Roderick Smyth talks to idibu about the history of TempBuddy techniques to develop better technology, and improving personal productivity.

Interview by Steve Walker, CTO and Founder of idibu.

Steve: Tell me how TempBuddy come about?

Rod: We founded the business three years ago – coming off my own need to do something in the time card space, eventually coming to the thinking of changing process and changing the outcome as well, rather than just fixing or building a product that does what other products do.

The first 12 months were about building the MVP and getting the team together. We launched in February 2015 whilst also juggling two businesses… until October 2015 when this became my entire focus.

Steve: Do you think the CRM market is too crowded?

Rod: It is very crowded – and for me there’s not just enough differentiation. The products out there are designed for data input and data capture. They are not designed to help business outcomes. A key lesson I learned through the process of TempBuddy was focusing on the client business outcome – and aligning what you’re building to meet that outcome. Not on how they do stuff but meeting the outcome. It gives you much better product direction.

Steve: Can you expand on what you mean by “outcome”?

Rod: The majority of businesses want to grow their profitability, their revenue, or their quality – to better serve their clients and meet their objectives. When you skip past the “How do I currently do this process?”, and ask the question “What is the best way to achieve higher, faster growth and profitability?”, it lets you look at the business itself, where the efficiencies and opportunities are, and then focus on just doing those things. Tackle the really big wins. One of those was the in the Temp side of the business, the vast majority of the recruiters time being taking up by managing availability and admin task-related time sheets.

If I look at product build, typically the CRM approach has been: I avail the products to do all parts of the process. So, I transfer what they do at the moment on the screen, which doesn’t really improve the process, it just puts them in a different place.

When you focus on business outcome, you say “Okay, one of the big barriers to growth is I can’t hire 100 new recruiters because they’re not easy to find etc. So I need to change my process to be more efficient… What’s the biggest bottle neck in my process? It’s in the availability and management of those time sheets. So you build a product that focuses on fixing those problems and does it really well.

Steve: Do you have a WHY of TempBuddy?

Rod: Absolutely. We want to change people’s lives for the better. We want to make flexible work easier and more rewarding. I want to empower agencies to provide a better level of service and a better employment environment for the workers.

When you think about what causes stress in life… getting married, moving house, changing jobs – one thing that’s often forgotten is that a temp worker changes and adapts practically daily. They’re going to new places of employment all the time. The consistent part of their lives is the agency that they work with. For quality of life, you need to have some balance, and the agency should be able to provide it.

They can’t provide it running around doing inefficient admin tasks. They need to be able to focus on the wellbeing of their employees; of the quality of work their employees are giving their end clients. And if they focus on those factors, they will attract more employees, they will provide a better quality of service to their clients, and ultimately this is what the end-client wants.

They want to have quality people who will produce quality work because that makes all of their businesses more efficient. Focusing on the wellbeing of their employees leads to a better outcome for everyone. We want to make the technology that gives them the tools and capabilities to do that. That’s what drives us.

Steve: Tell me more about the re-invention of process through technology?

Rod: The method of meeting clients’ requirements is often based on what they currently do, not how they should be doing things. For example, taking your legacy processes that you built around paper and converting it into a digital format.

Going back to the time sheets scenario… When I looked at how to solve the problem, I had to first understand why time sheets existed in their current form. Why does this piece of paper get signed by a manager, get signed by recruiter?

The simple answer was that the time sheet’s purpose is so that procurement – isolated from the front side of the business, can understand from somebody they trust (normally a line Manager) that a piece of work took place. Somebody turned up at a place, at a time, and did a piece of work. And the reason that this process works is because they trust the person that’s signing that sheet.

If you circumvent and bypass that using technology, that means putting biometrics, geo-location and other factors that will give procurement the same level of trust and comfort, but without having to go to through the same process to get there.

To really accelerate the growth of a business, you must improve processes. Too often technology starts off being built around replicating what the process currently does.

You need to properly utilize the tools that now exist. We don’t have stables everywhere to house our horses anymore, because we don’t use horses to get to places. The means of travel from A to B is a car, but the route to get from A to B has not changed. The process of how you achieve your goals changes over time.

Steve: Can you tell me about one or two personal methods of productivity that you have adopted as an entrepreneur and embedded into your life?

Rod: I do have a one thing that strikes me as really important – the advice I got from a mentor of mine, Kathy Murray. She’s an investor in TempBuddy and a good friend. She advised me long ago that how you achieve more in what you do – in business or anywhere else in life – is not focusing on the “urgent, important task”, it’s to focus on the “not urgent but important tasks”.

Steve: Yes, this one of the classic pieces of advice from Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” in what he calls “Put First Things First”, encouraging you to work in this “Second Quadrant”. I use this a lot as well, it’s been an instrumental tool in my task list prioritization methods over the past years.

Rod: Absolutely. That’s what I’m trying to achieve. You can’t always do it with the inevitable noise, but as long as you keep that front of mind, then the things that are urgent and important become much easier to delegate. Get those off your desk and get them delegated so you can focus on the things that are “not urgent, but highly important”.

Steve: How do you organize your tasks, what products do you use?

Rod: I’m 100% inbox. I just use my Gmail for everything.

Steve: Do you use any productivity software that works on top of Gmail to do that?

Rod: No. I process what I can, offload as much as I can quickly, and I have a target of ensuring there’s not more than 10 to 50 items left to work through by the end of the day-

Steve: You have a written list?

Rod: I work off a daily to-do list but if there’s a task that’s carrying over, it goes back to my Gmail. And that drives me to make sure that I never more than have 50 items in my entire task list. If it’s going past that, then I have to delegate more to someone else.

Steve: Do you have any morning routines?

Rod: Yeah, I listen to some music. Deal with family, get kids off to school, and then get at least 5 minutes of some music to lift me up. A bit of quiet time and then straight into the task list carried over from the night before via my email.

Steve: Do you ever ask the question “What’s that single most important task to achieve in a given day?”

Rod: Going into every night and every morning, I have one task as my top priority that I need to get done that day. You just get it nailed as early as you can. That task could be a successful meeting, something you need to produce, a conversation you need to have or whatever else.But definitely, you have to have one overriding goal each day

Steve: Rod, thank you very much for your time – and congratulations on creating such an awesome business.

Rod: Thank you, Steve – I really appreciate it.

(Previously published at idibu.com)