Laurie: Today I’m talking to Prasad Raje, president and CEO of a new company called StatX. I met Prasad this fall at Intuit’s QuickBooks Connect Conference, and was intrigued with the demo I saw of the StatX solution, which provides users with a mobile dashboard for QuickBooks Online and several other top small business applications. Before we talk more about the StatX solution, Prasad, can you first tell me a little bit about the company, and when and why you got started?
Prasad: Thanks, Laurie, sure. StatX has been around since about the middle of last year. I and my co-founder Pablo Bellver founded the company. Prior to that, I was CEO of Instantis, a company that was also in the collaboration space, and was acquired by Oracle. Pablo had been at Google for about 10 years, and had built Google Now, which is a very successful Android app for consumers. We put our brains together and created StatX to deliver mobile relevant business updates to your mobile phone, no matter where they are. Our motto is that StatX lets you know what changed in your business via your mobile device
Laurie: I like the term you used in our earlier conversation–that StatX is like an Instagram for business–because it relays real-time information to you in a very digestible way, right to your phone
Prasad: That’s right, that’s the way we think about it. We want the information to be visual and easy to consume, so we built the StatX platform to do this. It doesn’t take up too much of your time because that’s the way people use their mobile devices.
Laurie: One of the top applications that StatX works with is QuickBooks Online. Can you tell us a little about this?
Prasad: Sure. If you use QuickBooks Online (QBO) to keep your books up to date, you want to be able to send updates and financials to your clients or co-workers. StatX directly connects to QBO. QBO authorizes StatX to fetch your financials from it, and StatX pulls that information into a set of visual elements that we call stats. Twitter invented the tweet, and StatX has invented the stat, which is a visual representation of numeric or status information. In the case of financials, it would represent things like income, expenses, cash, AR, AP, etc., in a beautiful, easy to consume dashboard. And it brings you live, real-time updates to information when it changes.
Laurie: How long does it take for a QuickBooks Online user to get productive with this?
Prasad: Very little time. We want to compete with the best of the consumer apps out there in terms of ease of use. So, if you are an accountant that wants to set up QBO with StatX, it should take no more than a few minutes of time to connect your QBO account and start seeing live data on your phone from QBO. From there it should take less than a minute to share that information with your client. By the way, the client doesn’t need to do any setup, they simply just consume the live dashboard information that you provide to them.
Laurie: It sounds like the accountant does a tiny bit of work and the client gets the benefit of that without really any heavy lifting at all.
Prasad: Exactly. Even for the accountant, it’s a one-time setup, then we do all the work on an ongoing basis to keep it live at all times.
Laurie: How do you price StatX?
Prasad: Pricing is very simple. We have a monthly per user subscription fee for each client or user using StatX. The fee is $10 per user per month when paid as an annual subscription. That allows the client to use StatX with QuickBooks Online, and with the other apps we have on our platform.
Laurie: Before we get into those other apps, can you clarify whether the accountant has to pay a user fee for each of the clients he’s pushing notifications out to, or just for his own use?
Prasad: For each user that has the app installed on their phone. So, if the accountant sets up 5 clients, the accountant would have one subscription for him or herself, plus 5 for their clients.
Laurie: Got it. So what are some of the other small business applications that StatX already has a mobile dashboard for?
Prasad: Our connector to WordPress is one example, we can fetch your daily visitor stats and see how it trends and you can get notifications for new posts, comments, visitors etc. Another one is MailChimp for email marketing. Instead of having to go to MailChimp every time you want to see how many people opened your email and how many clicked through, we just send you live updated stats as things change.
Laurie: I know StatX also works with Microsoft Excel and you work with QuickBooks Desktop. How does it work with these?
Prasad: For QuickBooks Desktop, you can export reports into Excel, as you normally do, and we have an add-in to Microsoft Excel that lets you connect that information with StatX. So, you can provide stats to your client’s phone with a single click in Excel or QuickBooks Desktop.
Laurie: Anything else that’s important for small business owners and decision-makers to know about StatX?
