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How a Darwin retiree’s app became the tradies’ new best mate

Posted 1 week ago in Apps by Tiana Barns
Posted by Tiana Barns

To celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week, we asked some of our app partners from all over the world to share the highs and lows of their experience with aspiring entrepreneurs of the future. Today we speak to Kim Ford, CEO of ServiceM8, whose field service app is lightening the load for tradies across the globe.

Ten years ago, after working most of his life in the corporate world, Kim Ford started looking at retirement and returned to Darwin from Melbourne, ready to slow down and unwind. But it wasn’t long before he felt a hankering to return to the business world.

He’s not alone. Xero’s Ageless Entrepreneur report found, over half (60.1%) of corporate workers still dare to dream and have realistic plans to be their own boss in the interval before they fully retire.

“I got bored very quickly and bought a local locksmith business with my middle son. After about four weeks, I realised that our small business couldn’t ever get ahead with the systems that were in place. So I tried to find something that would help, but I couldn’t find anything,” said Kim.

ServiceM8 was born

He knew there had to be an easier way. With the help of another son, he set out to build an app that any tradie could use.

“My oldest son was writing software for an education business in Melbourne. We chatted it through and decided that he’d come back to Darwin too and we’d write some software. We didn’t want to write it just for the locksmith business. From day one, we said it had to be for small business globally, not just Australia, and it needed to be internet-based.”

It took about three years from conception to launch. In 2010 the team launched ServiceM8, which combines Kim’s two passions, business and technology.

“I’d always been in and around small business my entire career. I’ve always loved the challenge of small business and the joy that you get when it’s your business and things work well. I spent 15 years in the IT industry. A couple of core things had excited me over the years were technology, and the idea of managing more effectively, of building something where people could be better than they thought they could be.”

Doing what you love

Xero’s study found that the greatest drivers for mature entrepreneurs starting their own business are meeting their career or life goals (83.5%) and pursuing their passions (80.9%).

Kim agrees, and says hearing the stories of how ServiceM8 has changed people’s lives continues to fuel his passion day after day.

“I went to a Christmas party a year or so go and a woman said to me, ‘You saved our business and our marriage. I was up with my husband until 11 o’clock every night. We were trying to do invoices, and we just couldn’t get it done until ServiceM8 came along. Now we get to watch Netflix, and go on holidays.’ They’re the sorts of comments that give the most pleasure. That’s the bit that I’m most proud of.”

Our report also found starting a business at an older age is perceived to have its benefits. These include greater life experience (77.7%), greater appreciation of personal strengths and weaknesses (58.3%), and being in a better financial position (51.5%).

Anyone can be an entrepreneur

Thanks to technology and cloud based tools, it’s never been easier for older entrepreneurs to chase their dreams. Our study showed the over ninety percent (92.4%) of older respondents believe that technology will play a greater role in the success of older entrepreneurs.

Kim says no matter how old you are or how long you’ve followed a certain career path, it’s never too late.

“I think my generation – and I’m 62 – we were always taught you had one career. You knuckled down. You did it for life, and then you retired and had a bit of fun. This generation today is saying, well, I don’t want to work for a boss. I’ve got my own ideas and I’d like to put them into practise.”

He adds there’s nothing in the world that beats the job of being your own boss.

“I think, like any business owner, you get the pleasure of seeing what you’ve achieved. There are obviously challenging moments operating a business, any business. But I absolutely love making a difference in a space that I’m passionate about, in an industry that I really love, which is cloud-based and global, and then watching it make a real difference with people’s lives.”

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