Episode 014: Rich Ham - FMClarity

Rich Ham is the rock-climbing, house-sitting founder and director of FMClarity, a SaaS app aiming to bring facilities management into the 21st Century, by providing a user-friendly, integrated system that will streamline Facilities Management processes and tasks.

Rich was born and raised in Mt. Dandenong, Melbourne.  His parents were into real estate in a big way, in fact Rich's Mother went into labour during an open house inspection.  It seems he was literally born into the real estate and property industry.

Rich learned about business from parents, particularly about real estate as they discussed and shared their insights and knowledge about business at home.  After studying accounting Rich was given the opportunity to work in the family business in the office doing the book keeping.  From an early age, he was able to be involved, often helping with business decisions.  Rich still looks to parents for advice in his business now and then.

Entrepreneurship was evident in Rich at a young age, explaining that he wanted to be an inventor.  At one point he even attempted to build a rocket from items he found in his parents shed, including a circular saw blade that he envisioned to be a flux-capacitor.

After spending several years in property management with parents, and later working for several large management firms, Rich noticed that the systems that he used were severely lacking in flexibility and efficiency, and figured that things could be done better.  He started constructing a plan to build something based on looking at how applications for other industries work so well.

This first-hand experience of the problem allowed Rich to design and build something that he would be happy using.

Look to what your doing on a day-to-day basis and see what can be improved.

Using his own experience in moving from working full time to building a startup, Rich advises anyone looking to get out of the daily grind of working for someone else to look at their own industry and see if they can come up with a better way of doing something.  He recommends to "Look to what your doing on a day to day basis and see what can be improved.  Maybe there's something there that's not being solved yet".

Although FMClarity is the first Startup journey for Rich, it isn't the first business that Rich has started or been involved in.  The first thing the Rich started by himself was a bookkeeping business and although he didn't have a deep passion for accounting, it afforded him the freedom to work from anywhere and travel around Australia whilst still earning an income.

After running his own bookkeeping business for a short while, he travelled to Europe and ended up in London, England.  It was there that Rich answered an ad for short-term role for, what he thought was for a personal trainer, but ended up being a new business that was opening a fitness studio (based on the Power Plate devices).  After 4 short months, Rich found himself in a General Manager role and helping to open 4 studios across London.  While not strictly his startup, he was able to take away plenty of knowledge from experience.

After moving back to Australia and re-entering the workforce in property management, Rich conceived the idea for FMClarity.  The first move was to identify the problems that he wanted to solve, and after using an analogue method of butchers paper and markers, he invested time in building wire-frames using the software Balsamiq.

Aside from starting FMClarity, Rich is an avid rock-climber.  Rock climbing is a passion for Rich, which is evident in how often he brings it up, and he has been doing it for 20 years, 2-3 times per week.  An activity such as rock-climbing provides multiple benefits to an entrepreneur, as it teaches the difference between a percieved risk and a real risk.  This risk management correlates directly to entrepreneurship.  The second benefit is that getting out-doors is a great stress reliever.  Rich recommends everyone try it.

Despite FMClarity being still in development, with a Beta almost ready to release, Rich has already secure one customer, a large, global education institution.  Having this customer on board early has provided some validation for Rich, but he is now looking forward to getting out and speaking to people about the product.

FMClarity has been bootstrapped by Rich, funding the development through savings as well as selling some assets.  He has also been rather inventive in his approach to cutting his own expenses by travelling to south east Asia to live because of cheaper living expenses.  Since returning to Australia, he has also taken to house sitting to save money.

Rich knew he needed a co-founder early on and reached out to his network in order to find someone that has the requisite skills.  An approach that he recommends, is to link your Facebook account to your LinkedIn account.  Doing this allowed Rich to reach out to friends in the search for a co-founder.  In the end, is was a friend-of-a-friend situation that lead to meeting his current partner Leo.

In true 21st Century startup fashion, Rich lives in Melbourne while Leo lives in Brisbane, so they make use of the latest tools to help with the remote relationship; Asana for project management, Slack for communication, and Google Drive for document storage.

Looking forward, Rich is focusing on building the local market in the short term, with the view that they will be able to penetrate the global markets in the USA and China in a few years time.

When considering the risks to the business, Rich does not pay significant attention to his competition, preferring to look inward and ensure that he and his team are producing the best results themselves, and making the right decisions for FMClarity's future.

Takeaways

Use all of your available networks

Rich was able to extend his search for a co-founder by connecting his Facebook network with his LinkedIn network.  Through a series of connections, he found his current co-founder Leo.

Give yourself a long runway

A bootstrapping founder may need to be aggressive in finding ways to give themselves the longest runway possible.  Rich achieved this through selling some assets, refinancing his home, and using other methods such as house sitting and living overseas where cost of living expenses are lower.

Be more concerned about yourself and less about your competitors

Your decisions and actions will have more of an impact on your success that the actions of your competitors, so look inward more than you look outward.

Contact

Rich is currently looking for feedback from property managers or others in the facilities management space.  If you are involved in property or facility management or are interested in learning more about FMClarity, you can find their website at fmclarity.com.  You can also reach out to Rich via email, and you can check out his writing on his FMClarity blog.

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