Founders: Matt Williams, 35
Head Office: South Australia
Industry: Information technology
Matt Williams has been able to craft a successful business selling enterprise software to government clients, earning $2.4 million a year. But Williams says this success comes in part because of a shrewd approach to seeking advice – and it’s the one thing he wants other entrepreneurs to take on board.
“The number one thing, if possible, is to find a mentor. Someone who’s been there before,” he says.
“I had one, and it saved me from going down a lot of dead ends. It was definitely the biggest lesson I’ve learnt in business. And then you just have to back yourself.”
Connexion Systems has certainly endured some rough times. The business started back in 2008, right when the global financial crisis struck. Many customers deferred their purchases until the following year, and due to longer sales cycles, between three to six months, Williams had significant trouble managing cashflow.
But he bunkered down and tried to cut back on costs as much as possible. He survived – and says it’s been easier to spot changes in the economy.
“It’s been very hard recently, customers are talking about cutting budgets. But we’re still growing very strongly.”
Williams started the business after leaving a previous organisation doing the same thing.
“It was a seven year apprenticeship, basically,” he says.
Under a previous manager Williams was able to search for more products to distribute. But after he resigned, he took one product the previous employer didn’t want and started up Connexion Systems.
“Since then, I just added more customers and started expanding, and getting more customers, to where we are now.”
As Williams describes, project management is a relatively new profession but organisations have a thirst for high quality management software. To be a major player in this space, he requires a “good understanding of the subject matter”.
“It requires a key understanding of the space we work in, what’s happening in project management, and an understanding of the current tools in the market.”
“It also means you have to go out and find new and innovative products to sell.”
But Connexion has done a good job of selling it. The business has used some clever marketing procedures, including holding a two-day conference with 130 delegates from around the country, allowing it to showcase its products.
It’s also investigating developing original IP, which would give the business options to export into the United States. It’s all part of the bigger plan, Williams says, of making Connexion into one of the largest firms of its kind.
“In five to seven years the product and the customer base will be mature enough that hopefully it is attractive to a larger software firm to purchase.”