Virtual Auditing Technology: See How It Can Benefit Your Business

The Hartford

For the longest time, small business owners have had to monitor the efficiency of their operational facilities through in-person maintenance checks and frequent onsite inspections. However, thanks to the development of new mobile auditing apps and platforms, you can use your electronic devices to not only monitor your business remotely, but you can also program them to alert you and help you address any potential safety concerns. In this episode, Jon Aidukonis and Gene Marks, along with Bob Butler, the General Manager of SafetyCulture, discuss how virtual auditing technology is revolutionizing the way that small business owners supervise their facilities.

Executive Summary

1:09—Today’s Topic: How Can Mobile Auditing Technology Help Improve My Small Business?

2:47—Mobile auditing apps, such as the one created by SafetyCulture, enable you to perform virtual routine checks on various aspects of your business. Because this technology can capture information in real time, you can address any problem immediately and ultimately, save yourself a lot of money in the long run.

4:49—Virtual auditing technology allows you to monitor all the activity at your various business locations, even if you can’t be there physically.

6:06—Through the app’s digital data collecting, you’ll be able to observe any trends or inconsistencies that are occurring within your business. Based on this information, you can develop a plan that will further optimize the products and services you offer.

7:46—Although SafetyCulture’s sensory technology is specific to their products, they are currently trying to create a program that will integrate with any sensor.

10:44—SafetyCulture works with third-party consultants to create their “Best Practices” templates.

13:22—Due to increased health concerns among consumers and returning employees, businesses owners who openly use a safety application platform will have a competitive advantage in the post-pandemic market.

17:06—Small businesses that utilize remote auditing programs tend to have more open communication among their staff members since everyone, from the front lines to the executive level, has access to the app’s digital data and can see whether their operations are truly up to par.

19:41—In the future, SafetyCulture hopes to introduce more robust features into their products; develop a wider range of sensors; and establish an American version of their Mitti insurance offering with QBE in Australia.

Links

Transcript

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Jon: Good morning everyone and welcome back to another episode of Small Biz Ahead, the small business podcast presented by The Hartford. This is Jon Aidukonis, and I am joined with my friend Gene Marks and also by a very special guest today, Bob Butler, the General Manager of the Americas for SafetyCulture. How’s everyone doing today?

Gene: I am fine. How about you Bob?

Bob: I’m doing great and thanks for having me. I’m the son of small business owners. Dad started a home security company right out of school, turned 70 in October and just announced that he’s going for five more years. So none of us believe him. We think by the time he hits 74, he’ll be announcing it to 80. But so I’m really excited to speak with your listeners today. And thank you for having me on.

Gene: Jon, he sounds like he’s little crazy like a lot of small business owners that I work with.

Bob: He is, he definitely is.

Jon: I say passionate, right? I think it’s passion versus crazy. Maybe a little bit of both. I know it takes a different way of thinking.

Gene: True. Very true.

Jon: Awesome. Well, Bob thank you for spending some time with us today. All right. So Bob, tell us a little bit about what SafetyCulture is. What’s the company, the category, what do you do?

Bob: Our mission is to be the operational heartbeat of working teams across the world. We’re an Australian based company and our America’s headquarters is based out of Kansas City. And what we do is we do we are planned to be this operational heartbeat by our mobile first operations platform which leverages human observations to identify opportunities for businesses to improve every day. We have a large customer set. We have 28,000 organizations that use us from across all over the world and they’re using our two flagship products. So we’ve got iAuditor, which is our mobile first inspection platform. And then we’ve got EdApp, which is also a mobile first micro learning platform. And customers use these products to make sure that they’re performing checks out in the field, they’re training staff and they’re automating tasks. The good thing is compared to a lot of other SaaS businesses we have a very high usage rate with our customers.

So on the mobile inspection platform, iAuditor, our customers are completing over 600 million checks in the app per year. And coming out of those checks are millions and millions of corrective actions. So if I’m inspecting something and I see something that’s wrong, I can assign a task to someone else in our organization to fix it. Right? And then on the EdApp side, the micro-learning platform, we’re completing over 50,000 lessons per day. So instead of pulling your staff into a classroom setting and having them go through a face-to-face learning and kind of disrupting your day-to-day, you can serve up these lessons right to the mobile device and have them complete them right there from the phone. So, that’s safety culture in a nutshell.

