Andrew Butt is the Co-founder & CEO of Enable, a modern, cloud-based B2B software solution for rebate management. Distributors, wholesalers and manufacturers across over 50 industries now have an easy, seamless solution to execute and track their full range of trading programs. The company is backed by $16M in funding from notable Silicon Valley investors, Menlo Ventures and Sierra Ventures.
Launched in 2017, Andrew and his co-founder, met twenty years ago while learning to fly helicopters. In March 2000, they formed their first business together, DCS E-Commerce, a profitable software engineering company, employing a team of 100. The company was ranked in the Sunday Times as the 50th fastest growing private technology company in Britain.
Four years later, they co-founded Information Matrix Ltd, a B2B SaaS business, which was acquired by London-based private equity firm Sovereign Capital.
Where did the idea for Enable come from?
I met my co-founder, Denys Shortt OBE while learning to fly helicopters when I was 16. He was already building the fastest growing distribution company in the UK, focused on health, beauty and household products. Rebates, incentives and trading agreements were hugely important for them and their trading partners but there was no system on the market that managed them well, so we decided to create Enable together.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My working day starts early at 5am. I’m in San Francisco and a lot of my team are in the UK, 8 hours ahead, so I take time to catch up with the UK day. Then I do my morning exercise – going for a run around Embarcadero with one of my dogs (the 4 year old rather than the 12 year old!)
I’m a morning person, so I allow time to work on complex problems and projects. And I hold meetings later in the day when I can. Structuring your day around how you work best is so important, and can make a massive impact on productivity.
How do you bring ideas to life?
The process starts by sharing my ideas with my team and discussing them. I like to listen to their opinion, because like me they know the product inside out. Then we try to visualize the idea and bring it to life in the form of sketches, PowerPoint presentations, mind maps so we can develop and enhance the product for our customers to make better deals.
What’s one trend that excites you?
People becoming comfortable with online meetings globally, across every sector and every demographic. There is no substitute for meeting face to face to build relationships and trust, but many meetings can be online, and globally we can all save a huge amount of (travelling) time, not to mention the environment, by meeting online. The pandemic has permanently changed everyone’s perceptions on this topic, and I believe it is for the better.
It makes it easy for people in different locations and time zones to jump into meetings spontaneously and makes for a more collaborative working environment. Also, modern technology means meetings can be recorded, transcribed into searchable text narratives, and integrated into electronic records so that meetings become more productive, useful and actionable.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Get up early. Rapidly clear the decks of anything urgent, and then get stuck into a difficult project for a couple of hours that you can cross off your todo list and get that dopamine hit of satisfaction. If you’re tired later in the day, have a 20 minute nap. If you’re a morning person, you’ll feel like you get two mornings per day!
What advice would you give your younger self?
Be more focused, more demanding and less patient. We hear all the clichés, such as “don’t boil the ocean.” I’ve learnt that you really can build something of consequence provided you can find your niche, and keep digging deeper and deeper until you have something that is totally differentiated. Great things can be accomplished, but to make a real difference you need to work at pace and have an intensity that is greater than most.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
The idea of “work life balance” is nonsense. Work is not someone to be “balanced with life”. Work is a huge part of life, and whether it’s building a company, giving to charity or raising a family, doing meaningful work is at the core of a fulfilling existence. As Steve Jobs said, “the only way to be truly satisfied is to do great work”.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Exercise every day. Get the blood circulating around your body and the oxygen flowing through your lungs. It brings fresh perspective, makes you feel great, and boosts your energy.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
If you are serious about creating something big then double down on your mission, and get rid of legacy and baggage. This may sound similar to my point on ‘focus’ but I would go further and say if you want to create something of consequence then it’s important to not have a ‘plan B’. This is the concept of ‘burning boats’ traced back to Captain Hernan Cortes in 1519. We had a profitable services business that was growing steadily, but we shut that down to fully focus on our SaaS business as that is where we see the biggest opportunities. Pursuing this has impacted our profits. We will make the SaaS business a huge success, partly because we now have no services business to fall back to!
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Allowing myself to be spread thinly across different business opportunities. I thought success would be having a portfolio of businesses, and this may well be true once those businesses are highly mature. But as a startup company, focus can never be understated. At one stage I had 3 separate businesses at the same time and I was not growing any of them rapidly enough. I overcame it by exiting from one, and closing down another. The one that remains is absolutely flying now!
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Customer referrals are one of the most rewarding ways to generate leads for your business. A program will help you to identify your company’s advocates (the referrer) and onboard new clients who are likely to be far more receptive to your proposition. Not only is new business from a referral less costly to acquire and easier to close, it also ensures your newest customers are happier, more satisfied with your product, and less likely to churn.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
A thank you gift for a team member. You can never recognize people enough. The team are the lifeblood of the company and nothing makes me more happy than see people do well, reward them, and see how much they appreciate the recognition.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I’m pretty traditional! I use a Mac and survive on Safari for web browsing, Outlook for email and calendar, Office for docs and Zoom for conferencing. That’s about it. My to-do list is a text file that I edit in TextEdit!
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Selling The Cloud” by Paul Melchiorre. A modern, must read on how to build a highly successful SaaS company. Paul has been on the journey building many multi-billion dollar companies over the past twenty years, yet he has more humility than you can imagine. His advice is pragmatic, actionable, and I promise, generates big results.
What is your favorite quote?
“Success is going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
- Recognizing your team’s success can go a long way
- Focus is the key to success
- Failure and mistakes can happen, it’s what you can learn from them
- A business idea works best when it has a niche
- Structuring your working day can impact your productivity
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.