Category Archives: Product

Football v Career – Actions Defined by Subconscious Thinking

Have you ever thought about your subconscious actions and how they affect the course of your life?

I am amazed at how our subconscious thinking defines our actions; when I think back now to the late 80’s, early 90’s it was my subconscious thinking that drove actions that set the shape of my professional life.
This was when I commenced my employment with Reynolds & Reynolds in the automotive technology space (the space I am still around today) and played my first AFL Senior season in that same year (VFL back then).

Now looking back, the path that both of those took is a lesson in itself. This is not about me looking back thinking “what if” (maybe a little, sometimes) but more a real lesson in what shapes our beliefs and ultimate actions.

I loved football and still do but it has never been my life nor did I ever set out for it to be my life. I didn’t work hard to play AFL, it just “happened”. One week I was playing local U18 football (no training, out on Friday nights before a game) and the next week I was playing with Richmond U19s, appointed Captain the following season and played my first senior AFL game the year. Yes I did all the hard training including the long pre-season but nothing extra or out of the ordinary (unfortunately). Football was just meant to be fun.
Now I compare that with my software development career which kicked off in the same year. Almost from the start I was driven to do more and be better than the other programmers. I quickly got a reputation for not letting something go before it was done. That meant late nights, weekends, etc, going above and beyond, doing the extra work.

Dad always said to me about working to “work hard, be loyal and you’ll get looked after”. Football to me was always short term thinking. Work, my profession, has always been thinking about the long term.

What if I worked my butt off in football to get every bit I could out of myself? What would I be doing now? It might be exactly the same. It might be different. I don’t really care and don’t dwell on it because I made that choice many years ago subconsciously and divided by effort/time accordingly (or maybe I subconsciously knew where my talents really were….).

I still love football and I am still involved today as a Board member of the EFL and through my kids playing. It is and always has been an outlet for me. Would I have loved to have played more senior AFL football? Definitely but not necessarily at the cost of what I’m doing today. Remember too, it wasn’t fully professional back then either and let’s face it, I was never going to be in the elite bracket!

I like to think I’ve “worked hard, been loyal and been looked after” to get to where I am today so I’m pretty happy with my lot and it was my subconscious thinking that defined it for me.

Have you thought about your journey and how you made it to where you are today?

A Good Technology Lesson in Uber

I doubt that Uber is new to many people by now; if they haven’t used it they would have certainly heard about it.

In some circles I’ve been slow off the mark in my Uber experiences but in other circles I’m the one with experience.

To most people who use Uber they marvel at the ease, secure feeling and in most cases, cost (read on for my example recently).
These things are not lost on me but it is the use of technology that makes this incredible service wow me, especially when I am travelling for business overseas.

Two things with the technology/process flow that I love are:

1. Google Maps and other third party maps – I love it that Uber integrated Google Maps into the passenger user interface and allows integration for third party navigation apps such as Waze for the driver directions; they recognized that these apps are “best in class” and integrated them rather building more proprietary software (something a lot of companies get wrong and some right). As an aside, wasn’t Waze a smart acquisition by Google?

2. Driver and Destination – I love the fact that the driver does not know your destination until you are in the car and when he does it is automatically set as his destination with up to date crowd sourced traffic information guided by an app such as Waze.
On a recent trip to Mexico, this what I found this technology and process gave me:

Ease – two things stand out for me here: 1) you use the same app and same account settings as I do in Australia and 2) no language translation issues with the driver; the Uber driver didn’t speak English, I don’t speak Spanish but getting to right destination is not an issue since the driver has the address loaded into his system upon booking

Secure – no cash changing hands, can’t be ripped off; I tried to get a taxi from the hotel but he didn’t accept credit cards – also, knowing and seeing our route on the Uber large phone and my phone at the same time gave me piece of mind of where I was going

Cost – the taxi I tried to get quoted me $340 up front for my ride; my Uber cost was $190 (Mexican Pesos)
From booking to riding to paying the service sequence is pretty hard to fault and by using technology is the ultimate disruptor to the taxi industry.