Jon: Maybe we can talk a little bit in the weeds. So when you’re saying SaaS, we mean like software as a service, right? Not just a fun attitude. But I’m assuming that it gets enabled a little bit through some kind of physical hardware. So when you talk about human observation and kind of safety checks, can we make that a little bit more real life for people? What does that mean? Is it like sensors on a cooler to see if temperatures are right? Is it something kind of more structural like how does your software kind of observe an issue and realize it’s an issue?

Bob: Yep. So let’s talk about the inspection app. So the inspection app, you download from the iOS store, or you’ve downloaded it from an Android device it’s on your phone and you’re physically walking through whether a customer site or your own internal site, and you’re performing a routine check right there from a digital checklist from your phone or your tablet. So, that’s how you capture information there and then it’s stored in the cloud, which for us is with Amazon Web Services. I think what you’re you’re asking about is our sensors technology, which is another offering that we have as well. And what that does is it allows you to automatically monitor things like temperature and humidity in real time in whether it’s any environment that you want to make sure that things are cooled properly. So a lot of examples we have around there are with customers that want to make sure that they’re like in a restaurant environment, they want to make sure that their fridge is at the right temperature so that they don’t lose their stock.

If you think about that for example, if you’re a restaurateur, your fridge goes out in the middle of the night and you have to throw all your food away. It’s devastating to your margins. I’m not a restaurateur, but I could tell you living in Kansas City we have big trees and power lines everywhere when our power goes out in the middle of the night, you got to empty out your fridge. It’s just really heartbreaking. So what the sensors technology does is it sits inside the fridge and when there’s any fluctuation, it automatically drives some alert through iAuditor so that then you’re able to take some action on it.

Jon: Awesome. So I guess the first part, so when you’re saying human observation, it’s really you as a business decision maker can say like “Here are the things I want you to do to my team.” And you can kind of record keep those in the app. So using the restaurant example again, because I think that’s a lot of our listeners happen to be in that industry. It might be a good supplement for a line check. So every day folks are having their people are cooks, maybe kind of going down the line, making sure everything looks fresh, temperatures are right. You know, everything’s kind of cut appropriately, your staff they’re stocked with your sanitary equipment. Is that the kind of thing you might do kind of on that first part of the equation? And then it would send it to your team are stored in a cloud somewhere where you could access to make sure that everything was kind of as you want it to be and you’re giving that best fresh experience?

Bob: Yep. Great example. And we have a lot of restaurants that are doing exactly what you just said. So it starts with just kind of the premise of our business which is that our belief is that quality and safety it really starts from the front line. So if you’re an executive in a business, you can’t be everywhere at once, but you do know down the field where things are happening, that’s where you can really drive some change. So in your restaurant example, let’s say that you’ve got a couple of different restaurants and you want to make sure that we are going to build the same way in both restaurants. So that’s you start with the exact checklist to make sure that you’re following the same exact steps for each location.

That’s compliance, so that’s great. That’s a good place to start. And if we do that appropriately, and then you with the individuals that work for you, make sure that they know it’s okay to say that maybe this isn’t perfect. That’s going to then drive transparency. And if we’ve got transparency and people know it’s okay to call out when things aren’t perfect, that’s how we get to where we’re trying to go with all of our customers and many of them are different stages of this with us, which is continuous improvement. Meaning when I go through and I’m completing this line check, I can start to spot these trends that then roll up to the leadership level so you can put an action plan in place to make sure that you’re putting out an even higher quality product.

Jon: Right. Well, it’s interesting you say that because I’ve been in a lot of conversations this week and last of around a couple of projects and there’s this theme of execution, right? So everyone can have a big idea. Ideas are a dime a dozen. I think so many of us get caught up in like, this is going to be the next thing. This is going to be the revolutionary thing. But without making sure you’re executing well you can’t really do that. And sometimes it’s just really going back to basics. And this sounds like a technology that really kind of lets you keep tabs on are we doing what we want to do? Are we doing it well? Is there room for us to do it better? Which I think is a good reminder for all of our listeners and everybody. If you’re not doing it well then why are you doing it at all?

Bob: I don’t know if a safety culture employee could say it better than what you just said there. That’s exactly right.

