Highlights of my conversation with Steven Shelley 

  • Zero time theft
  • From solving an internal problem in an aerospace company to launching Deputy
  • Solving staff rostering in over forty countries
  • Global growth and looking for staff
  • Lesson learnt: Build a product specific to a wider audience

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I’d like to start by asking you Steve, what does a typical day look like for Steve Shelley?

Steve:             So in the last few years Heather I’ve had quite a tumultuous time. I’ve actually been building a new house which has taken a lot of my time. Building a new team at Deputy, building Deputy and a whole series of other things that I’ve been working on in the background as well, so it’s been a very hectic last four or five years for me. But a typical day is a day which is literally jam packed. I don’t have much time to spare at all which is I guess how I’ve been for many years though, it seems to be working for me. I try and get to work as soon as I can and I’ll stay there as long as I can, I like to do longer days with less days if I can at work, I just find that if I can focus and get the things that I need to get done I’m happy within myself.

Heather:        Okay that’s really interesting less days and longer days and that you’re not working virtually. So I’ve been in the industry and I’ll bring this up right now, I’ve been in the industry for a long time and a lot of people talk to me ‘cause of what I do and everyone loves Deputy, accountants and small businesses love Deputy, everyone loves Deputy, I never heard a bad thing about it. So you’re doing something really good and your team are doing something really good, so you should be really proud of it because it’s a great solution and everyone loves it.

Steve:             Thank you Heather, look I must admit I haven’t heard any bad things about Deputy either, no that might sound a little pretentious but we are just getting so many wonderful testimonials and feedback from customers that are saving vast amounts of time, huge amounts of money, we’re helping people with cultural improvements in their business because people are understanding what they’re doing and how they’re supposed to do it and when they’re supposed to do it at such a deeper level with such a simplistic approach and helping them to be able to do all of that. So yes, it’s exciting Ashik and I my co-founder very enthusiastic about the benefits that we bring to people and we just love hearing stories like what you just said, I really appreciate the feedback.

Heather:        No it makes our life a lot easier to be able to recommend something and then have the owner’s just email and contact us constantly and say we love this. I’ve actually got one of my cafes and I think I’ve told Kirsten this is planning on launching a Deputy Dog, named after your business.

Steve:             Wow is that true?

Heather:        Yes, he’s planning on launching it, so when it happens I’ll let you know.

Steve:             Okay yes, thank you.

So you recently won the Wakefield 300 in your Lotus Elise with your son Jake Shelley. Jake won this race both in 2012 and 2013, so he is quite the car racing champion. So it completely freaks me out to be driving with my children who are on L and P plates, so I can’t imagine what it is like car racing with your own child. How do you work together as a team, in an adrenaline situation like that?

Steve:             Yes he is. I’ve been racing for a few years longer than Jake and Jake spent quite some time patiently in the pits with me just sitting back and patiently watching and learning and listening and then one day I threw him into the driver’s seat said go and have a couple of laps, and at that time he was doing it was quite special actually and I thought wow I think he might be a bit of a natural at this. But so started I bought him a small race car and we started to do a bit of racing together and next thing I knew he was very competitive with me. So we had very similar cars and then that was in a lighter weight category, then we moved up into production touring and we got some really good results there and we were racing against each other and with each other and started to really form a nice team that we could do endurance racing and swap our drivers, so he would do part of the race and I’d do part of the race. Before we knew it we found that we were getting some really good results and on the podium more often than not, on quite a few occasions we were on the top of the podium so we were really happy about that. Jake like you say is the Australian Endurance he contested a route of the endurance round sometimes without me because I was travelling on two occasions, and one that race outright with a friend of ours who was co-driving with Jake. On the third occasion I said I’m not travelling this particular time of the year with my usual appearances but I’m staying home to race with Jake, and we were coming first but we had a wheel fall off the car and unfortunately that was the first occasion that Jake ended up not winning that championship and I happened to be with him. Yes, like you say we won it last year and we won it outright and I beg your pardon it was February this year and we won it outright so we were very excited and it was just a jubilant occasion to be standing at the podium which Jake and to claim the victory in quite a prestigious race the Wakefield 300. So we’re really excited we love working the race circuit together and it’s a really bonding experience.