If you were going to fault anything it is that it is “real time” only and you cannot book, although I have no doubt that will come.

The other thing people may fault is the surge in fees when demand is high but we can’t be too critical of this, it simply “supply and demand” pricing and this is commerce.

Not only has Uber disrupted the taxi industry, it has done it in a seamless way the world wide and especially in cities the size and density of Mexico City and São Paulo, it is an absolutely killer app.

And through the use of technology and the connected world, the world just keeps getting smaller.

Achieving Economies of Scale

carsales push into the Spanish speaking Latin America countries of Mexico and Chile enables it to get achieve economies of scale in technology and other areas of its business.

The push has been on to deliver our web site platform and dealer applications that are successful in Australia, through Latin America with the specific goal of being able to “Spanishise” (probably a stretch to give it a word) the platform and get multiple uses from it, thus achieving economies of scale.
We have learnt, however, that achieving economies of scale can sometimes be a false economy if not done with a complete appreciation of all the factors in the new geographical location you are entering. Just picking something up and dropping it in another country will not necessarily work.

carsales and were keen to give Webmotors the “carsales feel” so in addition to adding the Ryvuss search engine, the three main pages being the Home page, Search Results page and Vehicle Details page were all redesigned using the carsales template.

When the development was complete we were all very excited to launch the new site but it didn’t take us long to realise that we had misjudged the Brazilian users. There were a few things they had on the old Webmotors site that they felt were super important in buying a car and were not backwards in coming forwards to tell us about it.
Quite a few subtle changes were required to meet the expectations of the local users. This was our first lesson that picking up exactly what works in one country will necessarily be the optimum solution in another country.

What about regions within a country? Webmotors made two acquisitions of leading regional automotive web sites shortly after we invested in the business. The first was which was the number 1 player in the North East of Brazil. The second was which was the number 1 player in the Sao Paulo country side.
The plan was a simple one – let’s get some quick wins by using the Webmotors platform to drive each of the new websites. Each website would take on the same look and feel (with it’s own colours and logos) and same features. This would enable us to achieve economies of scale in maintaining one Brazilian wide platform down the track.

In both Meurcarango and Compreauto we quickly realized that the response from the user base within each region was similar to what we experienced with the Webmotors site.
So while we won’t get economies of scale by simply putting a Spanish version of what we have in Australia, we will get enormous benefits through economies of scale across the platform driving the websites and the dealer applications. An example of where we are already achieving this is with our Ryvuss search engine which is already in use by Webmotors and in South Korea.

Our dealer applications like Autogate is where we will see great benefits through “Spanishisation” as they are not as open to user nuances by country or region as a consumer facing website is. This is where we expect to get even bigger benefits from working on the one global platform.

All in all carsales is in a great position of leveraging from proven IP and a technology base that can move the needle in these countries. I can’t wait to see and benefiting from this.

1 Massive Difference From The 90’s


Who’s more annoying for the product & technology team in a tech/online company like – a member of the executive team who knows little to nothing about developing product or one that knows something about it (or thinks they do)?

I’m in the latter group of this question having started as a software developer at the end of 1988 moving into the 90’s. I look at changes we need to make and get impatient on delivery times. I can’t help it. I think back to when I was developing and if I had something in front of me that could make a difference in the product, we just seemed to make it happen, “from go to whoa“.

The software life cycle for me went like this as I would:
— Scope the product;
— Develop the product;
— Test it;
— Document (in the code and for users, sometimes);
— Deploy the product into the release cycle; and
— Then support it (when a software release was made available).
I was in total control. We had over a dozen developers all with the same life cycle for changes big and small. We would do a new software release containing hundreds of changes twice a year. The end product was used by hundreds of dealers and thousands of users around Australia.

