FlexiTime has eyes on Australia

TIME SAVER: Robert Owen's FlexiTime system saves time and money.
TIME SAVER: Robert Owen's FlexiTime system saves time and money.

Imagine if you walked in to work and an iPad attached to a wall took a photo of you as a way of recording your presence, and then a photo of you when you left work for the day.

It's a modern take of the old clock in/clock off system, and has been developed by the team at Wellington-based online payroll start-up FlexiTime as an add-on to its main services.

Company founder Robert Owen said the idea for FlexiTime came to him when he was running his previous IT consulting business, Equator.

He became frustrated at the time it took to time to enter the hours staff had worked in to different systems such as invoices to clients, pay slips to staff, and other projects.

He began developing the FlexiTime system which allows employees to record their time online for their employer, and launched the company in 2009.

The iPad photo time-clock application, which is an add-on to the main FlexiTime system, is popular with restaurants because it verifies the identity of a staff member and automatically records the exact time they arrived and left from work in the online system.

"Say Mary is going to work from 9-3 and she comes in at 9.15, it automatically modifies the time she has been rostered on, so when people clock in and clock out that is what you actually pay them."

Over the last few years FlexiTime has been growing fast and has 600 customers, including large recruiting companies such as Kinetic and Momentum.

The business has its sights set on Australia but that will require a lot of development effort. Like many small business entrepreneurs, Owen needs new investment to help his foray across the Ditch and is currently looking for investors. "As the business as grown, so have its support requirements," said Owen.

Why did you become an entrepreneur?
I love creating software that solves a business problem or lets people work more efficiently. I've never been one for sitting in long boring meetings or working on something I thought was a waste of time, so becoming an entrepreneur was the best way for me to enjoy what I do each day.

What have been the biggest obstacles in running your company?
Financing the development and early stages of the business was difficult. We made the decision to grow the business organically rather than spend a lot of time preparing business plans to seek investment. Choosing to bootstrap the business meant that we were initially working two jobs and growth may have been slower than it would have had we received investment. The benefit of this approach is that we retained ownership of the business and with strong growth and solid financials are now better positioned to seek investment.

Name one thing you've learnt from while in business and from who?
When we were starting out I went to see Rod Drury [Xero founder] to show him FlexiTime. He was very encouraging but told me he thought we were about 25 per cent done. It knocked the wind out of our sails a little, but based on the amount of work we've done since, of course he was right. I think maybe we're at 90 per cent although I've thought that for a while.

What are your business and personal goals?
I don't have any big goals, I prefer small goals - one after another. We've just completed our photo timeclock applications - FlexiTime SHiFT and we're working on developing an Australian version of FlexiTime.

Do you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs?
Listen to what everyone thinks about your idea but don't do everything they think. Filter and combine. Read the book Rework.