Imari Consulting provides start-ups with coaching to help grow their business. Imari has also been on a transformation of its own, replacing internal systems with cloud-enabled apps and mobile devices that better suit its geographically dispersed workforce and flexible workplace environment.
Imari Consulting provides services such as business plan writing, website creation, bookkeeping and payroll services, and budgeting and financial management to entrepreneurial small businesses.
Director Arna Jade, who formed the company in early 2013, says the key objectives of the company are to ensure all startups and SMEs get the right advice at the right stage of their business growth.
“Often, these fledgling companies can waste valuable dollars in the early stages as they don’t have access to the right advice and resources. We aim to ensure these business owners have the best advice and support and allow them a work/life balance.”
The Perth based company now has ten staff members, most of which are based in the United States.
“Being in Perth, one of the most isolated cities in the world I have limited access to highly skilled staff. Because what Imari does is so unique, we require unique people. Most of my staff are based in the USA and have worked with massive companies, like Warner Bros and Audi, that staff in Perth would never get exposure to,” she said.
The company was using very basic systems internally such as a standard C-drive share to host files, and a combination of Microsoft Outlook’s built-in task manager and Microsoft Excel to manage time, to-do lists, and projects. The setup made it very difficult for Jade to work while outside the office and collaborate with staff in different time zones. She was also compelled to tote a “heavy and bulky" laptop.
“As an entrepreneur, you are always working, thinking, changing and innovating. So if I have an idea, or want to change something, before I used to have to send an email and update other documents. I needed my laptop for that, and sometimes I would forget things. I was always out at meetings,” she said.
Jade moved the majority of the company’s administration and operations systems to the cloud. She migrated accounting from MYOB to Xero, local drive file storage to Dropbox, and implemented web-based project management application, Asana.
“Now my structure is so much simpler. Every morning I log in to Asana (its web based so I do this from my phone, laptop or iPad, whichever is closer), I check all the emails that are project based - from either clients or contractors - in the app, prioritise anything urgent, and then look at what I need to do for the day,” she said.
“This is before I even check my emails, which is great, so it means all project based stuff is in the one area, I can attach files from my Dropbox to Asana if I need to, so again it can all be done from my phone. It has just simplified and streamlined everything and given me the freedom to not have to lug around a computer everywhere,” she added.
“Now I can be at a meeting with a client, start a project, allocate a task to a consultant and have the task completed by the time the meeting is over. It's brilliant.”
Jade says the mobility transformation has given her freedom to work from anywhere, and the ability to manage consultants from around the world “without them having to be linked to my Exchange server."
“Systems like Asana have drastically increased my personal time management and that of my staff, as it adds transparency and [the] system is really easy to use. I have now started adding clients in the mix and it really is a great system so far.
This also means I can jump online at an internet cafe, borrow someone's phone or iPad, and work from anywhere. The freedom really does mean that I have a business that I can run globally without being tied to one location.”
The app-based nature of Imari's internal operations means core business tools such as Asana are available across a wide array of platforms, giving all her staff access to the same system with instant feedback on projects.
“I can send an urgent notification to an employee based anywhere in the world and watch them work on the project whilst I am lying in bed. It means I can service global clients and access global staff and not be restricted to particular time zones. I can also effectively micro manage (if I wish to) each project without even having to see or have face time with a staff member.”
Imari Consulting is also using social media extensively, both as a marketing tool and for employee support programs, something Jade says wasn't possible with email.
“By using closed Facebook groups I post special offers and discounts for my contractors and staff to utilise that have either been gifted to me by clients or that I have organised for the team. I post motivational posts and the team can use it as a social gathering point. They can whinge about something that’s bothering them and the team boosts them up or offers advice, and we encourage a daily summation – what went well, what I need help with, and what needs improving. Seeing as they are all active social media users, and are going to be using Facebook frequently, I used this platform as this is where they socially like to gather – it makes it less about work and more about a positive experience with the team.”
Jade says while the use of mobile technology and apps have transformed the business, the transition wasn’t always plain sailing. She says finding the right apps to address the requirements of the business involved quite a bit of trial and error early on.
“I utilised a lot of free 30 [day] trials to find systems like CRM systems that worked best for me. It took a couple of months to get all the systems working together right, but now I would be lost without them.”