Green about the time and cost of starting up
Having a clear vision is one of the most important elements of entrepreneurial success, but you have to be prepared for this plan to be muddied by the extra amount of time and money it usually involves.
Tony Hall and Nicholas Bernhardt knew exactly what they wanted to build when they founded GreenBizCheck in 2007, but they didn’t realise what it would take to get them there.
GreenBizCheck is a technology-based environmental certification program, designed to help businesses become sustainable while also creating cost-saving opportunities.
Points are awarded for compliance and implementation of each element of the assessment. Companies are then given guidance as to the necessary steps to be taken to achieve certification.
“We also help them market their credentials to win new business and meet supplier and customer standards,” Hall says.
In the 2010/11 financial year, the Queensland-based business turned over $800,000. With a team of 29, GreenBizCheck now operates in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United States.
“We’d like to bring on at least five or six more people this financial year and really focus on distribution and international licensing,” Hall says.
Before GreenBizCheck, Hall says he and Bernhardt were “normal, active businesspeople” who were concerned about the ramifications of climate change.
“[We] wanted to utilise our skills, experience and contacts… and give back to the community and environment while also helping businesses become more profitable,” Hall says.
The duo recognised that most businesses produce excessive waste, and use excessive energy, water and resources.
“By creating a program that identified this in daily business activities, we [planned] to produce a list of actions businesses could take to reduce their consumption and save money,” Hall says.
Unfortunately, this process proved to be lengthier and more expensive than either Hall or Bernhardt anticipated. But as Hall explains, it paid off in the end.
“We wanted to create an online, resource-efficient, user-friendly tool. We researched the current technologies available but found nothing that was appropriate,” he says.
“Instead we had to hire a programmer, research various standards and create our own online bespoke system. This was very time-consuming and costly.”
Hall says it took two years to develop the system, which cost “hundreds of thousands of dollars”, but it was all worth it.
“The end result is a unique system that no one else in the world has,” he says.
“The program has been heavily researched and comprises the latest European and Asian best practice standards… It can be accessed by people in any English-speaking country in the world.”
Hall says the cost of hiring a full-time programmer was initially difficult to swallow. However, it proved to be a more cost-effective move in the long run.
“Rather than outsource a specialist service, it’s now more cost-effective for our programmer to learn how to do it himself,” he says.
In addition to creating a world-class system, Hall and Bernhardt learnt some valuable lessons.
“Research and testing is very important. Also, getting valuable feedback and input from potential clients,” Hall says.
“We also learned that a trustworthy and hardworking team to support us was very valuable.”
Since learning these lessons, GreenBizCheck has been able to enhance its services as it continues to expand on a global scale.
“We have created a free home eBook, which we give out to customers and prospects, which is 37 pages of showing people how they can also be more sustainable at home,” Hall says.
“We also have a green marketing guide, which details over 20 ways to promote your green credentials.”