XU Magazine - Issue 14

Q&A with David Tuck from Chaser

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Written by Guest Author

David Tuck, founder and CEO, Chaser

XU:

It’s great to be joined by David Tuck, Founder and CEO of Chaser, can you tell us a bit about Chaser?

DT:

Chaser is a platform to transform how a business carries out their credit control. There are three interrelated strands to that. First off is our chasing automation which is helping businesses automate what we call our 3 P’s; the polite persistence that pays, but all while preserving the all important human touch.  That is really central to our automation.  There is a huge potential false economy with automation whereby you save yourself time from having to chase manually, but if it looks and feels clearly automated then it’s ineffectual in terms of bringing about the desired result of getting your invoices paid. With Chaser it’s the best of both worlds; saving yourself the time of having to chase manually but preserving the human touch so that you get the cash in the door as soon as possible.

The second element of Chaser is our the credit control CRM. This is the way we log and provide our users with a record of all of the credit control communication that’s gone back and forth between them and their customers, all of this automatically. So, when they’re making a telephone call to chase up an invoice that the email automation requires an escalation from,  they no longer have to spend their time routing through their inbox or sent items to piece it all together. They have all that information in Chaser.

Then, thirdly, it’s the insights. These are about how different customers are paying our users, so they can know who their good and bad paying customers are.  They can then tailor that use of automation accordingly to help them achieve the very best credit control results.

XU: I didn’t know about the CRM side of it, is it fairly new?

DT:

No, it’s been there since the beginning. It’s a product of us being called Chaser; people think we just chase. Absolutely we chase, but we also log; not just the outgoing chasers we send but all the communication that goes back and forth. Thatís an essential component of credit control and having watertight information of whatís been said by who, at which points in time.

XU:

Chaser is an incredible cloud-based software. What is the story of chaser, where did the idea come from and how long ago was it? And then how did you go from an accountant, to financial director, to app owner/creator?

DT:

We are 3 and a half years old.  We launched in August 2014. We are really a classic ‘scratch your own itch’ story. After graduating, I did my ACA and CTA accounting qualifications in practice and then moved into industry. Firstly in FMCG with Fever Tree, the premier mixer drinks company, and then heading up finance teams in a couple of tech companies after that. Fever Tree and the tech companies all sold on payment terms. It was clear to me that there had to be a better way of carrying out the pain which is credit control. It was latterly that I got the chance to work with cloud accounting and discovered, what was at that time the nascent, app ecosystem. Working in tech, I also got to teach myself some computer science. I did a couple of massive open online courses; a bit of Codecademy and a Udacity intro to computer science course. I guess, as they say, the rest is history! Everything just sort of crystallized in my mind in thinking there is a better way that credit control can be carried out. I felt that intense pull to go off and build it.

XU:

Can you briefly explain how Chaser integrates with Xero. Why did you integrate, and what value does it bring to your company and your customers?

DT:

We’ve been integrated with Xero since day one; they were our first integration. That was a product of seeing Xeroís fantastic position in the market, having the best developed API and app ecosystem.  When we looked at it we felt that we had the ability with Xero to build a really seamless integration, to effectively be one system between Xero and Chaser. To this day I am incredibly proud of the user experience that we deliver in that perspective. It gave us the ability to take the fantastic accounting system and invoicing functionality of Xero, and provide their customers and accounting partners with a platform to deliver best in class credit control.

XU:

It’s been nearly 3 years since you introduced Sir Chasealot and I hear that the baton has been passed to Brad Ewin. How did the idea for this marketing plan come along?

DT:

The Xero community’s invoice-chasing knight in shining armour! Sir Chasealot was born at Xerocon London 2015. That was our first Xerocon as exhibitors. Truth be told, I wish I knew how we came up with it; I think it was one of those serendipitous creative light bulb moments. We had been to one Xerocon as an attendee, and to the Xero stand at Accountex in 2014, and a host of other smaller Xero events prior to February 2015 when Xerocon London was. It felt like something that would really resonate with that focused-yet-fun atmosphere in the Xero ecosystem. It was a bit of a gamble but one I like to think has really paid off.

XU:

Am I right in thinking he once made it to Australia?

DT:

He did Indeed! In August 2015, Sir Chasealot graced Xerocon Melbourne with his presence.

XU:

How effective has social media been in Chasers life span? Has it increased your Chaser community?

DT:

It’s been fantastic from a very early stage, particularly on Twitter. Also, on Linkedin and on Facebook but to a slightly lesser degree than Twitter. The Xero Partner Community is incredibly active on Twitter. It was a great way for us to get the word out initially, and to raise awareness about us as a platform around the time that we launched and in the immediate aftermath of coming to market. Now it’s a great way of keeping in touch with whatís going on in the industry and keeping people aware of what we are doing. I think we (hopefully) have good awareness on social media, which is fantastic given the level of activity within the community. It’s a great opportunity for us to share what’s going on as we continue to develop.

XU:

When youíre not busy running Chaser, what can we find you doing in your spare time?

DT:

I have one year old twin boys and I’ve just bought a water rowing machine at home in an attempt to stay healthy. In any other time I love to read. Over the past year, I’ve discovered audio books with Audible and podcasts have been really good for me.

XU:

Accountex is a big event within the accountancy community, and I would imagine it’s an important event for you and your company, but what value does Accountex add to Chaser and your customers?

DT:

For us it’s just a fantastic opportunity, alongside Xerocon, to engage with the partner community all in one place and at that scale. It’s also a great place for us to communicate what we are up to, but far more importantly, to meet with and learn from our partners about what they’re up to and focusing on. So, it’s a fantastic opportunity from an engagement perspective for us.