Heather:        Yes, that’s amazing.

Jake and I at a road show

Do a lot of father sons or father family relationships partake in car racing?

Steve:             Oh I think it would be a very small percentage it’s a very fortunate situation that I find myself in that we can do this together it’s quite an equalising sport, generally younger people drive faster than older people so there will be a time where I won’t be able to keep up with Jake. No look to answer your question I would suggest that out of all the racing we’ve done I would say that it would be less than 3% or 4% of all drivers have got a father and son combination, maybe even less than that.

Heather:        Wow that’s really interesting, yes that’s really inspirational that you do that and it’s nice to find an activity to do with your children, however I will definitely not be doing that with my children. For the people who are listening in if you do see Deputy at a roadshow Jake Shelley is frequently on the stand there and he’s a lovely guy, so do go and have a talk with him.

Steve can you briefly describe what Deputy is?

Steve:             Yes, so Deputy is a staff management application so all things that affect small to medium size businesses on a daily basis is what we’re really focusing on trying to help with. We understand that small business owners are particularly time poor, we had a really serious look at what small business is and typically it’s a business that is owned and run by an individual or a couple of people who work in the business, and most of the time constraints come about managing their staff so we’ve really come up with a beautiful suite of solutions that are available in a combined application that help people with managing their staff in time attendance, scheduling, tracking their performance, tasking them and making people accountable for performing those tasks and doing them in a way that in line with the business processes and practices, and providing all these solutions on mobile devices. So you can use an iPhone or an Android or an iPad and manage your staff from anywhere in the world.

Heather:        Yes, absolutely, I know one of the things you have is my mining clients looked into was you have kiosk facilities in that it can actually drop down, so you don’t even need to be online to do it, obviously the goal is to be Cloud based but some situations it can pop up and down which is also really good.

Steve:             We’re immensely proud of our kiosk and when we say kiosk what we’ve done is we’ve devised a way of using an everyday iPad to create a total interface between the employee and the business, so somebody comes to work they go to the iPad map it on the wall and they simply put in their pin number, application Deputy then takes a photo of the person’s face and then it gives them the opportunity to read any notifications or publications that the company might want that employee to see or to acknowledge, and then allows that person to start their shift right from that application in a very simple way. Then once that shift has been started it tells that individual all the tasks and responsibilities that that person is obliged to perform during their shift, it also allows that person then to go back and forth to that kiosk and acknowledge those shifts and check that those shifts have been done, check the box so that there’s a record that the tasks have been done in a way that the business needs them to be done. At the end of the day the person just repeats that, they go back put their pin number in, Deputy takes a photo and allocates that photo against their timesheet and they logout, so there’s no time theft zero time theft we’ve found incredible results where people are telling us now that they’re saving an enormous amount of money where once upon a time they didn’t have the controls that Deputy allows them to have over their time and attendance of their staff. There’s a lot of ways that staff have cleverly devised ways of perhaps rorting the system if you like and allowing people to probably not do the right thing by the business, but Deputy cuts out all those and we’re very proud of the simple interface that we’ve created on the iPad kiosk. Like you say it works offline so if the internet was to go down all the data is still captured whether it’s in a remote environment like a mine like you mentioned or if it just happens to be in a regional area where the internet not’s so reliable and the internet goes down, all the data’s still captured and as soon as the iPad comes back online again it’s downloaded back to the server and all the information is up to date, we’re very proud of that kiosk.

Heather:        Yes, no it’s amazing technology and it’s so efficient and I know with my clients they installed it and they said we’ve just got so much spare time we’re just going to open another café, and that was two and a half years ago and every three months they’ve opened another café so.

