Tim Walsley – The Co-Founder of BenchOn Talks about the Business To Business Platform That Solves Employee Under-Utilisation By Matching Your Idle Staff To Short-Term Contracts From Reputable Companies.
- What is your most proud memory of your company to date?
- One of our new clients joined up because he was going to have to let go of two of his key staff because it was getting too expensive to keep them while they waited for the next contract. We rallied and found contracts for both staff which kept them employed. The Managing Director called me one month later and said when he joined he was looking at cutting his staff levels in half and now because of BenchOn he had just hired two additional staff to keep up with the demand. Very proud of the direct impact we had not only on those employees and their job stability but also in supporting our client to grow his business sustainably.
- What has been the best moment of your career?
- Winning the Chief Product Officer’s Award in the 2017 Westpac Innovation Challenge. It was an extremely tight competition but we came through with the win because of our ability to smooth out business peaks and troughs and empower their staff through innovative professional development opportunities outside of the company..
- What has been the most difficult obstacle to overcome through your company’s journey?
- The bureaucratic processes of enterprises. Enterprises move so slowly because they are caged by their internal processes. They know they have issues that need to be solved, yet it can take a year just to get a decision through the hierarchy. This was difficult at the start to deal with as startups often don’t have the ability to wait this decision cycle out. We have finally come up with a method for expediting enterprise decisions and we now have a number of global and national organisations operating on BenchOn.
- Is there anyone that you hold to be a major role model in your life?
- These questions always make me feel like a cliche but I’ll give it a go anyway. I have a number of role models for various reasons because they each have their own strengths or similar backgrounds etc. They also change depending on what I am trying to do at the time. Someone I am relating to at the moment is Winston Churchill. Not a perfect man by any means. He had his vices and made plenty of mistakes yet he knew something had to be done. He pushed his ideas ahead against massive opposition from those following the status quo. He is a role model figure to me at the moment because as a CEO and founder of a startup, I consistently battle the idea that I must be perfect, have all the answers and not take a step wrong. Yet I believe in what we are doing so I need to push ahead even when things don’t go my way.
- Did you receive the support that you wanted from your friends and family when you started your venture?
- While most of them had no understanding of the problem I was trying to solve or what the solution would mean, they gave me nothing but encouragement and support and pushed me to back myself. Many of them ended up investing early on to get us off the ground which was amazing in itself but it also ramped up my drive to make this work as I wasn’t going to waste their money.
- Was there anyone that supported you through your journey that you feel was a key reason for success?
- My wife Katie is certainly a key reason for our success. She was there listening to me while I jumped around like an excited monkey explaining this new concept I had just developed. She supported me through the early stages of the business and given her background running the back-end of companies, was able to help me with the increasing workload. It soon became clear that she was the best person to run the operations of the business and she became a co-founder and COO of BenchOn. She is now the rock that keeps everything running smoothly and as always is my sounding board for new ideas. She certainly has no problem telling me that I have lost the plot or missed the mark and has an uncanny ability to take my ideas and turn them into something executable.
- How do you pick yourself up through the hard times?
- Surviving the hard times is a skill that I have had to learn. It helps to have a supportive team around you including advisors, mentors, employees and family who can help take the emotion out of it and redirect you back to action. Often the anxiety we feel as entrepreneurs if exacerbated by a lack of action or not knowing what to do. Your support network can help with that.
- If you could pass key advice on to other entrepreneurs, what would you say?
- Make sure the idea you base your business on is one of those ideas that makes you giddy with excitement, makes you question everything you know and is an idea that you know deep down you can’t let go or you would never forgive yourself if you didn’t at least try. That is when you will have the passion to get through the barriers you will face and when you do achieve it, you will know that the sacrifices were worth it.
- Is there anything within the tech startup sector that you would be interested in incorporating into your business?
- We are continually researching new technologies and always on the lookout for innovative platforms that can help us do business better so I would have to say yes. Looking forward to seeing what’s on show at Myriad this year to help with that!
- How often do you find yourself having to change
- As a founder its daily. New challenges come in thick and fast and each one pushes me further outside my comfort zone so you need to become comfortable with change and learn to adapt quickly to new circumstances.
- Is there anything you wish you could have done differently?
- I wish I had started on this entrepreneur journey earlier in my life. I just never got started because of excuses like, ‘its not the right time’ or ‘I don’t have the money’ or ‘there have got to be people out there who have thought of this’ etc etc. I’ve learned now that those excuses are rubbish and you have to give it a go.
- How long did it take for your company to finally feel established?
- It was late 2017 (so about 18 months in) when we started to see our client base grow through word of mouth and well-respected global companies started using the platform regularly. That’s when I knew that we had moved on from proving the concept to a legitimate business that was doing what I had originally envisaged.
- Do you remember the defining moment in which you thought, “I have a great idea”? Can you elaborate on that moment?
- That moment is burned into my brain forever. Having just experienced the emotional pain of having to tell three staff that they were being let go because the company couldn’t afford to keep them on ‘the bench’, I was struggling to understand how it was possible for industry to operate in such a way that created these lose/lose situations (i.e. Company contract gets delayed – Loyal staff lose their jobs because the cost is too high – Company loses corporate knowledge and capability – and the project gets delayed while another company is found to do the work). It wasn’t until a mentor of mine said “That’s just the way industry is mate. You have to try to survive the troughs in the hope of getting back to the peaks” that I realised there had to be a better way. I was sitting at my desk at home doing something completely different when the thought came to me that I could have saved those employee’s jobs if only I knew where to find a short-term contract that would suit their skill sets. Boom! I was so excited by the idea that I stayed up all night to write the business plan. And so it began…