Jon: All right. So I guess just a little bit on the kind of snazzy part, right? So I think the word sensors probably are perking up some people’s ears. And I think you’re very much right where like I’m in the Northeast, right? So we lose trees all the time, especially in the fall or kind of early winter where things are still warm, but wet. It is one of those devastating feelings where you come in to work the next day. I grew up kind of in the food service business and you realize something went out and kind of got to start from scratch. You have to figure out how to restock everything because you still want to open because now power’s back and you’re trying to make up the revenue. It’s just a feeling that nobody likes.

When you think about the sensor technology, whether it’s SaaS or I’m guessing humidity would even be something that might sense like a water leak or some kind of flooding sensor, or maybe something was turned on or left on, how do those work? Is that something where you as a business owner can kind of buy those anywhere and it just integrates with your system? Is that a hardware service that’s specific to your software. And what kind of things do you need to know in order to do it? Because I’m guessing you’d have to somehow manually teach the machine that this is good, this is bad, this is what I want to see. This means wake me up at two o’clock in the morning.

Bob: Right. Yep. No, all great questions. From a SafetyCulture business standpoint, we have our own sensors that we launched that we built in have brought those to market and real easy to use. You basically plug it in and just it’s a DIY piece of hardware that you can install yourself as you’d expect. If you’re trying to measure humidity, if it’s temperature, anything that you would expect for freezers and fridges. It can measure and it can drive those alerts in real-time to iAuditor. And so you gave the humidity example. One of our customers is Sun Pacific, which is a large fruit producer and I’m not sure if you guys have ever had these things, they create the cuties. Those are the little oranges, the mandarins, the clementines. not oranges. I’m sorry. I always say that. We eat them at our house. We still call them that. Our little kids call them oranges, but they’re they’re mandarins and clementines.

And they joined with us on sensors a little over a year ago to do that exact humidity check because the stock loss for them based on humidity was 50K a year if something went wrong. And for them obviously, is that tough on the business, but it can lead to them shipping some unsafe food to their customers, which would be really tough on their brand. So to answer your question we do have our own proprietary sensors, but we’re also working to make sure that we can continue to work with any sensor on the market. That’s our kind of our North Star goal here from a sensor standpoint so that our customers don’t have to just buy our software or our hardware. If they’ve got existing hardware, we’ve been working to make sure that it would all connect in the iAuditor.

Jon: You know, I think Gene’s going to have some questions too. So I’m going to turn it over to him soon, but I have one more for you. And that’s kind of around how you think a little bit about the expertise, right? So you talk about human observation, you talk about being able to advise on that kind of action. Is all of that knowledge kind of coming from the unique perspective of the customer? Or because of the scale of businesses that you represent, are you able to kind of provide insights like businesses like you might want to look for this, or here’s kind of a best practice?

Bob: Yeah, also a great question. We rely heavily on partners and customers to just serve our best practices to our customers. And also the ones that the folks that are looking at us and using the free version of our product. So I think first on the consulting side, we work with tons of H&S consultants across the globe, both big and small that many of which are former customers that have gone off on their own and started their own small business and bring best practices to us. And that allows us to create things like best practices templates that if you were to go to our website and you run a small manufacturer, you can find our top 10 best practices templates, and use and download those and get started very quickly.

So we definitely work with third party consultants. And then there’s a fascinating twist here around the insurance side as well, which drives a lot of best practices throughout our customer base. So that one goes all the way back to how the company was started. Another small business owner who his name’s Luke Anear, is our founder and CEO. He started his career as a private investigator investigating workman’s comp claims. And so he’s got a lot of stories about stakeouts. He might be a good one to have on the next podcast. So Luke’s an entrepreneur at heart and he’s sitting there and one of his stakeouts and he realizes that his business is dependent on people getting hurt at work. And for Luke him being such a high integrity guy thought maybe there’s a better way to make a living. And what if I was on the other side of the equation and help people from getting to work? I know I’m taking on the long flight here, but I’m going to answer your question Jon. So Luke decides to start SafetyCulture.

Jon: Awesome. Bob, that’s really interesting. And Gene, I know you have a lot of questions here. And I’m imagining just kind of your category alone, working in technology, thinking about how people kind of serve their business through software as a service. This is probably intriguing to you. So I’m going to see if you want to kind of take over from here.

