Set goals. Create tasks that help you achieve them. Prioritise them. Then allocate time in your week to do them. I also think people need to stop focusing on the problems they don’t have yet (Maserati problems). Forget fancy business cards if they don’t help you. Forget terms and conditions if you don’t need them yet. Just get started.
Brad Dunn is the founder and one of the executive directors at award winning software company Nazori in Melbourne. His role at Nazori covers product management, sales and marketing. The company, with offices in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney, designs software for clients in over 12 countries around the world including Samsung, Airbnb and Aesop. Under Brad’s leadership, the business provided expert assistance to Samsung during the Apple v Samsung lawsuit held in the federal court of Australia. Nazori is also one of the first B Corps in Australia, a certification given to organisations who meet an exceptionally high bar when it comes to ethics, environment and caring for its employees. There’s currently around 1,000 B Corps around the world, including organisations like Patagonia, Etsy, and Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream. Brad is also a business mentor for startups as part of the Australian Governments Enterprising Partnerships program and serves as a teacher at the Melbourne General Assembly Campus, where he teaches Product Management.
Where did the idea for Nazori come from?
Nazori is a family business. It all started because my brother Poe who was a software engineer for Microsoft in Seattle at the time was interested in getting involved with the Nazori business, which, at the time, was developing IT infrastructure for organisations in Melbourne. (At the time, the company was just me and another part time IT guy named Rhys). We kept running into happy customers who were asking us to build custom applications for them. We knew if we took high end software engineering practices that were common place at places like Microsoft and Google, and applied them to developing innovative mobile apps for organisations, good things would happen. They did. And the development business in 12 months became about 90% of our revenue stream. We dropped the tech support practice and we now develop mobile apps and web applications for clients all over the world and have been lucky with the success we’ve had. Today, all we do is new product development in the tech space. It’s awesome.
What does a typical day look like?
I’m a productivity nerd, so I’m quite organised. I like to make sure the design team know what they are working on, and I try make myself available for any product decisions that need to be made early so I’m not holding people up. Sometimes we run usability testing over night, so checking the results that morning tends to happen quite a bit. Nazori are lucky in the sense that all of our staff are located in Australia (as apposed to us outsourcing everything overseas or something) so we have a pretty tight team that works quite well together. This is one thing we’re always really happy with. I probably split my days up between doing 30% business development and marketing, 30% product management, and 30% just managing staff, developing their goals, that kind of thing, and 10% managing my own performance, getting better at things, making improvements to the company, that kind of thing.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Through an incredibly seasoned innovation process. It sounds like I’m crafting the answer for the interview, but its true. We’ve developed a practice of innovation that revolves around experiments, focus groups, prototypes, and the lean product development model (thanks Toyota). We like to build things, and test the outcomes quickly with as little waste as possible. We’ve taken a lot of ideas from the innovation process used at IDEO as well. We’ve been lucky enough to learn from some former IDEO designers, and those lessons have really shaped the way we see innovation in general. We can’t commend the work they’ve done enough in that space. What we’ve done is tried to introduce some of those philosophies into software development and had some really good successes. But more specifically, one way we give life to products is through illustration. I guess this makes us a little different really. We have a full time illustrator on the team who does add quite a lot of personality to the work we do.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I’m not sure if its a trend, but I think what Magic Leap are trying to do could be a game changer. It’s still early, but if the photos of their real life animation stuff is possible, we can think of a lot of applications in that space. Ditto the whole self driving cars thing. If those answers aren’t trends, then i’m going to say robots. You can’t go wrong with robots.
What’s one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur.
First, I don’t consider myself an entrepreneur. I’ve always been uncomfortable with that label. I always think that term better fits someone who has 20 different companies they’ve started on their LinkedIn profile. We put so much focus into Nazori it baffles me how people can really dedicate time to more than one company. Maybe I’m just not that good at multi-tasking or something. For me, I just want one business – a really good one though. That’s the company I started. Let’s just say I’m a businessman. But as far as habits go, I’d have to say that having really clearly defined goals that accommodate the different roles I have in life is key. For me, I evaluate these every Monday morning. Then, I create tasks that help me get closer to those goals. Next, I prioritise them into the following categorise. Urgent and Important, important but not urgent, urgent but not important, then things that are just wastes of time. Finally, I schedule time to achieve them in my calendar. This means my week is balanced, I’m accomplishing goals while not neglecting things like family, reading, hobbies, or whatever. I think this is probably the thing that’s helped me most. I hear a lot of people complain of neglecting family or hobbies when they start a business. This process gives a lot more balance to my life which I think has kept me sane and interested. This model (for those playing at home) I think (if I remember correctly) is something that you can read about in a book called the 7 Habits of highly effective people. I recommend it. My natural inclinations are to be pretty disorganised and this process has helped me get my shit together.
