My favourite moment as a business founder
Last week I found myself in a final round interview on a Tuesday afternoon (here at MarketInvoice either myself or my co-founder still do a final “values check” interview before we hire anyone as a way to assess whether the candidate would suit the kind of culture we’re trying to build).
After asking quite a few questions for 20 mins or so, I always leave a bit of time to answer one or two candidate questions at the end, and I was suddenly confronted with a different one than usual, it went:
“What’s been your favourite moment since you started MarketInvoice?”
Now immediately my brain thought it should jump to talking about numbers (perhaps the moment we did our first £100m of funding to businesses through the platform, or when we raised our Series A funding, or the largest transaction we ever funded…). But then I realised that for most people including myself, a favourite moment is much more than just a number, it’s usually a feeling that leaves you with a lasting impression. I commented that this was a good question — the classic trick to play for time.
And then it hit me, I knew my favourite moment.
About a year ago last November, I decided to pay a visit to one of our users that was located the closest to where I live. One of the reasons I enjoy living in Bermondsey in South London is the many varied small businesses in the area: from the Bermondsey Biscuit Factory to a shared work space in an old converted leather market on Weston Street — there are all sorts of companies located here. And the people behind these companies often also live locally.
So I arrived for a coffee around 8.30 in the morning. The elevator opened into a beautiful office just located off Bermondsey Street and with a clear view of The Shard above London Bridge. The company is a specialist brand and interior design consultancy doing a wide variety of work for clients ranging from local upmarket restaurants in the area to large customers like Harrods, Tesco and West Field.
The office had a smart feel with bright walls and around 30 people behind high-spec Apple macs. I was greeted by the team’s Finance Director, who sat me down in a meeting room that overlooked the open planned office. We then spent a good 30 minutes running through the product experience, funding limits, rates, and how the company wanted to increase their draw-downs through MarketInvoice given the recent larger new orders coming through. All good news. Of course there were also suggestions for improvements to our platform and service, how it compared to the high street banks, and I was jotting them all down diligently for my product team.
Soon the door opened and in stepped the founder and director of the company — a veteran of the industry and someone who clearly lived and breathed design. After we shook hands he asked his Finance Director whether we could have a few moments alone. Here I started to think that something might be amiss and I was curious as to whether he was unhappy with our product.
Once the door closed, he beckoned me over to the glass meeting room window through which we viewed the team at work. He started to point out a group of 10 or so designers, heads down, busy at work. Noticing my puzzled look, he turned back to me and said:
“Listen, I really wanted to take a moment alone one founder to another to thank you. I’m being serious, you see that group of 10 designers there, I would never have been able to have the confidence to hire them were it not for the stability in cash flow that MarketInvoice provides me. I really feel so much more confident knowing that I can rely on your platform to get me the cash owed by my customers . And you see all of them have families, and it’s coming up to Christmas, and it makes me feel proud to be able to have them here and provide for them.”
And then it hit me, I realised that the feeling I was experiencing as the founder said this to me was much more meaningful than any of the times we’d celebrated funding milestones or transaction volumes in the past. This was a real life success story that MarketInvoice had made possible. And his words had really come from the heart. I only wished that more of the team back at the MarketInvoice HQ were around to hear this.
This moment has stayed with me since. In fact, when we have tough months or things don’t go according to plan, this memory helps me stay focused on the long-term vision of what we are trying to build at MarketInvoice. If we can empower thousands of business owners across the UK to feel like this founder does, to give people the confidence and stability to recruit talented people and grow their companies, then their stories will define our brand and our success.
And it’s also made me aware of the need to find the feeling in what we are doing. While the Finance Director wanted to talk numbers and projections, the founder told me about the feeling he got since they started using us and what it meant for him. I think this is a huge opportunity for everyone at MarketInvoice to think about what emotions our work will unlock for our users.
Finally, what I also find meaningful is that this is a local story. I’ve since seen this particular founder in our local area in restaurants and cafes (some of which he’s designed himself). Walking down Bermondsey Street the other week I saw 4 other companies located there start to use MarketInvoice for their finances. And each time I pass a small business I’m tempted to knock on the door and tell them about what we do. Behind every door might be a founder or director trying to figure out how he can take on that larger contract or hire that great person he’s always wanted to find.
I believe every area of the UK has these entrepreneurial heroes, these local pioneers who create jobs and wealth and don’t let anyone stand in their way. They are a deeply durable people who bring wealth and prosperity to their neighbourhoods, and it’s our job to give them the finance they need to realise their dreams. Fundamentally, this is why we started our company.