Welcome to this special first-anniversary episode of the “Help! My Business Is Growing” podcast.
To celebrate this milestone, we’re kicking off our exciting new mini-series called “How They Did It”, where we’ll feature CEOs, leaders, and founders who have successfully grown their businesses.
We’ll hear their stories, and, of course, we’ll ask all the hard-hitting questions like how they prepared, what they did exactly, what specific steps they took, and what advice they can give to help you stay on top of your growing business.
Today, we chat with Fatimah Abbouchi, Founder and CEO of Agile Management Office, a high-powered boutique project management agency providing governance solutions for organizations to manage and govern projects in the agile era.
Timestamps for this week’s episode
- 6:54 How did your business processes look at the start, and how did they evolve as your business grew?
- 9:26 What kind of financial support did you have? Did you hire a bookkeeper or accountant or have an outside payroll company?
- 11:54 How is it making financial decisions now that you have the proper financial systems compared to previous years?
- 22:26 How did you manage to bootstrap your business to seven figures?
- 26:15 How did you go about “productizing” parts of your business?
How did your business processes look at the start, and how did they evolve as your business grew?
We quickly realized that we needed sales processes because we needed to process tenders, and I’d never done a tender before that time.
Then we needed to ensure that we had the right foundations and resources to execute if we were successful and had to come up with processes to onboard and off-board a team so that we could implement the projects.
Once we were already delivering on the projects, we had to look into how we could maintain customer service and, finally, how we can bring engagement and awareness to other work opportunities because one tender would not support a growing business.
What kind of financial support did you have? Did you hire a bookkeeper or accountant or have an outside payroll company?
I started with a manual process in Excel and quickly realized that I needed to move into a software program when I had more than one customer. I used Xero and attempted to do it myself, and I think I did an okay job.
As we evolved the business a couple of years later, we paid a bookkeeping firm. And interestingly, when they did a review of the way that we’d set up the software platform, they realized there were quite a lot of things in it that maybe weren’t set up correctly. And as a result of these professionals fixing those problems, we found $4,000 to $5,000 extra in revenue that I didn’t know I had!
Bringing on the professionals paid itself off in dividends. We’ve been using that platform and have expanded, and we’ve linked that to our CRM. And so, with all our work with large corporations, we’ve now got solid financial and accounting processes, systems, tools and frameworks, and experts working with us, including two accountants and a bookkeeper who worked with us from time to time.
“You need to challenge things sometimes, to make sure you’re aware of what’s going on in your financial statements.” – Fatimah Abbouchi
How is it making financial decisions now that you have the proper financial systems compared to previous years?
At the start, most of the work we were doing, or I was doing, was a personal services income, and it boiled down to how much money I wanted to take home that week.
But when I started adding employees and working on larger tenders and projects, we needed to make more significant decisions and look into our financial data. I looked at our margins vs. our monthly expenses and ensured I understood our financial statements to the point where I could use the information to make informed decisions.
We then supplemented that knowledge and ensured that we continuously improved how and where we spent money.
Using the data in our financial reports and processes has allowed us to make more informed decisions when needed, but also considering six to 12 months in advance and beyond that.
How did you manage to bootstrap your business to seven figures?
One of the reasons we didn’t go and seek any funding, despite other people doing it and recommending it, is that we needed to figure out where to start, what that looked like, or how it worked.
I’m also particular about how I like to run things, and bringing in external funding would have changed the dynamics of the business.
And then, as we evolved, I realized that the only way to grow a business by self-funding is by bringing on an additional headcount that could support the revenue stream that we had. We started brainstorming on all of the different types of paths to revenue that we could take. We looked at and invested in multiple passive and recurring revenue streams.
I would also forego significant profit by reinvesting it into the business, including my daily rates.
I have not opened any doors to (external) funding, revenue, or anything like that because I’m having too much fun just having control over how we’re running this and having the experimentation versus having someone tell me what to do. That may change in the future. But for now, it’s been a good decision because we don’t have a huge debt over our heads that we have to pay off, and no pressure that comes from VC funding or investors.
How did you go about “productizing” parts of your business?
When I started in 2016, I developed a way of doing things that I believed would be more effective, efficient, and agile in business agility. This became the AMO method® which is a flexible and adaptable way of doing anything project program or portfolio related, that brought in the focus of governance as well.
We’ve tested and applied this method over the last six years, first with a major university in Denmark, to prove the concept works with students. Then we applied it to the second-largest supermarket chain in Australia and received honors for its success. We then used it with the many projects we have worked on for small and medium businesses to see if it would work, and it has.
We’re so confident with the effectiveness of our processes, framework, and core capabilities that we’ve turned into a product: the AMO method® model, which we have packaged and offered to clients to use and apply on their own. They can access this method and, hopefully, self-serve and then leverage our advisory or delivery if they want additional support to execute their plans.
- As Fatimah’s business grew, she started with sales processes. When the clients started to come in, she added support systems and processes, such as human resources, financial, customer service, and marketing, to ensure she could accomplish the contracts she landed.
- While various financial software programs can help support your business, bringing in professionals such as bookkeepers, accountants, and fractional CFOs can provide value through expert advice. Linking your financial systems to a CRM is essential to drive growth further.
- As your business grows more complex, harness the power of your financial data to help you make more informed decisions when needed. Your data will also help keep your eye on the big (financial) picture, even six to 12 months down the road and beyond.
- Fatimah bootstrapped her business to seven figures via:
- Knowing what she wanted
- Committing to not getting external funding
- Adding people that can support her various revenue streams
- Brainstorming different revenue streams
- Sacrificing profit and reinvesting into the business
- One way to grow is to look into productizing an aspect of your business that has been proven to provide value to clients – and is adaptable and flexible enough that it can be applied via “self-service.”
About guest – Fatimah Abbouchi
CEO & Founder
Agile Management Office
After leaving the corporate world in 2016 and starting her agency, Fatimah has landed high-profile global clients and shown them how they can enhance agile delivery methodologies with flexible governance, thus allowing them to hit their targets.
Fatimah is also the founder of Return of the Panda®, a not-for-profit focused on improving the mental health of millions of anxiety sufferers worldwide.
For the past 18 years, she has been a successful businesswoman, acting as an advisor, educator, and award-winning thought leader to many start-ups and enterprises worldwide.
Her professional passion has seen her successfully transform how businesses govern and deliver change across portfolios up to $1B and over 18 industries globally.
Utilizing this industry experience, Fatimah’s PROVEN AMO method® is showing how businesses can not only align but enhance agile delivery methodologies with flexible governance.
Fatimah shares her success story, tips and resources you can apply to your company, and other valuable insights on growing your business.
About host – Kathy Svetina
Kathy Svetina is a Fractional CFO for growing women-owned businesses with $1M-$10M in annual revenue.
Clients hire her when they’re unsure about what’s going on in their finances, are stressed out by making financial decisions, or need to structure their finances to keep up with their growth.
She solves their nagging money mysteries and builds a financial structure with a tailored financial strategy. That way they can grow in a financially healthy and sustainable way.
Kathy is based in Chicago, IL and works with clients all over the US.