Prasad: In addition to being a powerful dashboard that connects to many different apps, StatX can be used to create quick and easy, succinct workflows. For example, if you’re collaborating with your team on a particular check list of items that need to be done, instead of sending e-mails back and forth, people can just check off items on the checklist via their mobile device, and everyone gets notified of the status. Say you need approvals from your boss for different things, you create an approval stat for that. We have many stats like this that help with collaboration and to coordinate workflows.
Laurie: Very interesting, and thank you so much for your time today and sharing this info.
2017 has the potential to bring unprecedented changes to the technology landscape for SMBs. In most years, the top tech trends tend to develop in an evolutionary way, but this year we also will see some more dramatic shifts that SMBs need to put on their radar. Areas such as cloud and mobile continue to evolve in important ways, and they are also paving the way for newer trends in areas including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, integration and the Internet of Things (IoT) to take hold among SMBs.
Although we can’t cover all of them in our Top 10 list, here are the headlines for SMB Group’s 2017 Top 10 SMB Tech Trends that we think hold the most promise for SMBs in 2017. Click here for the full report.
- The Cloud Continues to Power SMB Digital Transformation.
- Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) moves from hype to reality for early adopter SMBs.
- The Rise of Smart Apps for SMBs.
- Focused, Tailored CRM Solutions Take Hold With SMBs.
- SMBs Get Connected With New Collaboration Tools.
- SMBs Modernize On-premises IT with Hyper-converged Infrastructure.
- Application Integration Gets Easier for Small Businesses.
- SMB Mobile Momentum Continues, But Mobile Management Lags.
- Online Financing Options for Small Businesses Multiply.
- Proactive SMBs Turn to MSSPs and Cyber Insurance to Face Security Challenges.
Laurie: Today I am speaking with Arash Asli, who is the Chief Executive Officer at Yocale. Arash and I met earlier this year at a Salesforce event. Arash’s company, Yocale, provides small local businesses with some very compelling marketing services. Arash, can you tell us about Yocale and the problems that you help small businesses solve?
Arash: Absolutely. Yocale’s story started with a basic search on a smart phone for a local service, a massage therapist actually, and in the frustration of not being able to reach any therapist or book an appointment in the evening. So it sparked the idea for a listing site that people could use to find info on local service providers, and then book them online—kind of like a combination of Yelp and OpenTable, but for appointment-based services. This of course helps customers easily find and book appointments. The YoCale platform becomes the place where the local consumers can discover, book, and review local service providers within their community. So you don’t have to drive 10 miles across two suburbs for a hair stylist when there’s a great right in your neighborhood—who may also be able to recommend a local massage therapist or a personal trainer nearby.
But our key mission is to support appointment-based local businesses by helping them to attract local customers, take the friction out of scheduling, and increase customer satisfaction. Just like the buy local movement, we’re like the book local movement basically with a mission of encouraging consumers to book local with service providers.
Laurie: This seems to be part of the trend towards more specific or individualized marketing services for different kinds of businesses, with Yocale targeting local small business service providers.
Arash: Exactly. In addition to marketing, we also help them automate operations, such as online booking, text and email reminders to reduce no-shows, email marketing, SEO optimized search, staff scheduling and more. Our software tackles two of the main challenges that these businesses face, which are marketing and data security and records management, which are two of the top SMB challenges that you covered in SMB Group’s 2016 Top Ten SMB Technology Trends. Once we help appointment-based businesses attract new clients, solution makes it easy for them to manage their entire business on securely in the cloud, from any device.
Laurie: Right, right, and this is for service providers, which are actually a bigger percentage of small local businesses than those selling physical products, and their needs are definitely different.
Arash: Absolutely. For these businesses, online marketing can be extremely difficult and it can be expensive to stand out and get the traffic online. With the Yocale marketplace, we group all the service providers in one community together, so we can funnel bigger stream of motivated local purchasers. This makes it easier for service providers to get discovered, and streamlines the booking process for appointments.
