IIBN interviewed Conor Kearney, Managing Director of Jetbooks the firm that provides remote bookkeeping services to Irish businesses. Conor revealed that while working as an SME accountant, he noticed that there were some really talented entrepreneurs who were unable to scale their business beyond a certain point because they didn’t have good financial information to keep score. He started Jetbooks to help business owners break past these barriers.

Conor went on to say, we use cloud technology to automate the manual processes within a business and give real-time financial information to the business owner to help them scale.

We also produce the Irish Business Builders podcast to provide another resource to entrepreneurs to help them scale their business.

How can IIBN members help your business?

If any IIBN members reading this know of any Irish businesses that could benefit from a more automated approach to their bookkeeping, it would be a huge help to us if they share our free ebook – The Ultimate Guide to Bookkeeping Automation with their network. This is a simple blueprint for business owners to half the time they spend on bookkeeping.

Likewise, if anyone is interested in listening to stories from some of Ireland’s most successful business owners, they can download our top 100 business podcast – Irish Business Builders.

Finally, if anyone wants to connect with me directly to suggest a guest for the podcast or talk about their finance functions, email me at conor@jetbooks.ie.

What are your main priorities and goals in your role?

I found that the more time I can spend helping business owners to be successful, the more successful Jetbooks became, so I focus on that. My number one priority is to help the business owners that we work with to achieve financial independence.

We do this by giving them real-time financial reports so that they can track progress against their goals, and putting the right processes in place so that they can extract themselves their business.

The net result is that they can have more time and income to spend on themselves and their families.

What are your biggest challenges?

Focus! There are so many good ideas and opportunities out there and I sometimes find it hard to execute a plan over the long term. With a young business like Jetbooks, things do change on a fairly regular basis, so you have to be focused enough to execute but be nimble enough to go after the right opportunities. It’s something I’ve gotten better at, but it’s a work in progress.

How has your business strategy been adapted in the context of the Covid-19 crisis?

We lost about 30% of our top-line in the first week of the lockdown in March, and so at first it seemed like it could be game over. I looked at our cashflow and thankfully had enough to survive for about 6 months without having to let anyone go.

We spent the next 12 weeks doubling down with our clients and providing even more resources to them. This brought in some referrals and it wasn’t long before we were back up to where we were before the pandemic.

Pretty much all of the businesses that we work with managed to stay afloat and many have grown throughout the pandemic. This shows just how resilient Irish businesses are, even when the global economy shut down over night.

In many ways, the pandemic has been a good opportunity for Jetbooks. We were always a remote service so we haven’t changed anything on our side, but businesses have started restructuring and outsourcing more of their non-core activities, which obviously we can help them with.

Tell us something interesting about the business.

Most of our team is based in the Philippines.

We looked at some innovative accounting businesses in Australia who were using an offshore strategy to build out their teams and we decided to model them.

We’ve hired direct in The Philippines rather than outsourcing. Our team are fully qualified accountants and work full time with Jetbooks. This has been a huge advantage for our business.

The Philippines has a very high standard of education and their level of English is exceptional. If you’ve ever been to the Philippines, you’ll know that they are extremely friendly people and for some reason, they are always happy. We will continue to hire in the Philippines as we grow and will look to promote our team members there to management level and beyond.

Tell us the about the biggest risk you have taken in business. 

I don’t really believe in taking large risks in business. Ask anyone who knows me well and they’ll tell you I am very risk averse and conservative. Scaling a business doesn’t have to involve taking out large loans and betting the farm on all or nothing outcomes.

I think the stereotype of entrepreneurs as excessive risk takers is misguided. I’ve worked with hundreds of successful business owners and interviewed a few dozen more on the Irish Business Builders podcast and none of these people seem to have taken many big risks to get to where they are today.

The investor Mohnish Pabrai, has a good saying on this – “Heads, I win. Tails, I don’t lose much”. I think that’s a better way to go about things.

Tell us about the worst day you’ve had since you started in business. 

I can genuinely say that no matter how hard any day has been, I’ve always loved running the business.

The bad days are where I’ve learnt the biggest lessons. I’ve had to let go of team members, have difficult conversations and I’ve lost plenty of money on initiatives that gave back zero-return. I wouldn’t change any of it.

I’ve found that owning and growing a business is the greatest form of self-development and I wouldn’t trade even one day of that for a steady salary.

How will Brexit affect you, or have you started to feel the effects already?

One problem that might arise is that our software partners in the UK might not re-invest in Europe as a primary market, but we have a plan in place to pre-empt any operational issues that this would bring.

Ultimately, Brexit is probably another crisis that will throw up more opportunities than pitfalls for those who are resourceful. We’re not currently serving any UK clients but Brexit wouldn’t stop us if we were.

There may be more hoops to jump through and the cost of doing business might increase in the future, but because we don’t have a presence in the UK, it’s not a huge concern for us right now.

How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?

Success to me is being the very best at what you do. We’re constantly trying to improve our bookkeeping service because we know that being the best is all that matters.

It’s not about who shouts the loudest or wins the most awards, it’s about who provides the best service. That’s what drives me.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?

I’m exceptionally lucky because I get to spend most days working with successful business owners from many different industries, whether through the Podcast or client engagements at Jetbooks. I get great advice from all of these entrepreneurs.

The best advice I ever received was from a mentor who told me to look back, from time to time, at old emails or notes that I have kept. It’s sometimes difficult to see how far you’ve come when you have the head down working hard to solve the various problems that come up on a daily basis.

When I looked back to when I hired the first Jetbooks team member, or at past business plans and goals, I realised how far I had come. It’s so important to celebrate the wins and each stage of the journey. That’s really all we have.

What have been your highlights in business over the past year?

There have been so many but to name a few:

  1. Having thousands of entrepreneurs listen to the Irish Business Builders podcast weekly.
  2. Growing Jetbooks in the face of the pandemic.
  3. Seeing clients turn their business around and scaling in spite of headwinds – incredible.

What opportunities or plans for growth do you see in 2020/21?

For some reason, cloud software hasn’t caught on as quickly in Ireland as in other markets. The majority of businesses here are still using desktop accounting packages and losing huge amounts of money to labour intensive manual work and data entry.

That’s the biggest opportunity for Jetbooks next year – streamlining the finance functions of Irish businesses and giving time and profit back to these business owners.