Steve:             Fantastic, yes that’s great news isn’t it? Really great news.

Heather:        Yes, it’s unbelievable but they’re just like it is so easy that we just didn’t have any other you know we had to keep doing other stuff, so we just kept opening cafes so.

So what inspired you to found Deputy?

Steve:             Well back in 1992 I actually started a company in aviation called Aero Care, what Aero Care started to do was to provide ground handling services to small airlines predominately around aircraft cleaning and making sure that the aircraft is spotless inside and out for small regional airlines and private customers, and over the course of time I was able to expand my business and do other things such as ground handling and ground services and bus operations. And we expanded into freight operations for some of the international carriers and it was quite a strong story but I did it the hard way I did it through faxing and so lots of telephone calls, there wasn’t really texting around those days, as a matter of fact the mobile phone was just a technology it was hardly used, there certainly wasn’t the internet as we know it today. But over the course of time the opportunities kept coming my way because I and my team had a very can do attitude, so the more opportunities we had in aviation the more we were able to do. But I found that it was quite a struggle to keep account of what my staff were doing particularly when I started to expand into other airports such as Newcastle and Melbourne, and I had the good fortune of meeting Ashik Ahmed who came to me with a couple of solutions for giving the information that I needed in real time that we could manage. Basically from there on I met Ashik in 2001 where we had grown to about 160 staff since 1992, so it was relatively slow growth but it was still quite a challenging time because it was a different time back then and we were all learning what we were doing. When I met Ashik it was great timing because we had really good opportunities that the aviation industry was quite tumultuous where there was Ansett was shaky and Impulse Airlines was starting and Virgin was starting, and we found ourselves in a situation where there wasn’t really another ground handling company that was a viable operation like ours. So Ashik helped me build some wonderful systems that really we were able to communicate to our staff and we were able to get a great understanding of what our staff were doing and what our airline customers wanted, we were able to provide them with information that they probably could even get themselves. We got to the point that we were growing so rapidly that Deputy like you just mentioned about the café customer probably on a slightly larger scale, but Deputy well what we called it back then was the Aero Net yeah so we had Aero Care and the internet was coupled up and I just called it Aero Net. But it was a very simple solution compared to what Deputy is today but I guess the nucleus of what the Aero Net was was where I got the philosophy of building such a system that we could take to the world, because we recognised that the things that we needed to know were the same things that everybody needs to know about their team in whatever business that they’re in whether it be a child minding facility or a courier company or it might be a service station, it could be virtually like you said before a mine or a security company. We have a lot of hospitality industry, we’ve got 50% or 60% of our business focuses around hospitality industry is really getting great utilisation out of Deputy. So I recognised back then that if we were able to take the concept of what we were doing at Aero Care and build it into a standalone product there would be no reason why most businesses couldn’t use the systems that we created. So Ashik and I six and a half years ago now decided that we were going to start a business call it Deputy because just the word Deputy signifies the 2IC or the person in charge when the person responsible isn’t available, and so we thought that Deputy would be the perfect name for a virtual tour say for the business to allow business owners to have another hand to help the understand what their business is doing and to virtually make decisions on their behalf and really simplify business processes and create great communication. So yes, that’s a five minute history of where the concept of Deputy came from and the philosophy of where it came from and what we’re trying to achieve, and we’re proud to say that it’s actually doing just that.

Heather:        Interestingly what I’m hearing from you is that what my perception was that staff put it into a system with rostering and managing their staff, but what I’m hearing from you is that once it’s in place it helps you define your processes and really hone your processes and with that then you’re going to have a repeatable businesses model.