There are quite a few differences from the 90’s to now in software development but the number 1 difference has to be plainly and simply 1 thing:

The Internet

The rate of change, always available and number of users make the processes of the 90’s obsolete. Like today, we had thousands of features as well as integrations and dependencies throughout many products but 3 things we didn’t have to factor in were:

1. Code being pushed live multiple times per day – the quarterly release schedule that regularly got pushed to half yearly is long gone

2. 99.9% plus availability for users – we always had windows where we could bring the system down for a number of hours to fix or upgrade something

3. Having a scalable and reliable system and code base to handle millions of users and millions of actions per second not to mention hosting in “the cloud” – this adds complexity and cost, especially for disaster recovery which has to be a staple

We all take the Internet for granted and the change it has had on our lives.

Oh for the good old days of software development….

Work was great today, I did nothing

I feel I’ve been lucky in my professional career in that I’ve always enjoyed what I’ve done. I say lucky because not everyone enjoys their work.

It was always funny going to football training with guys from all walks of life to hear things like “work was great today, I did nothing” and “who wants to go out tonight, I’m taking a sickie tomorrow”. Gee I’m glad I never measured a successful day like that!
I was a software developer during my twenties and always differed from the majority of other developers I worked with in that I was usually the only footballer and I wasn’t into technology like the most of the others. I’m not into computers, games, newest technology, etc but I never had a problem getting to work on a Monday (well, there were a few Monday’s after Sunday football games that we a tad difficult).

In spite of not being a “tech head”, I really enjoyed being a software developer and in particular I loved two things:

1. Using software to solve commercial needs. I have always got a kick out of this above all else and still love providing solutions that provide value to business.

2. Creating something from scratch. I think it must be the way I’m wired as I loved developing something that would have my own stamp on it. I’m the same with houses. I’d much prefer to build than renovate.

I loved that as a developer I got a business need to improve, figure out how to improve it, build it, test it, implement it with the client and then support it.
In the 90’s as a developer you were responsible for practically the entire software development life cycle; I enjoyed it all except probably the documentation part. I liked documenting inside the code but this is where I was like any other developer – Why can’t the user just work it out?

Developing a product solution would become an obsession for me and it wasn’t uncommon for me to work through the night, rarely to meet a deadline but just because of these two loves.

My biggest problem with software development – Why don’t they all think like me?

At the end of the day we are all in control of enjoying our professions and I like seeing people enjoy what they do.

Sales History Should Not Set Retail Pricing

Selling anything at retail seems like a pretty uncomplicated business doesn’t it? You acquire the product for a price and sell it for another price with the difference being your profit, right? Yes sort of. What about all the overheads involved in making that sale?

One of the overheads commonly forgotten is the daily cost of holding the stock. Some years ago I was with a car dealer as we were trying to promote our newly created LiveMarket product which gives the dealer a look at the competitive position of each of their used vehicles for sale using live market data.

“Paul this is a great product but….”

Once I was finished showing the product, the dealer to me “Paul this is a great product but you see that Landcruiser out there, I’m going to make $5,000 profit on it whether I sell it tomorrow or in 5 weeks time so I don’t need this”. I bet a lot of car dealers, or retailers of any sort for that matter, would think the same.
His logic was that he didn’t have to alter the sell price based on the competitive market because eventually someone would come and pay that price. He had history to prove it. What he wasn’t factoring in was that that $5,000 profit he might get tomorrow wasn’t really worth $5,000 in 5 weeks time. What he also wasn’t counting on is the new Internet age where buyers have as much information and in most cases, more information than the seller (i.e. competitive information at their fingertips).

What if he could sell 4 of those Landcruisers at half the profit on each unit in that same 5 week period ($10,000 vs $5,000)? Which would he rather? It didn’t take long for the penny to drop.

The premise is that by using competitive live market data to buy and sell ensures you are in touch with the market at all times and not buying or selling using sales history or “your gut”. Pricing to sell promotes velocity and helps to ensure your holding costs don’t eat into your profits.

4 Data Driven Lessons

LiveMarket brings a live market view to new and used vehicle management for car dealers to make smarter decisions when buying and selling cars.

The beauty of LiveMarket from a demo perspective is that the data is the dealer’s actual data and it is live; no canned demo data setup to prove a point.

I was with a used car manager of a franchised dealership showing carsales’ LiveMarket product a little while ago. As I dug a little into his inventory in LiveMarket I found an interesting stat. He was only selling from 60% of his inventory, the other 40% were all well over 180 days old.

