Tag Archives: Interview

Magic & Simplicity: An Interview with Soft Potential Director, Giancarlo Stoppani

Originally Published as part of the International Digital Services Centre December Newsletter – http://eepurl.com/K6F4j

Soft Potential, a company set up to design and develop software solutions and IT services for Healthcare, Document Management, Money Transfer and Cloud-based solutions, was founded by Riccardo Stoppani, Roberto Stoppani, Elisabetta Dalle Mese and is run by Giancarlo Stoppani as a Director. They started working together in 1995 and their skills include software engineering, system engineering and workflow management in the healthcare.

Originally based in his picturesque homeland Italy, Giancarlo – with the professional assistance of the International Digital Services Centre – is lean scaling his business and relocating in Dublin, Ireland.

I met with Giancarlo to talk about the reasons behind his move from Italy, capital of the renaissance, to Ireland.

Leaving Paradise
 

In recent years Italy has become notorious for a host of negative connotations when it comes to business-deals, politics and economics. “Business in Italy today is highly complex” said Giancarlo, “the way everything has to be managed in business takes up an unnecessarily large amount of resources. At any one time multiple personnel must be dedicated to the sole process of bureaucracy.”

Italy has found itself restricted by a lack of a digital culture. Levels of digital confidence within the country’s population are among the lowest in the EU, at below 30%. This has left them using outdated methods, and confounded by administrative/bureaucratic red tape in their tax system.

It was not always this way however, “In the 1990’s it was different, better than today. Everything was simpler for business. Now it has become complex and overly-complicated”. This was the key impetus behind Giancarlo’s decision to relocate his business elsewhere.

Economic difficulties in Italy have seen worsening credit conditions and rising interest rates, making it harder for companies, particularly SME’s requiring vital funding, to secure much needed bank loans. Any application for funding from an Italian governmental body requires struggling through a long and tedious, drawn-out process.

A hard story for Giancarlo to tell, one where his much loved homeland of Italy: a country full of rich intellectual history, passionate people, iconic food and a beautiful profound culture, is no longer the right place to host his business. “It is a hard thing for me to speak badly of my country, I love it, but it is the truth.”
 
 
Scaling New Heights
 

Giancarlo was introduced to the International Digital Services Centre in April of this year, by Enterprise Ireland.

Asked for the reason behind choosing Ireland, a country which differs environmentally from Italy in almost every way, Giancarlo stated: “It is because it is simple”. The Irish business culture has provided him with a much needed breath of fresh air in contrast to the classic Italian way of doing things.

Through lean scaling his company and consultation with the IDSC Giancarlo was able to find a cost-effective solution and scale his business in an efficient manner.

The IDSC framework defines lean scaling as:
“The act of growing your business internationally, utilizing tried and tested scaling processes, using appropriate digital technologies and iterating effectively in response to local requirements on a global scale.”

This process of lean-scaling provides businesses with company incorporation, bank account set-up, a plug-in and go office space, directorships, and professional consultancy services for revenue operations.

“Business is so much easier. There is a better tax system, one which any business-person can understand.” Ireland currently enjoys a rate of 12.5% corporation tax. Italian corporations must pay up to 50% and even more, made up of a number of taxes, that drain out any possibility for investments. Moreover the 25% Irish tax credit on Research and Development expenditures is also a crucial help for software development companies who continuously innovate their products and services.

Italy’s rich, complex, layered history has meant that it has become convoluted over so many years, and it is now easy to get lost inside the system. Companies are made to process more than 15 tax payments a year, taking on average 269 hours to deal with.

When asked how this tax system compares to that which he experienced in Italy, Giancarlo described it as equal to comparing “Black and white”, or similar to comparing the differences between Italian and Irish weather.
 
 
Talent Pool
 

Ranked fourth in the world by the World Bank for the availability of skilled labour and openness to new ideas, Ireland also gives companies access to a young, vibrant, multilingual and well-educated workforce.