Steve:             Oh absolutely, so we have a lot of franchises and franchise networks that are taking up Deputy because once you create the perfect business model one you create the disciplines that you want in one location all you need to do is replicate that location with the click of a button. So you could be in Parramatta or Perth and know that the business processes that you’ve defined are exactly the same which is what franchising’s all about, my understanding of franchising is that if you want to produce or create a service or a good in a particular way and you want it to be repeatable you need to have the same processes behind it. So we have a wonderful uptake in the franchising industry and some very big names in the franchising industry are really enjoying great growth, and they’ve come to us and said we wouldn’t of been able to have the growth that we’ve enjoyed without the benefit of using Deputy to help us do that.

Heather:        It’s amazing, you’ve given a lot of people a lot of business life and the time back it’s amazing, lots of good karma coming your way.

Steve:             Thank you.

Does Deputy adapt globally, I’m pretty sure it does from what you’re saying?

Steve:             Oh absolutely, we’re in about the last count we were about over 40 countries now, so people can go to Deputy Deputy.com and literally just click the free trial button no matter where they are in the world, I think is just over the last few days we’ve had sign ups in Africa, various parts of Asia, Europe, the States, in Germany, we’ve had somebody recently sign up in Sweden. So we’ve just got global growth and the more people hear about it the more virally we grow, and that’s a beautiful thing that in the Cloud we don’t really need to have any interaction with the company that we now have as a customer because we’re trying to develop a product which it very seamlessly integrates with your business, all you need to do is put in some basic details about the staff details about their contact details, in effect what they’re doing and where you want them to do it and you go from there. It’s we’ve got a great support system in place that if anybody does have any questions they can call us up and it’s a free service they can call us up and get some help if they need it, but we do hope that we’ve created a solution that’s quite easy to understand and adopt into the business. But yes to answer your question yes it’s international at every level.

Heather:        Yes absolutely, in terms of what you’re talking about with on boarding, my experience with clients has been they have on boarded it so quickly I just was blown away how there was no time or queries, it was like we understand this we get it we’re up and running like within I don’t know it was like 90 minutes or something it was crazy quick to adopt it for something that’s just going to revolutionise their businesses.

So how many staff to you now have working at Deputy?

Steve:             We have about 27 staff last count with plans to have another five people on within the next two months but our forecast numbers say we’ll have in excess of 45 people by about January next year, so we’re growing quite rapidly, we’re looking for people in the States and the UK, we’re looking for people in various aspects of marketing, sales, management, in our programming and coding area, design, support. So if there’s any great people out there that are interested please feel free to drop us a line at we’ve got all of our contact details are online at Deputy, but it’s a really exciting time for us and we’re really enjoying some of the things that we’re doing and the road map that we’ve got coming soon with the technology that we’re introducing is just going to continue to make peoples’ lives better and save the a lot more money and a lot more time, and we’re really excited to be some of the things we’re doing is so exciting it’s incredible. We truly believe we’re going to revolutionise the way people run their businesses.

Heather:        You are and what else can come I sit back with anticipation on it.

So whereabouts is head office based for you guys?

Steve:             So we’re currently in Waterloo which is about ten minutes’ drive south of the CBD of Sydney, which is a great location for us because it really doesn’t matter where we are being a Cloud company, we could be in Darwin or Denmark it doesn’t really matter, but we do have a lot of hospitality around our area that does seem to enjoy that we’re nearby even though they don’t need to come and see us and we really don’t need to go and see them but I think it’s just it’s been a good place for us to be from the point of view of our staff we’re quite a central location for our Sydney based crew and it’s a good location from a public transport point of view as well.

Heather:        Yes brilliant.

So do you have any idea of how much of the untapped market out there is still scheduling on paper or Excel spreadsheets?

Steve:             Enormous the greater part of business today is still working in a very redundant and clunking way, it’s quite unfortunate because even some of the larger organisations some blue chip companies still don’t even use simple technologies like Deputy, if they could just understand how much money it’s costing them to do and not just money but the inconvenience for everybody including the staff like I know that some very large organisations expect their staff to come into a staff room and look at the back of a staff room door to see a handwritten Excel spreadsheet that’s been marked up and crossed out and highlighted and varied so many times, it’s just unreasonable to think that with such a simple technology that’s so readily available it’s not being so more widely used. But that’s our job now is to try and tell the world about it and try and get people to understand that there is a solution out there and that it’s a very cost effective way of making such significant change in a positive way for peoples’ businesses.

