Use “Rules”. Rules is a common feature of software that takes existing behaviors and rules that companies carry out manually and turns them into software automation. It is a huge advantage because businesses can customize settings specifically to their needs and significantly improve their efficiency. For example, companies can use software to easily send invoices online and set up an automatic Rule for what to do if the invoice is not paid, or send a thank-you email if it is. The transformation of rule-based automation can improve a business’ response time and reduce risks, which will all help in taking a company to the next level.
As part of our series about “How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next Level”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Astreiko.
Michael Astreiko is a CEO, and a Co-Founder of Synder, and its parent company CloudBusiness, serving thousands of e-commerce businesses and accountants around the globe. Michael has a rich tech background with 10+ years of developer experience focusing on the e-commerce domain and FinTech. He is a proud father of 3 children and enjoys spending time with his family
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
After completing a degree in physics, I began working as a Java software engineer and spent a decade consulting startups on technology. Once I gained a lot of first-hand experience in helping business owners utilize technology to become more productive and focus on true entrepreneurship, I decided that I could start something of my own.
In 2016, I founded CloudBusiness, a parent company to several popular solutions designed to automate bookkeeping for online businesses. Recently we’ve made a great leap forward with our app Synder, which now integrates the most popular accounting software (QuickBooks and Xero) with leading e-commerce platforms and payment gateways (Shopify, Amazon, Stripe, among others) to automate the bookkeeping for e-commerce businesses.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
In the beginning I made the mistake of trying to sell features to customers which they didn’t need. Unfortunately, it wasn’t so funny because that’s actually one of the most common reasons startup businesses can fail — creating a product that there simply isn’t a market for. The biggest lesson I learned from that is the importance of understanding your audience. Make sure there’s a market that needs your product, before you race into creating it!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My wife and family have given me the most valuable support, and I’ve learned the importance of maintaining a good work-life balance. The dedication of the people at our company also helps me to constantly move forward.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I learned a lot from the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson. Honestly, there is a lot in it that’s very helpful for entrepreneurs. For one thing, it shows you that ups and downs are a normal part of life. The book shows that Steve Jobs, who brought us the iPad and iPhone, might not have achieved what he did if he hadn’t been kicked out of his own company. In a way he lost everything and started to live a normal life. I really appreciated how it made it clear that once there was that balance, a normal family life that appreciated the little moments, he became the Steve Jobs that we know — a person that wanted to change the world and was able to do it. It helped me confirm my feeling that family is, after all is said and done, the most important thing we have. It can serve as a great support system for everything else we choose to do.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
Our company’s purpose has always been to help small businesses like ours. Our vision was clear, we wanted to remove the time-consuming routine tasks that businesses face and allow them to concentrate on growth and innovation. Right from the very beginning we received a lot of positive feedback from accountants who were glad to use software designed with expert knowledge of their ecosystem and needs. Still today, we continue to be driven by helping our clients and that’s why we’ve been especially focused on e-commerce recently.
Are you working on any new, exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
We are currently looking into the exciting field of Machine Learning/AI and using it in business finance management to avoid repetitive tasks.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about Digital Transformation. For the benefit of our readers, can you help explain what exactly Digital Transformation means? On a practical level what does it look like to engage in a Digital Transformation?
Digital Transformation is a broad term, but basically it means the use of any kind of technology or software to help improve your business. From financial and accounting software, to PRP, to robotics — there are all kinds of technologies to help a company be more efficient and productive. Essentially, Digital Transformation can mean something different for every business.
In terms of what this looks like on a practical level, the keyword is transformation. When a business integrates digital technologies it needs to fundamentally change its operations and how it engages with customers, as well as adapting its internal business culture and organization.
Which companies can most benefit from a Digital Transformation?
Many companies that still use manual business processes could really benefit from automation. For example, those who track their inventory or do their bookkeeping manually. Automation is an important part of digital transformation and will help them enormously to stay efficient and keep up with their competitors.
Also, any companies that operate mostly offline or in brick and mortar stores have huge opportunities in exploring e-commerce.
We’d love to hear about your experiences helping others with Digital Transformation. In your experience, how has Digital Transformation helped improve operations, processes and customer experiences? We’d love to hear some stories if possible.
