The Highs and Lows of Entrepreneurial Life

March 28, 2019

I’ve been sitting in the office board room for five minutes now, waiting for David to sit down. It’s not that he’s late but he’s waiting to say hi to a customer that is coming in to talk to our engineering team.

In the month that I’ve been here, I’ve noticed that David barely has time to sit down. He is constantly in conversation, on and off planes, in and out of taxis - but he’s always looking ahead. Such is the life of a CEO and Founder of a rapidly growing business - it’s about steering a ship, through good weather and bad.

We’re about to host an event to celebrate what he describes as a “cracking year”, so I thought it appropriate to ask what exactly made 2018 so good. It turns out, much of the grunt work was done in 2017 to make 2018 such a successful year.

“In 2017, we did a load of work around the segments and pain points of the property market that our technology really addresses. We found that it’s property owners who also directly manage their assets, so that’s who we decided to specifically target. As it turns out, our two biggest accounts are QIC with 27 of their shopping centres and Dexus Retail. So that’s led to an uplift in messaging, branding and the value proposition to those clients. It’s now starting to come through and it’s been really valuable.”

It takes David a while to consider what the highs and lows of the last twelve months have been, and luckily there have been more highs than lows.

“It’s great to see our single sites convert into portfolio sites because it means that they recognise the value of our technology across multiple assets. Also really seeing how the team is gelling and how the industry is recognising the technology - so the likes of the Environmental Sustainability Group and Westpac.”

He’s referring to two instances where CIM Enviro were included in independent reports. The first being the QIC Global Real Estate ESG 2018 report for our four-month trial on Robina Town Centre that achieved compelling results. Most recently, we were included in Westpac’s Emerging Industries Report, advocating for green tech and sustainable building management.

In terms of lows, David says it was hard to see Amir Mortazavi, one of the founders of CIM Enviro, move on to increase his engineering expertise. “To see him leave after four years was kind of hard because we were joined at the hip,” he tells me, “but we’re still really good friends. It’s hard when one of the founding team members moves on.”

Being a founder and CEO of a business is not as simple as highs and lows - there’s always a blazing fire.

“You’re always moving from either a challenging situation to a win and then it’s back to a challenge and then a win. There’s always a blazing fire.”

The analogy he gives me comes from Mike Cannon-Brookes, the co-founder and co-CEO of Atlassian, and assures me that the day-to-day chaos of working for CIM Enviro is just a sign of growth and activity.

“When there's a blazing fire going on in the business, it's normal. When there are two blazing fires, it's busy, and when there's no blazing fire there is a blazing fire, it just hasn't been identified yet. That is very true.”

The industry is recognising the importance of our technology in the energy equation. This growth in revenue has meant adding more engineers to the team, expanding the development team and growing our data science team. A fantastic byproduct of increased revenue, according to David, is growing the team and seeing everyone working well together.

What I’ve especially noticed, joining the team first as an intern and now as a graduate, is the importance CIM Enviro places on personal and professional development. Everything from choosing position naming conventions that empower the team, to giving shoutouts within the office, David likes to make sure each member of his team knows that what they do - no matter how simple - is crucial to the business.

While expanding the team reduces the centralised knowledge in key individuals and it’s great to be surrounded by experts but for David, making sure that people are learning from one another is important because as a team, we become flexible and spread the knowledge base of our staff.

“It is important to me that we maintain our positive culture as we grow. I have been really proud of our junior staff this year. They join the team with little experience and within six months they are learning, growing and taking on their own projects. They all really enjoy the job and I want to ensure that we keep that energy and enthusiasm because if they are happy, they are more engaged and more intent on delivering good outcomes to customers, which in turn leads to revenue which leads to more sites.”

Looking forward, I asked David what a successful 2019 would look like.

“A successful 2019 would be having two international offices, so London and Singapore or Hong Kong. We’re opening the London office before the end of the financial year, and to have the second office open closer to Christmas would be awesome.”

“To capture more of the market share here in Australia and expand the product line would also be a great win in the next 12 months. To be able to empower hands-on consultants, maintenance engineers and energy optimisation professionals on the platform and get them licenses would be great too. We’re just another tool in the toolbox.”

CIM Enviro’s strategy is changing this year in that we are trying to get more technical users that want to optimise buildings using the platform, versus our own in-house engineers.

"We started off with a chauffeur-driven model, where we would drive the product for you,” David explains. “Now we want to move to a self-driven model and put the product in the hands of experienced industry engineers.”

“However, you can never take your eye off the culture, especially in a team that is expanding as rapidly as ours. I want to make sure that the culture grows with the company and that our team feels really good. You can’t have an outstanding business without an outstanding team.”


CIM Team
March 28, 2019