Heather:        Yes absolutely. It’s bringing that awareness out there, so hopefully the listeners listening in can touch base with all of their clients who will benefits from this solution.

So with hindsight Steve what would you of done differently when starting and growing Deputy?

Steve:             Interesting question, probably there’s a few things that we did wrong to start with but that’s what happens when you’re developing a business, we went down particular paths where we thought that it was the best way to go and spent a lot of money on developing and coding in a way that when we then realised and redefined what we were doing and had to pivot back around and approach from a different angle, and that’s all refining and developing the better product. So with hindsight we probably wouldn’t of spent so much time and wasted so much money on going down a path that we might not of gone down previously, but that doesn’t matter because it was part of the process that we needed to go through. But I guess one of the things that we did wrong was listen to fewer customers about what exactly they wanted instead of listening to a larger group of customers and making sure that we were a more agnostic product rather than a more specific product, because then we found that we spent so much effort on keeping a small group of companies happy and building a solution which was much more specific to their organisation than we perhaps should have. So that’s probably one of the if anybody’s ever to ask me what if I was starting a Cloud company what would I do wrong what would I not do again, I would probably make sure I would build a product which was much more specific to a wider audience and less more specific to a smaller audience.

So in terms of audience do you mean markets like restaurants and hospitality and stuff like that, or do you mean software so different software solutions?

Steve:             Yes, no markets so verticals we were really honing in on we were spending a lot of time keeping a very small quantity of customers specifically and very happy and tailoring our product more to suit exactly their specific needs and probably spending less time on focusing on what would be more advantageous for a broader audience, does that make sense.

Heather:        Yes, no that’s really interesting. I’ve just been listening to Richard Branson one of Richard Branson’s books and he says listening is just the most important thing about leadership and just listen and listen and listen and that’s what you were saying there is listen to a lot of people, and another thing you may not be aware there’s another solution out there called Timely who for listeners listening in I interviewed them a little while ago and they were built off a hairdressing business scheduling within a hairdressing business but have evolved so someone like me could use them, I had no knowledge that it was built for a hairdressing business to me, so it’s opening up and growing from that.

So what is the most rewarding aspect of what you do Steve?

Steve:             Oh I keep talking about the saving in time and money that we provide to small businesses but that really we get regular correspondence now from customers or just people who write in now and tell us how much we’ve made a difference to their life because they get to spend so much more time now on meaningful things rather than what felt like meaningless things before. When you hear people come to you and say your solution is helping me enjoy going to work and doing my job and I feel much more comfortable in myself now and I feel that my staff are happier, I’m definitely happier I’m spending more time at home and more time on improving my business, that I know Ashik and I feel exactly the same way, when we get that feedback from customers we know that we’re doing something extraordinary and it just gives us the enthusiasm to continue to push forward and to continue to provide even better solutions. It’s a really wonderful thing to help people with such a time consuming and laborious problem that affects so many millions of people and it’s such a simple solution and it’s so efficient and easy to adopt that it gives us great joy to recognise that we’re being part of improving peoples’ lives.

Heather:        Yes, you absolutely are and you’re doing really great work there, I’m feeling very teary let’s think of you.

Steve:             Yes, thank you, so we’ve got one customer that they had three people in their scheduling well in Australia we call it rostering, so they had three people in their rostering and payroll department and so three ladies that spent three days a week doing nothing but rostering and payroll, when I say payroll the old school getting the faxes in, getting the emails and the texts and the phone calls about what people did in their shift on a particular day for the last week. Now that particular company now has one lady for two hours once a week that does all of those tasks and does it easily in that timeframe, so you can imagine the cost savings there of having such an impact on the business, now those people haven’t been displaced they’re in the business they’re doing more productive things in a more meaningful way to help the business become a better business. The operations manager of that business said to me we don’t know how we ran our business before we found Deputy, we’ve looked back at it now and we don’t know how we used to do our business before we found Deputy and those are inspirational conversations that really motivate Ashik and I to continue to push forward and our team, we share all this information with our team and we have a very committed and dedicated team that are just wonderful at what they do, these are the stories that are part of what drives them to continue to push.

