Business Brain Food's logo and Damian Kernahan's image side-by-side on a laptop screen, showing them together on Ben Fewtrell's Brainfood Podcast

Ben Fewtrell Brainfood Podcast Interview Damian Kernahan

Proto Turned 11 and discuss the evolution of service design and customer experience in Australia

Ben Fewtrell: Today we've got Damian Kernahan joining us on the Business Brain Food podcast. He pioneered the introduction of surface design to Australian businesses, co-founding Proto in Sydney in 2008, helping identify and close the gap between the experience that organisations promise to customers and what is actually delivered. Very, very important. Welcome to the Business Brain Food podcast, Damian.

Damian Kernahan: Hi, Ben. Good to be on.

Ben Fewtrell: So good to have you on. Maybe kick-off by telling us a little bit about how you went about starting you own business. What ignited the spark for you to start Proto?

Damian Kernahan: Wow. Going back 11 years now. So actually, we're doing this recording on our Birthday, our 11th Birthday.

Ben Fewtrell: Well, Happy Birthday!

Damian Kernahan: Thank you very much. We're pretty excited to get through that 10 year barrier and still be growing. So it takes me back to 2008. I'd been working overseas for a large alcohol company, Diageo. They do Guinness and Tanqueray and Johnnie Walker and all those types of things. And I'd previously come from a marketing background. I worked for Fosters and National Foods in marketing roles. And then I came back to Australia. I worked in advertising. Worked with Young and Rubicam brands, ran the Telstra advertising account amongst various things, led some ad agencies. But I always had this itch, probably like a lot of your customers, a lot of your listeners who want to open their own business, and probably never felt like they had the confidence or the idea or the financial runway to actually do something.

But the situation arose where I left Y&R and started Proto Partners. So Kara Weaving is my business partner. We saw a gap in the market, and the gap was this. There has been a lot about focus on product design and product innovation, but what we saw was that over 70% of the GDP of Australia is actually service based. And we thought, wow, there's actually an opportunity there because if you think about banking, insurance, health care, retail, it's all services. And then we found another stat, which said that Australia was ranking 8th or 9th in the OECD in terms of customer service. And we thought, there's an idea here in terms of how do we actually spend the time that companies do in designing products for services?

And if you think about products, whether it be the glasses you're wearing, the microphone you've got, a pair of clothing you wear, it all has to be tested and developed before it gets out of the factory. Because if it's faulty, it just gets returned and the company goes bankrupt. But that's not the same with services. You can actually launch something which only works. So anyway, that's what we thought about. We thought there's an opportunity here to do this better, and we started Proto Partners in a little 16 metre square office in Mosman in Sydney and set up on our way.

Ben Fewtrell:  Today's your 11th birthday. It's pretty cool.

Damian Kernahan:  It is.

Ben Fewtrell:  Was this your first business, Damian?

Damian Kernahan:  It was. I worked in corporate all my life. My father had a small financial planning practise. I wouldn't say we're entrepreneurial by nature, but I'd always had an urge and itch to actually do something. It took a while to actually form that idea and actually find the opportunity.

Ben Fewtrell:   Yeah, I saw some stats. It's interesting, the business that you're in, because I saw some stats several years ago around why it was that a customer stopped buying from a business. And people would think it be something like price, but only 14% of people changed their buying decision based on price and bought from another company. Some people changed because they moved location or because someone they knew moved from company to company. I don't know if this is still the same. You probably know better than I. But they were saying that 68% of people stopped buying from a business because of what's called perceived indifference, which is what you're talking about here, which is where the business thinks they're giving great service, but the customer thinks they're getting bad service or not the service they expected. Is that still the case?

Damian Kernahan:  Absolutely. You're spot on. There's a great stat, which we use quite often, which I think brings it to life. But it was done by Bain & Co, which is a large international consulting firm. It still relates to small business. They interviewed 362 CEOs around the world and they said, what type of service do you do you think you give? And 80% said we give a fantastic service experience. And then they asked customers, what type of service experience do you get from these companies? Do you get an outstanding experience? And only 8% agreed. So you have this gap between 80% of companies thinking they're a good job, but only 8% of their customers actually believe the same thing.

