Ep. 201: Mat Boyle – More Impact. More Profit.

Mat Boyle, CEO of Online to Offline, drops in to discuss the inspiring transformation of his business from profit-driven to mission-driven. Sparked by an intense experience helping rescue desperate children from human traffickers, Mat set out to reengineer his business to create much-needed jobs in at-risk communities. While his good intentions nearly destroyed everything he had built, partnering with a new CFO helped him make his vision a reality.

Welcome back to Count Me In,

the podcast that brings you impactful
people and stories from across the world

of management accounting.
I'm your host, Adam Larson,

and joining me today is Mat
Boyle, CEO of Online to Offline,

to discuss how businesses and management
accountants can make a big difference

in the world by shifting their focus
from profits first to mission first.

While this is much easier said
than done, as you'll hear,

Mat's inspirational story is an important
reminder that it's possible to do well

in business and even better than ever
when you measure your success by something

greater than the bottom line.

Well, Mat, I just really wanna thank
you for coming on the podcast today.

Thanks so much for sharing your
time with us. And to start off,

I wanted you to kind of walk through a
little bit of your story with us as we

were kind of talking,
coming up to this call,

you mentioned something
that you learned to focus,

no longer focusing on profit, but on
the impact your business was making,

and that's not something
you hear every day.

So maybe you could talk a little
bit about that with our audience.

Yeah, sure. Adam, thanks
for having us. So the

sort of condensed
version of the backstory,

I'd built quite a large
sales training business.

So I had four offices around Australia.

We had a stack of businesses that
will help in their sales teams,

really navigate through the
changes caused by the internet.

And from a profitability
point of view, it was amazing,

but there was this kind of hole inside
me that it was really unfulfilling and

my days was spent training sales
people that didn't want help.

They needed it, but they didn't want it.

So it was just this horribly
unfulfilling sort of thing. And

I met this guy back in 2015 who was
an Australian guy that worked with

the Thai immigration police.

And he started talking to me about the
work he was doing over in Thailand and

how he was involved in rescuing kids
out of exploitive situations and

women outta sexual slavery
and human trafficking.

And the more we got talking,

the more things just sort of
opened up for me and the, you know,

my heart sort of went,
I've gotta see this.

So about six months into the conversation,

and I eventually convinced him
to take me over to Thailand,

and I spent three weeks working
with him and his team in

Thailand doing the front lines rescuing
kids outta brothels and women outta

brothels and just seeing this depravity,

which is human trafficking, and you know,

that some of the sites and the
sounds were just horrendous.

But the thing when I was talking
to all these women and that,

that the stories were identical,
that they all needed money

and got caught up in this life
because someone gave them a job that

they shouldn't have lent to money
from someone they shouldn't have.

Or they were promised a job that didn't
exist and they were all taken advantage

of by their desperation towards money.

So when I was sitting back in Australia
and I'm sitting back in a boardroom

a few days later, I sort
of had this idea of, well,

instead of businesses paying me
to train their sales teams not to

do the work that I've paid them
to do, I've been paid to do.

What about if I just could
automate and outsource all of these

elements of the sales process,

businesses could pay me to build
the systems and manage the systems

and they're gonna make more money,

but then I can go and create jobs in
these developing countries where all

these women are getting exploited and
train them how to operate my system and

actually be able to use my business
as a way of making good. So that's

what we started to do and started
to develop all these systems that

can automate and outsource big
chunks of the sales process,

but do it in a way that no one actually
ever realizes it's not been done by

you. And in 2018,

we ended up opening our first
outsource center in the Philippines,

which has gone gone amazing.

And then Covid has gone slowed down our
growth and we are on track to open our

second center in Thailand sometime
sort of before sort of March next year.

That's quite a story. I mean,

to have something like that caused
such an impact on you that you want to

completely turn your business around,
that can't be an easy decision to make.

And it's a very risky one.

It was a very easy decision to make
because I made it with my heart,

not with my head. It was an
incredibly risky situation.

And the journey between sort of 2016,

2017 when the idea came
and where we are now,

we certainly have faced the
consequences of that, you know,

of that decision. Because
going through this said,

I made it purely with my heart of going,
I have to make an impact from there.

And I kind of threw out all
conventional business acumen

around, well, what happens
to your existing customers?

What are you gonna do with
everything you built up?

And so over a period of a few months,
we ended all of our contracts.

I just stopped prospecting for new
business and didn't replace them.

And just focused our whole
energy on trying to fix,

solve this problem and, and tried to
create these systems and open the center.

And, you know, as is often the case,

it always takes twice as long as you think
it's gonna take and takes three times

the amount of money that you think
it's gonna take. And, you know,

through all of that journey,

the consequence is we actually went
through complete financial meltdown and we

lost our house, lost our cars,

and basically went down to
having $50 to our name at

our kind of lowest point. And you know,

that's kind of where we were able to
kind of keep persevering and keep getting


So like fortunately now we're in
a much stronger financial position

than we ever have, and the
business is going great,

but there certainly was a big
journey from start to where we are

now, which has been challenging.

