Lars de Nully: ‘First mover’ within Expense Management in Denmark
Lars de Nully has always had an idea of performing and supporting settlement processes. It is rewarding to see a heavy paper process made easier, Lars tells about the start-up of Acubiz in 1997.
Lars de Nully is the founder of Acubiz, today supplying more than 120.000 users with an Expense Management solution. A solution to the delight of most companies.
After several years working as a developer and IT consultant, Lars got the idea to establish Acubiz. Acubiz was founded in 1997. In March 2017, Acubiz celebrated its 20th anniversary.
The avoidable path of IT-entrepreneurship
Lars believes that some things are destined. Already in 1969 in 7th grade, Lars meets with the IT world while he is a student at Captain Johnsen’s private school. The school is appointed to receive education in computer science. “The funny thing is that about 50% of those I went to school with at that time, are working professionally with IT today”, says Lars.
Over the years, Lars becomes acquainted with some people with a strong influence on both Lars’ acquired skills and the huge step of entrepreneurship. As a 40-year-old, he establishes Acubiz, which name stands for “Accurate Business”.
Acubiz’ first years – similar to missionary work in the church
Establishing Acubiz on the market is challenging. Lars compares the start with missionary work:
“Many did not really understand what we did. In finance, many were afraid that the automation of processes meant that they would lose their jobs. We were far ahead of our time with the first EMS-version. No one had done anything like what we offered. For many years, we have just been out doing missionary work. “
In 2009, the IT industry is under pressure. A lot of companies are shutting down or forced to be innovative. Acubiz succeeds with a business model that makes companies take the leap with Acubiz. Customers can now pay per user per month and transaction-based.
Acubiz survives the financial crisis, the situation is turning, and customers are buying into the solution and the efficiency that is made visible. In 2013, Acubiz gets Vestas as a customer – later on, Danish Crown, ISS, Pandora and both large and small companies see the benefits of Acubiz Expense Management. Acubiz really “gets through the ketchup bottle” and the belief in the business idea is strengthened – “We got these large companies that actually looked at us as a potential supplier. It provided us the belief that what we were doing was right”, explains Lars.
In the first few years, Acubiz delivers customized solutions. Gradually, Acubiz develops products for various administrative processes. Lars makes a decision that Acubiz will only develop software within Expense Management in the future. The demarcation is needed and a necessity to focus on one business area. As a result, Acubiz releases more time working on to become an expert within Expense Management and offering a high-quality product – and not a by-product, as Lars expresses it.
The customers create the good ideas
“We need to have the customer in focus” may be a cliché, but it’s actually the way Acubiz is working. The best knowledge of customer needs is, according to Lars, to be found with the customers themselves. When the right idea arises, the idea is illuminated from every possible perspective before Acubiz makes a decision on how it should be. Lars explains:
“I always say that the best ideas come from our customers. You take the best ideas and see if they can be used more generally than what they necessarily demand – we think about the ideas of our customers. “
An example of a customer-inspired product is Fast Track. A customer requested the opportunity to send cash expenses directly to finance – without making a travel report first. Acubiz develops Fast Track for the benefit of a large number of customers.
Product development is about giving customers the best solution spiced with the expertise and innovation Acubiz possesses. Lars believes that his wide experience in product development and with sales, together with Acubiz’ skilled employees, make Acubiz deliver solid and user-friendly solutions with valuable benefits to the customers.
“Often, you are thinking of automating a paper process the same way as it was paper. In my opinion, this is an entirely wrong approach. It’s not just about solving the problem by making it automatic – we need to figure out how to make the process smarter”, says Lars.
Solutions that are only able to solve the specific problem are not good enough, according to Lars. The happiness of the customers must be achieved by streamlining and improving the processes.
CEO in the field
Lars de Nully is a dedicated CEO who takes part in all kinds of decisions. Whether it is how to decorate the office in Birkerød, decisions about how to create a good and innovative working environment, customer care, product development of a new app, marketing ideas or sales, Lars is involved. “It’s no secret that I like to decide,” Lars explains with a glimpse in the eye.
Despite decisions and involvement, there is one thing which is the driving force to Lars in his everyday life:
“The most interesting thing is to be with the customers in the sales phase. You get the feeling that an application like ours makes a difference – and it is fun! To me that’s a huge motivation. “
This quote by Lars fits to one of the main points Acubiz wants to achieve – working has to be fun. Acubiz’s purpose is to help customers with the time-consuming and paper-borne processes, which are boring and demotivating to a lot of people. The dialogue with customers is motivating and important to Acubiz in general. This is why Lars enjoys to be a part of the sales team:
“I’m proud of our product. Therefore, of course, I also want to show and of course deliver the benefits of Acubiz EMS to the customers. Who does not want to save time and get rid of this time-consuming process? “
The time as a sales man, means less time for other CEO-related assignments. Employee conversations and HR function are not Lars’s preferred tasks, but he acknowledges that it is important. In order to be able to perform on the market, it is necessary that his employees are motivated and also have a fun working day. This is important to Lars.
According to the growth of the company, it has been necessary to employ a number of mid-level managers in order to create structure and ensure goals and efforts within focus areas – and to maintain a safe working environment. This also allows Lars to keep his place in the field of sales and focus on the things he is best at.
How to reach the future vision
To Lars, the future vision for Acubiz is simple – “Acubiz aspires to be the preferred supplier of Expense Management”. Acubiz’ management tool is not creating 5-, 10, or 20-year business plans. Acubiz must maintain its values and be dynamic both organizational and regarding product development as the business area is constantly changing. Agility, dedication and trust are the key values, which Acubiz lives.
One thing that Lars does not want to change too much, is the customer experience and the personal contact. Once Acubiz EMS is adopted by users, both decision makers and individual users take Acubiz with them to their next job. According to Lars, it is a strong signal that Acubiz delivers a user-friendly solution that works. Networking and customer care are crucial parameters for the success of Acubiz. For example, Acubiz’ popular release seminars held twice a year is here to stay.