Tell us your name and a little about yourself.
I’m Gary Bury, currently CEO of Timetastic.
My background is in accountancy. I qualified when I was 25 and moved straight out of public practice and into the industry. I felt frustrated with just compiling historical accounts and tax computations. I felt I had more to give and more to say based on the numbers I was seeing – I felt I could influence the outcome of the business.
I’ve worked in New Zealand in finance companies, been finance director three times, set up companies, worked on PFI projects, drafted finance leases for Hospitals and Roads, been CEO twice, bought businesses, and sold businesses.
But my real passion is small tech businesses. I’m not so keen on large corporations since I find the pace too slow, and I like change. That’s why I’m enjoying my current role as CEO of Timetastic.
What exactly does your company do?
Timetastic is a staff leave planner. A web and mobile app for arranging and keeping track of time off work. It’s a ‘do one thing and do it well’ kind of app. And it’s going very well too. We have circa 8,000 companies using it from all over the world.
What were the biggest challenges you have faced, and how did you overcome them?
The first startup I got involved with went through some really tough times. We had to do two rounds of redundancies, restructure the board, and negotiate with shareholders. Egos and personal circumstances come into it at every angle, and stress levels rise, people get upset and fall out.
I’m not sure ‘overcome’ is the true sense of dealing with this, but you work through it, and it can be like wading through mud. You keep focused, try and remove the personal side, keep bringing yourself back to your role and responsibilities; it’s a process, and you have to keep moving forward to come out of the other side.
And maybe the odd glass of red wine in the evenings!
What piece of advice do you wish someone had given you at the start of your career?
That’s a tough one, and I don’t think I can answer it specifically. You see, I’m not one to look back and reflect on what might be perceived as negativity, or to look back and assess if I’d have dealt with a situation differently had I had some greater knowledge. Everything is an experience, and you learn along the way.
Who are your biggest influences and people you admire, and why?
My wife. She’s very caring and sharing. She constantly challenges my beliefs in terms of how we treat other people, and she makes me stop and think.
And the partners at the first accountancy firm I ever worked at. They were ruthless when they reviewed my files, and I hated them for it, but ultimately my attention to detail became ingrained, and I’ve benefited ever since.
I remember reading ‘Rework’ by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. The book didn’t change any of my views as such, but I agreed with so much of the content, and it was gratifying to read that others out there believed what I believed in too. The influence it had was to give me courage in my convictions, and I felt more confident to run businesses with my true beliefs rather than what textbooks and traditional capitalist theories said.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
A friend and non-exec Director, Stuart Brown. He taught me so many things and provided a constant source of reason and balance in my first CEO role. He taught me about sales, the importance of reputation, and he helped me understand my role and responsibilities as a Director, but perhaps most of all, how to have fun at work.
What do you see as your greatest success in life?
At the last company I was CEO of, we sold to an American company, and our shareholders fared pretty well from that, and I left the company as part of the process. When I left, I received a card signed by all the staff. Everyone wrote a very personal message in it about how they loved working both for me and with me, not one generic ‘best wishes for the future’ type message. It touched me. It made me realise that a big achievement wasn’t the sale of a company that made the shareholders wealthy, but the path to it and the years of enjoyable work and positivity I gave the staff.
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