Focus on Founders Sits down with BenchOn

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BenchOn – Tim Walmsley

Have you ever felt the pain of having to let go of a valuable staff member because you couldn’t afford to keep them between contracts?

An army veteran with over 13 years experience as an executive in both government and commercial Defence sectors, Tim Walmsley wants to solve the problem of employee underutilisation. He first came across this problem when he was working at an international consulting company, after leaving the Army as a Major, but the idea for BenchOn was born when Tim heard a large corporate client complain that they didn’t have a bench of professionals sitting around idly, waiting to respond to the urgent requests of their government clients. 

So how does BenchOn come into play? In a nutshell, BenchOn is a Professional Services marketplace that matches idle employees to short-term contracts from reputable companies. Curious? Read on… 




What’s the problem you decided to address with your startup? 

We are solving the problem of employee underutilisation. Idle staff who are in-between contracts or projects are costing Australian companies billions of dollars each year in lost productivity and wasted overhead. What’s worse is we have come to accept it as common business practice and just the price of doing business in these industries. If you have ever worked in a firm in knowledge or talent based industries, such as Professional Services, then you will probably be familiar with being set utilisation targets of around 80%. That’s fine when you are a big organisation, but this is a critical issue for small to medium businesses who survive on their cash flow and rely on their expert staff as their core capability.


What was the ‘ah ha’ moment that made you realise you needed to do this?

I think it was the moment that I got feedback from trusted people in industry. Although I was really excited by the idea (it was the only thing my wife heard about for that first week!), there was always the fear that I had missed something obvious or I was living in a dream world. So, I took my initial concept to a mentor of mine to see what he thought. He has 25 years experience in industry so I figured he was the perfect person to let me know if I had simply gone off the deep end or if I was really onto something. Surprisingly, it was a very easy sell! So much so that I couldn’t help feel a little cynical and think that he was just placating me. So, I took the concept to a friend who is the Managing Director of a consulting company. Again, another easy sell with his exact words being “Now I’m annoyed that I didn’t think of it first!” I guess the ‘ah ha’ moment came when he asked me that day if his company could be our first foundation customer.

Considering I now had my first customer and all I had was an idea, I realised that this was something that could really work. At that point, I would never have forgiven myself if I didn’t go ahead with it.


When did you realise you didn’t want to go it alone?

I had a co-founder initially, but he got a really exciting opportunity on the Board of a company he had been working with, so he wasn’t able to put the required time in. I realised I would need help if I didn’t want my startup to become another failure statistic. I didn’t have the time or the budget to learn my lessons the hard way so I went looking for options.

I had heard about Seb and BlueChilli in my military circles as we are always interested in what other veterans are doing after they leave the military. Being an ex-soldier myself, I figured he would be the right person to go to. I researched a lot of accelerators, but BlueChilli had the right mix of support and specialist knowledge. So, I met with Seb and the rest is history!


What’s your superpower as a founder?

I guess my superpower would be the work ethic I got in the military. They instil in you the drive to keep going no matter how tired, sore, frustrated, weighed down, held back or flat out exhausted you are, which I am finding suits an entrepreneur’s journey perfectly! They also train you to be mission focused and adapt the plan to meet the reality of what’s on the ground. It has all been very useful so far.

I am still trying to train the other founders to drop and give me 20, but so far no luck.


What’s one way you see your startup influencing the future?

I see BenchOn as the counter-balance to the freelance movement. There are a number of articles out there saying that 60% of the workforce will be freelancers in the near future but I don’t believe that is a good thing. The highly skilled workforce we will need in the future to take on the massive challenges we face in this country, need to be nurtured from within the supportive framework that a company provides, including training, mentoring and processes.

BenchOn supports business owners to grow their best capability – their people.

Australian businesses are filled with some of the most qualified and experienced professionals that create the innovative ideas to tackle our most complex problems. What I want to do is empower those companies to nurture and develop those employees by reducing the risk associated full-time employees and allowing them to create new jobs by reducing overhead and increasing revenue.


What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned so far as a startup founder?

Actually, I was most surprised by the supportive startup culture! Everyone helps each other out and provides advice and support. We are all at startup events or talks, swapping stories and tips and referring potential customers to other startups.

I could not believe how excited other founders get at your successes and how much they help you out when things don’t go your way.

It was certainly not what I expected but it’s a welcome surprise!


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