So you've got a delta of over 70% of an expectation gap. That's why we exist. We exist to help organisations close that expectation gap, because there's a lot of people busy ... That's a word being used a lot at the moment. When you bump into anyone nowadays they say they're busy, and there's a lot of busy people doing a lot of well-intentioned things. But quite often they haven't actually got enough connection to their customers to truly understand what is and isn't worrying them, what it is and isn't that they value, and what's important to them.

And so, for organisations small or large to actually spend that time to actually listen, to talk to their customers, to call them, do simple surveys where you actually hear the pain or the challenges they've got and go about solving it. That's what it's about. That's what service innovation is about. It's not about sexy shiny iPad apps and all that type of stuff, like big business will want. It's about really simple one percenters. And if you can put all those one percenters together, you can make a really tangible difference and improvement in what your customers are looking for and therefore the experience. Reducing that perceived indifference and going, actually, they care about me and actually think about me. They've actually thought about my experience and the journey that I have to go on with them. And if organisations can make it simpler, easier, more seamless, more enjoyable, that's what customers are looking for.

Ben Fewtrell:  Yeah. That's what's keeping you guys busy, which is good. Tell us, when you first started the business, did you have a plan of what you were going to build? Or were you just going to consult to people? Did you have an idea of what business you were going to build?

Damian Kernahan:  Well, Kara and I started the business as a product innovation business, and that was in May 2008. And if you cast your mind back, everything was good in May 2008. It wasn't so good in October 2008. So the GFC hit. So we started this product innovation and we picked up some good clients. We were working for Qantas and Schweppes. We had some good contacts from having worked in big business. But the GFC hit and everything stopped, and certainly innovation stopped because nobody was investing at that time. If you remember back then, everyone was pulling expenditure, trying to meet their profit targets, and things stopped for us.

Probably about January 2009 we came back from the holiday break and said, "We need to do something different." And in today's language everyone talks about pivoting. That word didn't exist in business so much then, pivoting. But we changed direction. We said, "We need to do something different here," because what we determined is that most of the product innovation in the world happens in the northern hemisphere, the major significant stuff. And we hit a point. We did some reading; we started finding out about these stats about service. And so, we launched as a product innovation company, but just six or eight months later moved to service innovation, or what we call service design. Designing a service experience or a customer journey. And we spent probably about two or three months reading everything we could on the net. There was no books on service design. And crafted up an approach, a framework to actually go do this.

We then asked a friend of ours who ran a private equity fund, he had a bunch of ladies gyms. 200 chain ladies gyms. We said, "Would you let us in for a couple of months to do some pro bono consulting? Our name is Proto Partners and Proto comes from prototyping. So we said, "Can we prototype our approach to this? Because we've never done it exactly like this for services, but we think we're onto something." And he said, "Sure, I'll have two months of free consulting." So we began. It was very rudimentary, but we redesigned the journey for that gym and made a whole bunch of improvements. And after that we realised, having prototyped it, that we had something that was of value. And then it was a case of then taking it to market and trying to find people who wanted to pay for it.

And I got to say; in the early days it was hard because companies were taking about customer, but they weren’t acting customer-focussed. Everyone talks about customer now. You hear a lot about customer experience. The New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian always talks about customer every fourth word, especially when she was transport minister. It's a lot more present than it was 10 years ago. People used to talk about, "Yeah, we're customer focused." But they weren't really because things up until then were going pretty well. I think things have changed. So it was a large education process for us to help explain to people. And it seems strange, doesn't it, for small business to go, "Well, get focused on your customer." You'd be surprised how many businesses are busy on providing products or services, but they don't think about the experience that sits before, sometimes even during and a after that, which customers find important, but businesses aren't really aware of.

Ben Fewtrell: :  Funny, isn't it? Because it is such a big part of it, the experience. I think we've seen some big organisations really tap into the customer experience over the actual product itself. And I mean, there's a very large hamburger joint that's worldwide that uses experience over quality. And they'll say they've got good quality. There's no doubting the quality is okay, but it's not the best food on the planet. But the experience is consistent and predictable, and I think what people enjoy is they know what they're going to get.