Heather:        Yes, absolutely, for the advisors etcetera that are listening in and who are looking to push Deputy into businesses, one of the things I would take from what you just shared was when you’re talking to people be careful of the person that you’re talking to in case they’re worried they’re actually going to lose their job, and say that the conversation needs to be we’re going to redirect you into productive income generating activities not if Deputy comes along you’re going to lose your job, so that’s something so.

Steve:             It’s a fascinating human trait to self protection isn’t it just and it’s natural absolutely, so we’ve found this on many occasions where somebody might introduce us to an organisation we’ll tell them about what we’re doing and we’re often talking to either the HR person or their IT expert, and both of those people instantly feel threatened about the benefits of introducing Deputy into their organisation. So it’s quite disappointing sometimes that we sit there and we look we watch and see the moment when the penny drops and that person then might look at us and say don’t call us we’ll call you, but that’s a bit disappointing because the business and everybody underneath those people are going to suffer because of their own desire to have self preservation. But if they just stood aside and had a look at it and thought well if I work with Deputy it’s going to compliment my life as well and make everything that I do just so much easier in such a more beneficial way. So sometimes you’re right it’s interesting that you raised that point because we have seen that many times and it’s a little bit disturbing that people might feel that way when we’re here to help.

Heather:        Yes absolutely, and I think sometimes what I don’t want is advisors to find out five months into the consulting trip that that was the issue, so I play it if you implement a solution like this you’re going to have flexibility in your own lifestyle, you’re going to be able to perhaps get up in the morning and do it from home and miss the morning rush and get in a bit later and do it and stuff like that. So it’s all those the positives for you not that the saving time sometimes will freak some people out. So thank you so much Steve, I’d like to leave you with just one last question.

What does the future hold for Deputy?

Steve:             Oh look we have an incredibly bright future we’re looking at appointing a head of operations in the States, the States is an enormous market as is the UK it’s probably similar style of workforce and the obligations that employers have to their employees both in the States and the UK, and then we have Asia so we’re looking at Asia as well as they’re the new I guess industrial capital of the world now from China and there’s an enormous market up there beyond comprehension, where they’re becoming more of a sophisticated workforce and that they’re now looking at improving ways that they can manage their workforce as well. So we do have the desire to be a household word, all across the world the go to solution for people who want to streamline and simplify the business processes and save a lot of time and money and do all that in a very simple and seamless way. So yes, the future for Deputy is bright we’ve got a hell of a head start and our application is something that like you started this conversation with which is getting a lot of traction in the market and getting a lot of respect for those who know of it. So our next job is just to make sure that the world knows about it so we’re going to be spending a lot of effort and time and money on marketing and trying to get around to various corners of the globe and tell people about Deputy because the solution is not a proven concept anymore it’s actually a solution that works we know it works, it was built out of a very challenging industry, sorry the nucleus of where it came from it came from aviation which is a very challenging and highly regulated industry. So this is not just something which is a concept this is something which is a proven product, the future is bright we’re really excited about it, our team is excited about it and we just can’t wait to get our teeth into the next phase of growth.

Heather:        Brilliant, thank you so much for giving up your time today and talking to us. I know our listeners are really going to benefit from this and I know that their clients and the businesses they’re associated are really going to benefit from this. So I really appreciate having you on this show. Steve thank you so much.

Steve:             Anytime Heather. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.


Deputy – http://www.deputy.com/

Deputy Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/deputyapp

Timely – https://www.gettimely.com/

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