In their own words...
Read on below for the full transcript of the podcast.
Brett Stapper, Category Visionaries 00:04
Welcome to category visionaries the show dedicated to exploring exciting visions for the future from the founders who are on the frontlines building it. And each episode will speak with a visionary founder who's building a new category, or reimagining an existing one, we'll learn about the problem they solve how their technology works, and unpack their vision for the future. I'm your host, Brett snapper, CEO of frontlines media. Now, let's dive right into today's episode. Hey, everyone, and thanks for listening. Today I'm speaking with Olivia Bushe, CEO of FlowForma, a no code process automation platform that's raised over 4 million in funding. Olivia, thanks for chatting with me today.
Olivia Bushe, FlowForma 00:41
Thanks for having me, Brett.
Brett Stapper 00:43
Yeah, no problem. So before we begin talking about what you're building, let's start with a quick summary of who you are, and a bit more about your background.
Olivia Bushe 00:48
Yeah, so as you mentioned, I'm the CEO FlowForma, who's a leading provider of enterprise class, no code, business process, automation tools. I previously was the CMO of FlowForma, progressed to the CEO. And I've been working in the tech sector for over 25 years. So I have specialist expertise in tech marketing, and a good understanding of how businesses can use tech to work smarter, and stay competitive.
Brett Stapper 01:21
Nice. I like that progression to the CEO role. I think most of the time that the companies that we speak to it's an engineer who became the CEO, or they started out starting the company right away, and we're CEO. So that's a really interesting way to go from CMO to CEO.
Olivia Bushe 01:38
Yeah, when I got this role, I remember a few people said to me, that I'd broken two glass ceilings at once, because there's not many female CEOs, some tech companies, but also, you're quite right. There's not many that progress from CMO, the CEO, but you know what, digital marketing, I think the CMO is actually a great role to do before you do CEO because with digital marketing, and everything's very analytical, very methodical, you have to track and you continuously are analysing your performance and your results and seeing to improve that, and a lot of that just naturally flows over into the CEO role.
Brett Stapper 02:20
Totally, that makes sense. And you must be a real pleasure to work with because you understand the importance of marketing, what I see a lot with more, let's say technical founders, is they don't understand the value of marketing, you have to constantly tell them, you know, the best product alone doesn't win. So from a marketing perspective, you must be very easy to work with.
Olivia Bushe 02:42
Yeah, maybe the techies would say, I'm always looking for, you know, what's the market demand? And what do people want? I don't just want this cool gadget or this cool feature, because you think it's cool or neat to know. But you're absolutely right. If I had a lot of women recruiting for sales people, marketing people, you know, a lot of them are saying and we had a girl last week they said the reason she'd like to come is because she'd seen that I have a marketing background. And you know, she was struggling exactly with what you had said, and getting the tech people to understand that it's about the market. And that's where she wanted to come. So yeah, there's not that many of us. But hopefully, it's, I think, as we say, I think with digital marketing, I think you're gonna see more CMO's moving into that role.
Brett Stapper 03:34
Totally, yeah, I can see that. And that certainly makes a lot of sense. Now changing gears a little bit to questions we'd like to ask just to better understand what makes you tick as a leader? Is there a CEO that you look up to the most and why?
Olivia Bushe 03:47
Yeah, I had a think about this. And I thought I'm probably gonna supposed to pick someone famous. But you know, I decided I wasn't going to there's another CEO in Ireland called Mark Murphy is the CEO of Fenergo who are a SaaS based platform that transform the clients experience and financial firms. And he has been a personal inspiration to me, because of the journey that he's taken Fenergo on. So they were a start up in 2009. They got unicorn status last year. So yeah, that's a journey that I'd love to take full form on. So it's more of a personal direct influence. And I suppose someone else from Ireland and it makes you feel more like if they can do it, you can do it, right.
Brett Stapper 04:38
Yep. I love that. And I love when people share examples of, you know, local leaders, or you know, some of the less known CEOs, but it's, you know, very easy to say, like Jeff Bezos or any of these, you know, more famous people, but it's always more interesting. I think when it's someone that's you a bit closer to home.
Olivia Bushe 04:54
Yeah, and I think certainly for me in your personal career journey it was those kind of the people that you met along the way that really impact you, you know, you can read all the books, but it's the people you meet, and you talk to and you actually can see the whites of their eyes. And you know, they're real, that really impacts you because it just makes everything seem so much more real.
Brett Stapper 05:16
Totally makes a lot of sense. And what about books? Is there a book that's had the greatest impact on you as a CEO and as a leader?
