How did you start the business?
I was on track to pursue a career as a lawyer, until one day back in 2018 when I was sat in a pizza shop with my co-founder Harry, and we decided to launch a digital raffling and fundraising website together. I had always held giving back close to my heart, and we realised that we had stumbled upon a really powerful way to encourage giving; donations would surely skyrocket if people received a chance to win something amazing alongside, and in contrast with the lottery, we could allow people the choice over exactly where their money went.
In any case, we immediately got to work and after getting to grips with the regulations and building the website, we launched Raffolux in March 2019.
How do you evaluate the past ups/downs of your business?
Emotionally, there’s nothing quite like it! I began working on Raffolux at the start of my 20s, and it’s admittedly pretty terrifying giving up some very important years of a more traditional career path to pursue something that may work but also may go horribly wrong. So, if and when things start to go right, it’s an incredible feeling – and equally, when you experience setbacks, it can feel like your world is crumbling. It does take a great deal of getting used to, but approaching these swings in a measured way and staying optimistic in every circumstance is critical not only to keep your head up but also to help your company grow. I also think that your reaction to the bad times helps to equip you with the tools to maximise and sustain the good times.
What is a typical day like for you?
I’m not a big morning person, so I tend to leave a very small amount of time between waking up and leaving the house for the office; normally I go from my bed to my car in around 15 minutes. I’ll make some hands-free calls to the Raffolux team on the road to help them plan out their day and see if they need anything from me, and then I’ll get straight into my work.
I don’t tend to hold too many internal meetings; the important items are covered in the morning call, and I’d much prefer that people (including myself) spend their time being productive rather than idling in discussions they don’t need to be a part of.
What are the biggest challenges to being an entrepreneur?
Overcoming rejection, dealing with adversity and staying positive in every circumstance! The bad times and the good are both magnified significantly when you’re responsible for running a business, and it’s important to stay level-headed throughout the journey.
How do you handle the stress that comes with responsibility?
To be honest, I think this type of stress is a useful motivator and helps you stay on your game day to day. Having said that, everyone has off days, and I tend to go on walks to clear my head if I need to.
How do you take care of your own and the mental health of your workforce?
I make sure that everyone’s work-life balance is sustainable, and check in regularly with the team to see how they’re getting on. If someone’s having a particularly bad time, their mental well-being always comes first, and we encourage them to take time away from work when they need it.
What’s your definition of success?
I don’t have one, to be honest! Just to try to be happy, and to encourage the happiness and progression of others.
How did you win over your first customers? First investors? First business partners?
For our first investors, perseverance was absolutely key, and as a young company with limited underlying data at that point, the storytelling element was critical.
What’s your most satisfying entrepreneur moment so far?
Raising our first big round. Being trusted with over £1,000,000 of others’ money means they believe in you and your business and was a huge validation of the hard work that preceded it.
Have you ever felt unsure of a decision you made?
Of course! I feel at least a little uncertain in many of the decisions I make but I think that’s a normal part of properly considering all the possibilities. I think it’s often better to get something wrong in an effort to go forwards rather than letting a sense of conservatism take over.
What are your daily habits for connecting with your team?
I make calls to each of the team while on the way up to work to help them plan their day and see if they need anything from me, and then for the most part we try to let each other get on with our work without disturbance.
How do you build trust with your employees?
Take an interest in their lives outside of work; criticise them only in private (and praise them in public); give open and honest feedback and ask them to give you the same in return, and consistently reward them for good work.
How do you keep your team motivated?
I think the key is to let them share in the business’s success and to link each input to output, but alongside this, it’s so important to do the following;
- Praise your team for good work, and in public where possible
- Set challenging but achievable goals
- Capture their imagination as a leader
- Reward people that deserve it and remove those that don’t. Sounds harsh – but when your team know that someone’s underperforming and you don’t do something about it, it hurts everyone’s morale.
What is and how do you encourage company culture?
Company culture spans four things for me;
- You can be trusted to work from anywhere
- You feel like you can ask for help
- Debate and disagreement are encouraged
- You feel included, engaged, and involved
In terms of encouraging a good culture, I really think it’s just a case of the company leaders ensuring they treat everyone with compassion and reflecting on their progress against the points above. In reality, a lot of the work that goes towards creating a great company culture takes the form of small, consistent actions and decisions with your people in mind; e.g. recognising solid contributions in front of all staff; preparing properly for all 1-1 meetings, and never failing to recognise good work by your team. I think companies often make the mistake of confusing good culture with relatively meaningless perks – free coffee, free beer, and a subscription to a mindfulness app are great, but can easily become substitutes for any genuine reason to work at your firm. I also think that company leaders often know when they’re responsible for a poor culture – if the thought of having an honest feedback session from your staff terrifies you, then the chances are that you run a terrible place to work!
How do you plan on growing your business?
We plan to expand internationally in 2023, where we feel we have identified a number of new markets that suit our business model down to a T.
Thank you for your time Gerry – SMEToday.