Gene: Yeah. That’s sure. So listen the questions you had Jon were so good and really covered some of the ground that I wanted to cover, but Bob Jon and I are ganging up on you because this it’s such an important issue now. So before I even ask any sort of like more technology-related questions and they’re not that detailed, but just the overall environment Bob. I mean, we are in a time right now where safety and health is a primary concern to so many businesses coming out of COVID. And also I know that more money is being budgeted for OSHA. And the word that I hear from people that I work with in Washington is that there’s going to be an expansion and in health and safety inspections and regulatory requirements and reporting and all of that, which dovetails directly into what you guys do. So Bob can you talk a little bit about the sort of the regulatory environment and why you think it’s important for small businesses of any size in any industry to consider some type of a safety application platform, to make sure that they’re in compliance and ahead of the game?

Bob: Yep. You got it. So absolutely on the regulatory environment, this is I know we’re rolling we’re five months into the Biden administration, but he’s already signaled more budget. It’ll be the biggest budget increase in at least a decade or so. And it makes sense because prior to the pandemic to when the pandemic started, OSHA complaints are up 10X. So this is going to continue to be a hot button. Specifically for your audience I mean, the top safety issues for those businesses of all sectors is really how … I’d love to tell you that two or three different safety issues that everyone needs to focus on. But I think it’s a bigger challenge than that today. Because it really comes down to safety is driving consumer confidence and it’s driving employee retention. And we’ve just published a survey yesterday in partnership with YouGov and uncovered that more than one in three said that they still have some level of discomfort visiting businesses that have relaxed COVID-19 safety precautions.

Our survey also uncovered that this isn’t really a vaccinated or non-vaccinated discussion because of vaccinated consumers, who you would suspect are probably more comfortable going into the public today, 38% still feel uncomfortable going to a sporting event or a theater, 35% to a gym, 25% to a restaurant. So there’s a consumer confidence challenge here then it ties back directly to safety. And then also on the employee retention side, it’s a big deal. So there’s an article in the Wall Street Journal last week that said that employees are retiring without jobs or quitting without jobs because they’re being asked to come back into the office and we’ve seen here in our surveys the same thing. Two in 10 people that are vaccinated still indicate that they’re uncomfortable returning to work. So I mean, I think to put that all in a nutshell, safety is a value proposition for businesses to compete.

And that’s all pretty tough news still. But the good thing is that there’s some silver linings here. The first one is we actually did the same survey with nearly identical questions last year leading right up to 4th of July. I can tell you, I’m not even going to go through those results. We are materially in a better spot than we were last year. Consumer confidence is way up as you would imagine. And then also our customers prove time and time again that you can control your own safety destiny. And they do that by creating the right protocols that are repeatable and can be completed with a simple checklist. So, that’s what we’re seeing.

Gene: Makes complete sense Bob. And so on the technical side of this, so you’re driving this down to the employees. So my understanding of safety culture is, and stop me if I’m wrong, it’s an app that employees have, I’m assuming correct? Which they access from any device. So as employees themselves they can self report on any potential safety issues going on around the business. And obviously like you and Jon spoke about earlier, there’s automation from internet of things like sensors that can be put into different places like refrigerators for example, that can also report. So all of this is going into a cloud database. All of this has custom reports that you can do. All of this has workflows as well. So what if a safety issue is discovered, certain actions and follow ups can be triggered. Is that right? And how does all that work?

Bob: Yep. You’re spot on. So first with why frontlines versus why executives. We really believe that if you’re going to change your operations and continue to get to that path that continuous improvement, it starts with having this in the hands of front lines on their iPhone, or on their Android or on their tablet. Because the front lines they’re out there doing these compliance checks on a daily if not hourly process. And they’re the ones that can drive home some best practices. So they’re in the mix. As far as how the rest of the technology works when I’m out there on the front lines and I’m doing one of these performance checks and we’ve shifted from compliance to transparency. So I know that it’s okay for me in my business to call out something that’s wrong. And I suspect most of your listeners, you’ve already built that trust with your team. I can then when I’m completing one of these inspections send a corrective action to someone to go fix it.

