Bean Ninjas podcast cover episode

65. How to Launch a Side Hustle With Your Employer’s Support with Kate Walsh Rose

25 September, 2019
The Bean Ninjas Podcast
The Bean Ninjas Podcast
65. How to Launch a Side Hustle With Your Employer's Support with Kate Walsh Rose

Want to gain your employer’s support to start a new business? Here’s how Kate Walsh Rose did it.

In Episode 65 of the Bean Ninjas Podcast, CEO Meryl Johnston talks to Kate Walsh Rose about launching a side hustle with your employer’s support.

Episode Highlights

Want to gain your employer’s support to start a new business? Here’s how Kate Walsh Rose did it. Click To Tweet

01:00 – Starting a side hustle within the company
05:24 – Honestly communicating about the challenges that the business is facing
08:00 – Getting the sub-business up and running
10:41 – Getting new clients and first sales
13:11 – Kate’s time managing techniques
19:10 – Managing interruptions
20:54 – The importance of building financial skills
22:35 – Kate’s definition of financial freedom

Learn the foundations of financial literacy and using Xero with Meryl.

Download 5 tips for Launching a Side Hustle With Your Employer’s Support

1. Identify the opportunity – Identify and understand the challenges that your employers (the business owners) might be facing, and propose a solution (a business idea) that addresses those challenges.

2. Create a business proposal & plan – Write out a plan of what you need, write the project plan and start actioning it.

3. Grow your network – Join a local or online networking group (like BNI), and develop referral relationships.

4. Educate your clients – By demonstrating expertise and teaching prospective clients what they might not be aware of, you’ll generate sales opportunities. 

5. Check in regularly with team members – Each member of my team has a half an hour, one-to-one meeting every week just with me; and it doesn’t necessarily have to be around work, it can just be checking in with them as well.


Starting a side hustle within the company


Welcome to the Bean Ninjas Podcast, where you get an all access pass to see what happens behind the closed doors of a fast-growing, global bookkeeping and financial reporting business.

Meryl Johnston:

Hey, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of the Bean Ninjas Podcast.

I’m talking with an old friend of mine, Kate Walsh-Rose today. Welcome to the show, Kate.

Kate Walsh-Rose:

Hi Mez. How are you? Thanks for having me.

Meryl Johnston:

Yeah, it’s great to have you on and I think you’ve got a really interesting story.

We haven’t had anyone come on the show that’s done exactly what you’re doing. Which is, you have a role as an operations manager at a construction company, but then you’ve also started a side hustle within that company. 

So I’d love for you to talk through… Maybe to give us a sense of the… Would you describe the construction business as a medium-sized business?

Something to get, maybe the number of employees, something like that to get a sense of the size of that business. And then maybe you could talk through your mindset around that.

Why did you want to start the side hustle and how did you go about doing that?

Kate Walsh-Rose:

Yeah, sure. I think the construction business is probably tipping from medium to almost large now. When I started, it was definitely a small business.

It’s just on 80 employees, and in a couple of different states. So that’s been a great learning curve because I’ve been here during that growth period and that journey as well.

In terms of the side business, that’s probably… We’ve known each other for quite some time Mez and, or Meryl I should say, and-

Meryl Johnston:

No one knows my nickname on the podcast.

Kate Walsh-Rose:

Sorry. Sorry.

Meryl Johnston:

It’s okay.

Kate Walsh-Rose:

And I think you’ve certainly inspired that side hustle.

Obviously, Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Work Week book was certainly talked about that, and The Barefoot Investor as well. They’re the two books that probably started my journey in that space.

And the challenge for that, for anyone, is transitioning from your full-

time employment, or whatever you’ve got going on, and being financially viable to kick yourself off into that side hustle. And also from a time perspective as well.

And so through multiple chats with yourself and other people that I respect and probably have a bit of a mentorship with, I started seeing gaps in the current clients with their construction.