Another way we help is with the Yocale internal referral system. We have a community of local service providers, and we promote complementary services to the consumers or the members of Yocale that are booking services. So, when the client books an appointment with one service provider, we let them know that they can book their other services in the same area with the same account
Laurie: What areas is the Yocale service available in?
Arash: We initially launched Yocale in Vancouver, Canada, and we’re expanding to other areas. So, we have customers from various different cities throughout North America and overseas now. People are signing up because we help them to market more effectively, automate operations, such as invoicing and staff scheduling, and to manage clients. When they start using our software, they automatically become part of our marketplace.
Laurie: So, if you’re a small local service provider in an area and you haven’t really heard of Yocale or familiar with it, how would you start kind of taking advantage of it and using it in an area that you guys haven’t kind of officially entered yet? Is there a way to do that?
Arash: Yes. Those customers can still sign up, and we can help automate their operation, with the functions we discussed. So as long as they do business in an English-speaking country and in the appointment based business, we can help them.
Laurie: Okay, great, and do you have anyone, just to kind of maybe wrap up, do you have like your favorite example of a local services business where using this has really made a difference?
Arash: Yeah, absolutely. I’ll just use an example of a well-known hair salon in downtown Vancouver. Their clients are high net worth individuals, celebrities. They were doing a lot of things manually, working 10 – 12 hours a day to just to try to keep customers happy from a point of view of being able to schedule and reschedule them. And time is a precious commodity for a lot of small, local service providers.
With Yocale, people can book online and they can reduce their no shows. It’s saving the salon a lot of time and aggravation. It’s really taken off—about 85% of their customers now book online.
Laurie: Thanks, Arash, for the Yocale overview.
Smaller businesses are usually preoccupied with what it takes to grow the business and keep the lights on—getting customers in the door, generating more revenue and maintaining profitability (Figure 1). Business growth and profitability are still extremely important priorities as companies grow, but other challenges arise. Workforce-related issues, such as improving employee productivity, meeting compliance regulations, and making it easier for employees to collaborate start to become more important. However, as business gets more complicated, spreadsheets, point solutions and workarounds that got the job done when the business was smaller are no longer up to the tasks of recruiting, hiring, managing and retaining the people the business needs to grow.
Figure 1: Top Business Challenges for Small and Medium Businesses
In 2012, Kronos, a long-time leader in enterprise workforce and human capital management with its Workforce Central solution, acquired SaaShr, which it rebranded as Workforce Ready. Workforce Ready provides a cloud-based, integrated workforce management solution designed specifically for SMBs (Figure 2), enabling Kronos to broaden its market reach. At KronosWorks 2016, held in Orlando in November, Kronos provided us with an update on how Workforce Ready has evolved and where it’s headed.
Figure 2: Kronos Workforce Ready Platform
Integrated Workforce and Human Capital Management for SMBs
Kronos has continued to add new functionality to Workforce Ready since the SaaShr acquisition. In its most recent refresh, Kronos has taken a page from the consumer apps world, streamlining Workforce Ready navigation with simplicity and visual navigation to make it easier to use. The latest version includes “hot action bars,” to ensure workflow paths are consistent across Workforce Ready modules, and more intuitive for users. And, the vendor has upgraded dashboards and personalization features so users can do things more quickly through action buttons and icons instead of via pop-up menus.
Kronos has also enhanced employee self-service in areas inclduding employee on boarding, benefits management and performance management; and added the capability to mass populate Affordable Care Act (ACA) and 1095-C forms.
Supporting Workforce Ready’s commitment to help companies manage hourly wage earners, Kronos has also updated timekeeping and scheduling features, such as alerts that notify managers of employees’ scheduling preference changes.
Pricing starts at $23 per employee per month for all Workforce Ready modules, and at $5 per employee per month for Human Resources as a standalone module. Kronos also charges a fixed implementation fee, based on the number of employees and the number of modules the customer purchases.
Workforce Ready Customer Growth
At KronosWorks, Kronos reported that about 1 million users now use the Workforce Ready platform, and that it wins against the competition in more than 50% of the deals in which it is considered. In addition, Workforce Ready has:
- Grown it’s customer base 45% over the past twelve months.
