Yesterday my little baby – PeoplePerHour.com – turned 10. I almost can’t believe that this little experiment that I started a decade ago as a scapegoat from my previous business, knowing nothing about the online or tech world, is now 10 years old, and a growing, profitable and thriving business serving over 2 million users all over the world. It’s just surreal to me.
This has been a journey of a lifetime, and one which would not have been possible without the great people that I’ve been so lucky to encounter along the way who showed faith in us. My amazing team, our awesome and passionate community, our investors, my parents first and foremost who trusted in me and were my first investors, our partners and stakeholders. Thank you all for making this journey possible
Any milestone we hit, no less a grand one such as this makes me reflect back on all that’s happened. There are way too many stories to cite here, but some that stand out are: fighting bailiffs out of our offices twice when we couldn’t make rent, an intern literally just disappearing one day after lunch (as soon as he got his pay-check coincidentally) without saying a word or answering calls which forced us to call the police, someone starting to break-dance in an interview (yes this happened!), a new hire turning up completely off-her-face drunk on her first day after lunch break, paying people a fiver to sit in the office pretending they work for us so that we look bigger when a major broadcast station (no names just google it J) turned up for a TV interview which got broadcast on the 6 o’clock news (as they say you ‘gotta fake it till you make it’ :)…to the moment when we turned our first month’s profit in November 2013 – one month ahead of our target – and I just felt like the whole world’s weight just dropped off my shoulders. That was a moment of bliss, as were many more to follow.
As I told my team yesterday in a short talk before we did cake and champagne, mainly two things still get me out of bed every morning 10 years in.
First, knowing that what we do actually makes a difference. We deeply share this belief that the freelance economy mattes. As our mission statement says, it empowers people to live their dream of being financially independent, working freely, when they want, for whom they want, from wherever they want, for as long as they want, earning as much as they can without being capped by corporate beaurocracy and politics, doing what they love, and not being tied down by the 9-5 corporate machine.
Years ago when I sat down to think about a mission statement – normally no small feat – I actually didn’t have to think at all. I just recited that very testimonial that we heard so many times again and again, in writing and in person, almost word for word, from both our Buyers and Sellers as if they all conspired together to come up with one: because of PPH I was able to build my entire business from the ground up, be my own boss and financially independent. Thank You!
Doing something that matters means a lot to all of us at PPH. We are not in business JUST to make money – although that is a goal too, no denial – but in doing so we make the world a better place. We have a mission and a purpose that’s grander than our own. That matters to me a lot because I want the organisation we are building with so much toil to outlive us all. I’m a true believer that selfish organisations have a limited lifespan, no matter how much money they make in that lifespan. Eventually the world catches up on then. Purpose-driven organisations on the other hand outlive their people and their leaders. It’s as If that purpose takes on a life of its own, it becomes this unstoppable force that transcends above all else, it makes them independent, fool-proof and unstoppable.
I’ve always been of the philosophy that given a choice I’d rather have a smaller business today that lives forever than a large one that dies tomorrow. We are in business for the long term.
Purpose has another benefit. It gives you tail wind that allows for a lot more screw ups and mistakes – something that people just starting off in business like I did will inevitably make lots of, as I did. An organasation without a purpose needs to execute with surgical precision, it cannot afford any mistakes. Having a strong purpose on the other hand buys you empathy from all around you and gives you momentum to march through your screw ups. People WANT you to succeed because you make the world a little bit better.
Secondly – to why I get out of bed every morning – I believe that we are still on Day 1 of this new phenomenon. The freelance economy is still at its infancy in terms of adoption at the business end in particular. Whilst statistics show that 1 in 3 people do some sort of side ‘gig’, only ca 3% of it is done digitally and only a small percentage of businesses (most of which are at the at the smaller nimbler end of the spectrum) do it systematically. In other words, whilst the supply and desire to work more flexibly exists, and whilst the benefits of cost, flexibility, reach of talent, diversity, are unquestionable, it still hasn’t gone mainstream.
We see our job at PPH to build products and services that will make that happen. And that’s what we are doing.
Yesterday’s tenth birthday coincided with the soft launch of our newest baby, a product that will allow the adoption of freelance working and Flexible Talent Management (which we acronymed FTM) at scale for larger Enterprises. TalentDesk.io takes all the learning we have amassed over the last decade from serving hundreds of thousands of small and medium sized business (which in many ways are much harder to please than larger organisations), all the honed IP and know-how, and gift-wraps it for the Enterprise. We spoke to businesses that employ thousands of people versus tens of people (which is the PPH end of the market), and tailored the on-boarding, procurement, discovery, project management and payment workflow end-to-end to work seamlessly for them. At scale.
We have no doubt that TalentDesk.io will be a success, but more importantly, even if it weren’t, it’s another step towards our long term strategy. Another hill-top toward the mountain-peak. Which is to be the innovator in the space, investing in creating an innovation engine that churns out new products that serve different segments of this burgeoning yet still infant ecosystem that has the power to be a game-changer for businesses large and small.
Studies conducted by McKinsey, PwC and other consistently cite forecasts that in the next decade or two over half of the talent in organisations will work flexibly. Studies that we conducted internally working with research bodies such as the University of Westminster show that over half of the working population (from 30% today) will be freelancers in one capacity or another by 2020.
If we succeed in our longer term goal, those people will be using products designed and launched by us. That’s what I obsess about all day, every day, for a decade already, and I don’t plan to stop until it becomes reality.
Lastly, 10 years in, I feel as proud as ever to be surrounded by such an amazing team. From people like Tom my first Engineering hire and Spyros my CTO who’ve been with us almost from the very start – 9 and 7 years year’s respectively! WOW (thanks for putting up with me folks)- to people who even joined the last year alone yet elevated the business to a different level, making it so much more of a pleasure to get to work every morning and march on towards making that mission a reality. Super intelligent and highly qualified people who literally could get a job anywhere, choose to work with us fostering a culture of collaboration, passion, creativity, openness, ideation, but equally discipline, precision on execution, focus and accountability.
Folks, thanks for trusting in our purpose and being part of it. Salute to many more years to come.