…other 20 were just a drag on net profit…

So as far as the dealer principle (business owner) was concerned, the monthly units sold, gross and turn were coming from 50 used vehicles when in fact it was coming from just 30. The other 20 were just a drag on net profit as their holding costs keep stacking up.

“why would I change it and risk not making targets?”

I focused on this as I saw it as an opportunity for the used car manager to improve his business (and his standing in the business) by pricing to the market to improve velocity (sell from the entire inventory) and ultimately improve overall gross. I was wrong.

“I’m consistently meeting my sales and gross targets with the stock mix I have now, why would I change it and risk not making targets?”. Fair point.

What would the dealer principle, the owner of the business, want though? If he could see the used car mix through the lens we were looking at I know what he’d want and so did the used car manager!

The decision was made though. LiveMarket wasn’t for him. He was happy meeting his goals and didn’t want “extra work”.

I learnt four lessons from this process:

1. Giving a more complete picture of a business through data isn’t for everyone.

2. As a business owner you need to have the data to be completely across your business.

3. As a business owner you need to ensure the people you employee and trust are driven to run the business as if it was their own with the same goals you have.

4. Data doesn’t lie so you need to ensure you are selling the dream to the right person in the business (i.e. the person who will benefit the most from the data).

I’m sure we’ve all been there before.

I Love The Value Of Aggregated Data For Smart Business Decisions

It is one thing to aggregate data. It is another to normalize, index, add depth and present in a way that save people and companies time and make money. Here’s an example of using aggregated data designed specifically to save its users time and make them money.

Some years ago I visited a car dealer to talk about our LiveMarket product. As we started to look at the product, he cut me off saying “all of this information is already available on carsales; every Monday morning I get my team together and we go through every one of our vehicles, see where it is positioned on carsales, adjust pricing if necessary, add comments, add photos and all that so we don’t need LiveMarket”.

I asked him how many people and how long this process takes him every Monday morning – “4-5 hours for 5 people” was the answer – No wonder they only do it once a week!
By doing what they did each Monday morning, they had an obvious appreciation for competitive live market data so I showed him how LiveMarket can do exactly what they do every Monday (plus a whole lot more) in just 10 minutes, any day you want, any time you want for every one of your vehicles. He could see how each vehicle is positioned in the market using real time data and make real time changes to make selling easier and more profitable.

The penny dropped. Using LiveMarket to get an aggregated view of the competitive live market data has not only saved the dealer a lot of time, it has enabled them to sell better, increase velocity and be more profitable in the used car department.

I love the power and value of aggregated data for smart business decisions.

4 Important Milestones In Creating A Great Product


Whilst I started as a developer I’ve never considered myself to be the traditional software developer. I’m not a tech head by any means and I don’t keep up to speed with the “latest and greatest”. By that I mean my focus has only been on the commercial outcome of a software product and sometimes that can upset those who want, what they consider, the perfect outcome.

A perfect example at was the creation of the LiveMarket product and here are some important milestones in it’s creation:

Milestone 1. A product scope was developed with a lot depth and hundreds of features before development kicked off in earnest on what was thought to be a 7-9 month project.

Milestone 2. A little over 2 months into the development cycle the product was about 30% of the initial defined scope when it was put in front of the first car dealer who immediately saw the value and signed on the spot; not for a free trial, not even for a special discount price for being the first customer. The product had enough value even at 30% completion that it could command a premium price.

Milestone 3. Three months later, with now dozens of dealers signed up and still well short of the expected development time and feature set, the owner of a large franchised dealership sent the following message to the carsales CEO – “I have to let you know that is the smartest use of technology/information and market that I’ve ever seen (and I have been filling in as Used Car Mgr for two months). Brilliant. Well Done. Congrats.“. Now imagine if it was 100% finished!

Milestone 4. Fast forward some 6 plus years on and LiveMarket is a key component for hundreds and hundreds of Australian dealers buying and selling used cars yet the product scope for LiveMarket has still not been anywhere near 100% developed; not the original scope nor the expected scope creep and new ideas that inevitably come through. It never will be finished, can’t be.