XU:

Accountex is the UK’s largest exhibition and conference dedicated to accountancy & finance professionals, Are you excited to be attending? What exciting stuff do you have planned for Accountex?

DT:

We are really excited to be going.  This is our first time exhibiting with our own stand which we are really excited about. We’ve always prided ourselves on making a big bang with the events that we exhibit at. For example, back in October last year at Xerocon we launched Debtor Daze; the world’s first ever accounting-themed craft ale. I’m afraid I can’t give any spoilers about what we have planned for Accountex, but I definitely encourage everyone to watch this space.

XU:

It would be great if you could tell us what outsourcing credit control is and how will it help companies?

DT:

This is an incredibly exciting industry development. Outsourced credit control is an extension to the virtual finance function for clients who sell on payment terms. Itís underpinned by cloud credit control software, meaning the accountant and bookkeeper can offer the service profitably in a way that’s just never been possible before.  This is incredibly exciting because this means that true credit control expertise is available to SME’s who don’t have a other finance team and therefore have never been able to access that credit control expertise. As businesses they are now able to do so. So it’s a fantastic, almost democratisation of credit control that we are really excited about playing a part in, within our industry.

XU:

Following on from that, how big do you feel this will be in the future?

DT:

Huge really. We see it as becoming table stakes as part as the virtual finance function for those clients who sell on payment terms. It will be the new paradigm. There will be that expectation that this is how credit control gets done for those businesses who don’t have an in-house finance team, which in terms of the overall business population is the huge majority. This will be the de facto way it gets done.

XU:

What makes Chaser stand out from other apps and what challenges have you face with marketing and promoting in the competitive industry?

DT:

What I’d say makes us stand out is nothing more, nothing less than our focus. We are laser focused.  We do our one thing really well. There is so much stuff we choose not to do because we don’t believe we can be the best at that, take the forecasting space for example. We know we are in the business of credit control and we are relentlessly focused and passionate about doing that. I think you see that reflected all the way from our website, product experience, customer and partner relationships and the quality of the support we deliver. If you look at our reviews on the Xero App Marketplace, it’s a huge source of pride for me the number of times the quality and passion of our support gets mentioned and how much people enjoy working with us.

You’re right that there’s always going to be that challenge of marketing and promoting yourself within a competitive industry. Paul Graham, the founder of Y Combinator, says ‘the only way to avoid competition is to avoid good ideas’. I think there’s abundant truth in that. We recognise we’ll never be done and we will always have a huge amount to learn.  But I think we have a lot of reasons to be confident that we’re the recognised market leader in our space. For example, it was brilliant to win the Xero App Partner of the Year award in 2016. Then last year winning the AccountingWEB Cloud App of the year against GoCardless, Stripe and iZettle, who are just fantastic leaders within their own respective categories.

XU:

Your team seem to have come from a variety of jobs and backgrounds and you have  created such a young and vibrant working team. What’s the key to success in this?

DT:

I’ve definitely learnt over time, hiring for eagerness to learn because the sheer tonnage of what we don’t know and what we will always not know is just huge. So, people who have the humility to accept that, the eagerness to embrace the opportunity that doing this work provides to learn. That couldnít be more important in terms of the mindset that they come into the team with, so thatís definitely key to us as a team.

XU:

So then what does a typical day at work look like for you to run and organise Chaser?

DT:

We have remote team members, so we have daily team stand up at 9:30am where we run through our goals for the day and any roadblocks. That’s really important so that we have the ability to interact as a team at least once a day, face-to-face. Once a week we do lunch-and-learn as a team. Someone will host lunch and we will grab lunch together, again dialing in to a video call remotely. One of the team will present on something that they are interested in, that they think the rest of the team will find interesting and useful to learn from.

Aside from that, there really is no typical day.  The biggest challenge is identifying what the most important thing is and ensuring that I, and the rest of our team, are spending the maximum amount of time working towards that.

XU:

You’ve been with us since our first issue, how has working with XU magazine benefited your company?

DT:

We launched at almost exactly the same time. In fact, we launched Chaser in conjunction with featuring in the first issue, back in August 2014, and contributed to the original crowdfunding campaign. When I look back, we’ve made a lot of mistakes over the last three and a half years, but that was a fantastic decision on our part because it’s been a brilliant partnership and platform for us.

It’s been brilliant to see the magazine, the publication go from strength across different mediums as well. For us, you talk about an engaged audience; people reading around Xero, around the app ecosystem; it’s brilliant.

XU: Chaser is a successful growing company, so to finish off, is there a new feature to Chaser or any developments we will see this year that you can tell our readers?

DT:

Absolutely. We just released our new thresholds functionality, which is the ability to set risk limits for different customers and then get notified about them. For example, setting credit limits for different customers so you get notified when there are approaching that credit limit, or they pass that credit limit. If as a company you have credit insurance, that credit insurance will be invalidated if you pass your credit limit. It couldn’t be more important that you stay abreast of that. With the new functionality, you can communicate to the sales team saying don’t sell anymore to this customer.  You can take urgent action if you need to get that customer down below their credit limit if they are approaching it or if they have exceeded it. That’s something we’re really excited about and the feedback on that has been brilliant.

Across the rest of 2018, the area we are really excited about is more and more insights about the different ways your customers are paying you, and practically suggesting the actions you should take off the basis of that information. Then combining that with great flexibility within Chaser as a product to chase different groups of customers in different ways. So, harvesting and surfacing those insights to our users, along with rules based assignment to different schedules that best suit the different customers given; how well or how badly they are paying their invoices.

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