So the construction business works from anywhere from zero to $6 million worth of work in particular sectors, age, care, health, and education. But what we were seeing from the construction side is poorly maintained assets, and it’s certainly something I’ve done in previous roles where I’ve done facility maintenance and managing the maintenance of assets.

I mean we’re really lucky to have some strong trade teams that were directly employed in the construction business. So I started talking about that we could have another offering that is for the clients and fill a gap there, but also about cashflow as well.

Preventative maintenance is more planned in it’s monthly revenue stream, which I know is something that you’ve spoken about with your business.

And so I was looking to create that for a construction business, which is usually you incur those costs up front. You even have to put in bankrupt guarantees, so you’ve got cash in escrow and you’ve got to incur the costs up front, and you might be up to 120 days delayed in payments.

So you actually have got a quite significant financial constraints in that. Whereas preventative maintenance and reactive maintenance, it should be a lot quicker turnaround.

So that’s, I think, where the conversation started with the directors of the construction business. One in particular encouraged me to go away and develop the pitch and a business case, and I did that. 

Probably stressed about it a bit too much and made it a lot more complicated than it needed to be. And I actually think I did this, finalized it when I was hanging out with you on the Gold Coast, and you simplified it, or helped me simplify it, and it was certainly received well by the directors and voted on, and also voted on by the head plumber who holds the license.

So that got across the line, and I only did that, but I was lucky enough to get a little stake in that. So I have investment in it as well.

Meryl Johnston: Great. So there’s already so many gems in that, and I can remember helping with the pitch. It was a while ago that. One of the questions I think other people… So if other people were in a similar situation where they’re an employee in a business and they’re wanting to work on something, a side hustle, they’re wanting to start a business, but they might have some constraints either around the time that they have to work on it or cashflow I think this is a great way to solve it.

And actually, it’s very clever. In this situation,you’ve identified a problem within an industry and potentially a way to add value to a business model. You talked about recurring revenue, which is quite different to how the construction industry seems to work, and then were able to bring that to your set of directors.

And I think maybe not all directors would be as open-minded as it sounds like yours were, to encourage you to come up with an idea in a business case and pitch to them. And then it sounds like they’ve also enabled you to have a stake in that business.

So was there some groundwork that you needed to do, or if you were trying to help someone else in a similar situation to get their directors on board with them starting a side hustle within the business, what would be your advice to them?

Team meeting image

Honestly communicating about the challenges that the business is facing

Kate Walsh-Rose: I think knowing the directors personally was part of that journey as well, and what their motivations for running the business are and continue to be, and understanding the challenges that they were facing.

Business owners take on significant risk in their personal lives, some of them have to put personal assets up to run businesses. And so that conversation and that trust between myself and the directors. 

I knew that they were not struggling in that space at all, but that was something we could talk about and thrash out over time. So my advice would be to understand the challenges that they might be facing and the business is facing, but also to have that non-business communication as pathway.

So when I’m at work and during business hours, I definitely have my work hat on, I’m in my role and around my accountabilities.

Meryl Johnston: I’ve seen you at work, you’re a machine. Pumping out work and being efficient.

Kate Walsh-Rose: Try to be, as are you. I think we’re cut pretty similarly in that space.

But when the bell sort of rings, if you’d like, or when the work is done for the day, we have quite a great transition to… Whether it be around the table tennis table, or over beer, or whether we’re going to a social occasion as well. We have the ability to drop that, and talk openly and honestly and pitch ideas to each other.

That might just be fleeting. Quite regularly, I think yesterday I saw an article in the Financial Review and just was in the space to, in my thinking time, to be able to sort of go, “Ah! Hey, we know people that own buildings.”

And, “Ah! Somebody else is trying to do this, so what would it look like if we did this?” And it would go as a complete concept, but we spent five minutes just chatting about that. And nothing will probably eventuate from that chat, but it’s just about pitching in your thoughts around different concepts that might come up to you because you’re looking at it in a different angle.

So the thinking time is important, the communication is important, and then going away and doing almost a feasibility study. But also the lesson I learned was to not make it too complex.