Damian Kernahan:  Yeah. I think you're absolutely right, and I think predictable and consistent are two very, very underrated words. A lot of organisations we see, they have one part of the customer journey you go on and when I talk about the journey, it's to make it simple. There's six phases for most journeys most products or services that people have. There's awareness and interest, and then you buy, and then you set it up, and then you start using it, and then you have this manage and support where you need help. And then there'll be a phase where there's a problem and you need that solved, and then there's renew and exit. So that's the rough end to end journey that most products go through.

But along those journeys, quite often organisations or companies do some things really, really well, and they do other things really, really poorly. And as humans, we just like consistency. We don't like to be surprised and we like to be in control. So when they do something really, really well and then a week later they do something really, really badly, and then the next week they do something pretty well. We feel this emotional surge in going up and down. People don't think about it, it's all pretty subconscious, but it doesn't sit well with us, versus the hamburger chain you're talking about. You know exactly what you're going to get when you walk in there. When you drive through or walk in, whether it's the best or the worst, that's up for debate. But you know when you walk in there and you order whatever is your favourite thing, you're going to get it exactly the same way pretty well every single time.

And so, this consistency ... And that's what customers are looking for and that's what we help organisations do. How do you make the service experience as consistent as a product experience? So you put on your pair of glasses. I've got a pair of glasses in front of me. I can't see too far when I'm reading now. I'm over 40. When I put it on, amazingly, I can see words every single time without fail. But if you think about when you ring up your insurance company or your healthcare company or your bank or you go in to a retail store, how often do you ring them up and you get exactly what you expected? And I've got to say, the research we do, it's rare.

Ben Fewtrell:  It's not very often, is it?

Damian Kernahan:  No, it's very rare. In terms of products, we expect them to deliver every single time, but we seem to put up with service experience, which is the majority of what we have nowadays. It can be good, bad, and indifferent. So how do we make that consistent every single time, or as many times as possible? There's humans involved, there's people involved, so things are going to vary of course. But how do you actually standardise that and make it consistent?

Ben Fewtrell:  Let's jump back into your journey of growing this business. I'm interested to hear after 11 years ... Give us an idea. How many in the team? How many clients do you look after? Do you have some key metrics you can share to give us an idea of the growth you've experienced over that time?

Damian Kernahan:  Yeah. So we're a team of 10. We've grown steadily over the years, and we've also decided that we don't want to be too big. We've got a really great culture here. Culture's super important for us. So we're really happy with the sweet spot that we've hit. We worked with a lot of large organisations initially, most of the blue chips, and now we're finding that smaller organisations or medium size are maturing in the space that they look for our services as well. And then we've also got some other products which just serve smaller businesses.

Ben Fewtrell:  That's interesting there. You've got some key points you touched on there that I think ... Because it's easy to get hung up on being a big business. You said you made a decision you didn't want to grow too big. That's obviously a conscious decision that you've made. What was the driver behind that? Was it the fact that you had been in big corporate companies before?

Damian Kernahan:  Yeah.

Ben Fewtrell:   Or more flexible? What made that decision?

Damian Kernahan:  Yeah. I worked for a couple of other significant blue chip, ASX listed companies. And if anyone's worked in those, they know there's a lot of politics, there's a lot of inertia, there's a lot of intractability. And so, in setting up a small business we wanted to create that culture, which I've read a lot of management books about creating, and I've gone through a lot of performance reviews and stuff like that in my time. But we decided that we want to actually build a team that love what they do and love coming in here, and we care about them as much in their personal life as their business life. And we live that, and we believe we live that. If you talked to our staff, I think they'd give you that feedback that we care about them as people. And that for us is important.

That's the first part. I think the second part is quality. And growth is good. There's no doubt that growth is good. But part of our goal or our purpose is to enrich the lives of every Australian, one customer experience at a time. And we know the way that we can do that is we have senior people working with our clients to deliver really important things for them, and we don't want to outsource that to contractors or more junior staff that will give an okay delivery. We're trying to provide serious value for our clients. That's our internal operating principle. How do we deliver serious value? And as an operating principle, we need to be mindful of the people we have and the clients we have and make sure we can deliver that every single day.

