Bruce Morgan, CEO of award-winning cloud-based solutions provider GreatSoft, recently spoke to us. He revealed GreatSoft’s plans for the future and shared his drive for making a mark in the world “without any arrogance”. By Gugu Lourie
Speaking from New York, in the US, he said he was keen on making a mark in the world “without any arrogance”. He has an interesting digital footprint. I immediately made a connection with the sign-off message on his email crafted by Jim Rohn: “You don’t get paid for the hour. You get paid for the value you bring to the hour”
GreatSoft is the first company in Africa to provide fully integrated cloud-based practice management software solutions to accounting practices and firms.
The software is aimed at minimising time needed for administrative tasks in order to maximise the time available for billable services, according to the company’s website.
The software integrates and streamlines operations across multiple offices, currencies and jurisdictions and can be accessed through the public cloud or installed on a client’s private server. Clients that have installed the software on their servers include Deloitte, EY, Grant Thornton, KPMG, Mazars and Moore Stephens.
Morgan says he didn’t start the company from scratch, but instead bought it from his previous employer – a listed company. He acquired a small division that was distributing software from Australia. In 2000 he divorced himself from the business by building a new product that was rebranded into GreatSoft.
The real game changer for GreatSoft came as a result of an online MBA Morgan started via a Netherlands Business School, he says.
During his studies, he did a lot of reading and research, which helped him understand the business of Facebook and LinkedIn – applications that were both built on the cloud. He saw a need for a cloud-based solution for accounting and auditing firms because most companies were still offering software for the desktop.
Although Morgan didn’t complete the MBA, the lessons he learnt helped him double the size of GreatSoft.
“The shift came when we moved everything to the cloud. It was a major innovation for us – most of our competitors still sit with desktop applications,” he explains.
GreatSoft has grown its footprint in 19 African countries, has an estimated 40 000 daily users and more than 90 clients that use its public cloud solution.
Morgan says this segment is growing as smaller firms, which prefer not to invest in expensive storage technology such as servers, sign up.
At the time of the interview, Morgan was on his way back to Johannesburg from Silicon Valley after attending the world-renowned Endeavour Entrepreneur Experience. GreatSoft was chosen as the winner of the First National Bank (FNB) Business Innovation Award and as the recipient of this accolade, Morgan became a member of the Endeavour Entrepreneurs.
By being inducted, Morgan has become part of a worldwide network that provides entrepreneurs with customised services, including business mentors and volunteers from Fortune 500 consulting firms. The list of South African Endeavor Entrepreneurs includes Adrian Gore of Discovery, Vinny Lingham – who sold his virtual gift card service, Gyft, for $52m – and Taste Holdings’ Carlo Gonzaga.
Morgan believes GreatSoft was chosen by FNB for its innovation and its potential for growth and job creation.
He explains how the company’s 12 developers get two days a month to work on something that falls outside their normal field: “If they normally develop tax systems, they can develop a mobile app; we try to stimulate creative juices.”
This process has produced solutions that have been beneficial to clients.
GreatSoft’s internship programme, which has been running for 10 years, focuses on creating jobs for young graduates – typically unemployed black graduates with one or two degrees.
According to Morgan, “The business we built is now in a position to grow, not only locally but on an international level. My goal is to make sure that it happens.”
With the help of a very competent team in South Africa, Morgan is in the process of building global partnerships as far afield as Australia, the UK and even the US. “I am busy tying up an agreement in Australia and should wrap up an agreement in the UK within the next two months,” he reveals.
There seems to be a lot in the pipeline for GreatSoft: “We just bought a document management business and are in the process of buying a payroll business,” says Morgan. This will assist the company in becoming a serious player internationally and not just in Africa. Asked how GreatSoft will remain relevant locally while at the same time seeking to globalise, Morgan reiterates: “The DNA of this company is fostering innovation.”
GreatSofts’s ongoing successful performance typifies the growth of new technology firms in Johannesburg that are keen to shake up the technology industry in South Africa and beyond.
“GreatSoft is at a tipping point to really accelerate our growth and go forward,” concludes Morgan.
MORE ON BRUCE MORGAN
ON HIS TECH:
I am a smartphone freak – today, my device of choice is a Nokia Windows Lumia, but I also have a Samsung S6 and S5. We’re developing a mobile app for accountants and auditors – most of them are younger, tech savvy and use smart devices.
ON CREATIVE THINKING:
We don’t have a blame game. I encourage people to rather make mistakes – that way we learn and can develop solutions to specific problems. If someone generates an idea, we don’t stop them; we value innovation.
ON THE GREATSOFT TEAM’S MUST-READ:
Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell.
ON LEADERS WITH IMPACT:
There have been a few, but I love reading stuff about Steve Jobs.
ON CEOs HE ADMIRES:
Adrian Gore has built a phenomenal business in the Discovery organisation. It is not the cheapest service, but a fantastic one that offers additional services to members. It inspired me to do something similar with GreatSoft so we created GreatSoft Assist, an ancillary business that provides similar services to our clients.