As the saying goes, nothing in this world is permanent. Everything is moving and constantly changing. That is why for businesses, it is almost always a must to have your systems and data in the right place because when the time comes for you to shift, then you can easily do it. This episode’s guest is all about helping companies with that. Paul Higgins sits down with Shanu Mehta, the co-founder of MMC Convert—a migration company that brings data from any accounting platform to other accounting platforms. Shanu shares with us the serendipitous moment that gave birth to her company and how they are helping businesses with data migration. She also lets us in on their processes, partnerships, as well as lead generation techniques. Reflecting on the current COVID-19 situation, Shanu then shares her thoughts about how it will affect our human need for face to face interactions. Furthermore, she gives us a peek into her experience with EO (Entrepreneur Only) and the way it has helped her connect with entrepreneurs around the world.
Our guest is someone who was on a honeymoon in New Zealand with her husband, Ankit, when he overheard a person talking about a burning problem in the accounting industry. With his accounting background and her computer science background, they solved it, which led to a partnership with one of the fastest-growing cloud platforms on the planet. The visionary predictions for SMBs for the next 10 to 15 years, the inside story about accounting software migration and in particular, the giving back by spending 20% of their time on a new NGO. They write for Entrepreneur.com and mentioned an article perfect on how to navigate these uncertain times. Let’s go over to Shanu Mehta from MMC Convert.
Welcome, Shanu Mehta from MMC Convert, to the show. It’s great to have you here.
Thank you, Paul. It’s a pleasure to be here.
We’ll kick off with what I always start with, but then I’d love to know a little bit more about how you’re handling this amazing pandemic. It’s amazing not in a good way. What’s something your family or friends know about you that we may not?
My family and friends know that I’m extremely passionate. I swing between extremes. Either I’m interested or I’m too bored. That’s one thing they know. Secondly, I overanalyze and overthink, which is sometimes good, sometimes not good at all. Those are the two things that I’m famous for.
I don’t think my sister-in-law is listening, but she is much an overthinker. I remember once taking her son who looks after her too. We took him to a park and said, “Let’s buy ice cream.” He talks for 30 minutes to choose ice cream. She was overthinking which ice cream, “If I like this one, but I like that one.” That’s my story. Extremely passionate, my family would say something similar and I know it’s probably not the best skill in the world, but I spent some time where I couldn’t play any sport due to my health and I’m back playing. I was playing golf. I was meant to be going to the US play golf unfortunately, Corona has impacted that and we can’t play golf at all. Where I live, my province, we can’t, but other areas can. It’s a First World problem, but for you, what’s been the impact for you living through COVID-19, in particular, living in India?
In India, you might be aware it’s one of the countries where the explosion could have been disastrous because of the population we have. Luckily, our prime minister promptly announced a complete lockdown of 21 days where we are not allowed to step out. There is a proper curfew state and all the borders, the interstate borders, and the entire city borders are locked. The business has been affected badly that a lot of laborers here who want to migrate to their hometown are not able to do that. The economy has taken a hit, but it’s a world war and saving lives and fighting this pandemic more efficiently should be the priority. It would be selfish to think for your individual businesses or your individual lives because it’s like a world war thing. Particularly where I live, it is pretty controlled here. There are somehow 200 cases in our city and the population of the city is about 3.5 million. It is still in the stage of control. We have not lost control and I hope we do not in the near future.
Are you not in phase three? What phase are you at?
We haven’t entered phase three yet. We’re still on phase two.
We’re in phase three and we’re fortunate we’re a big island so that makes it easier for us to control. Unfortunately, most of the cases came from a cruise ship that came into Australia, the Ruby Princess. Between that and backpackers and people that have flown in, that’s where most of the cases are. We’re in phase three and only four regions can’t leave home and locked down. They went and searched 391 homes and those 99 people that weren’t in lockdown that was meant to be. For us, it’s fairly well-controlled but still, some people are not doing the right thing.
What I read somewhere that Australia was one of the first countries to stop the flights coming from China, and that was a pretty wise decision.No matter how much you romanticize entrepreneurship, it is a series of challenges that you have to sort through. Click To Tweet
New Zealand handled it much better than we did and we learned from them. They were one of the most progressive but I was watching here and I was listening to lots of podcasts and I could say in particular, most of my clients are in the US. Have you got many clients in the US?