“English-speaking countries are pragmatic; they have a way of making something that appears complex simple and practical”. Although this meant that Giancarlo could quite easily have chosen to base his company in England, he decided against it. “In England the system is much more Aristocratic. Irish people work from the ground up. This attitude appealed to me because it is similar to my Italian cultural roots. In Italy we admire those who have worked their way up from the dust”.

On a more personal level Giancarlo describes the transition to Ireland as being “sweet and sour”. Looking back on his first big move Giancarlo said “In some way I have the same feelings I had when I was 18 yrs old, when I moved from Macerata (a small town in the centre/east of Italy) to Rome, to apply for university. The only difference is that at that time I was young and essentially without any responsibility. Now at 46, with a family and great responsibilities in the business, I have to take more mature decisions”.
 
 
Gateway to New Markets
 

Currently in the middle of the move and hoping to become settled by summer 2014 Giancarlo is aware of the benefits it will provide. “For the business opportunities I am obviously happy, because I understand that this is a great opportunity for the company and even for me, my family and my brothers,” says Giancarlo

The move has strengthened already existing ties with American companies and expanded the possibility of access to new international markets.

“However, it’s not straightforward to move from your home country, especially if you have a family with children and a thriving business… Luckily the fact that Italy and Ireland belong to EU makes a number of those points easier to understand and apply for”.

Ireland’s membership with the EU, and the availability of international travel from budget flight company Ryanair, means that Giancarlo is easily able to visit family and friends back in Italy, or other business contacts in other countries.

Once completing his move to Ireland Giancarlo’s dream is for his business to reach the international market. “Other countries may bog you down in the complexities of their internal systems, preventing you from any global potential.” But for Giancarlo and Soft Potential in Ireland, the future looks bright. Giancarlo and Soft Potential are ready to prepare themselves for business worldwide.

“Sales, Cash, Profitability”: An Interview With the IDSC’s Global Revenue Operations Consultant, Paul Geoghegan

Originally Published as part of the International Digital Services Centre November Newsletter –  http://eepurl.com/I2j3r

With a distinguished career in Financial Operations, including working as Google’s EMEA Revenue Operations and Global Process Manager, Paul Geoghegan has joined the IDSC team to help our clients implement new cost-effective Revenue Generation and collection strategies in their own enterprises.

I sat down with him to talk about what his role involves and why it is critical to the survival and development of businesses today. 

 

“It all comes down to methodology”

Head of Global Revenue Operations at the IDSC, Paul’s role centres on optimising a businesses  Revenue Generation and collections processes. “It all comes down to methodology, my role includes refining the ways companies interact with their customers, and making sure that the companies receive their payments”.

To optimise the payments and collections process, Paul works closely with companies providing a focused consultancy and creating a unique collections strategy tailored to the individual needs of each business. Current processes are identified and, in close partnership with the key stakeholders across the organisation, Paul builds and directs a refined, efficient and cost-effective revenue model. The partnership approach is essential, as all strands of the organisation must be committed to the final strategy, from legal through marketing and sales to finance and production. The priorities will always be company reputation and revenue generation, then customer satisfaction and operational efficiency. This ensures that payments are efficiently received, and that billing procedure standards and customer satisfaction remain at a high level.

Paul acutely understands that no one company is the same. Each enterprise demands a unique type of strategy and collections process. Both SME’s and Multinationals will always require a watertight methodology.

“Recently I have been working with a small company dealing with a telecom giant”. Paul’s experience working at both ends of the spectrum has left Paul with essential knowledge in business relations between smaller and larger companies. “It allows me to help smaller companies navigate their way through the minefields that appear when dealing with business giants”.

The company in question was engaged in a contractual arrangement where due to its size, the larger company had a legal upper-hand. Paul’s expertise from working with larger companies allowed him to figure out what he describes as “which areas were flexible and which were inflexible”.  His work with larger companies educated him in the “tricks of the trade” to help the smaller company to negotiate the best deal available.

Critical Thinking

For businesses, the importance of efficient revenue operations is about being pre-emptive. If you get the process right from the start, you will avoid the inevitable pitfalls that may appear further down the line.

