ALTA Member Profile | Stephen Butler, CEO, Red Rain
Tell us a bit about your background.
I started out as a COBOL programmer in the dim dark ages but quickly moved into customer support and then sales and general management. In the 90’s I co-founded the company that created the Inprotech product for Patent Attorneys, a niche market within the legal sector. We quickly won 70% of the market in Australia (there were only 30 firms!) and we then headed off to the UK to peddle our wares there. We soon became the market leader in the UK and also won clients in Europe and Canada as well as NZ, South Africa and South East Asia. I travelled a lot!
We were acquired in the early 2000’s by a large multinational business. I then headed up the team taking Inprotech to the US, using the local sales and support teams that they already had in place. At the end of the decade I left that business, and after a break, started Red Rain with some former colleagues.
I am now CEO of Red Rain and its solutions based application RedView. Being a big company that is still small means that I have a hand in most things, and try to be the glue that keeps everything going forward. My current focus is on driving the product road map and leading the sales and marketing effort, all three of which need to be closely coordinated at this stage of the business’ growth.
Describe a typical day in your life at Red Rain.
I start my day with a review of the early rushes of the product development from the previous day. We have an excellent team of developers and these days we are pushing out a lot of software pretty quickly. I check these releases as thoroughly as I can. Don’t get me wrong, the quality of the team’s output is good. It’s just that I am incredibly finicky and want the software to be perfect for our clients. I think the fine detail of the user experience is critical, so removing a click here or changing a field position there is important.
After that it’s responding to the queries from the UK that have come in overnight. Then who knows what – sales calls, demos, marketing material, emails, spec’ing, testing, meetings. Towards the end of the day I am more and more conducting redview demos to overseas clients.
Looking back, when and where do you think the redview journey first ‘began’?
It was back in 2013 I was presented with an opportunity to develop a client portal product for LEAP, one of our valued partners. One thing led to another. Another idea arose, another client request. Now we have grown to develop a suite of software covering the client access tools but also CRM, business intelligence, task management, outsourcing management, lawyer mobile apps, time recording, reporting and more. Redview now integrates with 9 of the different practice management systems in the market. It’s time to tell our story!
Red Rain has achieved some major milestones – well done. How did you find the process of convincing investors and others of its value in the early days?
From our product’s perspective, we have been around the legal profession for a while, working with many firms. As a result we are, I think, highly experienced in the business of law. Showing that experience, being able to empathise and understand our clients’ issues were critical to them having confidence that we could deliver.
When we started out the cloud was in its infancy and law firms were suspicious of privacy, security and jurisdictional issues, so this was also an issue to resolve. Gradually, this has dissipated but not completely, especially in NZ!
Most of all, I am privileged to work with a talented group of people that know their way around law firms and know their way around software development. Without that, we would be nowhere.
Australia is a relatively small market when compared to the rest of the world. Where do overseas markets sit on your priority list – and what are your tips on growing globally out of Australia? What challenges have you come across?
Our goals have always been to be an international software business. This is starting to come to fruition with a growing client list in the UK and our first client in the US. Technically, we have built internationalisation into the product right from the start and, from a marketing perspective, we have always been conscious of presenting ourselves as an international business, not an Australian company.
I think the challenge in doing business internationally with B2B solutions is building trusted relationships. Showing the client you are in it for the long haul. Previously, that would be with lots of market visits and lots of personal interaction, until you get your local presence established. Doing that in a COVID world might make that harder. Or maybe it will make it easier, I’m not sure yet. In any case, there will be lots of working out of hours to look forward to!
Tips? Technically, think about internationalising your product at the beginning of the build: changing field labels, handling local time, currency, foreign language. For cloud you need to be mindful of regional applications and data servers, how to manage deployment and how to manage redundancy.
Marketing? Not sure where to start and, in many ways, I am still learning in a SaaS environment. I think fundamentals apply. Know when you should be listening and when you should be telling. Don’t sacrifice product quality. I think also de-emphasise being Australian, particularly in the US. With SaaS, there is also the challenge of pricing. I don’t know the answer here but we seem to have finally arrived at something that works.
Lastly, I would comment on the US. It is the largest market in the world but, in my experience, it is 30-40 markets the size of Sydney across 3 time zones. Having the scope and reach to be able to handle that successfully without burning a lot of money is hard. Our view is to focus on the UK and Europe first. Or just focus on a state or a region.
Entrepreneurship can be incredibly rewarding – and challenging. Looking back, what do you believe is the most important skill or quality for a founder’s success? Are there any other qualities you’d encourage a founder to develop?
That’s a hard one, I’m not good at introspection. I think the ability to juggle, adapt, push, change, demand, compromise, bully, negotiate, whatever, to get done what you know needs to be done. Then, keep away from naysayers if you can. Lastly, get used to the fact that one day you will be thinking the business is falling apart and the very next day you will be thinking you can take over the world!
You’re about to go back in time to give yourself one piece of advice. What do you say to your younger self and when?
That’s another hard one. Have more confidence in what you achieved and negotiate harder to get a better price when you sold your first business. Or get someone to negotiate for you lol.
What are 3 things you will be focusing on this year?
Growing the business, growing the business and growing the business.
Where can we stay up to date with what you’re doing?
Connect with us on LinkedIn.