Interview with Rob Ellis, CEO and Co-Founder
Date Published: January 10, 2020
Category: BTCSoftware News, Longread
It all began when Rob offered to help his friend Ian with an overnight Scout Camp on October 3rd 1998. Their sons were at the same school, and both members of the school’s Scout Group.
Rob tells us, “It was a freezing night, and once the boys of the group were safely sleeping in their tents, Ian and I got talking by the campfire. Ian was and is a chartered accountant – and has been our CFO from day one – and he was less than impressed with the software he used at the time. He had also been creating an Excel workbook over many years which performed highly complex and detailed tax calculations.”
At the time, Rob was very close to the sale of his current software business, and told Ian, “In the very near future, I might just have the time to develop that!” The concept of BTCSoftware emerged and after a few meetings before Christmas to form a plan, work began in earnest on 11th January 1999 when Rob started writing the code.
Twenty-one years later, we sat down with Rob to find out what has stood out for him in the BTCSoftware journey, what makes the company special, and his proudest moment.
What has surprised you most so far in the journey?
It sounds trite, but I am surprised by how much I still enjoy BTCSoftware. In the early days, it was very much a hobby project, but since we started writing PM and SA Solution in Autumn 2007, it has been my full-time focus. All these years later, I still get up with a spring in my step and head happily down the A3 to the office. Some days are more challenging than others, but I can’t remember a single day that I’ve regretted getting out of bed!
How do you encourage team members to excel?
Two very important values: trust and respect. Every member of our team is trusted with their responsibilities and given free rein to thrive at what they do. Each person can ask for help, but no one is micro-managed, which is not only suffocating but very degrading. Our culture is open, and anyone can share anything with anyone else, from product improvement ideas to office enhancements. The vital part of our culture is that ideas are listened to and debated to the point of conclusion, rather than immediately accepted or rejected out of hand.
This, plus an emphasis on people being rewarded fairly for a fair day’s work, has kept our staff turnover very low. We hold quarterly company meetings where anyone can share what they’re passionate about, whether that’s work-related, wellbeing, or anything else that interests them. Then, we all sit down together for a meal and continue sharing our time and ideas.
What’s made BTCSoftware successful?
Our people. We have quality products that are essential to our success, but that’s a given for almost any business. Our people are the right people, in the right place, with the right tools, so they can flourish and showcase their talents, which makes us successful.
And what makes BTCSoftware different?
We’re in the business of providing the best product at a fair price. We established BTCSoftware to develop feature-rich, affordable software that simplifies accounts professionals’ lives and makes their practices more productive and profitable. In the early days, we didn’t need to invest large sums in developing the software, though a lot of time investment came from Ian and me. Even when we took on our first employees in 2009, the company was self-funding, and we’ve been able to charge our customers a fair price for our product.
What’s been the most important lesson from the last 21 years?
Trust is everything. I’ve known that for much longer, but being surrounded by people you trust is empowering. Ian, Paul and I, for example, are in a fortunate position where we trust each other implicitly in both our business and personal lives. Knowing that you can get on with your responsibilities while trusting that you don’t have to concern yourself with those of others gives you the ability to achieve great things.
Finally, what has been your proudest moment?
There have been several over the years, including winning multiple times at the AccountingWEB Software Excellence Awards. But, if I have to pick out just one, then it is presenting Chae with his 10-year service award! Chae was our very first employee, and I feel honoured that he is still with us, having worked his way to be our most senior developer.