the client comes on or SME or bookkeeper comes on and use it for their client, chances are they are going to get some savings across the board. It’s a bit of a win circle so the small business owners save $10,000 a year, the bookkeeper increase their points and get down to client, and we make money obviously from the customer acquisition. It’s a win circle in that regard.

Morris: You’ve pinpointed the main players in each of those sectors?

Darren: Yes. There’s so many different varieties of retailer out there. The big corporate providers have such dominance in the market. That way it will be that kind of marketing stand always at people’s faces, they call you 25 times a week. Then you think about the little guys who just doing a good job at what they do. So we’ve done a bit of a research in all those kinds of specific fields that we opened, would be electricity, gas, business insurance, the whole lot. But we’ve pinpointed the ones that really care for us, as well as our clients. I guess it’s a peace of mind that we’re paying money, and you’re paying those deals. We all have to pay bills, it a way of life. But if you can have that peace of mind that you can be like, okay these are the best possible deals, and these are the best possible prices.

Morris: In terms of going forward I think it would be useful for us to alert our members when we got some brochure, or material available, so we can talk about that separately. But I’m confident that we can put something together and make this available to our members. I think it does sound like quite an essential part of the array of services going forward, and I think you guys seem to be doing a good job. So thank you.