- Enjoyed a 48% increase in customers selecting full-suite adoption (including recruiting and on boarding, performance and compensation management, benefits administration, time and attendance, and payroll).
- Increased international customer adoption 110% in the last year (Kronos currently sells Workforce Ready in Australia, Canada, parts of continental Europe, Mexico, the U.K., and New Zealand, in addition to the U.S.
- Achieved a 93% customer retention rate.
Drivers for Integrated Workforce Management
SMBs are turning to Workforce Ready when they reach a point where trying to consolidate and reconcile data from spreadsheets, point solutions and manual systems doesn’t work anymore. The manual effort required with this approach becomes too tedious and time-consuming, and redundant data entry results in too many errors. As important, siloed employee information makes it difficult for decision-makers to see what’s going on in the workforce, and take proactive measures to improve key performance metrics, such as reducing labor costs, improving employee productivity, increasing compliance, or reducing IT overhead.
For example, SMB Group research shows that SMBs using Workforce Ready were able to reduce the time it took to compile management reports 50%-80%; decrease time to perform HR administrative tasks 25%-35%; and improve employee engagement 30%-50% (Figure 3).
Figure 3: Improving Employee Productivity
Kronos sells Workforce Ready through two different channel models. For businesses with fewer than 100 employees, Kronos continues to sell Workforce Ready through the reseller model that SaaShr had established prior to the acquisition. These partners, typically local payroll service bureaus, buy the solution from Kronos at wholesale pricing, add their own services and branding, and then sell it to their customers. Since the acquisition, Kronos has roughly doubled the number of partners for this market.
Meanwhile, Kronos’ direct inside sales team sells to larger organizations with more than 100 employees.
Summary and Perspective
Workforce Ready is now a $100 million a year business for Kronos, and the vendor believes that it has plenty of headroom to grow. SMB Group agrees. Fast growth start-ups will opt for an integrated approach out of the gate, and established SMBs will need to take a more integrated approach to HR to attract, retain and efficiently manage the talent they will need to compete and grow.
To that end, Kronos is investing both to improve the solution and expand sales channels. The vendor recently conducted a survey, which revealed that 75% of firms with 100-2500 employee firms only look at two or fewer vendors when considering workforce management and/or payroll solutions. Kronos will, of course, need to increase market awareness for Workforce Ready to get into consideration in more deals. Once it’s in those deals, Kronos believes that it has the right value proposition—e.g. an integrated workforce management and HCM solution—to continue to win a majority of those deals and grow.
In addition, Kronos has focused heavily on the value that Workforce Ready provides for managing hourly workers. These workers comprise the majority of the U.S. labor market (Figure 4), and Kronos has been able to differentiate in the HCM space with this focus, as most companies rely on a mix of hourly, salaried and 1099 independent contractors. However, Kronos will need to broaden its positioning to highlight how it can help SMBs to more effectively manage workers of all stripes in order to compete more effectively against HCM vendors, especially for business among fast-growth, start-up companies that tend to have a higher percentage of salaried workers.
Figure 4: U.S. Hourly vs. Salaried Workers
Kronos’ pricing is competitive, and less expensive than vendors such as Ceridian and Workday, which should also help its cause. But, as Kronos readily acknowledges, building market awareness for Workforce Ready, and educating SMBs on the benefits of an integrated approach are probably the biggest hurdles it faces to achieving its goal.
And, although Kronos has done a good job in growing its private label reseller program for the sub-100 employee business market, the HR software vendor list is growing quickly. Many startups, such as Namely, Cezanne, Justworks and others have entered the fray in the last couple of years. Kronos will need to double down on usability to stay ahead of startups moving in on the low-end.
Note: Kronos is an SMB Group client, and paid my travel expenses to KronosWorks.
There’s no question that cloud is the new normal for very small businesses (VSBs, with 1 to 19 employees). Cloud computing has made it easy for VSBs to access, buy and deploy the business solutions that they need to automate operations, and to sustain and grow their businesses. SMB Group research shows that VSBs are increasingly opting for cloud solutions for flexibility, speed and cost benefits, and more (Figure 1).