“Over 90% of start-up companies fail within the first year to 18 months, simply because they just cannot collect enough cash to get them through this period.”

The problem is not uncommon: “Two out of three companies have cash difficulties, and with Irish start ups, it is more likely three out of four”.

If you are delivering your service and not receiving all of your financial returns, then you are not getting the maximum potential out of your company. “The focus is about how to release that cash” says Paul.

The potential payoff from reviewing and optimising revenue operations and collection processes is significant. “Whilst I was working at Google I we asked the question in relation to many of our acquisitions: “Why are we not collecting 50% of what we build?””. Paul’s expertise in refining their revenue operations increased Google’s collected revenue from about half to over 95%. This not only reduced losses and increased cash flow, but more importantly, helped ease relations to allow revenue growth and further build the reputation of the organisation.

“This is where methodology comes into play.”

The Psychology behind payment evasion

Paul advocates a holistic approach to understanding the underlying reasons behind payment evasion.
He focuses on turning the traditional collection process from simply chasing up those who had not paid on time to a service that discovered why people were not paying. This revolutionary approach to the payments and collections process engenders great success. Collected revenue increases as does customer satisfaction.

“We really understand what it is that is hurting the business, and can give real time feedback. It is hard to get this kind of feedback from any survey, we get valuable feedback on product, on billing, on marketing and on sales techniques, because people simply won’t pay if they don’t like what they are getting.”

Paul maintains that directly linked to revenue operations is the importance of customer satisfaction. Payments are left outstanding for a number of reasons, one of which could be customer dissatisfaction with the current payment procedure. “Providing customer service that clarifies why money has not been paid will allow you to build a strategy counteracting this and simultaneously improve the quality of the billing system,” he says.

Maximising Potential

“People don’t just hold back money, they do it for so many different reasons. Sometimes the billing isn’t correct, sometimes they don’t understand the product, the contract or the basis of charges, or sometimes the data just isn’t correct.”

Paul maintains that the payment platform infrastructure should regularly be checked and analysed from a user perspective. The client payment experience should be closely monitored. To illustrate, Paul referenced a previous project, where a relatively small percentage of credit card transactions were not being completed. This had initially been disregarded as an acceptable credit card loss level, but when dealt with, it provided an additional source of revenue which was tapped. The problem was not always with the customer failing to pay, It actually was sometimes caused by technological faults or customer confusion in the payment process. “Through reducing the difficulties involved with credit card transactions, and recovering a large set of disgruntled customers, I was able to increase the company’s generated revenue by over 100million, at almost no extra cost” he says.

Times have changed

Paul strongly advocates CFO’s to reassess their existing payment platforms and to analyse the ways in which customers relate to them. Social Media and payment platforms should ultimately come under the umbrella of revenue operations. Accounting departments should no longer be seen working in isolation from rest of the business and departments should not be working alone in silos.

The leveraging of new technologies can connect all departmental sectors in a business so that they all work collectively under one integrated system and that none are left working within a vacuum.

Global Digital Revolution

“In a digital world it is always global, it has to be Global Revenue Operations.”

The digital revolution has transformed revenue operations from a national to an international experience necessitating financial relations on a global scale.

Paul’s experience working in the global market has allowed him to become accustomed to the international sourcing of money.“ The core difference in the digital revolution is the global nature of it. You are dealing with different people in every country of the world, and have to be aware of it and the differences.”

“Revenue operations is one of the many complexities that businesses must navigate in today’s globalised, digital world. The IDSC facilitates enterprises scaling internationally through digital transformation and assists them overcome the unprecedented challenges that digital presents to traditional business processes.’  Paul maintains that all enterprises should begin to reevaluate their existing practices and reassess if they exploiting all potentials that the digital world offers.

‘Revenue operations must play an integral part in a businesses digital transformation strategy…’

The IDSC provides expertise and operations management, handling such vital areas whilst allowing you to keep focus on your business’s development.