Innovation is born out of necessity – don’t create a problem for a product, create a product for a problem.
Ryan Dempsey is the CEO and founder of The Compliance Workbook, a Software as a Service (SaaS) company which provides industry-leading software that is changing the future of compliance and asset management. He worked in the electrical industry for many years, the majority of this time in the Social Housing sector, where he managed all electrical and cyclical services for a Local Authority in the UK. Here Ryan saw first hand the lack of innovation within both the electrical industry and the Social Housing sector and that there was a requirement for a more proactive approach to lifecycle insights. He found it unacceptable to have thousands of compliance documents sat in files waiting to be replaced, or worse, called upon when there is an incident. So, he decided to challenge the status quo and disrupt current ways of working introducing innovative technology that would allow more efficient, proactive and rigorous methods of managing assets which can be applied to multiple sectors and industries.
He is passionate about driving true value innovation and disruptive business models taking a proactive approach to lifecycle insights of assets. He believes that by harnessing digital technologies, transforming customer experience, simplifying business processes and moving to agile ways of delivery will provide safer and far more efficient ways of doing business.
Ryan is an IET Fellow and the Chairman of the Electrical Safety Roundtable Social Housing Sub Group, which recently saw him lead the discussion on defining a Code of Practice for the Management of Electrotechnical Care in Social Housing. He is also a founding member of The e5 Group, an independent voluntary group of like-minded individuals who embed and act on ethical principles within the electrical industry. His passion for wanting to move away from doing the minimum led to the creation of The Compliance Workbook. With clients in multiple sectors and international interest the company lives by its values; innovate to make a positive difference, with trust, respect and honesty, to improve safety. The world has never been able to use and link data stretched across multiple PDF documents and received in many formats… until now.
Where did the idea for The Compliance Workbook come from?
I first had the idea for something to help me manage the large amounts of checks I was required to do as an Electrical Supervisor. The laborious tasks of not only checking for correct completion on electrical certificates and reports, but also checking numbers against numbers to confirm something is right, or wrong, became so monotonous that I believed there had to be a solution which would automate the process. Not just that, as a mere human I was restricted in what I could check as time and resource are commodities we just don’t have enough of. I needed to see everything to truly manage risk and reward, and having sight of everything WAS impossible.
Strangely I spent my life trying to find a ‘solution’ which wasn’t out there. Then, when I wasn’t looking, necessity jumped out and bit me, the evolution of The Compliance Workbook began. Once the initial platform was created it was my fellow directors and me who decided that the technology was much more scalable to other data manipulation and analytics. It didn’t just provide an answer to my original pain-point, it could do so much more.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I have a real issue with being able to sleep these days due to the number of exciting opportunities ahead of us and what feels like limitless possibilities of the development of the software itself. Plus the sleep thieves that are our three young children! This ‘hindrance’ is somewhat beneficial as more hours in the day gives me the chance to react personally to some of the desk requests we get from those using our software. It is always great to speak directly with clients to get ideas for improvements and hear how the software is being used and the benefits organisations are gleaning.
I like to start the day with either yoga or some form of meditation where I focus on what, and why, I am about to do what I’m about to do. When I say meditation I don’t mean sitting quietly, I like to stick on some headphones and stream some cool music to disappear into for half an hour.
I receive around 30 calls a day from people in the electrical industry or social housing sector, this is sometimes focussed on TCW activities and sometimes on technical assistance around the electrotechnical knowledge I have. I couldn’t be without the obvious What’s app, email, Hangouts, social media platforms etc. For communicating with the team to ensure we’re all connected, our Technical Director has implemented a number of platforms to ensure maximum efficiency. Jira and Slack are two fantastic platforms to keep any size company connected. We are after all a technology company and therefore utilise great tech to help with our productivity.
I’ve clocked up a fair amount of mileage over the last few years but my day-to-day activities revolve around my family as much as I can. There are times when I have to travel for a few days but typically I am here for school drop off and pick up which is important to me, and I try to never lose sight of that no matter how busy ‘work-life’ is. It isn’t simply a balance but more like a cycle, if you are doing something you are passionate about, that positivity flows into your home life, improving your well-being and that of your family, which in return flows back into your work.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I think bringing an idea to life is easy if the idea is a product which you can physically hold. Making a business from an idea is a different thing.
With software, it’s a lot harder, especially if the tech is brand new and built from scratch. In this instance, you need to be prepared to educate the market, and by educating the market you have to be prepared to face criticism from those who don’t understand. Fundamentally you are already in a position where you believe, truly believe, that your idea will transform peoples lives. If you don’t believe that then there’s no point in starting because people will say no more times than you’re able to accept.