Yes, we have clients across the world. A lot of US clients, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and a little bit in Asia. We do have a lot of US clients. They did talk that the situation is terrible out there.
It’s dire and I could see it happening. I was meant to leave Australia for the US. I knew I couldn’t get insurance because of preexisting illness. As soon as it’s declared a virus, your travel insurance is void. I couldn’t travel, but then I knew that it was going to get worse because of what the FDA did with their testing. There’s a whole series of things. Anyone reading, if you’re in the US, I feel for you because I know it’s going to be only harder before it gets better. I know COVID is topical, but I want to find out more about you and your business. What got you into MMC Convert? What got you into that business?
I am a computer science engineer and my husband is a chartered accountant. We’ve had arranged marriage. When Ankit was trying to figure it out, he was getting suggestions from his parents on who to marry. He was very clear that he doesn’t want to marry a chartered accountant because I don’t want to end up working together. What happened was, we got married. He thought that I’m an engineer so there is no way both of us are working together starting a company or something like that. We went to New Zealand for our honeymoon and we went to the city called Hawke’s Bay. We went on a cable ride and we could hear a man who was into that cable car with us and he was getting anxious, talking on the phone with maybe his company people and he was trying to solve a problem. Ankit being an accountant, he was eavesdropping. He got curious. He asked the guy later on that, “I happen to be an accountant and what you were talking, I could understand a bit.”
He solved that particular accounting glitch and I have been an engineer. I told him that this is how technically it could be implemented. It was a two-minute conversation, but we helped him solve the problem. This guy called his guy and told them that this could be worked out. Luckily, the solution worked. The guy was Rod Drury, the Founder of Xero. Hawke’s Bay happens to be his hometown. He used to live there. He offered us like, “Why don’t you join us? Why don’t we do something together?” It’s like, “Yeah, sure. We are not on the job. It’s our honeymoon we are on, but surely we can look into it. What can we offer?” He suggested that Xero was growing at that time. It was in 2011 that was probably the 2nd or 3rd annual shareholder meeting where he was invited us to talk a little more about what can be done. He said, “People want to come to Xero. They want to bring the historical data from whichever platform they are coming from. We want somebody to help us with that.” That’s how it started. We started our conversion company, a migration company where we bring data from any accounting platform to other accounting platforms.
What an amazing story to think that Ankit is more of eavesdropping but I suppose he was generally being curious. I’m sure you’ve ridden the wave of Xero. I left Coke in 2011, around a similar time and that’s when I first started using Xero and I’ve seen the growth of the platform and it’s fantastic. Given this divine intervention nearly, you meet a guy that’s having a business that’s going to completely take off in the next nine years. Did that make it easier or harder for you and Ankit?
It’s all the timing because we know that Australia is one of the early adopters of technology. The Cloud accounting or Cloud technology was new and exciting for Australians and New Zealanders at that same time. Along with that, Xero was fresh off the entrepreneurs in the accounting field because if you simulate the whole accounting firm environment, it does not give you a quirky and fun feeling but Xero changed that. The new generation Millennials coming onto that field made it interesting. A lot of people, a lot of small and medium enterprises, they were wanting to try something new to make their accounting easier. The point of time where we jumped in with Xero made things a little easier for us. From a business point of view, starting anything, taking the decision, being persistent towards this in a longer run, those decisions, there are hard decisions because you are investing your time in it at such a crucial time. That particular part was a bit tough that, do we jump into that bus or not? Once we were on the ride, I think it was easier than what I expected to run a business because otherwise for an entrepreneur, you know no matter how much you romanticize entrepreneurship, it is a series of challenges that you have to sort through.
You spent a lot of time with Rod. What have you learned about how Rod runs a business compared to some other entrepreneurs?
Rod is a visionary. I have never spoken to him about the intricacies of the business or maybe he does it with the C-suite people. When you meet him, he’s always talking about the vision which the future has. He sees everything in not for a period of 2, 5 years. He sees everything in the quantum of 10, 15 years of how things are going to be. That is important because you lose the bigger picture as soon being into finances and accounting and numbers. We are hung up on the numbers. What’s going to happen or how is our quarterly profit going to look like? How is our early profit going to look like? How are our reports going to be? He always talks in a quantum of ten years. How the world is going to be? How people are going to think? What is not going to change? Where do we need to make that change? That vision is something that is peculiar to Rod.
