Making sure everybody is on board with your idea as you move forward ensures you all continue to row the proverbial boat in the same direction.
Kurt Rathmann is a serial entrepreneur. In high school, he founded numerous businesses, including a 17-person landscape and architectural lighting company with 200+ clients. He attended the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin where his experience in the Professional Accounting program developed his passion for financial technology. As a Senior Audit Professional at KPMG in Denver, Kurt became the CFO of KNS Communications Consultants. During his time in this role, he turned his attention toward financial technology innovations and cloud applications. In 2014, he launched ScaleFactor where he is currently the Founder and CEO.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
During my tenure as CFO in Denver, I faced a series of operational inefficiencies that created a major disconnect between stand-alone actions and their impact on the business. We couldn’t digest how decisions impacted things that happened in May until we received the monthly reports in June. I knew there had to be a better way — why did we have to wait weeks, months or quarters to solve for current problems? Why not seconds or minutes?
I searched for something that would help me save time and understand what was happening in real time. Something that would enable me to prioritize operational tasks day-to-day. I discovered that in the accounting industry overall, cloud-based accounting networks were growing and expanding with integrated apps. It was the first time I had seen a significant efficiency increase in the SMB back-office space in a long time. I saw it as a notable turn in the industry.
From there, I began a quest to simplify the complex accounting tasks and automate the tedious manual work. In short order, I became obsessed. Soon, everything else became a distraction to solving this problem … including my job as CFO. Once I was realized that I very passionate about this problem and that I knew how to solve it, it only made sense to pursue it full-time.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I typically wake up early and start my day with yoga or a bicycle ride. I find this helps me kick-start not only my body but my brain. I then get ready for the day, review my calendar and structure my actions based on my to-do list. I work in segmented blocks of time in order to complete tasks without interruption. This also helps me stay organized and refreshed. I think of my energy as a tank of gas. If I’m running on empty at the end of the day with the most important task of my day still ahead of me, it won’t get done.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I move ideas from my head to the world by whiteboarding them out. This allows me to really see each idea, formulate the moving pieces around it and plan how to execute.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The cloud! Businesses and industries are migrating over to the cloud to stay connected to people, ideas and information. I believe that cloud computing is crucial to the way we’ll all do business in the future.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I am an early riser. I am typically 3-4 hours into my day when the rest of the world is snoozing their alarm for the second time.
What advice would you give your younger self?
When I was in high school, I started a successful lighting business and my parents had to convince me to go to college. My advice to my younger self is to listen to them, quit arguing and go to college!
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
My favorite travel experience is walking up to the gate as the final passengers are boarding. Airport and airplane styles vary person-to-person, but I find almost no one agrees with me on this particular strategy.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Buy the Wi-Fi on the plane! Airplanes are one of the few places where you’re in the position to really focus and work uninterrupted. My flights back and forth across the country are often my most productive work sessions.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Buy-in and obsession are strategies I am fully behind. In creating ScaleFactor, I became obsessed with solving a problem for SMBs and I found other team members who were willing to take on my obsession as their own. Making sure everybody is on board with your idea as you move forward is critical to ensure you all continue to row the proverbial boat in the same direction.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
In the early days of ScaleFactor when we were a service-oriented company, there was one week where everything went wrong. At the time, we only had a few customers and one was very angry with us. We made a large purchase that, in retrospect, was a bad call. I took the team to grab a drink that Friday afternoon and we talked through the situation to find a solution. This is how we started our weekly “wins” tradition.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I’ve been looking for a high-powered personal CRM that will integrate with my iPhone and Google. I’d love to be able to share information with my wife and EA who help manage my relationships, from people I meet briefly at conferences to mentors that I have long-standing relationships with.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently bought the team Tiff’s Treats, a fresh cookie delivery service in Austin, to show appreciation for all of their hard work, dedication and the curiosity they bring to ScaleFactor every day to help us grow and succeed.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
As the CEO, I am largely responsible for our vision and direction. One of the tools I find incredibly useful is Evernote. It allows me to take notes across all of my devices whenever the inspiration strikes. I can also share these notes with the rest of the team, and easily refer to them or search for them later.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“The One Thing” by Gary Keller. I think it speaks to understanding your purpose and getting around the things that block you from achieving your success. With so many possible distractions for a business owner, this book introduced me to the idea of “distraction-proofing” my day.
What is your favorite quote?
“I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today than yesterday, and lessen the suffering of others” -Neil deGrasse Tyson
- Making sure everybody is on board with your idea as you move forward ensures you all continue to row the proverbial boat in the same direction.
- I think of my energy as a tank of gas. If I’m running on empty at the end of the day with the most important task of my day still ahead of me, it won’t get done.
- It’s important to show appreciation for hard work, dedication and the curiosity your employees bring to your company.
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.