Pictured: John Goulding, CEO & Co-founder of Workvivo.
Starting a company is something that I had been warned about the pitfalls of. ‘Most start-ups fail, you won’t have customers for two years, it’s a hard slog’, etc. All advice and warnings were noted…and we started anyway…and I’m so glad we did!
The story of Workvivo started on a February morning in 2017 in Cork, Ireland when Joe Lennon and I met for coffee.
After 10 years I had just moved on from CoreHR, a great company with great people, and I knew what I wanted to do with the next six months at least. As CEO of CoreHR I enjoyed fantastic company growth and success but my role also required running at a thousand miles an hour for many years. The next six months were going to be different and all about kicking back and taking a break. I was enjoying using Stephen Covey’s template that identifies your different roles in life - father, husband, brother, son, sports coach, friend etc., and I was enjoying ensuring that I had things planned each week under each of my roles. The eldest of my three daughters found it hilarious to see the structure I put on my ‘kicking back’ – a force of habit!
Joe and I had worked together at CoreHR and had stayed in touch. Joe was a guy that was always hugely impressive – I had taken the longer route to get to my senior position – Joe (obviously with more talent!) had published two books and become CTO of CoreHR – all before he was 30!
Over coffee we discussed our separate future plans and we also casually discussed the possibility of coming together to start a company. Once it was mentioned, I think both of us became excited about what we could do together and it quickly became something that both of us wanted to do. I was determined to have some of my planned time off so we agreed to start in May 2017. Taking this time off was in hindsight a great decision as it certainly felt like I had put petrol in my own tank once we started.
Different things come into play when figuring out what you really want to achieve. The accountants will dictate some of what you need to achieve but for me understanding what you get real satisfaction from, combined with the level of your own personal ambition is what drives what you really want to accomplish.
What we wanted to achieve was the incredible feeling of happy customers telling the world that we have a great product and great people. We were also comfortable that if we made this a reality then everything else would take care of itself, we would build and grow a great company, we would be successful and the accountants would be happy!
A very healthy fear of failure on both our parts and a determination to have a bit of fun were also thrown into the mix…the ambition was serious but thankfully we didn’t take ourselves too seriously.
It’s easy to assume that people who start companies have a very clear vision of what exactly they are going to build before setting out. We didn’t. Or at least we had initially imagined ourselves building a very different product.
Lots and lots of research later we arrived at what seems obvious to us now – we needed to build an internal communications platform designed around the pillars of employee engagement. The concept of Workvivo was born…(‘vivo’ means life, enthusiasm, vigour which is what we want to bring to work!). We knew that our domain knowledge of the challenges of employee engagement and internal communication as previous senior leaders in a growing organisation would allow us to design a product that was going to work. We knew that our experience of building great software product was going to come in useful also
Luck is a much underrated ingredient for business success and one that you don’t have much control over. We were very fortunate with the support and enthusiasm we received at CEO level for our product from our earliest customers of Morgan McKinley and Staffordshire University who assembled incredible project teams to work with us who gave us invaluable product feedback and ideas early that we quickly built into the product. We are eternally grateful and hopefully we have repaid that early vote of confidence with the success both are having with the product. Similarly, we were lucky to meet Voxpro powered by TELUS International, and Trigon Hotel group before we launched the product – both very dynamic companies where employee engagement and internal communications is top of the agenda. Both loved the product and they quickly came on board. It’s a great feeling to win customers but the customers who give you the early vote of confidence are the ones that we will always be most grateful to. Lee Trevino once said…’the harder I work the luckier I get’…I think that’s very true but some genuine and pure luck helps also!
Before launching Workvivo and bringing the product to the market officially we enjoyed the little milestones that got us to that point. We celebrated when our first employees came on board, when the first customer signed up, when we went live with a customer for the first time, when we started seeing our system being used in the UK, Australia, Canada, China, USA, Singapore, when we started getting asked to meet potential organisations that approached us based on hearing from customers that were using our system.
We launched Workvivo on July, 9th 2018 having already had a great taste of what we set out to achieve…that incredible feeling of happy customers telling the world that you have a great product and great people.
Launching itself was another milestone and one that we were always looking forward to. We had already built a great team, a great product, we had incredible customers who were seeing super results from the product and were happily evangelising us. Now to bring it to the market officially!
It’s been a fantastic journey so far, lots of hard work but we’re massively excited about the future! Thanks to those who supported and encouraged along the way…it has been very much appreciated. Onwards & upwards!
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