One of the first tasks Martyn Dominy faced after setting up a corporate advisory practice in Australia five years ago was to rent an office and buy servers to run his business software.
The business, called MyCFO, found an office in Surry Hills, Sydney and bought three servers, for email, document storage and MYOB, respectively.
The servers cost $5,000 each plus maintenance and upkeep of $1,000 a month. The total cost of ownership over four years (the average life of a primary server) was $63,000.
“It was quite expensive for a small start-up to invest in systems like that,” says Dominy, a former chief financial officer, who has worked for several US technology companies.
However, Dominy found that running a central office did not suit his business model. He had decided early on that he wanted his staff to be very mobile; the business brandishes the slogan, “Accounting to your door”, and its employees spend much of their time working in customers’ offices.
“A lot of the work we do is due diligence, systems reviews, M&As (which) has to take place on the clients’ premises because that’s where the documents are,” Dominy says.
The office “didn’t suit our model and wasn’t really necessary. We thought, why are we doing this? We aren’t here that much.”
Dominy handed back the keys to the Surry Hills office and looked for cloud-based applications to replace the three servers.
The need to find an alternative to MYOB was pressing. MyCFO used MYOB to open client accounts rather than run the practice itself. The program could not cope with multiple users – “the moment you had three or four users using MYOB the system just died” – and the MYOB database would frequently collapse when someone tried to export information.
The only solution was to run it on a dedicated server, which was quite an expensive solution, Dominy says.
MyCFO had to purchase extra MYOB licences for users and clients and the cost was creeping up. Within eight months of starting the business, licence fees were between $7,000 to $8,000, Dominy says. “We could see that the costs were going to escalate based on the number of users,” he says, which was less than ideal for the fast-growing business.
Dominy found the cloud accounting program Saasu and liked it so much that his practice became a reseller and Dominy bought into the company as a shareholder.
“With Saasu you pay one flat fee – it’s the payroll, it’s your inventory, it lets you manage reports. And most importantly it (gives) access to your data any time, anywhere in the world. That was the clincher for us,” Dominy says.
MyCFO has clients across the eastern and western seaboards and overseas, including Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Singapore, US and Ireland. “Quite a lot” of clients have never met Dominy or his staff face to face, Dominy says.
“Quite often we get a call where someone doesn’t understand something and we can service the client in real time by logging into their Saasu file and solving the problem straight away.
“If we were running a traditional model like MYOB you’d have to have a Citrix relay to try and get into their server.”
Another appealing factor is that Saasu’s licence allows unlimited users – a big deal for a financial services business.
“That’s pretty exciting when you have got a couple of your staff in-house and (more) staff at a client site. You may have VC people involved in the deal who may want to gain access to the financials as well.
“So for everybody that wants access to the financials you don’t have to buy another licence for them.”
MyCFO takes on contractors to handle the pace of growth and requests for itinerant workers for projects. The nature of the industry requires a flexible model that can be turned on and off by the client, Dominy says.
“A client might need a couple of finance people for three months. To create user accounts in an historical IT environment, train them on the systems and proceses – it just wasn’t viable (to use on-premise programs) because they just had to land at the client’s site and get going.”