A lot of people reading with a service-based business, he is giving you a perspective on what he sees. For me, I made the shift from corporate to running my own business from home in 2011 and I’m assuming at this current period, a lot of people are working from home where they used to work in the office. How does he see that changing? He sees forecast of small businesses, people running their consultancies. Is it going to increase or stay the same? I’d love to get your perspective on that.
This whole COVID phase has made everyone realize how things are temporary and transient. Nobody is going to come out of this situation as the same person they were. It has made us consider all our hang-ups and how can this be taken care of online? How to make our team lean? A lot of people have learned in this lockdown period of how to make the team lean? How to touch-base? How to keep the business low-touch instead of high-touch? I feel the vision, which this whole situation has given us that people are going to rely more on consultants and freelancers. Probably they will think about things which are not going to change in the future. Maybe apply more creativity and work on a collaborative basis. Rely more on improving communication because when you’re offline, when people are working from home, you have to have a strong system for establishing communication. Creativity, collaboration and communication, all these three fuels that are going to be prominent after this phase. That’s what I feel people that are good at the team.
I suppose for me personally, there are a lot of people that have lost their lives. I’m not making this as a trivial statement, but I had my Corona back in 2016. I left corporate because of my health and between 2016 and 2019, I spent most of that in a hospital working. Even on a dialysis machine, I was working and I set my whole business up with the purpose that I can run it from my hospital bed. In 2018 and 2019, most of it was spent there. I feel guilty to be honest, at times because this is the norm for me other than I can’t leave my house. Work is no different to me. I’ve got clients all over the world. I’ve got a team based all over the world and for me, this is business as usual. I had a Zoom call with all of my friends to bring them all together and they’d never even heard of a video conferencing Zoom or even thought of the platform but now, we’re going to do those each week.
You’ve got no choice. You have to go lean. You have to work that way.
I ran an outsourcing business out of the Philippines, which is all about that lean model. I know that it’s been such an awesome joy to spend more time with my family and to do the things I love to do from home. I’m hoping that the silver lining out of this, to your point, will be that. We’ll go into the Build section. Around the data migration, I know a lot of clients and I’ve been the same. Luckily, I got on to Xero so I haven’t had to migrate, but a lot of my clients have. What do you know about data migration that many others don’t?
It’s like a famous saying that change is universal. You cannot stop the process of change. People, things, situations, business, time, fear zones and everything change. It’s transient and change is scary. When people come across a situation where they have to change, they’d resist it. We live in a world where many amazing technologies are coming up every eighteen months. That’s Moore’s Law. Cloud technology was one of those. There are many amazing accounting production suites that are coming up every year. Businesses are different. Every business needs a different set of technology enablement.
When people decide they want to switch from one particular solution to another, one thing scares them. Because it is an accounting and financial data, it’s the most crucial data for your business in terms of compliances and in terms of you want to have your hand on them. When they want to make that switch, it is crucial that you bring across all the historical data along with you. A lot of people feel that it could be an easy process of importing the data from one system and dumping it into another. If they try, they’ll know that it will be a messy situation because the whole accounting system is based on the journal. One entry, one particular debit or credit goes off and your entire trial balances off. It is a methodological process.
You have to bring in accounts than in the second step, you bring all the contacts of the business. In the third step, you bring all the transactions. In the fourth step, you reconcile everything. In the fifth step, you do a quality analysis. It’s a methodological process and when it’s done, people get surprised that the change was so smooth that whatever they were doing on their accounting software or any financial software the previous day, they’re able to smoothly do it on that next system. That’s what I feel. We are living in the digital time. If anything has been fed digitally once, it does not have to be manually repeated. There are tools and systems which can help you do that. There are solution providers like us who can do it for you and you don’t have to do it manually. Why waste time? Why waste important resources on that? That’s what I feel. People should know that there is a need service like that which can make the change most effective and smooth.
