2016 for me was, if I had to pick one word to describe it, a year of ‘regrouping’.
I had only moved properly back to London end of 2015 from New York. In the year that ensued I regrouped with old friends whom I had partially lost touch with – people with whom I go back over a decade, spent more time with my family and my ‘auxiliary family’ – my beloved colleague PPH-ers.
The year reminded me of the importance of having long-lasting relationships in life, people with whom you’ve gone through life-transforming experiences like university or school years, the army, trips or expeditions, or building a startup together. The tough times more than any others are the ones that build long lasting bonds between people. No amount of ambition and the success it fuels is worth sacrificing that.
Even though I first moved to London approaching 15 years now, it’s only in this last year, my second spell upon my return, that I got to appreciate how much London is home for me. More than ever I’m in love with its contradictions. Fast-paced yet balanced and civilized; old-school in so many ways yet modern, cool and funky; deeply traditional yet cosmopolitan and international like no other city I’ve experienced; demanding and tiring at times yet forgiving, warm and communal at others; close-knit in its social circles yet easy to meet people and make new friends.
Apart from regrouping the things that I’m grateful for in 2016 are having made new friends, build relationships that I’ve learnt from and hopefully contributed to, travelled extensively, grown my company and team, rented a studio so I can devote more time to my art which is my passion, and setting the foundation for what seems a great 2017.
By far the highlight of my year was being appointed Godfather to my beautiful little niece (my brother’s daughter) whom my sister and I baptized this summer, and more recently being asked to be Godfather to one of my best friends’ unborn child. No honour can be grander or more gratifying to be bestowed with the trust and responsibility that comes with being a Godparent to someone’s child. I feel blessed and privileged to be in that position twice already.
The best trips I’ve had in the year include visiting one of my old friends in Mumbai, India, my family in Dubai and later Cyprus for Christmas, spending time in the beautiful South of France this summer and falling in love with the breathtaking Cap-Ferrat. My trips to the U.S. have become less frequent, yet I visited New York twice including spending my birthday there in May. I spent time in Marbella in Spain, Berlin, St Tropez, the beautiful Greek islands, the gorgeous old town of Nafplio in Greece, skied in the Trois Vallees where my year began in 2016 and ended. The symmetry itself rounded up the year perfectly.
On the business front, with the exception of a short-lived hit triggered by Brexit, PeoplePerHour has continued to grow strong and unabated. We’ve made drastic improvements to the product and the customer experience and that’s thanks to the hard work and dedication of our team. Team PPH – you rock!
On the team front: we grew considerably throughout the year with some great additions and a few more to come at the start of 2017. I’m particularly happy that now more than ever our team spirit, culture and family ethos is stronger than ever. As we enter our tenth year of operation I feel our team bond has never been stronger. And whilst we are no longer a startup per se we retain and nurture the startup culture more than ever. We operate truly with a family spirit and for the first time I feel there’s not a single team member who doesn’t fit in our culture perfectly. It’s impossible to not hire some misfits throughout your journey and the learnings from that are invaluable; but what’s more invaluable is when they’re managed out and what remains is a team that clicks together like a puzzle. Despite the long time it takes to get there It all just falls into place in an instant. Its magic!
I’m also very happy that we’ve managed to rehire one of our first tech hires who was with us for 5 years before leaving to take a CTO role in Dubai. Sotiris is rejoining the PPH family this January to act as Head Engineer for new product innovation. It’s perfectly timed for us as our core platform – PeoplePerHour – matures and although has a lot of improvements ahead that we are working on, they are, by and large, incremental innovations on a proven product. The team around Sotiris working closely with me will work on creating step innovation: launching brand new products, new brands, albeit always within the space we have mastered: the on-demand freelance economy.
The plan is to hone our assets to innovate radically: the approaching 2 million users on the platform, the know-how of the space we have accumulated over a decade now, the remarkable multi-disciplinary talent in the team , our brand and profits; and more importantly a growing market.
As I’ve said many a time I still believe its day 1 for the freelance economy. All of us put together have barely scratched the surface. A very small percentage of SMEs even in the developed world– which are naturally the early adopters – have embraced this new way of working and even a smaller percentage in the Enterprise sector.
So whilst a lot of entrepreneurs 10 years in are naturally looking for an exit, I’m looking for new entries. People who build empires don’t look for exits – they focus on long term value creation. The rest just comes.
The rehire of Sotiris is not just timely for this new chapter of innovation but it’s also reconfirms the strength of our culture and family bond. It gratifying to retain people for 9 years plus in an industry with so much churn and jumping around – it shows we are getting something right – but it’s doubly gratifying to rehire great people who you didn’t manage to retain.
2016 has been the first year where I have felt true contentment, as I explain in a previous post by the same title. It’s a feeling that comes with doing good, standing above the crowd, being the bigger person where you can, letting go and seeing the bigger picture. Being more macro than micro-minded. It’s a feeling that comes with giving and truly caring. The more of that you do the more good things come to you. It’s a virtuous cycle and it starts with us and us alone. I truly believe that.
I wish more of that to all of us in 2017. With the turmoil in the global political landscape it’s even more important and needed to balance the forces of evil with the forces of good.
Happy New Year!