Ben Fewtrell:   So how do you ensure that the team culture is lived and breathed by everybody? Have you got rituals within the team, like regular things that you do? Or, how do you make sure that your culture's always kept alive and well?

Damian Kernahan:  Well, I think it starts with the top, from Kara and myself, in terms of making sure that we truly, really look after our people and check in with them. So we have an HR consultant who comes in and works with us, and works with our team and spends time with them on one on ones so they can actually unload. So instead of having to go to the principals where they can download or talk to Nicole, who's our HR consultant, and share with them challenges, things they've got, growth opportunities they've got. So it provides them an outlet to have somebody who can support them. So that's one area we do.

We also provide lunch paid for by the company, it allows staff to get together and sit together around a kitchen table and spend an hour with each other each day just talking about whatever, spending time together. In the past, we've done yoga sessions and we have away days. For us, it's the birthday cakes, all that type of stuff. They're the rituals. But I suppose the culture is built every single day in terms of how people act when you're not here. So if we're not in the office and we walk back in, people are heads down, doing work. The vibe is good whether we're here or not.

Ben Fewtrell:  Yeah. And having worked in that corporate world, what do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs that build a business, and those that work for somebody else? Was the key difference for you?

Damian Kernahan:  You know what? Having worked in larger businesses, I don't think they truly empathise the challenges that small business have and the work ethic that they've got to go through. And I know myself, when my paycheck landed in my bank account, the 15th of every month, that's a pretty good feeling. Every single month that pops in. You might get a bonus at the end of the year. I'm part of an organisation called Entrepreneurs Organisation, EO, and so I know a lot of other entrepreneurs, and they're working really hard every single day. And some of them have grown to be quite big businesses, but even 10, 15 years in you can still have significant challenges that you've got to get around. And I think the large businesses and people in large businesses, quite often I think they underestimate the effort and what it takes to actually grow a business from scratch. I mean, there's a lot of ... I talk to a lot of guys who have been retrenched, decide to go out in their own, post-40, and I say something I heard from somebody else… it's going to take twice as long, and you're going to earn half as much as you think.

Ben Fewtrell:   So true.

Damian Kernahan:  And everyone goes, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. I hear you." And I know, looking at them, they actually really don't believe me. And I go, "That's okay. I'll leave it to you." And then, 12, 18 months down the track you have the chat and they go, "Absolutely right." Having said that, wouldn't trade it off for quids. I mean, it gives you a flexibility. It allows you to pursue a passion, allows you to develop new products and things that you're interested in, which move you and help you answer your why, which I don't think you get in the large organisations.

Ben Fewtrell:   Now, you spoke about having to pivot back at the end of 2008. Obviously, there was a lot of businesses that dealt with other businesses where they just shut the purse strings up and that was it. They weren't spending, and that affected a huge amount of companies. Has there been a time in your 11 year journey where you thought about throwing the towel in? I mean, that might've been one of them. Is there a time where you've gone," This is not going to work. I'm just going to go and get a job again?"

Damian Kernahan:  Just once? A couple of times actually. I think there were two key times, I guess. One was in 2009. We didn't have any revenue for 12 months. So to stick to your guns that early on and hang in there, Kara and I have a lot of conversations about doing that but we believed in what we were doing and we hung in there and started earning some decent revenue, or enough to at least start to grow the business. I think that was the other one.

And two or three years ago we had a significant challenge. We were working with a lot of large organisations, and doing pretty sizable projects. And a lot of the large consultancies moved into our space pretty quickly. So we're talking about PWCs and the Ernst and Young's and KPMGs. And they've got amazing access. And we lost a lot of major contracts just based on the weight of these guys coming in and promising a whole lot. There's a whole other side story to that on delivery, but for a good 9 to 12 months, again, we took a real revenue hit and we had to contract a little. And then we had to come back from that.

So I think most business owners that I talk to have those challenging situations. And it's a case of ... Again, I don't own this one. I've read it somewhere, but it's not what happens to you. It's how you respond to it. And Kara and I were committed to it and believed in what we were doing, and we had to fight through and regrow, and we've done that.

Ben Fewtrell:   And have you got investors come in to help you do that, or has it always been self-funded?

Damian Kernahan:  It's always been self-funded.