So maybe we can talk a little
bit about that journey,

about becoming to the success you are now.

I know a lot of that contributed to
getting the right people in place in your

organization to make sure that you were
doing the business in the right way.

Maybe we can talk a little bit about
that to how that became successful.

Yeah, so there

was a few kind of phases where I was
first in that survival phase where it was

just me. I was just hustling.
I was just, you know,

I was robbing Peter to pay Paul and
I didn't really have a financial

strategy in place other than how can I
pay this week's bills type of strategy.

And that, you know, although
that was getting us forward,

that was creating other holes
with taxation and a heap of other

kind of just areas that,

because I was so single minded
focused on the goal at hand and

trying to do everything
myself or being left behind.

So I started to look for support teams and

one of the sort of first pieces I put
into place is actually bringing on a

fractional CFO. I've been working
with a lot of the accountants and,

you know, all the accountants,

all they kept doing was just filing
my tax returns and telling me,

because you've done A, B, and C this
way, this is what we've had to do.

So they're just telling me about their
problems and how they've stuck a bandaid

over it rather than actually working
with me to try to solve the problems.

And that just kept making,
compounding the problems, you know,

and just putting us deeper and deeper
and deeper in a hole. So I'm, you know,

one side, I'm, you know,
busting, busting everything.

I've got to try to get ahead and
with boosting our revenues and

bringing on more staff.
But on the other hand,

I'm now creating this big problem with
taxation and all those other kind of

compliance matters because I'm just
putting every cent that we make back

into growth.

And the accountants that we're working
with just didn't actually stop me and

shake me and kind of help me
put a proper plan in place.

So I brought this CFO on,

who spent the time to kind of just
understand what we were doing,

understand where we were at the
business, and really kind of, you know,

on an emotional point of of view, helped
me kind of, just kind of, you know,

remove the shame around that.

But then from a logical point of
view actually said, Well, we need,

let's just get, get a clear
understanding of where you are now,

but let's put some frameworks in place
and let's start the process of kind of

digging, you know, digging you outta
this hole and doing it properly.

So that's been, you know,

been an amazing kind of thing where
he doesn't know what the answers

are to the questions about how,
for how me to grow the business.

But what he's been able to do for me is
be able to ask me the right questions

and keep the right focus to make sure
I'm putting the right information

and then building the right frameworks
around it to be able to, you know,

allow me to kind of, you know, slowly
get on top of the taxation issues and,

and slowly start building a really
stable foundation underneath the business

that we had that's gonna allow us to
continue to grow and make a bigger impact.

That's great to hear. I mean,

there's something that has been written
about on many research papers and

articles at IMA is that
the CFO of the future is

not just a number cruncher, but is
somebody who is truly a business partner,

has a seat at the table
and hearing your story.

It shows that your CFO is
sitting there doing that.

How has your CFO been
able to help guide or help

give the best advice for
strategic decisions moving
forward as you look to the

future as your business continues to grow?

Well, it's really, he's been
both a hand broken accelerator,

so he's really kind of just
worked within us of going,

understanding my vision,
understanding where I, you know,

where I want to go and
where I want to take this.

And then also understanding what
the risks, what the risks are.

So in certain areas,

like with our growth with wanting
to open our second center,

he's really pumped the breaks on that
and said, Well, let's cost it out.

Let's budget it out.

Let's make sure we've got
the sustainability before
we go and commit to it.

So he's helped us get very
clear on where we need to be as

a, as a company

before we can take on that extra risk.

He's also sort of just helped
us look at where our income

comes from and what,

what income has been kind of in the
one-off project work versus the recurring

everyday work and kept challenging
me to refine our product

offering to build better sustainability
and increase that kind of

lifetime value,

which has enabled us to sort of
accelerate growth on the other end.

So he's really been that, you know, again,

he's just the accelerator and brake that,

just telling us when to speed
up and when to slow down.

As I'm hearing you talk
about the different growths
and being able to, you know,

stop when you need to stop, put the
brakes in and go when you need to go,

what role has technology played in this
whole process of growth within your


Well, look,

technology has just really simplified
communication and simplified sort of

tracking. So we've built in the,

the systems that we're
still, still refining,

but we've built in these systems of
sort of financial tracking that we know

exactly where we are as a
company at any point in time.

We know what our liabilities
are, we know where our income is,

where it's coming from.

We also know where we are and benchmarking
where we are compared to where

our goals are and where we need to be.

And because all of that's
happening in real time,

we can have more of the conversations
we need to have about how can

we increase our revenue this month? Why
is our expenses, you know, you know,

why our expenses more than what we
sort of budgeted for. And, you know,

either resolve issues and what I call
kill the monster while it's small.

So deal with issues while they're
small or be able to kind of just

go out there and make some,

make some adjustments to go and bring
some more income in to keep us on track.

So it's been vital.

Yeah, that's, that's something
we've been hearing as well.