And I definitely didn’t pitch to get any return out of that to start with. I’d hoped, as you’re wise to.

But I’m exceptionally lucky with the people that I work with. That they are just amazing people that always give merit where merit’s due. And yeah, was lucky in that space.

Meryl Johnston: So let’s talk through the next part of the story, and I’m actually going to circle back to ask you about thinking time later, because I think that’s a really interesting topic in itself.

So remind me if I don’t circle back to that. But we’ll come back to the story.

Getting the sub-business up and running

So you delivered the pitch, the directors all approved it,

and then what happened next? What was the timeline to get the business or the sub-business, Rex Plumbing, off the ground?

Kate Walsh-Rose: Well you’ll love this. This is very quick. Sorry. The pitch was, you don’t have to do a thing. That’s all on me. I’ll run it. 

And logistically my role is quite significant in terms of aspects within the construction business. I look after HR, IT, day-to-day recruitment, sorry, day-to-day resourcing for a site, and also for procurement as well.

I have an amazing team under me that look after that. But that hasn’t always been the case.

So we looked at it and looked at it from a… I guess from a small business, or a startup-type, where I would get one day a week to do the plumbing business, or Rex Plumbing, which I have made Wednesdays.

So the first protocol was to write out the plan of what I needed.

So I needed a website, and I needed branding, I needed all the business stuff, like your business name, which I hadn’t even had at that point in time. I didn’t think of anything.

I just decided that my strongest trade team was plumbing, and that was the one we were going to go and start with. 

So I wrote that list or project plan and started actioning it. And I think we had the branding within a week. 

We had the website up within two, and the pricing model within that

website as well. And probably a week later, so within three weeks we had the web branding material, and we had a client.

One specific client that we were happy to share across the two businesses. And as much as I pitched it that the current clients had a gap, we decided we wanted to keep it quite separate.

It was then about learning business development, which was a completely new area for me. I think I’d reached out to a couple of people in industries, and the BNI network sort of popped up.

I’d actually referred a friend to another business owner and I said, “Come along and have a look at this BNI networking group.” And three weeks later I’d joined that group, and that created instant clients for us.

I think that doesn’t work for everyone, and depending on your category, or your business industry, but traits tend to do quite well out of our network and from what I hear across BNI networks as well.

Meryl Johnston:

I actually started with BNI too, when I started Bean Ninjas that was one of the first things I did to try and generate leads. But I found it really valuable from a… Just learning how to give referrals or how to make introductions, and how to think about who might be valuable for someone else.

And their motto, something like givers gain or something. What’s the… It’s something like that. But it’s all about giving.

Kate Walsh-Rose:

Yes, that’s exactly right. Yep.

Meryl Johnston:

And it’s a bit of a different mindset. They’re great skills to have. And I think some… Often they would sit outside of a traditional operations manager’s skillset, business development and sales.

joined fist in a team meeting

Getting new clients and first sales

And so how did you find that? When you built those relationships, and then did you have to close a deal or what did those first few sales look like?

Kate Walsh-Rose: I think the first few sales fast looked like, could we solve a problem for someone? And could we solve the problem in a different way than another plumber could do it?

For us, we have a really heavy focus on customer service

and transparency. So it was about meeting the expectations of the referral, whether that was a domestic or a commercial client.

And we were lucky that we had a big enough team that we could get there quickly. We could solve the issue in all aspects, and we cross just so many different areas of plumbing and we have plumbers already onboarded that knew the safe ways to do the work. And so they were able, we were able to up and run very quickly.

I have customer service skills, I’ve done previous roles doing that. So that was an easy transition.

What we found in terms of a challenge, was we very quickly

found out the types of work that we did not want to do. One, and not so much from a cost perspective or profit perspective, but more so for what was time intensive.

An administration or a customer service, or the technicians would sort of be going, “Well I’ve done everything that I can do.” It’s actually about education, educating the client. So specifically roof leaks are a common thing that happened in Melbourne. They might not happen in [inaudible 00:13:53]-

Meryl Johnston:


Kate Walsh-Rose:

But they certainly happen down here. And you can spot-fix a roof leak, but you really… When your roof starts leaking, it’s probably time to replace the whole roof. However, that’s a huge expense upfront. 