Ben Fewtrell:   Which is often the case with small business, and I think that's the thing that a lot of people don't understand is you do sometimes have to make sacrifices, don't you? You have to make decisions. I mean, you use the word contracting. That you contracted the business, you shrunk it down a little bit. And I think that can be a difficult thing to do because you get used to having a certain business ... It's not so much about the money side of thing, but mentally. You go from having a big ... I've done it myself, gone from having 50 people on my team to down to 7, start again because I realised what I was doing wasn't working. And rebuilding now, but it's just incredible sometimes to ... The mind shift that has to happen at those points ... Did you find that? Did you find that you had to have a bit of a mind shift and go back to square one almost?

Damian Kernahan:  Absolutely.

Ben Fewtrell:   To start again?

Damian Kernahan:  Yeah. Absolutely. I think it's a really mental and emotional challenge. You have this dream in your mind as to what you want your business to be or what you expect it to be, and you'd be going for ... At that time, I think we'd been going for eight or nine years, and I looked at the stats and go, "We're 95% of the way there." You get to 10 years, your business ... 95% fail after that. And we thought were well established.

And yeah, I agree. Losing key staff who have been with us for years, who we didn't want to lose and were great people, intelligent, hardworking, humorous, everything we wanted. But we had to let them go and contract the business. It's like giving up your baby, if anybody ... This is my dream. This is our baby. And you lose that for a while and you go, "What happened?" And you're right. Financials one thing, but I think it's that emotional ... You've had a team of people, a group of friends who you’ve built around you, and you've grown and what's developed, and all of a sudden you have to see someone go. And I think that was the toughest thing that we ever had to do. It was awful.

Ben Fewtrell:   Yeah. You've obviously worked out how to differentiate yourself from those other competitors. How'd you go about doing that?

Damian Kernahan:  Yeah. Well, as I said, I mean, customer is very popular now. Everyone's talking customer and everyone's talking customer experience. I think the way we differentiate ourselves or that the strength that we see is that a lot of. We're just about to launch an article actually in terms of we're not seeing any customer and customer journeys, which is this customer journeys that people are developing or agencies are developing, and they're all developed inside out. It's like, what do we think ... What journey do we think the customers going on? So they're actually developed internally by organisations without actually talking to customers and really finding out what happens.

And what we do is we spend a lot of time and effort going out and talking to tens, hundreds, sometimes thousands of customers to ask, "What are your challenges? What's working for you? What isn't working for you?" All the way along that journey. And that can be a two year journey that you have with the organisation. So it's really granular, it's really detailed, it's really tangible, it's really actionable. And when we work with our clients, we hand that back. So they've got an actionable roadmap that they can actually start working on. It's prioritised. They know what they need to do with the short, medium, and long term. And I think that's what we see differentiates us. We get invited into organisations that have worked with others, and we see the work they've done and it's a bit motherhood really.

We see things like, "Customers would like things personalised." That's not an insight. That's just the bleeding obvious. And what do I do with that anyway?" Instead of actually, "No, there's a problem right here. This is why it's a problem and these are the solutions or the ways they'd like you to improve it. And here's some suggested ideas on actually how to do that." I think that's what people are looking for. People talk a lot about strategy, but it's about how do you move strategy to execution? And execution wins every single time. So what we do is we help organisations move to execution quicker. So they're doing it in weeks and months, not months and quarters for smaller organisations.

Ben Fewtrell:   Is that a message you put in to your marketing or your sales process so they recognise that as your differentiator?

Damian Kernahan:  Yeah, absolutely. It is. You actually need detailed, deep customer insights. And what we do is we do an excellent job of uncovering, giving you a really fresh perspective. Something that's really surprising. I'll share a story for a government agency who were providing support for people who have been injured in accidents and car accidents. And the perception, even though they didn't detail it to us in writing, was that maybe these people were actually taking the money and trying to get some money out of the government. When we did the research, we found out that these people were desperate to get back to work, would do anything, would even cut off their right arm to get back to work because the impact of actually losing a job, and we talked about when you lose your business or you contract your business ... But losing that teamwork and having to stay home for months or years on end was crippling for them, and so therefore, it reframed the whole way that they were looking at it. Instead try and enable these people and not try and question them when they needed money for support or crutches or wheelchairs or whatever it might be. They actually wanted everything they could do to get back to work, and that was surprising. Totally surprising. That changed the whole way they went about actually delivering and enabling those people, which is really powerful. I mean, it makes us feel fantastic.