It’s important to understand the costs of getting something from your brain to a customer and then understanding how many customers you need to then flip the cost margins from your loss to your gain. You should do everything to get the idea embedded in a customer journey or process as this proves that your idea is a definite need in the market place.
I read an article somewhere that stated only 1 in 10 software companies get to point where they are making money and have customers. 1 in 10!! They’re probably all great ideas to the founder and a select few, but a business is born when the ideas are great for a much wider audience.
I guess one of my golden nuggets is to get the right people with the right mindset around you. To get something to market you have to be realistic that it won’t happen as fast as you want it to. If you have the right people around you it transforms the motivation and inspires you to push. I am very lucky with our ‘TCW tribe’. If I had to do this all again I would struggle to find a team as focused, knowledgeable and hardworking as the team I have standing beside me now.
What’s one trend that excites you?
It would be very cliché to say AI or other Machine Learning aspects, Blockchain Technology or even Renewable Technology to move the world towards a carbon-neutral world, but, a trend that excites me is more fundamental in terms of peoples day-to-day lives:
Throughout the Compliance and Construction industries, we’ve accepted that decisions are made from the top down. In most cases these days those who sit at the top see spreadsheets with monetary values either in black or red, the decisions they make are fuelled by the need for the black to increase, even if that means something else has to give. However, if you keep your ear to the ground you’ll hear the workers shouting, and some of those shouts are very valid regarding industrial improvements and ultimately the safety of assets and systems. The more we listen to those who get their hands dirty on the coal face the bigger the forward steps will be.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
This is a really hard question to answer.
If I had to pick one thing that I believe most people restrict themselves on it would be the ability, or acceptance, to fail at something knowing that failure is not a full stop. When you consider blue sky opportunities they very rarely, if ever, become a successful idea just because you believe in it. The idea has to fail a hundred times before it becomes the product of your obsession.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Very bluntly I would tell myself that it is going to hurt sometimes, you’re going to want to turn your steering wheel inwards whilst driving 100mph down a motorway because you just want a few weeks rest. People won’t understand why you do what you do but will happily request some of your rewards.
Everyone in business lies, you’ll be very lucky to meet someone who doesn’t want more from you than you want from them. Accept this.
I’d also tell myself that I was going to meet someone who’s going to motivate me and push me to become someone very few people can become, so go with your instincts.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Money creates more problems than it fixes.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Say yes. If someone gives you an opportunity or offers you the chance to improve or gain something special, just go with it.
I received a call from someone in Vienna asking me if I wanted a bite to eat to talk about a possible investment. I said yes and a week later flew to Austria for dinner and then flew home. That opportunity wasn’t the right one for us, but you never know what is out there if you reply ‘no’ instead of ‘yes’. Plus the food was good!
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Personal brand in the marketplace. I’ve spent hours upon hours recording podcasts, writing articles and blogs to increase my profile in the industries I operate in. How you conduct yourself in the marketplace is a direct reflection of your companies ethos and naturally pushes people to the company brand. This can be a double-edged sword, as you are open to being scrutinised but as long as you stick to your principles authenticity shines through and can not be faked.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
TCW is my first business and although not a failure as such, the shareholding in the business is reflective of the need to grow organically without private equity or VC funding. In hindsight, the decision to do this has put us in good stead as my fellow directors and I have the say on what happens day-to-day. However, this has been at a cost to us personally which is something I’ve learned a lot about and will take with me throughout my business journey.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I love this question. I mean truthfully, take a step outside wherever you are in the world and look around you. Ask yourself, could I do that business better than that person? Then just do it.
In terms of innovation, I’d say develop a filter for cars where rainwater is filtered into screen wash. This prevents people from getting points on their driving licence if they forget, and gives people a safety option. This has its positives and negatives but, there you go!!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I bought a Yeti microphone for my Mac. This means that my podcasts or other recordings are of perfect sound quality. Little things make a big difference.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Although Social Media has its negatives I do appreciate Linkedin in my life. There are multiple reasons for this:
Seeing other people pushing hard to improve their lives is so inspirational and sometimes it is what you need to get up and smash the day.
I also love posting controversial conversations on the platform to see how people react. If you don’t have a little humour in your life you’re just wasting away!!
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I still haven’t found a contender to knock ‘Moonwalking with Einstein’ from my top spot. Without giving too much away, the book demonstrates the amazing capabilities of our minds and what we can do with our memory. I’m regularly complimented on my ability to remember people and names etc, I owe this to what I learned reading this book.
What is your favorite quote?
“What would you attempt if you know you could not fail” – unknown.
- Leading the way in innovation and building the new world is not for the faint-hearted.
- You’re going to fail, you just have to accept that.
- Spend time with your head in the clouds with loud music so to keep your feet firmly on the ground.
- Money is not the end goal.
- Innovation is born out of necessity – don’t create a problem for a product, create a product for a problem.