Generally speaking, and the spot- fix often doesn’t fix the whole problem. You’ll end up with a… Or water will get into it’s weakest link and unless you go around with silicon everywhere, which is just not possible.

You’ll often end up with a call back on a, “My buy roof’s leaking again.” It can be a completely different spot, but they sort of, most clients link the two together. So we’ve had some challenges around that.

We try and educate our clients. We’re happy, we’re still happy to do roof leaks, but we’re certainly educating the clients to say, “Okay this is exactly what we’ve done. This is the exact location that we’ve worked on.

We have also assessed the roof, and in doing so we’ve highlighted that there’s… Either one you need to, it’s time to replace the whole roof or a section of the roof. If you don’t do something, you are going to get more leaks.” Which is never what we’ve seen, to be honest.

Kate’s time managing techniques

Meryl Johnston:

And so how far along are you with Rex now, and have you had any challenges as that business has grown in balancing your time between the two?

Because I imagine as Rex grows it will require more, potentially, might require more of your time as well… Or be throwing more problems at you to solve. So how do you manage to balance that?

Kate Walsh-Rose:

That’s a really good question and yes, you’re absolutely right. It does. As it grows, it throws more challenges.

Managing the time I’m pretty good at, I get up at four o’clock in the morning.

Meryl Johnston:

Ex-swimmer, everybody. Ex-swimmer.

Kate Walsh-Rose:

Yes. There’s certain things that I know, for me I need to get into a routine. So yeah, I have a very specific routine and I’ve had to learn when I, that routine doesn’t happen for various reasons to work around that.

So that part of managing my time is associated to that. And the other one is sticking to the Wednesday wherever possible. So I’m pretty stringent on that.

I’ve implemented a couple of different products and applications that have really helped manage my time and make time more efficient.

We use a system called SIEM Pro to manage our work orders. Our team also does their scheduling through that, and we also do our time-sheeting through that. So that’s been really positive on managing the work that we do.

We’ve got… We’re actually probably only using 40% of that capabilities at the moment because the interesting thing is that technicians, or trades technicians, are absolutely amazing at what they do on a daily basis.

But administrative tasks are the last thing on their minds. So when it comes to timecards, or purchase orders, or expense receipts, or things like that that’s been a significant challenge and probably always will be. So we’re looking at different ways to maximize efficiency and accuracy on that data for us.

But whilst also understanding that it’s not their fault, and that’s probably why they’re in trades. And two, if they’re spending time on that, I’m actually not making money on them, their works. I’m being very blunt.

Meryl Johnston:

Okay. Well, and actually while we’re on the topic of efficiency, because I know that’s, it’s a pet topic of ours that we talk about together, what are some of the things that you implement just as a manager?

So not necessarily across just Rex, but in your role across both businesses. What are some of the things you do to optimize maybe the interactions that you have with staff?

Or how you block time, or anything else that you’ve found is working for you at the moment, around getting the most out of each day?

Kate Walsh-Rose: I have a very structured meeting, which we’ll probably chat about later. In terms of, I got this out of a book called Traction, and also I make sure of BNI.

So there are a couple of things that I’ve taken away from, one that book, and the BNI networking group, it’s quite structured and quite timed.

So I held an operations meeting once a week, which crosses across to the both businesses, and it’s a 90 minute meeting. It’s very prepared, it goes against score cards.

So each person has a score card that’s related to their accountabilities and responsibilities, and we’ve set goals for that score card. So it could be the amount that we’ve in the voiced for Rex each week.

We know what our budget is, we know the target we want to hit and obviously there’s a cyclical nature of that.

So sometimes we’ll miss it. Sometimes we’ll be well above it, but we can track week-to-week, and see hopefully more green than red in that space. So everyone in my team has that and has a score card, including myself.

