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How The Block’s Dan and Dani are paving the way with digital solutions in construction and design

Posted 4 months ago in Small business by Tiana Barns
Posted by Tiana Barns

After two epic builds on The Block, season five runners-up Dan and Dani decided to take a portion of their winnings and put it towards starting their own construction and interior design business. Now, as the owners of Red Door Project, they are focused on expanding their business by implementing digital solutions such as Single Touch Payroll (STP), which is now mandatory for all small businesses.

It took two massive renovation projects broadcasted to millions of viewers for The Block’s golden couple Dan and Dani to realise they had a passion for construction and design. Dani, who takes ownership of the design side of Red Door Project, says that after The Block they were hooked on working for themselves.

“I remember having this crisis point of realising I didn’t want to go back to work as a business analyst. Going on The Block and then doing our own project reaffirmed that we should stay in the industry, and we found there was a market niche for an end-to-end design and construct solution.”

Digital from day dot

The couple knew that to stay ahead of the curve in the industry they needed to adopt digital solutions to help run their business from the very beginning. Being realistic about timelines and budget expectations is something they pride themselves on.

“We have someone’s life and dreams in our hands and it’s our responsibility to deliver. That means being on budget and on time. It’s first and foremost the most important aspect of what we do. So to make sure of it, we need to be sure we have all the right systems in place,” says Dani.

Dan adds that thanks to their accountant, their business processes are streamlined through Xero.

“We used Xero for Red Door Project from the very start. I couldn’t imagine having to do any kind of payroll, invoicing, billing or anything, manually or on paper. I think that would be an absolute nightmare.”

Xero’s State of Payroll report shows small businesses who have started to introduce better processes are reaping the benefits. Three in four (76%) businesses surveyed said digitising payroll had freed up time and mental space for them to work on their business rather than in it.

Dani says, for their business, it’s really helped them have accurate up-to-date information on how the business is performing.

“Xero allows us to really get a clear picture of where we are at any point in time on a project, in terms of cash-flow, budgeting, billing and invoicing. There’s next to no manual work involved and it also means that everyone knows what’s going on. It makes life a lot easier.”

Expanding with employees

With business picking up and more work coming in, the couple recently decided it was time to take on their first employee in order to get back more time in the day.

“I wasn’t able to do as much design work as I really wanted and I started to resent that, I knew that we needed to take someone on,” Dani says. “I was definitely nervous but I was more excited because it meant positive growth within our business.”

She adds that the whole process of paying employees and superannuation was simplified using Xero payroll.

“I didn’t really need to learn too much to understand what I had to do when paying an employee. Through Xero, I get sent reminders about who I have to pay and when. The first time I got an automatic reminder, I was at Coachella so it was great to know I could still pay my staff superannuation from the other side of the world.”

The transparency of online payroll has also added another layer of responsibility: making sure they are paying staff on time, Dan says.

“We weren’t paying ourselves for a very long time and I think that’s common with a lot of small businesses, especially in construction – the industry as a whole often struggles to make payments on time as we are all basically relying on someone else i.e. suppliers, trades/sub-trades rely on us, we rely on client, client relies on bank etc. You have to put your staff ahead of yourself, they have bills to pay and people to feed as well, so it’s non-negotiable. To do that, it’s important you always know where you stand with your cash-flow.”

Keeping up with compliance

With legislation on payroll set to change, Dan says that managing payroll digitally for their employees will make sure they stay on top of things.

“For us, complying with Single Touch Payroll will be easy. We’re already using an STP-compliant solution so come 1 July, we’ll just switch that on in Xero and start transmitting data to the ATO in real time.

“I’m definitely not a natural computer expert, but both Dani and I were surprised at how easy it was. The construction industry is often behind the curve when it comes to adopting certain technology but it’s actually really simple.”

According to Xero’s report, small businesses involved in construction and agriculture are the most reliant on manual payroll reporting today, with one in three (32% and 34% respectively) saying they still use pen and paper for managing their payroll.

Dan says as a small business owner, using an online small business platform is the difference between surviving and thriving.

“As a business, it’s crazy if you haven’t gone digital. It’s mind-blowing that people aren’t doing it. It’s essential for paying our employees, invoicing, job tracking, forecasting and for all the documentation. Everything has to be cloud-based because, let’s be honest, everything is becoming connected online.”

Dani adds that it also helps them step back when they need to.

“We have a life outside of Red Door Project and having freedom is very important to us. I don’t know how we’d maintain any sense of life outside of work if we had everything on paper. If you don’t have a digital plan in place, you need to. Moving onto an online accounting platform is the only way forward.”

For more information on how you can prepare your business see the Single Touch Payroll (STP) page for a video, playbook and other helpful hints.

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