And then I’ll be able to see the resolution on when things are completed and at the executive level or at the management level, whoever has access to the high level data can see the trending information, what’s going, well, what’s not going well. If I’ve got multiple sites, I can score each site to see who’s definitely building the best culture of safety and who needs some help. So it’s all on the cloud. Managers that are accessing that data typically would do that from a laptop. And then the folks that are capturing most of the data and completing most of the corrective actions or drive that from a device.

Gene: Yeah. It just seems like an application that businesses, all businesses should really have. I know there’s a free version and there’s obviously a paid version as well. But even the free version just looking at your website provides enough features and functionalities that if you’re running a restaurant or a small retail shop the last thing you want is somebody tripping over something or some issue that might damage somebody’s health or a customer issue that you just want to report. So just I think it’s just one of those things that all businesses have to get used to the fact that they have to empower their employees to report safety issues because safety has become a major, major issue. Where do you see all this going Bob? And then we’ll wrap up. How do you see the company developing over the next few years?

Bob: Yeah. Thanks for that. We will continue to build more robust features into the product so that we can continue to empower the frontline workers. And then at the operational level that will ensure that the executives are getting exactly what they want to do, what they need in order to build that continuous improvement. I’d see us introducing, continuing to invest in IOT moving well beyond just temperature and humidity. And then last but not least as we look to the success of our Mitti insurance offering with QBE in Australia, we will likely bring a product like that into the Americas at some point in the next year or so, hopefully in 2020.

Gene: Fair enough. Jon, do you have anything to add?

Jon: It’s interesting because I think the core theme of everything we talked about today kind of goes back to things we’ve been talking about a lot over the past year, right? So really building up a culture of transparency and honest and open communication at work. I think it is about doing good versus looking good. So, you guys are kind of like the see something, say something of business risk. Just kind of interesting. So I hope people can kind of take that away.

And I think the other thing is just really people level lists. I think everyone’s looking for ways to kind of make sure they’re doing the right thing right now, or that they know what to do. And this sounds like a great mechanism to make sure that employees from every level of the organization can kind of be on the same page and kind of moving in the same direction. So that’s pretty great. But on a just technical note, so we’ve talked a little bit Gene and Bob about IOT or internet of things. So for folks who aren’t familiar with that terminology, how would you define that to folks? Because I feel like that’s a buzzword that the definition is different depending on-

Bob: Yeah. And in our arena it’s basically removing a manual process through automation. So going back to our temperature checks, that’s typically somebody in a restaurant going and checking the temperature once an hour. And this gives you the opportunity to simply put a sensor in there and let the sensor do the work. And when the temperature changes, automatically send that alert to you so that you can spend time focusing on potentially going back to our quality use case, making sure that you’re putting together just the perfect meal for your customers that’s repeatable, no matter what location that your customers are at.

Gene: Jon I always say that IOT is like putting a brain on an inanimate object. So the best example is like your phone, which is just an inanimate object but it’s got a brain inside of it. As Bob is saying, you take a refrigerator which is an inanimate object and you put a sensor on it and it can collect and then communicate what it’s doing to other people. And that we’re seeing just billions of IOT enabled devices around the world over the next few years. So I think we’re right on the cutting edge of that.

Jon: Awesome. And what I kind of love about it too, is like we know small business owners and all of us. We’re part of our communities. We like to help others who are like us. And I just think about if you know that you have a power outage and you’re in a main street shopping district, how cool is that, that you can call 10 of your fellow neighbors and be like, “Hey, you might want to check on your place too.” So just from kind of being a good steward of community management, it feels like something we should all be considering. How can we kind of really be tuned into what’s happening when we might not be there? So really appreciate the discussion today.

Gene: That was great Bob. Thank you so much for joining us. Bob Butler is the GM of the Americas at SafetyCulture. His website is safetyculture.com. My name is Gene Marks. Thanks Jon Aidukonis for partnering with me on this conversation. It’s a really fascinating topic of how important safety is for any business and the technologies that are out there to help you make sure you are safe and compliant in this world post COVID. So again Bob, thank you. On behalf of Jon, thank you. For more information and advice tips for helping you run your business. Please visit us at smallbizahead.com or sba.thehartford.com. Thanks for joining us guys. And we look forward to seeing you on our next episode. Take care.

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