Integration Lags Cloud Adoption
However, while the cloud has made it much easier for VSBs to access and use new applications, most still find it difficult to integrate them. In fact, 32% of VSBs have not integrated any of their applications. Among those who have done some integration, 71% rely on manual Excel file uploads or custom coding, instead of using more efficient integration solutions or pre-integrated solutions (Figure 2).
This isn’t surprising. While there are many solid integration solutions in the market, very small businesses lack the expertise, resources and money to use them (Figure 3). And while pre-integrated solution suites can be great, most small businesses adopt applications in an incremental way. They don’t want to pay for functionality they don’t use, and don’t have the bandwidth to get productive on more than a couple of things at the same time.
However, the cloud makes it easy for VSBs to add new applications as needed and as time permits. But over time, they realize automation additional functions without integrating them only gets part of the job done. They need to integrate them to streamline workflows and to gain a unified view of what’s going on in the business.
Intuit: Evolving Messaging, Platform and Products to Help VSBs Connect the Dots
At it’s 2016 QuickBooks Connect conference last week, Intuit hammered home the event theme–that connected applications can help small businesses speed up workflows, save time, and gain a more complete view of their customers. The company showcased its open platform strategy and partnerships, and its goal to help its customers connect the dots between information and workflows in different applications.
In the developer track, Intuit emphasized its commitment to provide developers with the latest and greatest tools to help them easily integrate their apps with QuickBooks Online. For instance, the vendor touted Webhooks, which makes it easier for developers to synch data between QuickBooks Online and their solutions. Intuit also offered developers numerous sessions to help increase their understanding of how broader technology trends, such as machine learning/artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), mobile and security (to name a few!) are reshaping business applications, and fuel interest in applying them to create more valuable and innovative solutions.
Intuit also announced several new, specific integrations to help VSBs connect the solution dots, including:
- Integration with Google G Suite (formerly Google Apps for Work). Customers can now buy QuickBooks Online in the G Suite Marketplace, and use single sign-on (SSO) to access QuickBooks from their Google accounts. New integration with Google Calendar also enables users to import time and billing data from Calendar directly into QuickBooks Online.
- New payments integrations with Apple Pay and PayPal. These integrations enable users to invoice payments to their customers from QuickBooks Online, and then take payments from customers via Apple Pay and PayPal. Once a customer makes the payment from Apple Pay or PayPal, the integration automatically enters and categorizes it in QuickBooks Online. This saves customers from having to use a plug-in or manually reconcile transactions between QuickBooks Online and their payment systems.
- Payroll integration with TSheets, an employee time-tracking and scheduling app. Users can now track, approve and pay employees from within their QuickBooks Online accounts.
- Extended integration with Bill.com. QuickBooks Online users can now manage Bill.com functions, such as bill payment, tracking, transaction reconciliation and ACH authorizations within QuickBooks Online.
- More integrated financing options. Intuit’s Financing platform has added new integrated loan programs for QuickBooks Online users. For instance, users can now apply for American Express Working Capital Terms for short-term loans via QuickBooks Online. Intuit has also incorporated BlueVine’s Flex Credit into its QuickBooks financing platform.
Summary and Perspective
Intuit is taking big steps to educate small businesses and accountants about the value of application integration, and is paving the way to make integration solutions easier to use and more affordable.
Intuit is also the top business solutions provider in the very small business market–one that many vendors find very difficult to crack in terms of broad-scale adoption. In addition, Intuit has the advantage of being the keeper of the crown jewels for many small businesses-their financial transactions.
From this vantage point, Intuit has distinct advantages to attract developers to its community and its mission, and to help VSBs finally start moving up the integration curve. At the same time, Intuit’s open platform, connected community strategy will also help power Intuit’s next level of growth in VSB market.
Note: Intuit is an SMB Group client, and paid my travel expenses to QuickBooks Connect.