Just the fact that it kind of shrinks
everything down to make it communication

better to make financial
statements better,

to make it easier to analyze your data,
to understand where the money is going,

to understand what things are
looking like for the future.

So it seems that it's having the same
impact that it's having for a lot of other

organizations for you as well.

Something that's really important
is communication within the

organization. And how has, I mean,

I don't know how big your organization is,

but how has your organization as a whole
kind of shifted in this whole changing?

Well, we've kind of been able to
empower a lot of our team from there.

So part of our sort of modeling with all
of this and looking at our growth is we

really wanted to gamify and
incentivize our team for, you know,

our client retention and all that kinda
stuff. Cause the longer we keep clients,

the less churn we have, the more,
you know, more growth we have,

the more profit we make.

So we've been able to kind of
flow all of that kind of data down

and actually really incentivize our team

for their performance and for, you
know, for keeping clients. So, you know,

through that we've been able to sort of
just have those sort of daily progress

reports that all of our agents
see, you know, how they're working,

you know,

the results they're delivering for
their clients compared to benchmark,

if they're ahead of
target or below target.

And if they are ahead of target,

what type of bonus and incentive
they have in place. So having that,

that there, that they can
see on a daily basis and,

and had that in real time numbers has,

has been a massive help in
them actually reaching out.

It's really changed their behavior that
they're reaching out and asking for help

and being more proactive with making
some of the changes, you know,

to the campaigns that are helping us
deliver better results for our clients,

which therefore improves our bottom line.

So if we go back to kind
of where we started,

where you were talking about how you
wanted to focus no longer on profit,

but on impact, how has that
had personal effect on you,

as in your leadership style and how
you've kind of guided your team through


Well, it's been been massive,

and it's one of those things
I get asked that regularly,

and it's really hard to answer
from an exact point of view

because who I am now to versus who
I was six or seven years ago, I'm a

completely different type of leader.

But the probably the biggest
impact that everything has is

when I wake up in the morning,
it's not how much, you know,

my focus isn't on how
much profit I can make.

My focus is on how many
jobs I can create. And,

and that's that whole driver.

And then when I am looking at
my organization, it is about,

you know, right, how can I
build the best team culture?

How can I support the community
that our center operates in?

And how can I support my team as
much as possible and make their

life better for being part of our team?

So everything has gone around that.

It just happens to be that
the byproduct of all of that

has been that we serve our clients
better, we give them better results,

which means we actually make more money.

So it happens to be that the
cycle we've created is the

more impact we have, the more profit
we make, and the more profit we make,

the more impact we have. But,
you know, when I started this,

it wasn't about making profit
and it's something that I had to,

through the journey get quite comfortable
with in the fact of I can actually

have this business that is making
such a profound impact in lives,

and it happens to make, you know,

make it a tremendous amount of profit
that I can live off and I can live very

comfortably off. And there
was a lot of guilt, you know,

that I had to kind of work through
with that because it was, you know,

I couldn't give it away fast enough.

I couldn't put enough money
back into jobs fast enough.

And every time I did that, there just
happened to be more money coming in,

coming in as a result of it. So

it's been a great consequence,

but the focus now is
not about about profit,

it's about about jobs and being able
to impact our communities and sort of,

you know, improve the
lives of people around us.

It's something that just makes
you think and wonder like,

what if every organization
was focused on that?

Would we live in the
same world we live in?

I don't think so. I think there,

there is a shift and it's
coming and it's evolving.

And I know that sort of journey
that I went through was, you know,

from a very selfish
business that, you know,

it was just about me and my family and,
you know, putting food on the table.

And there was nothing
kind of wrong with that.

But then I had my eyes sort of
awakened to something that I'd,

you know, had no one knew
existed. And, you know,

we had six kids very close together,

and as I'm hearing these stories about
parents having to sell their kids

into these exploitive
situations or renting them out
in exploitative situations

and, and that, you know, my heart
just opened up and went, like,

I just had to see it. And
then when I saw it, you know,

my mind kept opening and then I went
through this phase of I'm just gonna keep

growing my business here and making more
money here so I can donate more money.

And that was that kind of thing of,

I'm gonna make more money so I can make
more impacts. And then it evolved into,

I'm just gonna make more impact
so I can make more money.

So that was kind of the evolution that
I went through and that took a period of

time. And I can see on the broader scale,

a lot of businesses are kind of at
different phases of that evolution toward,

you know, moving away from
profit and onto impact.

But I surely

believe that if more businesses
focus on genuine impact and genuinely

improving the lives of people around us
and improving the environment we live in

and making some positive impact in
the world and in whatever, you know,

scale or whatever sort of
area is important to them,

if more people did that, things are gonna
change and change for the positives.

This has been Count Me In,

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with the latest perspectives
of thought leaders from

the accounting and finance profession.

If you like what you heard and you'd
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visit IMA's website at www.imanet.org.

Creators and Guests

Adam Larson
Adam Larson
Producer and co-host of the Count Me In podcast
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