So if the commercial owners had waited until 100% of the product scope was finished before releasing it to the market, theoretically it would still be in development and not an important part of the carsales’ dealer business.

Interesting to Compelling


I didn’t realize it at the time but from the moment I started as a trainee software developer with Reynolds & Reynolds (now Pentana Solutions) in October 1988, I was introduced to three very important concepts in business and in particular, creating software products to add value and make the business (and the businesses using them) money.

The first is the concept of defining the value you provide to your clients. It wasn’t until many years later that I learnt this as the process of taking something from “interesting to compelling” and once you could achieve this transformation, great things would follow. The second concept is finding the commercial point of a product in the development process because that is the point when it needs to be taken to your client base, not when the development is finished. The third concept was creating barriers to exit for your clients; products, processes or services within your offering that the client can’t do without (real or perceived).

Reynolds & Reynolds Australia (R&R) supplied dealer management systems (DMS) to car dealers and was a wholly owned subsidiary of The Reynolds & Reynolds Company (R&R US) based in Dayton, Ohio. It had been marketing/selling a solid, rudimentary DMS that was interesting for dealers as it offered value as a DMS but was one of a few in the market with similar capabilities and as such there was no clear leader at that time.

R&R knew that to dominate the market he had to move from having an interesting offering for dealers to a compelling one. Being interesting meant you would be shopped against other interesting offerings from your competitors and the best price would win. Being compelling meant your client just had to have what you have to offer; or accept something sub-standard and adapt. This then gave you something your clients would pay good money for and that something was value.

The ERA DMS was introduced to US dealers by R&R US in 1987 and promised to be a game changer as it was the first on the market to seamlessly integrate the various parts of a car dealership within the computer system: accounting, new vehicles, used vehicles, spare parts, service, aftermarket, etc. ERA had to be brought to Australia.

I was hired as a trainee computer programmer tasked with “Australianizing” ERA as fast as we could in a small team (change operating systems, convert dates, miles/kms, etc and change some dealers process within the DMS). The project was top secret within R&R and it had created a buzz around the office. R&R US sent out a couple of programmers to help us along early on. For six solid months we trawled through hundreds of thousands of lines of code making change after change, compiling the source code and making sure each program worked after the changes. For me it was a buzz learning a new programming language on the job, although at the time I didn’t realize exactly what we were working towards achieving. ERA was the product to take Dealer Management Systems in Australia from interesting to compelling. It was the product that would change the landscape for R&R.

Now that we had the first piece of the puzzle, unbeknownst to me, we needed to work out the second piece of the puzzle; finding the commercial point in the development process when ERA would be taken to the client base. I had no idea at the time that this was the process. Wouldn’t it be sold when everything was finished?

It was announced that the first dealer install of ERA would be in April 1989, a mere 6 months after the project began in earnest. I thought it was crazy as we still had so much to do (and we certainly did) but as I learnt later, the product was ready to create value for the client regardless of whether development was finished or not. A part of this lesson was that the development process is never finished so if we wait for that moment, we would never release anything to a client or we would release it too late. I think this is why so many technology minded programmers don’t understand the business side of technology and the ones that do prove to be very valuable.

There were many problems in the first installation. Software conversion issues, differences between Australia and US dealer process, operating system environment issues and so on but ultimately these were issues that we were going to have now or six months later when most thought we would be ready. Very quickly ERA starting providing value to the client and the right commercial point of the product had been found. Problems were being fixed on the fly both on site at the client and back in the R&R office. It was all hands on deck to make it right for the client.

ERA didn’t prove to be a very hard sell in a very competitive and tough environment of car dealers. Very quickly ERA helped R&R become the clear number one in Australia but really it wasn’t just the product that made this happen. Without the wisdom of the leaders at R&R in particular to make the investment to bring something compelling to Australia and the judgement to find its commercial point as early in the cycle as possible, a competitor might have stolen the march on R&R in releasing something more interesting that may have changed the landscape.

The third concept, creating barriers to exit, was the next step.