Meet Simon Foster, founder of Squirrel Street, a smart online platform that makes it easy for businesses to organise receipts, invoices and important documents.
Most small business owners set out on their own to be flexible, in an industry they love. But while the work itself may be rewarding, there will always be some time-consuming tasks that are less than fun. According to recent CGU research, 66% of small business owners have been impacted by not having the latest software, which is why access to digital solutions like Squirrel Street are much needed tools for small business.
Q. Tell us a bit about Squirrel Street and why you started it.
Like many people, the global financial crisis knocked me for six. I lost my job as a software developer and had to quickly work out what to do next. This was around the time the Fintech industry was in its infancy, and as I’d already been thinking about ways to use my skills to bring something new to the Australian market. I took the plunge and started a venture of my own, which is now known as Squirrel Street.
Squirrel Street is an app and online platform that organises receipts and invoices. Business owners simply scan them on their phone, or upload them digitally, and our technology manages the rest. It means people can spend more time on their business, and less on the admin.
Q. What kind of businesses use Squirrel Street and what kind of feedback do you get ?
We’ve got customers all over Australia, in a wide range of industries. I recently heard from a business owner with an interest in the Jervis Bay Motel on the NSW South Coast. He told me that they’d done some renovations on the motel last year, and when they filed the GST claim, it triggered an ATO request for proof of expense. Thanks to Squirrel Street, he was able to instantly access what the ATO needed, without the stress of having to track down the physical paperwork, which can get lost or even fade over time.
Q. What do you like most, and least, about running your own business?
I get the biggest buzz out of the people I meet. Whether it’s hearing from customers, or developing good working relationships with team members and partners, it’s the people that make business worthwhile. It’s also great being able to create your own values, culture and rules. For example, we now offer flexible hours for staff to work around family commitments. It’s a great feeling being able to make a difference to the people that give so much.
The biggest headaches come from compliance. There’s a lot of government red tape to manage, especially on the people management side of things. For a new small business owner, it’s a steep learning curve.
Q. How has your personal life been affected by work?
I love, the freedom to set my own hours and being flexible makes it much easier to spend time with the family.
Q. What advice would you give someone thinking of starting their own business?
It’s easy to be a control freak. Learn to let go a little. Put trust in the people around you, whether they’re employees, advisers or partners. Give them flexibility and you’ll find they give you the same in return, helping everyone stay on top of their load.
What’s next for Squirrel Street?
The biggest change we’ve noticed over the last few years is the movement to digital invoices. We’ve always let people mail-in documents for us to scan and process, but more businesses than ever are going digital. The next step will be fully digital invoicing, where suppliers deliver tax invoices directly into their customer’s accounting system. We’re already carrying out product trials in this space as it has a lot of potential.