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037: From Developing a Multi-Million Dollar Accounting Software to Helping Businesses Build Successful Software Products (w/ Steven Bristol)

Steven Bristol co-founded, built, marketed, supported and sold a multi-million dollar SaaS software product called LessAccounting. LessAccounting is an easy-to-use small business-accounting software that allows clients to easily track online invoices and carry out their bookkeeping tasks conveniently.  

He is also the co-founder of LessEverything, a company that builds software for different clients, creates integrations between products, and improves companies’ conversion rates. His program adventure started as a 9 year old writing BASIC. In the past 28 years he has written many languages, become a Ruby on Rails core contributor, and a 2007 Google Summer of Code Mentor. 

He is a former motorcycle racer and has gone over 150 miles per hour with his knee on the ground. He is also a proud father of three. 

Core Revenue streams 

Steven jointly runs LessEverything, Inc. with his co-founder Allan Branch. They have two revenue streams with the first being offering consulting services to people who want to build successful businesses. He has been applying his talents and 10-year business experience in helping different SaaS products get to market and do better in the market. 

Their second revenue stream is a business division called LessFilms.com which makes marketing videos for diverse clients. 

Starting out in business 

Never wanted to be an entrepreneur because from observing his entrepreneur parents, he felt it was too much work. He never really held a job for long and eventually felt formal employment was not for him. After he left his last job, he partnered up with Allan Branch to start working on LessAccounting. They also started the umbrella company LessEverything, Inc. 

The viability of LessAccounting 

He thinks they succeeded with the LessAccounting idea out of sheer arrogance and non-belief in failure. Their bar of success was also very low so they just needed the idea to generate enough money for them to sustain their company’s operations and meet their personal financial obligations.  

The tech world was not very saturated with similar products back then and therefore it was easier for them to market LessAccounting and secure enough users to generate considerable revenue. 

Main competitor issues 

QuickBooks, their biggest competitor, saw them as a threat, and being an established company, they had an upper hand in terms of marketing. With their limited marketing budget, Steven and Allan became the first Twitter trolls. They discovered that majority of the Twitter reviews related to QuickBooks were negative so they created a website called weallhatequickbooks.com to leverage on the negative reviews. 

Steven believes that QuickBooks used to replicate some of the features on LessAccounting into their product. 

Getting the first paying clients 

Steven and Allan had a lot of friends on Twitter who were either in the tech world, offering consulting services or starting their own business. They leveraged on that by tweeting out that they had launched LessAccounting and people immediately signed up for the free trial. At that point, Steven had not even developed the billing code but built it within a month so that they could start charging people to use the software. At first, they had about 4 paying customers and that number grew steadily from month to month. 

Growth strategy in the beginning 

Never really had a growth strategy but concentrated more on building LessAccounting. Steven and Allan did consulting work in order to generate enough income to finance the development of LessAccounting. 

They used a lot of word of mouth by attending conferences to make friends who would recommend them to clients. Steven used to speak at Ruby on Rails/tech conferences globally. That approach proved to be fruitful in terms of marketing. 

Dealing with the accounting aspect of LessAccounting 

The philosophy behind LessAccounting for Steven was to make software that didn’t require users to have a background in accounting in order to use it. Neither Steven nor Allan had any strong accounting knowledge but Steve had some foundation in it gained from working at his mother’s accounting office when he was younger. He had an understanding of most accounting concepts which enabled the development of LessAccouting’s features 

Adding on bookkeeping services 

Steven and Allan started offering bookkeeping services to diverse clients and they had their in-house bookkeepers do all the work involved. The service didn’t go very well at first and they had to discontinue. They later revived the service after they had laid down proper operational plans and work processes. The second time around the service did very well as part of LessAccounting services until the software’s sale.  

Achieving profitability for LessAccounting 

Back in 2007, Steven was making good money from consulting and used part of the money to pay himself market wage. LessAccounting took four years to generate enough revenue to sustain the business’ operations including Steven and Allan’s salaries. That enabled them to stop doing consulting work. 

Breakthrough moment 

Steve and Allan never had any specific breakthrough moment because LessAccounting grew steadily but there were times they felt frustrated because they couldn’t achieve their expected growth. By consulting a friend of theirs who had a successful Saas product, they learnt that marketing a Saas product was very difficult and growth couldn’t be achieved as easily as they had initially thought. That encouraged them to keep forging on. 

Tip: Reset your expectations because everything you hear about how to succeed in business is almost always false. You cannot plan your business on the thought that you will have the same success/same rate of success that others have had. Build your own business strategy and set of realistic expectations 

Fear of failure 

Steve doesn’t have a real fear of failure. He had a lot of positive privileges growing up and his parents instilled a great sense of confidence in his capabilities to succeed in anything he set his mind to. He has never wanted to work so hard. 

Started a conference in 2009 called LessConf that among other things, motivated people to stop being afraid to do what they dream of doing. 

Tip: If you are afraid of failing, just do it; try spending an hour a day on the business you want to start if never getting the time is one of your core worries  

Faith, Fun, Family, Finances, and Friendships 

Faith is the last for Steve. The rest are at the top of the list for him, it all depends on which one is a priority at any one time.  

Life when starting the business Vs. Life now 

Steve used to work 16 hours a day when they started working on LessAccounting and he used to take some time off on Saturdays for family.  

Now, since they sold LessAccounting, he is mostly relaxed and free. 

Tools and Resources 

  1. Basecamp: Project Management and Team Communication Software (used it to manage their clients under the bookkeeping services) 

Book recommendation for entrepreneurs:   

  1. Getting Real: The Smarter, Faster, Easier Way to Build a Successful Web Application – (Jason Fried, Heinermeier David Hansson, and Matthew Linderman) 
  1. Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not – Robert T. Kiyosaki  

Legacy: 
To leave his kids a strong financial foundation, teach them to believe in themselves, and empower them to achieve great things – Steve.   

Best way to connect: 
www.lesseverything.com  – Steves’s Business website
steve@lesseverything.com  – Steve’s Business Email
@stevenbristol – Steve’s Twitter Handle 

Get Your Hopes Up and Maximize Your Dreams [Symbol] 

Cheers,
Davis!

About the author, Davis

My Dream of sharing inspirational success stories started many years ago and this Podcast is an amazing show that brings some of those conversations to light.

This show is dedicated to being a voice of encouragement to you because I believe God created you and I with a purpose to fulfill and I want to be here to cheer you on through this Podcast, our Blog and through our other channels of interaction via our comments section after each Podcast and Blog as well as on social media.

I love business and entrepreneurship and I truly believe you have greatness inside of you 🙂