I wish I had known about you because I did see a lot of people take unfortunately the simple step, which is, “Don’t worry. I won’t migrate. I’ll just start from scratch again.” They caused a lot of problems other than just the analysis part. We talked about Xero and Rod, but is your solution, MMC Convert, is that also being used by other SaaS-based accounting software? Is it also being used by other players in the market such as QuickBooks or others? Does MMC Convert also help with migrating from those?
Yes. We are an exclusive migration partner with Xero Asia and Xero Canada. We also have migrated data from other platforms to Clear Books. It is a UK based software. We also migrate to FreshBooks. It is based out of Canada and we are also probably going to expand to QB Online because we do migrate from other platforms to QB Online, but we don’t have exclusive database yet. It’s a completely detailed service but we do migrate to QB Online also.
If you look at some of those players that you’ve mentioned, there’s a lot of controversy in the market when a SaaS player starts with small business focus, then they end up migrating to corporate and leave their small businesses behind. Do you think these providers, will they still have a small business that they call?
If I get your question right, do you mean that all these SaaS offerings which they come, do they still have the market to small, medium enterprises to cater to?
A lot of businesses I’ve seen leave small businesses, put up their pricing and chase corporate and say, “We’ve started in small business but we’re going to go into corporate.” Do you think the platforms that you’ve mentioned here will do a similar thing or will they continue to innovate for the small business owner?Every business needs a different set of technology enablement. Click To Tweet
A company like Xero and FreeAgent, FreshBooks, is very focused on SMEs because we can say that they are the fuel for the economy. There are many mom-and-pop stores. There are many freelancers. If you do innovation for them, they respond to it quickly. They respond in a positive manner. These are the ones who are serious about payments, compliances, and everything. All these companies have understood the importance of data and they remain quite focused on working on them. The corporates and the bigger clients, keep offering a new product for them but what I have seen working with these companies that they innovate with SMEs now and then and they haven’t lost the focus. That’s a wonderful thing about them.
There is a platform called Podio that we look to integrate with Xero and they used to say clearly it was for 200 or less employees. I don’t know if they’ve changed from that. To me, that was great and that’s why I continue to use it and recommend it because it is getting better for the cohort that I service. It’s great to hear that. I suppose some people reading might think, “You’re lucky because you get fed a lot of clients from these amazing partners.” Is that the case or do you also have the market yourself to continue to get leads and clients outside of your partner relationships?
We have this peer-to-peer platform because we work with a lot of accountants. We have MMC Convert and we have MMC Books. MMC Books is where we provide bookkeeping services on a regular basis. Our service is a peer-to-peer platform-based service where we come across a lot of accountants. That’s the most ideal situation that you have your peers as your customers and they come frequently to use your services. They give informative feedback because of the same industry. When they are using your service frequently, you also feel that how can you better yourself because somebody is showing the trust and you already know of. Our leads mostly come from our peers and that is an interesting thing to me because somewhere they have seen the value and they refer us to their other users and customers.
I feel the model which we use because it’s a niche service when somebody comes to our website knowing about our service to peers, to account managers of all these companies I mentioned, QuickBooks Online, Clear Books, FreeAgent and FreshBooks. The account managers, when they sell their products, they also talk about that, “There is a service like that which can help you switch and migrate.” They come to us and seeing the recommendation from our industry that helps us convert those leads into our customers easily. That point of conversion becomes much faster because of our peers only.
I come from a B2C world, Coca-Cola, where you had to spend a lot of marketing on consumers. Whereas I call it the wholesale model, but the B2B model, I think is a smart business model. You’ve done well there. The last section in this is the Build section I’d love to ask you is, I believe you’re in Entrepreneurs’ Organization, EO. Are you still members?
Yes, we are very much a part of EO.
For people reading that haven’t had the experience, sum up for you and Ankit what EO has done for your business?
EO is a global platform. It is an entrepreneur-only platform where entrepreneurs from across the world participate and it has chapters. There’s a chapter in my city. There’s probably an Australia chapter or Melbourne chapter or Sydney chapter. Whether you are traveling, if there is a Slack group, there are many groups in EO and you can write like, “I’m here and all.” The community’s open because you’re coming from the filter of EO. They know that you are dedicated to this particular platform. Wherever in the world, you travel, if you say, “I’m here in the city.” The people come and say hi to you. They try to understand more about your business. They offer recommendations. They make you a network in their community. Ankit and I went to Israel once and our focus was to find the right technology partners. We have tried doing it in other countries also without the help of EO. In Israel, we have used the EO platform. The amount of time it saved us to apply the filter, find the right people, take a recommendation, and have quality meetings. When you’re meeting someone for such a partnership, the first three meetings are you build trust and all those. All those issues get resolved early if you use EO as an intervention. That’s how it has helped us a lot.
