We recently sat down with Gabriel Walker, CEO of one of our employer partners SilkCloud. SilkCloud is an exciting tech startup venture focusing on innovative ways to help businesses from Australia and New Zealand to access the China market. We asked Gabriel a few questions about business, team and also his perspective on working with AccountingPod. Take a read below.
Q: Who is Gabriel Walker?
This is a very tough question! The last thing I enjoy doing is talking about myself and you’ve opened this Q&A with a question that forces me to do just that. I suppose I could say that I’m a builder. I once built tools for US Special Forces and US Intelligence teams designed to keep people safe and now our team at Silk Cloud is building a bridge between the New Zealand and Chinese economy like there has never been before.
Q: What gets Gabriel out of bed every morning?
Mostly my two-year old daughter, both literally and as my fuel to build a better world for her to inherit.
Q: What is Silk Cloud?
We are team of diverse and passionate dreamers that envision a world where there is a more direct relationship between New Zealand and China from a value exchange perspective. China has always had a desirable consumer base and economy but it is a country that is moving so fast that it has become nearly impossible for Western countries like New Zealand to get up to speed and then start to compete for market share. Luckily China has come a long way in making it possible for Western businesses to be able to access their economy in the same way a mainland Chinese company would. We are helping NZ companies understand this and enabling them to invest smart in themselves when entering the Chinese market.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges in Silk Cloud’s journey to-date?
There is no shortage of challenges with what we are doing! There are already plenty of companies selling the promise of China and taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from Kiwi business owners and delivering nothing in return. It’s a large part of why we have built Silk Cloud. Those companies are selling a dream and doing no work or at the very most charging all that money just to provide access to the market. We don’t believe in that. What that means is, with us, you get access to the market for free. Yes, we invested a lot of our own time and money to make that possible and we have to work even harder to deliver results for our clients in order for us to earn money. I haven’t heard of any other business willing to invest their own money and time in another businesses success but we believe it needs to be done and we accept the challenge.
Q: How important is the team?
The team is everything! There’s really no other way to put it. You cant expect people to share your vision if you aren’t willing to bet it all on them so you better have the right people. Everyone likes to imagine leadership as one man being able to drag the team past the finish line after everyone else has been knocked down. The reality is that you will collectively take a lot of hits when trying to do something new and it is your job as a leader to stand behind them and prepare them for the hits and hopefully at the end of the day everyone is still standing and moving forward together or you might not ever make it. Most don’t so better to have people that have proven they can take some hits and I’m very lucky to say that I have that.
Q: What makes a great team?
Other than being super resilient per my last point, a great team is a team of doers. Just remember “motivation” and “drive” are bullshit! They change like the wind. It’s great to have proven professionals but that never outweighs a team member that has a natural or learned biased towards action. In any job you wont always know exactly what to do or how to do it but you need to act anyway. Either learn or give it your best go. You will make mistakes and you will learn. The only mistake you don’t want to learn from is the failure to act or maybe you do because then hopefully you become a doer.
Q: What was the most pressing need in terms of Accounting and Finance Support for Silk Cloud?
Accounting and financial support is absolutely critical not only for Silk Cloud but for most early stage companies. Having tidy financials and the ability to make quick informed decisions based off your burn-rate, your monthly recurring revenue or even a forecast for upcoming expenses is more often than not the difference between success and closing the doors. You will have no hope of raising a dollar in investment if you cant articulate your financial position and your company’s growth projections.
Q: What makes a rock star Accounting and Finance support team?
A rock star would be someone that is so proficient in accounting tools, like Xero, and hands on practical application of how those tools are used within businesses that they have the mental space to be a part of the vision of company. Accounting and financial support is often done is isolation from the rest of the business but it absolutely needs to be part of the larger strategy. A rock star would be able to translate an ambitious vision of a founder into a pragmatic financial plan and structure to help us get there.
Q: How did Silk Cloud fulfil its recruitment needs for its accounting and finance support?
We desperately called on the team at Accounting Pod. Our company moves fast and our books have almost become unmanageable as a separate task for me to also undertake. I don’t have the time to go through a few months of hiring hoping to find someone that can fill our needs. We know that with Accounting Pod we are getting young and experienced accounting support with hands-on financial experience that know what we need better than we do.
Q: As the CEO, what do you consider as the most important traits in your accounting and finance support team members?
When specifically talking about accounting and finance with my team, I would say that ambition isn’t as good as proficiency. Proficiency isn’t as good as courage and courage isn’t as good as vision. Being “motivated” to do the work can change in the face of difficulty or change itself so someone that has proven they can do the work is more important than someone that is momentarily driven to do the work. Someone that is courageous enough to be a leader and let the business know when there is trouble before it gets to bad is a degree better. The best trait is someone that can foresee the icebergs and build a contingency plan before letting the business know they even have a problem.
Q: How do you view the collaborative relationship with Accounting Pod?
Having a collaborative relationship with Accounting Pod is like a builder’s relationship with bricks. You can build a house with other materials but you know it’s risky, it might not work and bricks have a proven history as foundational building blocks of a home.
Q: What would be your advice to aspiring accounting and finance students?
Recognise that the goal is not to be proficient or efficient within the accounting side of the business as much as it is to be an objective voice for companies in articulating the goals and milestones your team must strive for in order to be successful. Like motivation, the vision of any given company can change like the wind. It often needs to. Numbers don’t ever lie. They don’t change to fit the circumstance or current ambitions of the company. They tell a story and it is most often the story upon which a company is measured so arguably the most important story a company has to tell. Within whatever company you join, it will be your story to tell so own it!
Q: To wrap up, what would be the one thing that you wish you had done when you were a student?
Full disclosure I was a terrible student. I chased degrees because the US government paid for it and I took full advantage. I wasted so many opportunities whether it was when I was chasing an MBA at Stanford or while doing a PhD in Genetics or any of the other multiple degrees I have to my name. In my opinion, the most valuable thing you can learn as a student is how to help other people chase their dreams. Everyone believes that being a student is an investment in your own future and then they go into the world and question how they’ve spent all this money and time and aren’t actually ready for a real job. Maybe you have a dream and maybe you don’t and maybe it will change one day and maybe it changed a few times throughout your degree. The point is that you will more than likely have a dream eventually and what you can start doing as a student is preparing yourself for what it takes to chase that dream by helping someone else first. Build the experience and social currency you’re one day going to have to call on to build your own future. Start building your team before you need them and when you’re ready you’ll get shit done.