What was the worst job I ever had. What did I learn?
Wow. Such an easy one. I took a job, I won’t say with who, but lets just say it was one of the largest IT outsourcing companies on the planet, which, if you’ve met me, is the last place I should be. I’m a pragmatic guy. I like to get things done. This was what can only be referred to as the birth place of red tape. I was employee number 44,000 or something. After 5 hours there I emailed everyone I knew to get me out of there. I took the job because I needed money but it was a pretty big waste of time from a career perspective. A few weeks before, I was trying to start a business but it wasn’t taking off, so I took a 3 month contract with this company to get some cash in the bank. What made it much worse was I ended up on a horrible team with pretty horrible people. At the time it was so horrible, I started writing short stories about life at the company and would send them to my friends. I should try and find those. They’d make good reading.
Know what jobs suit you, and probably don’t take a job on money alone. In fairness, I was just the wrong guy for the job. And I took the job because a recruiter told me “I know what I’d do…”. I was young. I didn’t really know recruiters got paid to place candidates so I put faith in him. So that was probably a mistake too. But even now when we hire staff at Nazori, finding out if the candidate is really suitable is a big part of it. If we think its not the ideal for someone, even if we think they’ll make great additions to the team – if its not what they want then we won’t hire them.
If i were to start again, what would I do differently.
Nothing. No wait. I want to change my answer. I’d probably learn what our ideal customer persona is faster. It takes time to work this out, but you can show someone how to do this with a bit of experience. I think understanding who your ideal customer is can be really key to growing quickly, and building win win relationships on deals. It also helps you shape marketing ideas, and communicate messages to the right people.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Create tasks that help you achieve them. Prioritise them. Then allocate time in your week to do them. I also think people need to stop focusing on the problems they don’t have yet (Maserati problems). Forget fancy business cards if they don’t help you. Forget terms and conditions if you don’t need them yet. Just get started. Oh yeah, and one thing. Everyone, please, stop with the NDA’s. They’re a total waste of time. Stop worrying so much. No one is sitting around with a team of engineers just waiting for your perfect idea to land in their lap so they can steal it. If you’ve ever wondered what an idea is worth….just try selling one.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Ethics and becoming a B Corp have been great for us. And, in reality, being a really technical company has probably been the biggest factor (which I have to say, is mostly Poe’s doing). We just built stuff that made people money. And it worked. Delivering outcomes does wonders for your business. But, something else that’s contributed to growth is how we approach sales (and maybe I’m only talking about this because it falls under my remit). I was lucky to have a really seasoned background in business development. Now when I say sales, I mean people who’ve run a sales pipelines, know how to forecast sales properly, used CRM’s, know what Miller Heiman is, those people will know what I mean. But I think being in the software agency space, most of our competitors don’t do the basics. 80% of business is just returning phone calls and rocking up on time. I think this is why we have such high closure rates on deals. We simply know how to create opportunities with clients and help them discover value. I guess this is why we find it so amusing some of our competition outsource their workforce to places like India and Bangladesh. It shows that price has been a big motivator for them – which, okay, I understand, that’s their thing, there is always room in the market for Costco. For us, we play in a different space. We’ve found when you deliver value for people, and build an outcome people are after, you’ll find cutting costs only gets you so far. What people really want is outcomes. Not discounts. When it comes to costs, the reality is, you can’t shrink your way to greatness.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I have made so many mistakes I don’t know where to start. I think though, one lesson you want to learn really early on is about people (I feel like this is all I talk about lately). Hire the best people, and when i say the best, I mean the best, not the best of the candidate of the bunch who applied. If you can’t find them, keep looking. Consider that a golden rule. You’ll spend so much time worrying about margins, profits, sales, revenue, support, whatever, but people who are wrong for your business, it’s by far the most costly exercise x 10. So spend a great deal of time learning how to recruit. Find out what the right person looks like for you and learn how to identify that well. If you can’t afford to hire the right people, become a really good judge of talent.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A website that connects people who want to wash and iron clothes for money, with lazy people who want their laundry done. A kind of Airbnb for laundry (actually I think I just saw that on Vooza)
Tell us something about you very few people know?
I feel like everyone at Nazori has 2 degrees a piece, PHD’s, Masters, all kinds of formal education from all over the world. I’m a high school drop out. I also play chess every day.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
I can’t shut up about Slack at the moment. It’s religion.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I’m going to ignore the fact you said one book because I have to mention 3.
Good to Great, Re-Work, and The 7 Habit’s of Highly Effective people.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Just people you wouldn’t know. Store owners. My butcher. Old Bosses, each one has taught me a little lesson I’ve applied to business. But, I think Eric Ries has totally changed the way I approach product management. I highly recommend his ideas
Brad Dunn on Twitter: @jesterhoax
Nazori on Twitter: @nazori_corp
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.