Olivia Bushe 05:23
Yeah, there's lots of books. So when thinking about this. There's the first 90 days by Michael Watkins, which was one of the first books I read, when I took this role. And it's a great kind of gives you a good blueprint for what to do in the first three months. There's The Growth Roadmap, which is by Select Strategies' Paul O'Dea and Emer O'Donnell and it's really good, I've based a lot of FlowForma's growth strategy on that book. One of the books that I find the most enjoyable, and really stands out to me, and again, it's quite a new book. So I don't know if everyone would know it, but it's called The Qualified Sales Leader, and it's by John Mann, he is a five time CRO, for public companies. It's just a real practical book, it gives you practical solutions to real life issues, and enterprise SAAS sales forces. So when I read book, we actually - the SLT and the sales team, we did it as a book club, because I loved it so much. I said, right, we're gonna do this as a book club. So we all had to read that book. And we met every week to discuss it. And you can really see the practical examples that are in the book. And I've been used throughout the company. So yeah, I'm a very practical person. So it's those kind of down to earth books, so I can take and, and reapply in our business thought I really like.
Brett Stapper 06:46
Nice, I love that. Now, let's talk about what you're building there at FlowForma. So can you give us the origin story of the company? And then just a high level overview of what the company does?
Olivia Bushe 06:56
Yeah, sure. FlowForma spun out of Ergo, who are the largest privately owned IT services company in Ireland. So there was a project within, Ergo, that's a services company, and was part of that project, people started to realise there was no products, there wasn't a workflow product like there for business people. And they saw there was a dip in the market. And that's how FlowForma came up. Like, because we're really quite unique. In that from inception, we've been created for business people. So we were never created for coders or developers that was always built from inception as a tool for business users. So then, in 2016, we created our own entity, and we've kind of grown from strength to strength. So we're a business process, automation workflow, digital transformation tool. And it's all about making automation and workflow tools affordable for more people, for business people, because traditionally, business process management tools would have been very expensive, and it would only be in the really big enterprises that could afford them. So with the SAAS model, you know, we're making it much more affordable to lots of people, and also specifically for business users so that you can empower those people who know the processes best, and remove the dependency on IT. So we still, you know, work closely with it, but it just removes that dependency on IT, which is much needed at the moment, given the developer shortage.
Brett Stapper 08:36
Nice. Got it. That makes a lot of sense. And what market category do you place yourself in? Is it no code Process Automation? Or what's the actual market category? And in general, how do you think about market categories? Is this something that's totally new or transforming an existing one?
Olivia Bushe 08:53
Yeah, it would be traditionally the space would be digital process automation, the fact we're no code, we would be seen as disrupting that space or disrupting the traditional BPM space with a more innovative approach to developing your process automation and workflow products. So I would love to say we're a new category and that we're no code process automation. And there's not that many of us, but I think in most of the analyst reports, we would be seen as disruptive in the digital process automation space.
Brett Stapper 09:27
Nice. Very cool. And where are you seeing the most adoption right now? Are there any specific industries and then in terms of company size, what does that typically look like?
Olivia Bushe 09:36
Yeah, so the good thing about FlowForma is that it can be used across all industries, but we are seeing a lot of traction in healthcare and construction. I think particularly in construction, it's because that has previously been perceived as lagging behind when it comes to technology. So even pre COVID I would say we started to see a pickup in the construction industry where they're preparing, you know, for a future filled with technology, and they realised that they needed to digitize their processes and, you know, come up, more up to speed with the other industries. But really COVID has acted as a catalyst for us, because that has really forced people to get rid of their paper processes and to go, because of the hybrid worker model, you know, passing things from person to person doesn't work so much anymore. A lot of people are working from home, like I know, companies were had a hybrid model before COVID. But a lot more have been forced to put it in place since COVID. You know, if people are working all over the world remotely, moving paper from person to person doesn't work anymore. Even access to Excel spreadsheets and things like that, it becomes difficult have lots of people are accessing it. So the FlowForma tool really brings a structure to people's workday. So definitely COVID has acted as a catalyst, particularly in construction and healthcare for us. Because obviously, in healthcare, it's important that the people who use them, the processes adopted as well. Same with construction, you know, you're looking at those people that are out in the field, to adopt the technology. You know, those are both labour intensive industries. And there's lots of tasks that are mandatory, dig into the employees time, so you really want those people to adopt the technology to save their time and stop things being lost.
Brett Stapper 11:45
Nice, very cool. And what about geographies? Are you just focused in Ireland right now? Or is it Europe? Or is it global?
Olivia Bushe 11:54
Yeah, no, it's definitely global. We actually have more customers in the US and in the UK. But the main markets would be the US, the UK, and Ireland, we've just opened an office in New York. So we'll have people working there in January, some people on the ground in the US now, so we have officially set up a US company as well. So yeah, the expansion plans are mostly into the US spread.
