CFO Series: Dan Hully (Quantico) on his Career to Date and Becoming an Entrepreneur
One of the most exciting interviews to date is with a PWC accountant, turned entrepreneur, Dan Hully. For many people looking to start their own company, Dan is an example of the processes and thought patterns incurred to reach the point of success in where he is now.
Over to Dan….
Dan, talk to us about your company
I started Quantico, my own company, a month ago, having left the Head of Finance role at MyTutor. Quantico provides an outsourced Finance Director service to ambitious entrepreneurs. This involves regular meetings with an experienced professional who can help with financial strategy, tax headaches, and generally keeping you on track. We combine this with a super slick bookkeeping process that saves time and provides insight. Having only started a month ago, we already have 12 clients. The only problem is that Quantico is the name of a television show, so my SEO is a little tricky.
How did you get to the point of starting your own company?
I went to the University of Durham where I studied History and French. During one of the university years I studied in Paris, where I worked for AirFrance which was really interesting. After University I joined PWC in their audit team, having done an internship there during University. I was with PWC for nearly 7 years, when I founded my first company. The company was involved in building dashboards for small businesses, and we had a dozen clients. One of the largest clients, MyTutor, then asked me to join them as their Head of Finance.
Why did you decide to start your own company?
The question is more why I didn’t start my own company sooner. At the time there always seemed to be a good opportunity and so I went for that instead of starting my own thing. I should have started it a long time ago.
What do you enjoy about having your own company?
I really like the feeling that every bit of work you do, has a short term feedback loop. You either get a negative response or a positive response straight away. I also like the fact that you are doing this for yourself, rather than someone else. I think that resonates in the control and flexibility I have.
What don't you enjoy about your role?
I took on too much work initially which meant sacrificing the control and flexibility I was looking for. I sometimes find setting boundaries hard; I have to be very clear with clients around what they are paying for, and what they aren’t paying for.
Was there anything at university or school that swayed your decision to do accounting?
In school and through university I was very fixed on joining the civil service; I liked the idea of contributing at a larger scale to society, and I really like the idea of working with incredibly smart people, in a non political environment. However, when I started speaking to people that had been through the civil service fast track scheme, and realizing that anyone who joined had all been to Oxbridge, I started to realise that it might not be that great. I never really thought about accounting until I did the internship at PWC.
What do you enjoy about accounting?
I love working with entrepreneurs; they have amazing ideas that they work incredibly hard at. I get a real thrill out of being able to help them and add value to their work.
What do you read and listen to that you find valuable?
I enjoy the podcast “How I Built This”. I love the stories in it. My particular favourite is the guy that started an airline; he was having just a great time starting this company, and he seemed to enjoy himself along the way. He just seemed incredibly chilled out as well.
Are there any books you would recommend?
The best business book I’ve read is “The E Myth” by Michael E. Gerber. I had low hopes for it as it was written such a long time ago, but it really chimed with me and was spot on. I’m a big audible fan. I also just finished listening to David Goggins, “Can’t Hurt Me”. He had a tough childhood but he went on to become a navy seal and has been extremely successful. He has a real no bullshit attitude.
How much consideration was money in each of your career decisions to date?
It’s definitely a secondary factor. I knew I wanted to start my own business. When I started the first business (the dashboard idea), I tried to be profitable from day 1, which was near impossible with that type of business. I was also under-promising and over-delivering on everything. The business wasn’t aligned with my aspirations. I wanted to work on a business that was profitable straight away. The second time around of starting my business, I have done it much more aligned with what I believe.
People say to "follow your passion"; did you do that?
To a certain degree, yes. I am weirdly passionate about technology for small businesses. There is a concept of a sweet spot; I definitely feel closer to this than ever before. I genuinely feel interested and passionate about the work I am doing, and the impact I am having. There is a massive gap between the technology that accountants have access to, and what the entrepreneurs hear about. People are willing to pay me to do fill this gap, and I’m good at it.
What is your favourite piece of accounting technology?
I use a tool in my practice called “GoProposal” which is fantastic. A massive pain point at PWC was sending out proposals and onboarding clients. The proposals that went out in the emails looked unprofessional, and it was always quite tricky to talk clients through the proposals. With GoProposal you fill out a thorough questionnaire, and it generates a slick proposal document and engagement letter which you can send out in an email. A client can then just click into the proposal and it triggers all the onboarding questions, and populates that information for you.
Outside of accounts, I really like the “Moment” app on the iphone. It tells you your stats on how long you have been on your phone for, and what apps you used the most. It’s a little shocking but it’s really quite cool.
What’s your career goal?
My career goal is to reach my full potential. The two sub goals to that are I want to reach my potential through control and flexibility. I continuously need those two elements to feel I have the right approach to work.
What do you like doing outside of work?
I enjoy cycling and running. I do a bit of bouldering, but I’m not very good at it. I have one friend who constantly wants to do it and nags me to go with him.
Do you have any career tips or advice?
I really don’t feel like I’m in a position to provide career tips and advice. I would say that you need to figure out what you want first. I’ve always found that the way to do this, is to figure out what you don’t want. Coupled with this, try as many things as possible and don’t be afraid what your CV looks like. Do not do stuff for CV, do it for yourself.
Thank you Dan.
If you’re interested in starting a company, we had the brilliant Jenna Brown a year ago who we interviewed as she was scaling her company. Check out the interview for more insight.
Photo from the incredible unsplash.com