Ben Fewtrell:   It's good to be a part of that obviously. You mentioned a couple of times getting past the 10 year mark, and do you know what the stat is? Is it 5%? It's a small percentage get past 10 years.

Damian Kernahan:  Yeah. I think it's in that zone. I'm not sure exactly.

Ben Fewtrell:   I know 2% is past 20 years. Maybe it's 5% past 10. So it's not a huge number. What do you think have been the keys for you guys to get to this point? What have you done consistently throughout those 11 years that have kept driving the business?

Damian Kernahan:  We're avid learners and avid readers. We have an Amazon account which we quarterly buy a lot of books, a lot of podcasts, a lot of audio books. And we're continually reading, because I think business is constantly changing, the environment's constantly changing. So we're mindful of how do we stay ahead and be at the very forefront in thought leadership in this country, in this region. So for that we can ... Being ahead technically and also spending a lot of time ... We drink our own Kool-Aid. We spent a lot of time talking to our customers and understanding what's important for them? What is and isn't working? What is it that they do and don't value?

Ben Fewtrell:   Nice to see that you drink your own Kool-Aid. Not the plumber with the leaky taps.

Damian Kernahan:  No, no, no. We're very mindful of that. So actually, making sure we're ahead technically, but also getting customer feedback and acting on that because we're a service brand as well.

Ben Fewtrell:   Yeah. And you mentioned before you're in the EO, which the Entrepreneur Organisation. How helpful has it been for you to be part of a network like that? I mean, a lot of people are not networking with other entrepreneurs. Has that been a key to your success, do you feel?

Damian Kernahan:  I think it's been really, really helpful, I mean, in being able to talk to and share experiences with people in different categories but are going through similar challenges. And also being able to share from their experience in terms of where they've had a similar business challenge. They can share their experiences with us and we can act on those. So yeah, I think that's valuable. But also being able to have a group of people who you can talk to who get what you're talking about. When I started the business, most of my friends were still in corporate and they didn't really get what it was like to run a business. So having an outlet where you could actually talk to people who understand intuitively what you're going through was really valuable. So yeah, I'd absolutely recommend it.

Ben Fewtrell:   Yeah. And then all the books you've listened to ... Like you said, you mentioned that was a good part of it. What's the book that's inspired you the most? Is there one book that you can pinpoint and go, "That really was a turning point?"

Damian Kernahan:  It's going to be one that nobody's ever heard of, but it was a book called Journey to the Interface, which was written by a guy called Joe Heapy back in the UK 20 years ago. And it was about service design, and that was the book back in 2009 that Kara and I read which went, "Wow, this is a real opportunity." So nobody will have heard of it. It's probably not highly relevant for people now. There are a lot better books now, but for us that was a turning point in terms of changing the direction of our business over the last 10 years and we're really happy with it.

Ben Fewtrell:  Yeah. It doesn't matter if it's relevant or not, that's the one that was your most inspiring book. That's good to hear. What's your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur? What is it you love about it?

Damian Kernahan:  What do I love about being an entrepreneur? I love the opportunity to continually try and solve the puzzle. I mean, I think about business and our business is a puzzle, a really challenging puzzle, and there are ... And some moving puzzles. So how do you put the right pieces in the right place at the right time, as closely as you would hope. You will never ever nail it, never ever nail it and it's always changing. And the piece you put in today might not work in two years time. So just working that through I think is a real mentally challenging option. That's one thing.

The other thing is being able to spot an opportunity or idea and go, "Well, why don't we develop that? That's something we can do and that would be something that customers might value." And developing that up, prototyping that out, and rolling it out and testing it with people and see what they think. And then if they like it as a minimal viable product or whatever you want to call it, rolling it out. I think that's great.

Ben Fewtrell:  Do you spend much time developing new things, or do you just stick to your knitting? I remember seeing a speech with Steve Jobs once, and he said, "We're proud of the things that we don't do. We're not trying to be everything to everybody. We just focus on what we're good at." What's your philosophy around developing new products and services?

