[quote style=”boxed”]With Numbers. I help entrepreneurs build better businesses by giving them knowledge, metrics, and a dashboard to help them make smarter decisions.[/quote]
Michael grew up looking up to his father, a successful entrepreneur who retired when he was only 46. At the University of California, Santa Barbara, Michael pursued the study of accounting, known to him as the “language of business.” He received his Bachelor’s degree in business economics and accounting in 3 years and his Masters in accountancy in only 1 year. After working for several years in various organizations, he founded DeepSky in 2009 with the sole intent to help entrepreneurs understand more about their numbers so they can make business decisions based on real-time data.
Where did the idea for DeepSky come from?
I realized early on in my career that accounting is one of the least understood topics for most entrepreneurs and the first to get them in trouble. It costs them money, time, energy, and potential. I decided to break the stereotype that accounting added no value to business, and create a business focused company that provides critical insights backed by financial data that entrepreneurs can navigate their business by.
What does your typical day look like?
Nothing resembles a “normal day.” However, I’ve established a list of habits I try to practice on a day-to-day basis to help move my company forward. It typically starts with reading, thinking, and planing in the morning from the 30,000 foot view. Followed by checking in with my team, conversations with potential customers, and ensuring my existing customers are happy. I Crossfit or bike in the early evening to help me clear my mind, spend time with my family in the evenings, and wrap the day up by reviewing my own set of input and output metrics.
How do you bring ideas to life?
With Numbers. I help entrepreneurs build better businesses by giving them knowledge, metrics, and a dashboard to help them make smarter decisions.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The cloud is awesome. It allows me to work from wherever I am, share information with clients across the globe, and ensures data integrity. It is an elegant solution to many business problems in a global economy.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I regularly talk with other entrepreneurs to figure out what is and isn’t working, and how I can use that knowledge to improve their work. I read a ton of blogs and books, and try to reciprocate with social media. It’s all about learning at an accelerated speed in this day and age.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
The worst job I ever had actually planted the seed for DeepSky. I was working in accounts payable for a private company and every Tuesday my responsibility was to do our weekly check run. It involved 6 hours of printing the checks, printing the invoices, matching them by hand, folding them, stuffing them in an envelope, licking the envelope, then running it through the postal machine and mailing them. I couldn’t believe that this was someone’s Tuesday for nearly 20 years and thought there has got to be a better way to do all these necessary but low value tasks in accounting.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would still be doing what I’m doing today, but I’d do it earlier in my life. In addition, I would do more writing, speaking, and producing videos. For example, I would create some type of video campaign that would hit every single entrepreneur, asking the five questions about accounting or finance that concern or benefit them the most. Featuring a short, 60-90 second film on my website, I would quickly create a database that focuses less about accounting and more on an entrepreneur’s views of data, metrics, numbers, financials, and how to run their business based on these – turning this information into meaningful content.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Build your personal brand. I use social media, especially Twitter (@deepskyco) and my blog ) to establish my voice and expertise. I also create videos, do webinars and speak. These things help me develop a rapport, as well, where I can get feedback from clients, colleagues and the population at large.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Building my product with the entrepreneur’s hat on and the accountant’s hat off. Ever since DeepSky started, I’ve spent thousands of hours talking shop with entrepreneurs to understand what are some real pains that can be resolved by having better metrics to rely on. These business focused conversation helped us not only connect with our customers on a strategic level, it also helped us build a better product from a technical standpoint. We kept the boring tactical accounting stuff in-house and turned our customer to what’s more important – business, strategy, and behaviors – and it’s paying off.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I started out being way too conservative with money (typical for a finance-driven mind). I wanted to see a large sum in my bank account rather than figuring out how to use those cash as ammunition to fuel my growth. Overcoming it was easier said than done – I already know all the concepts; after all, it is what we teach our customers on a day to day basis. Yet, actually doing it took the courage to admitting to the issue, comforting my financial mind with spreadsheet financial models and working with mentors to validate these changes.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Invoice customization. If I have the time, money, and technical resource to do development on this – I’d jump on it in a heartbeat. It surprised me over the years talking with entrepreneurs how important it is to make sure their invoices fit in with their branding. Most don’t today. A drag and drop design platform that designers can use coupled with financial data integration through API plugin is a brilliant business idea. If someone is up to build it, I can spec it.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
One of my goals is to build a school for kids that don’t like school. The idea is to create an environment where young adults can obtain the knowledge and experience they need to excel in their passion through real world experiences at corporations.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Google Apps really ties everything together for me, both personally and for business.. It’s got e-mail, notes, and everything else you need in one place. Chat tools such as iMessage and HipChat are also great ways for me to communicate with my family, team, and friends. I also use Facetime. Not long ago, I bought my parents an iPad and it has changed our relationship because of how easy it is for me to Facetime them, even though they are halfway around the world.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I would recommend Buyology. At the end of the day, the first thing entrepreneurs worry about in building a business is providing something people will buy. I used to think I was rational and had a thousand different reasons behind buying something, but Buyology conducted and broke down multiple scientific studies that provided strong evidence of human’s irrational behaviors. This book was a fun read and completely defunct my entire thinking about how we buy and sell.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, really influenced the insights DeepSky provides our clients. Check him out @simonsinet, at www.startwithwhy.com, or read his book.
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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.