The armchair commentators among us are quick to point out a business idea, and slow to act. “Someone could make money doing that” they say, but it goes no further than that.
As the owner of a successful publishing business, entrepreneur Colin Porter became sick of slow payers and non-payers impacting his cash flow, and decided to do something about it.
Having run his own SME for ten years, Porter was unsatisfied with the avenues available to him to pursue those who didn’t pay their bills on time.
“Experiencing payment defaults, slow payers, and people who either feel that it was their right to pay you when they want, not when has been agreed, can have a crippling effect on a business,” Porter says.
“When I looked at my business, I thought if I could get paid 30 days sooner, that’s almost 10 per cent more money in my pocket per annum that I could be using to reduce my debt or reinvesting into my business.”
Porter sought a service in the SME space which would allow him to do credit checks, monitor clients for changes once he began trading with them, and to register defaults against them as method to actually get paid.
Finding that there wasn’t any such service, Porter decided to create his own.
Now entering its forth year, and with 25,000 users, CreditorWatch fills the gap in the market left by the larger reporting bureaus which target the corporate end of town.
“The one thing common to all business owners, is cash flow – so I knew there was a definite requirement for a product. And I was able to identify what the product was, and how to deliver it in a cost effective manner. I knew it would work.”
“The competitors are very much corporate-driven, and most of their customers are corporates. They will say they have a small business product, but it’s very expensive and it’s not a useful tool – it’s not set up for small business. Our primary focus is on the small business sector,” Porter says.
CreditorWatch is designed for the small business owner, and by sharing payment defaults at an SME level, business owners can receive early warning signs that a customer is in distress.
The company started on a whiteboard in 2010, and since then Porter says it has grown alongside his expectations – but starting a new company is never as easy as one thinks.
“There was certainly a lot of back and forth with Government bodies – Government bodies that don’t have telephones! And they don’t normally have people approaching them asking for access to their data. But in writing down what people ultimately want, at the end of the day, all they want is to get paid. So we drew all the maps, and came back to this one thing – so that’s our mission statement: ‘helping you get paid’,” Porter says.
Some early wins, such as being featured on A Current Affair, helped to really launch the business. “We had hundreds of subscribers join, and that again just confirmed our belief that there was a market and a need for this product.”
In starting CreditorWatch, Porter wanted to continue the company culture he had created in the past – one where he loved to come to work each day.
“The attitude of your staff is one of the most critical elements. Fostering the kind of environment where everyone in the company has ownership is essential, and I think most people would say they are CreditorWatch – they don’t just work for the company, they’re a part of it.”
Looking to the future, Porter is resolute in his goal to start more companies. “I will most definitely start another two companies. My goal is for five great companies in my lifetime, and CreditorWatch is still just at the beginning. The model that we’re building, is one where we’re refining the model here, but it’s one that can be replicated in most other countries where they have a governing body that’s overseeing corporations.”