Business is big business.
Business is such big business, that there’s a whole industry devoted to helping businesses run, well, their businesses.
Creators of accounting software that runs through the cloud, MYOB has been hosting a roadshow – known as MYOB Incite – throughout Australia and New Zealand to discuss the future of the business of doing business, as well as promote its latest product, MYOB Advanced People. Bringing together some of the smartest people around – or at least people with degrees far fancier than my own – to the Hyatt Regency along Sydney’s postcard-perfect waterfront, I soon found myself doing what I seem to be doing a lot these days: learning more about how the world works than I ever did in my 17 years of schooling.
Though the all ages crowd was dressed in mostly dark slacks and khakis and collared shirts in various hues of the rainbow, it didn’t take long for me to realise I was undoubtedly the poorest person in the room, judging by the fancy titles like “general manager of innovation” and “Australasia vice president” people bore on their nametags and the number of Kate Spade and Louis Vuitton handbags casually strewn about. Hearing phrases like “consolidating databases into a single instance” meant I probably should have paid more attention in economics class, too.
Imagine my surprise when things kicked off.
Taking a seat next to other media from throughout Australia and the Land of the Long White Cloud in a large room with funky purple lighting that was roughly as warm as the Transantarctic Mountains in July, my browser was already open to Google on my phone to look up the many, many things I was prepared to not have a clue about.
“When customers find a better solution, they will go there,” explained the event’s first speaker, former Lonely Planet executive director and CTO Gus Balbontin. “Customers are always evolving.”
His example was a doozy, too. While Lonely Planet was focused on print guidebooks, its competitor TripAdvisor was busy building a platform for reviews from travellers. When Lonely Planet was sold in 2013, it went for about US$75 million. The Wall Street Journal says TripAdvisor is valued at more than US$11 billion.
I cogitated on that. Made sense. If I was no longer satisfied with a brand or product or service or whatever, I’d always go someplace else to see if it’s better.
“Customers pick the path of least resistance. Always.”
Innovation was all about adaptability, Balbontin explained. This was a theme echoed by the next speaker, MYOB chief executive Tim Reed. Introduced by a three-piece band in white dress shirts and black suspenders and bowties and a guy on a saxophone, Reed was able to simply explain what MYOB’s cloud-based accounting software is all about.
“The business of doing business.”
The guy should’ve been working as translator.
The talk got me thinking. How much is the accounting software industry worth? Only billions upon billions of dollars worldwide, considering in New Zealand alone it’s worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually. And let’s not forget the fact one of Aotearoa’s most famous companies, Xero, is in the industry too. They only made $207.1 million in revenue in the 2015 fiscal year.
The sheer amount of money the industry controls was certainly on display at lunch, where I sat down with MYOB execs and a few other people whose monthly yacht insurance alone probably cost more than my annual rent for a flat in Grey Lynn. The irony was not lost on me, considering one of the speakers emphasised the need to not waste money on frivolous things and many others discussed the need to have clear goals in mind.
Fancy scallops at an even fancier restaurant.
Located on the 47th floor of the Australia Square Building, we nibbled on scallops, grass-fed lamb (I know it was a cardinal sin to consume Australian lamb – and I’ll begin to atone for my crime by confessing I still believe New Zealand lamb is better) and coconut yoghurt ice cream at O Bar, a revolving restaurant that was just as warm temperature wise as the conference room. But it did offer some pretty bloody impressive views of the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House. Frivolous spending? Debatable. Though my stomach didn't seem to mind.
Oh, and I should probably mention dinner involved Moreton Bay bugs (think crayfish, but fancier) slathered in succulent sauce and accompanied by white wine probably several decades older than myself (and I’m so old, the Berlin Wall was still in mostly one piece when I was born) at a Woolloomooloo eatery not infrequently visited by the likes of Russell Crowe and Mel Gibson.
The takeaway here: the business of business really is big business. But Tim Reed was able to explain just why that is far better than I ever could: most companies spend $30 on labour for every $1 in tech. By upgrading to modern accounting systems, labour costs go way, way down. And that, he explained, means you’ll have more money to spend on other things.
Like fancy meals in revolving restaurants that cost more than a financially challenged writer’s entire monthly food budget.