Damian Kernahan:  Yeah. He was all about it was more important to say no, wasn't he? It's easy to say yes. It's a lot harder to say no. I think we've been pretty focused over the time ... What we have been working on over the last few years is ... We're a project based organisation, and how do we build annuity income? So we've just launched a smaller product for small businesses, which is a more of an annuity based customer feedback service. So people pay a subscription. And so, instead of working for the AMPs and Westpac, it's more a physio.

Ben Fewtrell:  It's a good business model and it's a good direction to head in, to have some ongoing subscription base. And I mean, we're seeing so many companies go that way now.

Damian Kernahan:  Yeah, absolutely. And it'll never become 100%, but if you can get 10, 20, 25% as annuity, as everybody knows who's running a business, that provides a base line of revenue which comes in which gives you more certainty in the ups and downs.

Ben Fewtrell:  That's what they say. What is it in the old real estate business? It's all about the rent roll.

Damian Kernahan:  All about the rent roll. Absolutely.

Ben Fewtrell:  Yeah. So everyone's got to get their rent roll up and running. Well, mate, we're just about out of time. How can people find out more?

Damian Kernahan:  Just go to We've got a website which is really highly visual and easy to consume, so welcome anybody to go there.

Ben Fewtrell:  Fantastic. All we have left to do is the 60 second scramble where I ask you some quick questions. You give me some quick answers. Are you ready for that?

Damian Kernahan:  I am. Let's go.

Ben Fewtrell:  All right, let's do that. What's your favourite app on your phone? I love this with tech, guys.

Damian Kernahan:  WhatsApp.

Ben Fewtrell:  Yeah. WhatsApp is a good one, isn't it? If you could be any celebrity in the world, who would you be and why?

Damian Kernahan:  I think I'd be Elon Musk. And why? Because I just think he's doing some amazing stuff.

Ben Fewtrell:  Yeah, I'd have to agree there. Do you have a hidden talent?

Damian Kernahan:  I can wiggle my ears. No, actually, my hidden talent is ocean swimming.

Ben Fewtrell:  Okay. I was about to say, we could ask you to wiggle your ears but it's not very visual, though, is it?

Ben Fewtrell:  What's your biggest addiction?

Damian Kernahan:  My iPhone.

Ben Fewtrell:  I don't think you're alone there somehow. Finish this sentence, when I dance I look like-

Damian Kernahan:  An idiot.

Ben Fewtrell:  Who is your mentor? Have you got a mentor that you look up to?

Damian Kernahan:  I've got several. There was an old boss from Fosters. A guy called Tom Smith who taught me a lot of wonderful things many, many years ago.

Ben Fewtrell:  It's great to have good people in your life to help teach you the things you need to know. And to finish up, what frightens you the most?

Damian Kernahan:  Heights.

Ben Fewtrell:  Well, once again, mate, thanks so much Damian. Really appreciate you coming on the podcast. I think everyone got a lot out of that chat, and it's interesting to hear about your entrepreneurial journey, so thanks.

Damian Kernahan:  Thank you, Ben. It's good to talk to you.

Ben Fewtrell:  An absolutely pleasure. Now, if you've enjoyed this week's Business Brain Food podcast and you want to find any of those links that were mentioned or products or anything that we talked about throughout the chat, you can head across to This was episode 218, and you'll be able to go to that episode, all the show notes, and just click on the links. It will take you directly across to any of those things, including things like Damian's LinkedIn profile so it's easy for you to find Proto Partners. And if you need some help obviously getting your customer experience, I'm sure that Damian and the team over there would be more than happy to help you out.

So it's been absolutely fantastic having Damian on the podcast. It's always good to listen to these entrepreneurs, especially the ones that have focused on building a really solid culture and a smaller business that delivers big impact. And I think that's the message that we got from Damian. Congratulations on 11 years of business success, because I think that's the key to business success is the people. It's about the people. And it's not just the people within your organisation, but how do you interact and communicate with the people around your organisation? So customers, suppliers, etc. So there's a lot of great lessons there to be taken.

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