ChekRite- Meet the Boss!
The venture was one of five launched by Millar after returning home to Brisbane from working overseas.
"I’d been working in Paris, heading up AXA Technology Services’ innovation operations. I came home, started five businesses simultaneously, and this was the one that took off,” Millar said.
“Having spent 20 years working in IT for insurance firms, I’ve encountered plenty of inefficiencies caused by the fact that paper forms are still so widely used. We want to help our clients with the transition away from paper.
“We help companies replace paper-based methods of storing information, capturing it in an easy-to-use, secure way that helps them ensure compliance, increase consistency of their processes and reduce costs."
What’s your role in the business?
Approximately 70 per cent of our revenue comes from New Zealand, so my day starts about three hours ahead of Brisbane time. Our lead developer is based in Russia, so I also finish around midnight! My day is spent liaising between these time zones, as well as seeing customers.
How did you get the idea to start your business?
I built a prototype in 24 hours, showed it to some mining companies and they loved it. That was six years ago. Two years ago I redesigned and refined the software after the mining boom, to make it ‘industry agnostic’ so that any company could use it.
How did you raise capital to finance your venture?
Initially, I funded it myself, though I’ll admit I burnt through money a bit quicker than I thought I would, so I spoke to Jock Fairweather [founder and director of Little Tokyo Two, a co-working and event space based at The Capital] and he put me in touch with some investors.
What value do you place in business plans and why?
Although I’m guilty of not putting as much effort into business plans in the beginning, I could have saved myself a lot of heartache and cash if I’d had - now I’m spending more time on getting this essential tool in place. Business plans are always evolving. You can’t put the cart in front of the horse!
What’s your professional background?
I completed degrees in software engineering and artificial intelligence before going on to work in IT, specialising in the insurance industry.
Had you run your own business before?
No, but I always had that entrepreneurial inclination. Despite running IT departments in large companies, I always tried to run those departments as little businesses.
Where’s your business located?
We’re based at The Capital, in the CBD. As a start-up hub and co-working space, it’s a great place to be because there are always lots of people around.
A lot of start-ups, particularly tech ones, underestimate the loneliness involved in business. You have to have a network around you.
What are some unexpected benefits of owning a small business?
The very real sense of accomplishment you get when you see something and think, “I did that”. I genuinely get joy out of seeing other people use our software, or when I visit a customer hear them say, “Did you ChekRite that?”
What’s the biggest challenge in running this type of business?
The lack of sleep! I get four to five hours a night, but do sneak power naps at other times! I have gotten better at structuring what we do, but it’s still a struggle to fit everything I want into a day.
How do you market your business?
Having an idea is five per cent of a project. Executing it is another 30 per cent, and everything else is sales and marketing.
Our product solves a problem a lot of companies don’t realise they have, so we try to educate them about how to use the information traditionally captured on paper as a potential driver to make savings in areas of the business they may not have considered.
What’s been the best financial investment you’ve made in your business?
Our people. We have a great, really dedicated team.
How do you stay up to date with the latest business information?
I follow lots of tech and science-focused accounts on Twitter, and I subscribe to a number of industry email alerts – including CTO Daily, from [Brisbane innovation expert] Jordan Duffy. It gives me a snapshot of tech, leadership, culture and innovation.
Who do you seek advice from for your business?
The mentors at Little Tokyo Two are a great source of advice. I also stay in touch with people from my old university network from more than 20 years ago.
Where do you see your business in a year’s time? Five years’ time?
We’re aiming to become the easiest way for companies looking to collect observable information. We want to help them capture big data and harness that information to create a safer, more productive and efficient working environment.
What’s the greatest lesson you have learned in business?
You have to keep the passion but lose the emotion. Keep a clear head!
How do you manage risk?
By embracing it. As an entrepreneur, I take calculated risks all the time. You obviously shouldn’t be reckless, but you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone.
On a company level, we put a lot of emphasis on protecting and securing our data and will not support unsecured platforms.
What three things should someone consider before starting a business?
- Don’t try to do it alone.
- Be prepared for the fact it will cost more than you thought. A lot more.
- Keep the passion, lose the emotion.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
All of the above, but earlier in the process!