We also then have an issues list. So to come to that meeting you have to, if you have any issues or challenges that you might be facing in completing your tasks. You need to put that on the issues list and I prioritize them before we enter the meeting.

And then we work our way through each of those. We only allow an hour in the meeting to do that. Sometimes we don’t have any issues, so the meeting’s quite short.

It’s just about our score cards, and keeping everyone on track to the strategic goals that we’ve set ourselves as well. And then if we do

have those challenges or issues we talk them through and we solve them then in the room, or if they’re too big for that room, we create a workshop around that with the people that are required in that workshop to make the decision to solve the issue.

So that’s one very big implement that since the beginning of the year, and that’s worked extremely well to the team. And then the other one, because I do manage a face-to-face team, is to make sure that I’m giving them time.

I have a one-to-one, and that’s coming from the BNI networking. So each member of my team has a half an hour, one-to-one meeting every week just with me.

And it could be, doesn’t necessarily have to be around work, it can just be checking in with them as well. Okay in terms of their challenges in personal and work.

And also if there’s approvals that they might require from me or things that are outside of here. For example, putting in a new phone system and I needed to discuss who was getting what extension cord extension number.

We can tick that off and we tick it off. But we’ve only got half an hour to do that.

Couple of other things that we’ve used, is we use Wrike to manage all of our tasks. So I can also jump in and say, “Well my team’s working on, and I can do the same for me.” 

And we’ve just, or I have just implemented Calendly to manage all my scheduling, and I’ve set up particular times that I’m happy to

meet people depending on what I’m meeting them for. So I just send them the link that’s relevant to that event.

And I’ve had… that’s been actually, I would say, probably stop emailing back and forth. So if, what time can you meet, what time can I meet? Whereas I’ve just sort of said, “Here’s when I’m available for this particular meeting.” And people click on that link and they also get a text message the day before to remind them as well.

So that’s been really positive and I think has saved a lot of time. And albeit it pushed a few things out a couple of weeks that may not have done so, because I can sometimes be quite reactive, but it’s been good for me to have that happen.

Meryl Johnston: Yeah. We’re big fans of the book Traction that you mentioned as well at Bean Ninjas, and actually have a future podcast episode, it’s still in the pipeline, but down the track. We’re recording an episode on some of our learnings around implementing traction in our business.

So it’s good that you touched on that, and one, just one other quick question related to this topic. 


Managing interruptions

How do you manage Interruptions?

Because I know with a face-to-face office, and with a demanding

role, like an operations manager role, a lot of people are competing for your attention. Whether it’s your team or whether it’s directors. 

And I think you touched on that with Calendly, that helps with scheduling. Is there anything else you do to help with or help manage interruptions?

Kate Walsh-Rose:

Yes. When I first started, I took the door off my office, so that I had an open door policy and I very quickly realized that that was ineffective. 

Because I guess there’s a couple of different books that I’ve read and have a lot of understanding around how the brain works. Every time you’re interrupted it takes you at least 20 minutes to get back to what you were doing in the same head space.

So put the door back on is one. Two, I’ve trained my team, and I’ve

spoken to them about, and given them the resources so that they understand that every time they are interrupted as well, that there is that time period to get back to what they were doing, which is inefficient.

So there’s been that education base that I think has been important. I also take time out of the office.

Probably outside once before nine for at least half an hour out the office, to really just knuckle down and get something done and use a timer. That sort of gives me that space to get it done as well. I think it’s called a Pomodoro timer.

Meryl Johnston:

Yes. So now we’re moving into the, I guess the finances part of the podcast. And so I’ve got a couple of questions related to this.

I guess the first one is that you’re a Bean Ninjas client and have… You’ve tested out a couple of different products of ours, and I think you’ve really embraced the concept of building your own financial knowledge.

I’ve really seen you take ownership. That’s a valuable piece of information or tool in your toolkit.

The importance of building financial skills

And so I wondered if you could share just a couple of thoughts about why you might think that it’s important to build skills in the area of finances.