I haven’t myself been in the EO, but I’ve been to some of their meetings and I know people in it and people speak highly. The last quick question on this is, there are predominantly face-to-face business models. What impact or what change has happened due to COVID and do you think that all go back to being face-to-face?
I feel a lot of businesses haven’t realized the importance of low-touch. It is difficult once you become lean and once you become a builder and not just a brander. Nobody has an excuse because the situation has been going on for almost two months. Employers have learned how to work from home effectively. All the teams have known how important it is to keep the business floating in such time. Shed off or out shed those things that are not necessary, not give excuses for being there in presence. This whole situation has made us realize a lot of those points. I feel that people have innovated a lot in this phase and once innovate and once you get the phase of innovation, it is difficult to go back. The face-to-face thing because it is very human for us to meet people and to see those expressions on their faces to sell things effectively. You need to believe, you need to have to know the person in front of you. All these small hang-ups are going to be resolved soon. I feel this thing has done a good bit for us and people are going to understand the importance of innovation, technology, keeping the business low-touch, and hopefully stick to it.
One of the reasons I didn’t want to go into EO because it was geographically based. In Melbourne Australia, whereas I wanted to be part of a global because I want to know what it’s like to live and work in India, in the US, etc. The mentoring I do always had a global aspect to it. I’m hoping that it happens with their model but enough about EO. Before we go into the Live section, I’d like to help you to build your authority on LinkedIn in these difficult times. Go to BLGClick.com and watch a prerecorded free Masterclass. You will learn three key secrets. One is, learn the formula used by 1% of LinkedIn users to get ten times your views.
Two, get the seven killer steps to turn views into engagement by your ideal clients. Three is to convert engagements into clients by getting an 80% response rate to your LinkedIn messages. Go to the website and watch from the recorded free Masterclass. Many of the activities mentioned can be implemented by virtual assistants as well. If you don’t have the virtual assistant and you would like to learn more about it, go to BuildLiveGive.com/VA. The next section is the Live section. Tell us about some of the daily habits that help you be successful.
One important thing which I do is I meditate as soon as I wake up. In the first few minutes, I am off phones. I am of any human contact also. I am spending time with myself. I meditate for ten minutes. We call it Pranayama. You cleanse your breath, you feel every moment of those ten minutes and you do some breathing exercises. That’s what I do. I feel that’s one thing that comes to your mind as nothing else can. It settles you, it centers you, and then you have the whole day ahead. I am a vegan so I keep my diet all green. I always believe that if you keep having average thoughts, you’re going to have a very average life. I make it a point to read some great minds of the world from across the globe and try to upgrade my thought process. It’s a process. You have to have exponential learning also, you just can’t be reading stuff. You have to apply them in your life with a sense of focus, with a sense of quality. The few daily habits would be meditation. You think clean, having an upgrade of your thoughts to the way of meeting new people, reading new books, applying it and everything could be done with a sense of focus. That’s what I do.
I know we’ve spoken about Ankit quite a bit during this show. What would you like to say to him for the support of working with him when he didn’t want to work with his partner when he first was looking for someone to settle down with?
I keep telling him that in India usually, it’s your father who settles a son or maybe a mother who settles a son. You have a family business, which you have to take forward to but my husband has settled me. I started my business at the age of 22 and you know how people are at that age. They want to do everything. I wanted to be everywhere. My idea was that I will work for travel and that this should be related to traveling. He was wise enough to center me at the right time. He was wise enough to catapult all my energy into one thing, which is going to be a wise decision in the long run and I would not regret. He is the most important and most amazing part of this journey. That’s what I would want to tell him through this amazing show.
The next section is the Give section. What charity or community that you’re passionate about, and why?
