Q&A with GM and Co-Founder of Financials 365 , Joel Ramirez.
We speak to this Fintech founder about the importance of workplace culture and why he focuses on the little wins.
1. How would you describe your startup in 3 words?
Fun, Disruptive, Enabler.
2. What does your startup do? Why does it do it? And how?
Financials for Office 365 is multi-award winning cloud accounting software built on the Microsoft platform. We fill a big gap in the market for the aspirational small business who want big business functionality at a small business price tag.
3. How did you figure out what roles you needed to fill in the early days? And how did you figure that out?
In the beginning we were contemplating on the pros and cons of hiring seasoned professionals versus graduates. Apart from being more affordable for us as a startup, in the end we decided to showcase what graduates were capable of doing, if we could mentor and coach them throughout the process. One graduate started off in admin, and later became a Partner Manager and today he runs Digital Marketing. Another graduate started off as a Product Specialist and ended up becoming our Education Manager.
In other words, people evolved where we saw a need in the business and we made sure we matched the right roles against their strengths and what they were passionate about. When you do that, people are more engaged and excel because they are happy with what they are doing.
4. Who are your top three mentors or coaches?
- John Munnelly — KPMG Technology Partner. As a Microsoft expert, John helped me to navigate the world of Microsoft and coached me how to lead people and run the business.
- Andrew Davis — Volunteer Stone & Chalk Mentor. Andrew is a corporate and fintech expert. He is a great soundboard to have.
- Warren Bingham — Chairman of Medtech International and Venture Capitalist. Warren coached me to write a personal business plan.
5. How do you manage to stay sane, maintain a personal life and run a successful startup at the same time?
I focus on the small wins.
By focusing on the small wins, I can break down large personal or business goals into manageable chunks.
The end goal no longer matters to me as much, it’s the little wins along the way that makes all the difference.
For example, a small win could include waking up and going for a run with my wife, to drinking that amazing cup of coffee that I bought early this morning; or seeing that joy on someone’s face when they solve a challenging problem or hearing about something new they learned this week and celebrating that with them.
Finally, doing extra-curricular activities before or after work (for example I love photography) and taking the weekend off to rest and play all add up. Focusing on the small wins is a great habit to develop which will help you to be more thankful and grateful in life and in business.
6. How do you prep yourself for the day? Do you have a morning routine you follow to hit the ground running?
I’m actually huge on planning. I plan for the year ahead; for the month ahead; for the week ahead. Today was planned yesterday afternoon, so that when I wake up, I am ready to go and get the job done, when others might still be wondering what they want to achieve midway through the day.
It’s something I learnt as a habit from a mentor a decade ago and it stuck with me since.
7. What are your top three book or podcast recommendations for anyone in the industry?
There are so many books to choose from but the most recent ones I read were;
- The Personal MBA, I don’t think it can replace an MBA, but it gives you a good overview of all things business.
- The Art of War, which shares Sun Tzu’s principles for warfare conduct. Many of these principles have general applications in business today.
- Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, would you believe?! I love fantasy. It helps me to escape, have fun and stay creative.
8. What’s your one word of advice to new founders?
Believe! Seriously, believe in what you’re doing because if you don’t, nobody else will.
9. What have been your most important lessons in growth?
Developing a winning culture — as a growing startup, many things can happen at any one time with challenges and, often, crisis to boot.
This is where people’s mindsets play an important role in pushing past the ceiling of what they think they are capable of.
I’m very conscious of this and have experienced, firsthand, what people can achieve in a startup with minimal resources, when they know they are loved, appreciated, have a sense of purpose, are trusted, given transparency, flexibility and the freedom over how they work. It’s magic! You can write strategy all you want, but without a winning culture, there is no growth.
10. Do you have any healthy habits or hobbies that may have helped you succeed?
Here’s some food for thought: The most creative companies are the ones that take risks and celebrate failure.
Recently I was inspired by billionaire Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, who says her secret to success is failure. When Sara was growing up, her father would often ask her the same question at dinnertime “What have you failed at this week?” As Sara explains, “When I was growing up, my dad encouraged me and my brother to fail. It’s really allowed me to be much freer in trying things and spreading my wings in life.” Her embrace of failure has helped make her the youngest self-made female billionaire in America.
I want other founders to know that failing is a good thing, that failures are really just lessons on the path to our success, that “failing fast” and learning from it is economical in the long-run, it’s through failure that we can achieve success.
In order for Financials 365 to continue to be disruptive, we need to have a culture where we are constantly trying new ideas, formats, and processes — and allow room for failure — in order for us to learn what works and what doesn’t.
I made it into a habit that as a team we catch up twice a week whereby on Mondays I get each individual to come up with at least one challenge they want to complete that week and by Thursday’s meeting I ask them how they went. For me, it’s okay if they failed to complete the task for whatever reason. All I ask is they learn from it, and maybe try a different approach next time.
11. Tell us about the day you came up with your startup idea.
Basically we found out Microsoft was looking for a way to reach out to more small businesses. They liked what XERO had done in the market and were looking to help incubate a startup with individuals who they believed could make it happen, so Financials for Office 365 was born.
It was one of those right place, right time, right people, right opportunity kind of moments!
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