Keep your vision plastic
1 December 2022
When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
My dad always ran his own businesses, so to me doing my own thing was just a given. I never woke up one day and thought, “this is my true calling”.
When I was at university, I got involved in student enterprise communities. I ended up working at a management consulting firm after university which was great training, but I always knew that I would ultimately do my own thing.
Where did the idea for Hofy come from?
Before Hofy, Michael and I were running a micro-mobility start-up, aiming to improve the one to six mile commute for workers in dense urban areas.
Then the pandemic hit. In the early days, we didn’t believe the public policy bodies, who were telling people that everything would go back to normal by the summer of 2020. We believed that the world was in for one to two years, maybe three, of disruption.
In light of this, it became clear that it was not the right time to be solving the commute problem. Instead, we should be doing the opposite – helping businesses, and remote/hybrid employees, be productive from home.
We realised that everyone seemed to be doing tech, communication, collaboration, payroll solutions, but no one seemed to be doing anything about the physical layer of distributed work; i.e. equipment, support, ergonomics. We wanted to create a SaaS-like experience for that layer of hybrid/remote work enablement. Your global cloud cupboard for all your hardware.
What makes Hofy stand out from your competitors?
First and foremost, it is global coverage. We believe that country borders should not be a factor when it comes to career opportunities for employees, or hinder access to talent for businesses. Global coverage is not just a business decision for us, but a part of our operating principles.
Second, is our technology. To deliver a truly magical experience for our customers, we need to have the best technology and infrastructure supporting our business. We are productising something that used to run on spreadsheets and be managed by small local vendors with no concept of customer service. It’s our tech that unlocks this.
Last, but certainly not least, is employee uptime (the time employees spend “online”). When a software engineer costs over $1,000 per day fully loaded, employee uptime is king. So we commit to delivering 99% employee up-time.
What are you most excited about for Hofy right now?
One word: integrations. Hofy sits at the intersection of the HR and IT stacks.
We were delivering a huge amount of value and a noticeably better service level with Hofy as a standalone platform. Now, we’re taking things to the next level. With our API and product / channel partnerships team, we are integrating into our customers’ existing processes for an even more seamless experience.
What are your three most important habits to be a successful entrepreneur?
While I would not quite label myself as a successful entrepreneur, I can share three things that I do consciously that I find helpful in running a company.
First, keep your vision plastic. As an entrepreneur, you’ll meet people with very strong opinions about what you are doing, and you will inevitably get conflicting advice/feedback, even from people with subject matter authority. This is especially true right now, when the world is changing very quickly, as we saw with ways of working during the Coronavirus pandemic. It is easy to get distracted by all the noise.
Similarly, not listening to what anyone has to say can be equally dangerous. The world today is different to what it was 3, 5, 10 years ago. So with all the additional prior information you have, your vision of the future ought to evolve, even if slightly. Listen to customers, prospects, incumbents, disruptors, competitors, investors, team members, macro trends, etc. It is important to stay on top of your space, form your own opinions, and make an informed judgement call on what data you should feed into your vision of the future, and what data you should just keep in the back of your mind.
Second, invest time in your direct reports. Be very thoughtful with hiring, but also with how you can enable people to provide as much leverage as possible and ensure that they are growing at least as fast as the company is growing. This is imperative if you are going to allow people to make decisions on your behalf. As a founder, this is the only material way in which you can create leverage for growth in the organisation, and give yourself time to think about the long term priorities of the business.
Third, create thinking time. As a founder, you are bombarded with information, requests, solicited and unsolicited feedback, admin, fundraising, complaints, news, etc. All of these are important data points in shaping your vision of the world and what your company’s next mission should be. I find it helpful to block several 1-3 hour slots in my calendar for thinking. This can be as unstructured as going to a familiar place for lunch where you always order the same thing (one fewer decision you need to make), thinking about the second and third order effects of all the data you have gathered in the last 1-2 days, and how this should affect, or not, your short and mid-term plans.
How do you handle the stress that comes with responsibility?
People have rights and responsibilities or duties. A common cause of stress is people being overwhelmed with their duties and responsibilities, or feeling like they are failing.
As a founder, you have a lot of duties. You have a duty of care towards your customers (to deliver the service that you have promised), your employees (to give them a safe environment where they can develop their career and learn), your investors (to deliver returns on the investment they entrusted you with), and to society as a whole (your product should be making the world a better place).
One duty of care that is often forgotten is the duty of care one has towards themselves. To deliver on all of your other duties, you need to make sure that you are physically and mentally fit; i.e. work on that duty of care you have towards yourself.
Is there something you would have done differently?
Quite a few things. I said yes a few too many times, and took on more burden than was worth it for the reward. But hindsight is a dangerous thing.
Who is the one entrepreneur that is your biggest inspiration?
I will skirt around this question by saying that there are quite a few entrepreneurs I follow. I believe they are outstanding in at least of of three areas: execution (how well their business is doing (i) commercially, and (ii) relating to customer outcomes); vision (either the clarity with which they saw the future state of their problem space, or the following they managed to build with their story); and leadership (how they were able to attract the best talent to their organisations, or create an environment in which their people leave being a much better professional than when they joined).