I feel that the social dynamic of our country depends a lot on women and the social situation of women in our country is getting better, but still not there. Only 17% of our GDP contribution comes from women. The hardest part is that I see a lot of women around me working hard, but still the contribution is not being channelized. That’s why I’m working on the financial literacy of these women. Women who are into a low-income group. They are into some unorganized sectors but through financial literacy, I’m trying to get economic participation in the mainstream. That’s what I do. I dedicate 20% of my monthly time to this particular thing. I go to religious around my city and state and I talk to all these women. I tell them to take workshops on financial literacy, listen to what small businesses they are into, and help them innovate. Give them a bit of technology enablement so that we can move forward.
The last section is the Action section and I’ll ask you some questions and get some rapid-fire responses. What are your top three personal effectiveness tips?
Organize your desk. Second is, don’t look at the phone for the first fifteen minutes of your day, organize your thoughts. The third thing will be, before a meeting. No matter how easy the meeting is, it could be with anybody in your team but organize. Always have those two actions which you are supposed to get out of those meetings and focus on them.
What technology other than your own product, obviously MMC Convert, couldn’t you run your business without?
If you look at the moment, a lot of the teams collaborating and you’ve got a team of 54 people, etc. What do you use for that collaboration platform?A lot of significance comes from money, whether from arranging financing or from making somebody economically empowered. Click To Tweet
We use Xero for our accounting. We use Google Duo and Zoom for our meetings. We have ERP software where we divide all the work. There are some receipts captioning app, which we use for a lot of our businesses. It’s artificial intelligence coupled with OCR. These are the main technology which we use for our businesses.
What’s the name of the receipt capture that you use?
We have created our own app. It’s got MMC Bot.
That’s available for everyone reading to use?
Yes. We used to use it for only our bookkeeping clients that we are going to launch them for everyone.
I know that’s a bit of a bind for me and a lot of people that I’ve talked to is still that receipt capture. The last big questions and I always believe it’s the last for that reason. What impact do you want to leave on the world?
The average age for humans living in our times is 60 to 70 and there is an eternity before us. There is an eternity after us but what this small period of 70 years when I live on this planet, I want to be significant to at least 100 people with whom they can say that I have made some significant difference in their lives. It is sad or good, I don’t know but still, a lot of significance comes from money, from arranging finances, from making somebody economically empowered. I want to make a lot of women economically empowered. That’s the impact I want to leave before I sign off.
It’s been a fantastic journey right throughout this, Shanu. It’s been excellent. What you can do is find out more at MMCConvert.com. Also, I know that you’re a great writer and contributor to Entrepreneur.com. You can go there and there’s a great article, which is perfect for the times which is How to Future-Proof Your Business. It’s absolutely wonderful having you on and it’s been a pleasure learning more about you and sharing your wisdom.
I loved interacting with you. I hope to talk to your audience soon again and congratulations on running your business and having the wisdom to do that at such a crucial time.
Thank you. It was wisdom. I had no other option. There’s always a silver lining. For me, having a kidney transplant had a silver lining. My career is much better off and creating significance like you are. Have a day where you are in India and I will talk to you soon.
All the best to you and all your audience. Thank you, Paul.
That was such an inspiring interview by Shanu. I don’t know how she gets the time to do everything. If you believe someone you know would benefit from the show, please share. Shanu is a great guest and she would love to get your feedback and appreciation on LinkedIn. You can learn the three secrets to build your authority on LinkedIn in a free, prerecorded Masterclass. Go to BLGClick.com. Please take action to build your business and lifestyle and stay well in these uncertain times.
Ms. Shanu Mehta, is a Co-Founder of MMC Convert, a migration company based out of Indore, India with presence in USA, UK, Australia, Dubai etc.
It was co-founded by Shanu and Ankit in 2011 and has migrated over 5000 SMEs from one accounting platform to another.
MMC is an exclusive partner with Xero, Freshbooks, Clearbooks.
Shanu is also a visiting faculty in the prestigious business school in India called Indian Institute of Management.
She believes financial empowerment of women will truly drive their social empowerment.
She conducts financial literacy workshops for women of low income groups.
She has been chosen as one of the Top 50 Women in Accounting global list curated by Practice Ignition recently, a global accounting firm.
If you want to break through all the noise on LinkedIn and reach your ideal client without creating loads of content or breaking the bank on ads – go to blgclick.com to learn our three secrets.