Croke Park : A stadium where dreams are made and shattered in a fraction of a second. A symbol of what is possible with a shared sense of purpose. It is a place of community, shared ideas and common goals. For my family, we have had many special memories watching Bernard and Alan [sorry we weren't around for when our Dad’s played with Dublin!] compete there. Those hallowed corridors bring a certain comfort, a familiarity born out of that crazy mix of emotion, energy and tribal passion for the Dubs!
Passion is infectious, transformative, game-changing. It is probably the single biggest differentiator that you encounter in the start-up world. Last week, I attended Enterprise Ireland's showcase event on behalf of PepTalk, our employee engagement and wellbeing technology company. We were there alongside, 132 companies being backed in 2019 by Enterprise Ireland. From my side of the pitch, we are passionate about transforming the world of work and building engagement programs that enable employees to fulfil their potential at work. That is our bubble, our All-Ireland. It is our singular focus as every All-Ireland winning team understands.
Yet our time as a part of Enterprise Ireland’s excellent HSPU programme has opened my eyes. That passion is all around us, there are entrepreneurs and ideas brimming out of every part of this little island. A community of people, from literally every walk of life, all sharing a common thread of building a successful business that can impact on the world stage. We all exist in our bubbles, yet from time to time we come together to share stories, to learn and grow and take another small step on the journey. In my short experience, those steps are rarely linear in nature, they involve plenty of snags and bends when the end can seem as far away as a sliotar from the top level of the Cusack stand!
That road for young Irish companies has been paved by those who have gone before, and none more so than Peter Coppinger and the amazing team at Teamworks. Peter and his business partner Daniel Mackey recently won Ireland’s EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award having grown their business over the last 11 years to attain 22,000 paying customers in total across 183 countries and employing 200 people. It is targeting annual revenues of $50 million by the end of 2021 - It is one incredible story.
Peter spoke at length on the journey that Teamwork have been on, including the very ballsy purchase of the domain name teamworks.com for over 675k with pretty much all the cash reserves they had at the time.
Peter was open and honest, admitted to many mistakes along the way, but they kept learning and growing, and they certainly got a few things right along the way!
The things that Teamwork feel they did right :
Customers First, Service Mindset with fanatical support
Strong product, unafraid of technical challenges
Lock in the customer, make yourself invaluable
Continuous learning, especially of the people ahead of us.
It was interesting to hear Peter talk about calculated risks. I presume for the people in the room this resonated. In many ways, everyone there took some sort of risk in going for their dreams, in believing in what might be possible. I was a solicitor who left a career in law (much to my parent's horror!) to set up sports marketing and communications agency and followed that curveball into the even more new area of corporate wellbeing and employee engagement when Peptalk was formed.
In the early stages of Peptalk, we were constantly making decisions, weighing up options and deciding on the best course of action. We may not have all the information to hand but as a team, we look at the data, understand where we may be missing some information and weigh things up. It is not an exact science, we are no doubt still making mistakes but we are definitely making less of them!
The other focus for me here was the customer. 'We took the lead from our customers and listened to what they wanted' Peter said. If there has been one main learning for me in immersing myself in the startup world and in a particular technology, its a manic obsession with your customer. For Peter, customers were a the heart of their strategy and they focused on “fanatical” support and at Peptalk we have been lucky to work with some great clients such as Deutsche Bank, West Pharma, Northern Trust, and Littlewoods Ireland. They have been so important to us in helping us understand the value that Peptalk can bring. We leverage Intercom and their feedback tools to understand the usage of our platform better. We have a huge amount still to focus on however in listening to Peter it's clear it needs to remain a core part of our growth process.
Peter summed up this focus around continuous learning across the organisation with some key points :
CEO is a perpetual student - all areas.
You need a business partner or you will crack up
A bad hire will cost you years
Sales execution > Product
Marketing & positioning critical
Pricing model review every 6 months
SAAS metrics for the win
Personally, I took a huge amount from perpetual student learning. There is no better place than startup to feel completely out of your comfort zone and pretty damn stupid at times. From financial statements to product roadmaps, marketing buyer personas to sales market segmentation you immerse yourself in every area and work with your teams to build and grow quickly as possible. You are always learning and need to have an innate curiosity around things to make them better, more efficient.
I also can empathise with the need for business partners. At PepTalk we talk a lot about wellbeing and engagement and on focusing on sustainable activities to build long term performance and growth. But let's be honest that is hard. It's hard work. Each of us are making sacrifices. You are constantly making decisions that impact others both in work and personal capacity. From our first business Legacy Communications, Bernard has been an incredible support and sounding board for from day one. More recently in PepTalk our co-founder and COO Michelle Fogarty and Ailis McSweeney our Client Success Officer provide the emotional and expert support for us to grow the company without (as Peter would say) us “cracking up”!
Last week Croke Park wasn’t full of 80,000 fans but it felt packed to the rafters. The stadium was alive, brimming with a confidence that it might usually save for a bright All Ireland Sunday. It was full of hopes and ambitions, representing the best of what Ireland has to offer and ready to take on the world.
CEO @ PepTalk
Let's make work better …
At PepTalk, engagement is at the heart of all our wellbeing platform. Our platform is about energy, passion and fun while being grounded in key business outcomes. To find out more about this area and our wider PepTalk offering book a demonstration at www.peptalk.ie or email firstname.lastname@example.org