Brett Stapper 12:21
Nice. And when a company adopts your platform, what's the typical time to value? You know, how long does it take until they can start really seeing this add value to automating their processes?
Olivia Bushe 12:32
Yeah, it really depends how complex the process is. But on average, I would say it's about six weeks, like some people you can, sooner if it's a very simple process that can be built into ours. But to really get it across the organisation. It usually takes the wait for six weeks for them to go live. Now as part of our licence, we include an onboarding programme called SureStart, and not only handhold you and train you on the tool until your first process is live. But our ethos is all around getting you to become self sufficient. So you don't have to pay for expensive IT resources. But we'll handle it here as much or as little as you want to get you there.
Brett Stapper 13:15
Got it. And as I'm sure you've seen, you know, there's a lot of buzz around no code, Process automation, low code, you know, all these types of things. And it just seems like there's a new company that's using these buzzwords, every day, what are you doing to really rise above the noise and you get your customers to pay attention to what you're building?
Olivia Bushe 13:34
Yeah, I think, you know, one of the unique things about us, as I said before, is that we are totally focused on the business person. You know, from inception, that's what the products may have liked. And that's our vision, we want to stay true to that we want to stay true to to the for business users that it doesn't require any coding. And that's always one of the tests, when developers come and say this fancy new features, that's always one of the tests we go through. You know, I would say can I do that? Can I use that because I'm not a developer or coder. And that was one of the things that excited me about FlowForma. When I'd first seen it, because I've been writing up like technology for maybe 20 years. It always was something that I knew enough to be able to write about, but I wouldn't have been able to relate the technology myself, I would have had to get help. Whereas with FlowForma I could roll light and manage like our financial controller, you know, uses our turn for our performance reviews, our expenses, our leave request, and she can manage and roll elaborate and automate those processes all ourselves. So I think, you know, staying true to that vision will make a standard and not compromising on that. And also always communicating with their customers to better understand their needs, and stand close to the market. So I think we're aware we are a market lead company? And I think that makes us quite unique. So yeah, that was the kind of all the white market differentiation and keeping the product leading edge.
Brett Stapper 15:11
That makes a whole lot of sense. And what would you say has been your greatest challenge as you brought this to market? And how do you overcome that challenge?
Olivia Bushe 15:19
I think initially, in 2016, when I joined FlowForma, one of the greatest challenges was that it wasn't a material marketplace. So it was it was new people that never heard, you didn't understand what does no code mean, what does low code mean? So there was a lot of educating people have to be done, and really demonstrating to them the value of digitisation. So yeah, it's not so much nice, because as you said, it's a buzzword, and I people understand it, but back in 2016, these tools and that those terms, were all new to people. So that was a really big challenge. And also, you know, FlowForma, we're not a global name, we're not known. The other big thing, I think, is just really getting people to understand the value that it brings, you know, people, it requires change, and it requires change to the way that you work. People are not truly resistant to change. So might be easier to just to stumble on the way you are even though, you know you're losing 1000s of points or hours a day, by continuing you know, your administration, our shift my man hours and the job, lots of emails. But sometimes it's hard to quantify the value of that, and people just want to go on. So we have put in place a proof of value workshop to help people realise what the conceive and what they're losing by not doing anything. But those are some of the challenges.
Brett Stapper 16:52
Got it. That makes a lot of sense and feel like those are some common challenges that every company has to overcome. Now, last question for you. If we zoom out into the future, what would you say is the five year vision for FlowForma?
Olivia Bushe 17:04
Yeah, well, we recently raised 4 million in investment from accessing the new investor. So that was just back in April. So I think we're quite good on the time. And on that to get that in. And that obviously allows new fears of growth and global expansion for the company. So the vision will be to expand or teams globally and into the US immediately will be the first one. And also, we're rolling out a next generation of the product next year. So to do that, you know, we have to hire so we'll be increasing employees from 30 to 100, plus new roles across all areas of the business from sales and marketing right through to customer service, and R&D. So yeah, exciting time, hopefully, on the stage of high growth for the company. And then who knows, maybe maybe we'll be unicorn one day like Fenergo.
Brett Stapper 17:57
Nice. I love it. Well, unfortunately, that's all we're gonna have time to cover for today. But before we wrap if people want to follow along with your journey, where's the best place for them to go?
Olivia Bushe 18:08
Visit www.flowforma.com there's a lot of information there. But if you want to follow what we're doing on our LinkedIn page would be the best. We post quite frequently on that and you can get in touch with me through that.
Brett Stapper 18:23
Amazing. Well, thanks so much for your time. Really appreciate it and really enjoyed this conversation. Got to learn a lot of value and really love what you guys are building. So keep up the great work and let's keep in touch.
Olivia Bushe 18:33
Brett Stapper 18:34
All right. Take care.