Why camaraderie is Stephen Canning’s top priority at $11 million cloud business JCurve Solutions

Stephen Canning JCurve

JCurve Solutions provides cloud-based software that streamlines small business systems into one database – and local businesses are jumping aboard. With customers like Two Birds Brewing, Emma and Tom’s and Audiofly, the ASX-listed company has posted a 61% increase in new business sales over the past 12 months. With revenue for the 2015 financial year of $11.3 million, JCurve is focusing on capturing new clients within Australia’s small business marketplace.

Chief executive Stephen Canning has been with the business since the start of 2015, having previously worked for Pay Global, and while he’s been busy chasing new clients, he’s also been shaping the company culture. At the 2016 Australian Business Awards JCurve scooped up the Cloud Innovation, Product Excellence and Employer of Choice categories – and it’s this last prize that Canning believes has made the company’s products stand out from the pack.

SmartCompany spoke to Canning about the importance of finding good staff and keeping them while rapidly growing a client base.

I began my career as a software developer. I then moved to New Zealand 10 years ago and started working for a travel company.

Over the years I’ve seen the difference between when things have been done poorly and people were disengaged, and when companies have benefited from camaraderie and ownership. Seeing this difference sparked my interest in managing people.

Camaraderie is very important to me in business – as is collaboration and teamwork, and how you embed those things into what you do each day. I think about how you actually live out those values in your company, rather than having them just sitting there as words on a wall.

We have 45 staff now across two bases (Chatswood and Melbourne) and we focus on monthly rewards and recognition. There’s a public board where people can write up nominations for people recognising the successes of others, or teamwork and collaboration.

The volume of these nominations has actually gone up as people have started realising the work that others are doing around them, so I think the process works.

JCurve is a small market cap cloud tech company, and there are always going to be people who undercut your pricing. Because competitors can copy what you do, the only way to have a competitive advantage is with people.

I’ve found you need to create a culture where people are willing to stay working for you in the first place. Then, when you need someone new, the people you already work with refer on someone that they trust. That’s how we’ve managed to find great staff.

It’s also important for robust two-way communication to truly be welcomed. Employees have to be able to have an ongoing conversation about how they can get the support they need.

I like taking the time for handwritten thank you notes, and doing things like that helps focus on people’s roles and what they do each day. I think it’s important to actually understand how the work that people do makes a difference to your company.

Working in a culture where people feel respected makes a real difference in an organisation.

As a CEO, you often don’t have anyone else to bounce things off and it can get quite lonely. I’d say having an external mentor is very important when you’re the one in charge.

There haven’t been too many surprises for me as a chief executive so far, but there are new experiences – the other week my marketing manager surprised me by lining up a live TV interview. That was actually a first for me but I always say you grow more when out of your comfort zone.

I talk to a lot of small businesses day-to-day and without a doubt their number one concern is cashflow.

If a small business carries inventory, that feeds into their number one worry: how to keep track of everything. This is important to remember when delivering our services, because our products are all about boosting efficiency.

There are a lot of buzzwords in this space – things like “ERP” [enterprise resource planning]. But really, when I tell people what we do I say we help small businesses, we just happen to be doing this through technology.

We spend time helping people with the products that they actually use everyday, that’s the easiest way to explain it.

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