Kate Walsh-Rose:

Yeah, I think one thing that I didn’t mention in my pitch, is probably why I got is just owning your business, and then running it is the quickest way to learn. And I think from a professional development point of view, one of the directors in particular, probably saw that.

And then probably that gap in my skillset a little bit. And also I didn’t have the confidence in that space.

I could manage a budget, no problem. But when it came to sort of understanding accrual accounting or looking at the management report and being able to pick things out that were not quite right.

I really struggled with that and I think that’s something that you and I’ve spoken about, but also that your team has really worked on developing.

Particularly with your non-core products, or they may be core products now. Your finance education piece, you’re working with Xero, making sure that was set up as well.

And then the CFO, all the perks for CFO, and piece that I’ve been

working on with Wayne. So they are critical for my development in that, and being able to understand how the business operates. I’m very good at looking.

It’s something that just you clear in terms of a process and minimizing that. Then actually graphing that in a dollars and cents piece has as yet been a real learning curve as well.

Meryl Johnston:

Well you were one of the star students in the financial literacy course. So good on you for doing the homework and embracing all of the knowledge and applying it. It was great to see that.

So a related question, and this is something that we’re asking everyone on the podcast now, is what’s your definition of financial freedom?

Every time you’re interrupted it takes you at least 20 minutes to get back to what you were doing in the same head space.

Kate’s definition of financial freedom

Kate Walsh-Rose:

It’s a tricky one, because I think it depends on your stage of life to be honest. At one point in time I would have said so that I could go and travel, and see the world and get those experiences.

I’ve been lucky enough in a business that we sponsor the Ross Foundation of Australia, and I was lucky enough to go and visit

Kenya and see those farms over there, and that’s really impacted how I see the world.

Although I probably had a elegant view of this as well. And I think

financial freedom for me is about being able to give back to your community, as well as living within your means. And that may change and evolve over time.

But yeah, I think if you can give back to other people, there’s a real sense of gratitude and joy for your life and whatever challenges you’re having don’t seem so bad as well.

And I think also, my wife and I are trying to have children and

wanting to embark on that. And passing those values to them is important and financial literacy in all aspects of life, personal and business, is teaching that.

Whether it’s understanding that, you get this much allowance per week means you can spend this much on lollies, this much on books, and this much in your savings account for when you’re old enough to buy a car. All those types of things.

Meryl Johnston:

Okay. Thanks so much for coming on the show. It’s been really fun chatting with you and appreciate you being a great student as part of the financial literacy course, a wonderful customer at Bean Ninjas. 

We really enjoy working with you and collaborating with you on your financials, and also thanks for, I would say it’s more than 10 years now, of friendship.

Want to upgrade your financial skills and learn how to use Xero better? Applications are now open for our Financial Literacy for Xero Users training course.

Designed for non-accountants who want to better understand and manage small business finances. Here’s what Hayden, one of our past students shared about his experience.


I guess one of the biggest challenges I’ve found with our business predominantly being e-commerce is that as soon as money comes in it goes straight back out to invest in inventory, and other expenses that are involved in having a product-based business.

So cashflow’s always a significant issue. I basically realized that I

wasn’t checking financial documents regularly enough, so didn’t really have as good understanding of where we were financially on a regular basis, and also keeping up-to-date.

Checking the bank accounts occasionally wasn’t enough really, and when you go in and check the financial statements you really get a

better understanding of where your business is positioned financially. 

The course really gave us a better understanding of the different elements of the cashflow and financials and really made it to be a great course.

It’s really great now to have all the tools and templates that I need to go back and have a look at. I’ve got them saved away, which is fantastic, and go back through and review them at any stage where we need them, which is often required as we grow.

Meryl Johnston:

So if you have someone who gets overwhelmed with the idea of going into your Xero file and not knowing what’s going on money-wise with your business, and you just want a simple way to understand Xero and finances for your peace of mind, head to forward slash course to learn more about our financial literacy course and apply today

Contact Kate Walsh Rose:

References and Links Mentioned:

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