Homegrown: Pronto Software CEO, David Jackman

The head of Australian-born Pronto Software, David Jackman, spoke with Trevor Clarke about the opportunities and challenges of expanding overseas

What is the 30-second pitch you give people on Pronto? David Jackman: We sell software to medium size and larger businesses that enables to them to compete well against their competitors. By doing that it effectively means they can have a lower cost of ownership and a better user experience. This means they can be more nimble and particularly in this economic environment everyone is looking for nimble and quick.

Tell me about your expansion plans. We have significant expansion plans. We have approximately 1200 clients of which about 800 are in Australia – the rest are overseas. Traditionally the level of revenue that would flow into Australia would be 10, 15 or 20 per cent. Due to the global financial crisis this figure has dropped quite significantly and also because of the strength of the Australian dollar. The level of revenue we are getting as a percentage is declining. But that doesn't mean we are getting less activity. What it means is we already have significant overseas presence, we have a lot of presence in Papua New Guinea, we have a lot of presence in Malaysia, our largest client is in the UK and we have been in the US for over 10 years in various different businesses. The reason we have appointed three new partners in North America – two in the US and one in Canada – is that the market is still huge and is going through some severe disjointed issues right now. That is when people look at their cost structures and say, 'hang on a sec, this is rubbish I can't afford to keep spending this money. I need to get more pragmatic and aware of what is going on.' So during recessions and bad times, people like us, who are nimble companies, do particularly well.

We notice there are those that batten down the hatches in this kind of economic climate and those that look to expand. You appear to sit in the latter group. The difference in this recession to others is the banks are much tighter to deal with globally in this one than ever before. As long as the people we are trying to sell to have access to cash or investment funds then they can do things. Clearly this is a cash-constrained world at present. But in this situation business managers and owners are asking how they acquire other businesses or how they can take advantage of opportunities that come to the market place. During boom times acquiring businesses is expensive. During more recessionary times those businesses are available much cheaper. So the smart money is moving and we are part of that circle.

Has the fact Australian banks have been stronger than their overseas counterparts helped you? We've never borrowed a cent from anybody. We have always been cash rich and currently have about $17 million in the bank. Which means we have a fair degree of buffer to enable us to invest in the future.

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