Last year, one of our longtime customers, Jade, contacted our support team to share that she would be unsubscribing from Synder, when our team asked her what prompted the decision she explained that the pandemic had forced her to shut down her beauty salon.
We were able to help her by offering assistance in setting up a very easy way to get paid online through a payment link that she could paste into her Instagram bio. Shortly after, she got back to us, sharing that she started teaching Instagram classes on how to perform beauty salon procedures at home. She used Synder in order to get paid and her revenue was quite inspiring! She told us that she had never thought about doing anything online, other than sending a marketing email here or there and that this experience had shifted her entire perception of being a business owner. This was a perfect example of using Digital Transformation to keep her customers and help her business survive.
Has integrating Digital Transformation been a challenging process for some companies? What are the challenges? How do you help resolve them?
Digital Transformation can be challenging for some businesses, but it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes a challenge can be finding the right approach. I recommend focusing on customer experience and insight. Find out the needs of your customers and then ask yourself how technology can help you to meet those needs.
A business that starts Digital Transformation needs to have a long-term plan and be ready to go through it step by step, keeping in mind the bigger picture instead of immediate results. It should be treated as a continuous initiative that will involve and impact all the parts of a business. Another important focus companies should keep in mind is choosing the right software for their business processes.
Ok. Thank you. Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are “Five Ways a Company Can Use Digital Transformation To Take It To The Next Level”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Remote work. Working from home, working online, home office, I think many companies have become familiar with remote work since the start of the pandemic. Through this we’ve learned that remote work is a digital solution which can actually provide many benefits. Companies can meet online using Zoom and communicate using Slack. Many accountants used to rely on meeting their clients on-site and in-person but they can use digital transformation to see their clients “face to face” online.
- E-commerce. Businesses should always look to their customers to see where the demand for digital transformation lies. The world of e-commerce has grown enormously within the last year and it will continue to grow, so it’s a vital addition and transformation for businesses. These days, all a company needs to start selling products or services online is a social media page and an easy payment link. My company has been focusing on helping businesses in e-commerce and we have seen firsthand the success they’ve had.
- Use software to manage inventory. As a business grows, managing inventory correctly requires increasingly more effort, which makes automation vitally necessary digitization. There are many inventory management software solutions which are readily available and help improve order accuracy. This means companies are able to see the areas where they can cut down on costs and keep track of inventory while selling across multiple sales channels.
- Automated bookkeeping. There are plenty of different software tools available to automate your accounting. Solutions like QuickBooks or Xero improve bookkeeping by eliminating manual processes and saving precious time. They prevent mistakes and errors from being made so that a company can have accurate books and reconciliation. The less manual work a business has to do the more space they’ll find for creativity.
- Use “Rules”. Rules is a common feature of software that takes existing behaviors and rules that companies carry out manually and turns them into software automation. It is a huge advantage because businesses can customize settings specifically to their needs and significantly improve their efficiency. For example, companies can use software to easily send invoices online and set up an automatic Rule for what to do if the invoice is not paid, or send a thank-you email if it is. The transformation of rule-based automation can improve a business’ response time and reduce risks, which will all help in taking a company to the next level.
In your opinion, how can companies best create a “culture of innovation” in order to create new competitive advantages?
A culture of innovation is often correlated to the size of the company. Small companies tend to be innovative by nature, so larger companies can achieve this by creating small departments that are allowed freedoms for out of the box thinking. The company Intuit is a great example of this, they implemented the “Lean startup” method to foster a culture of innovation and create successful products.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I don’t have a specific quote, but a general outlook that has been very helpful to me is to stay humble when faced with rejection. It’s something I’ve learned on my entrepreneurial journey. Inventing something new and being told “no” often comes hand in hand, but actually this shows me we’re on the right path. If you create something that is meaningful and helpful to others, don’t doubt yourself. Realize that rejection is part of the game and stick to the people who believe in you.
How can our readers further follow your work?
You are welcome to follow our company on Twitter or Facebook (@CloudBusinessHQ), or connect with me personally via Twitter (@MichaelAstreiko) or on LinkedIn.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!