I’m fortunate to have founded and built a successful employee engagement business – Reward Gateway. The company has over 1,100 clients on three continents, is fast growing, profitable and has been through two successful private-equity backed investments making great returns for shareholders and staff. The company has been described as “the poster child of employee engagement” with a very connected global workforce and a Glassdoor approval rating over 4 stars and a “recommend to a friend” score often over 90.
I often get asked “What came first? Did you build a successful business then invest some profit back into being nice to staff? Or was it the other way around?”
I want to be really clear here.
Absolutely, 100%, it was the engaged employees that built the successful company.
Very early on, we chose a path of actions that deliberately set out to create an engaged workforce. Those engaged employees then went on to build Reward Gateway into the most successful company in our sector, creating a $220 million buy out that we announced in July 2015. They were rewarded directly with a $10m pay out when that deal triggered the employee share plan to convert to ash.
Here’s the story.
When we founded Reward Gateway back in 2007. We had no money. I mean it. NO MONEY!
Reward Gateway has nearly 300 staff now handling revenue of over $200m per year but was founded less than 10 years ago on two credit cards. And they weren’t even big credit cards either, they certainly weren’t silver, gold or platinum! I hadn’t even heard of VC’s or fundraising when I started RG. All we had was those two credit cards and a vision.
We built software during the night, then hustled all day to get a client. And what we earned from one client, we invested in improving the product so we could win the next. It wasn’t glamorous, it wasn’t easy – but it was very satisfying and it made sure that we had a product that HR people loved from day 1 because HR people helped us build it each and every day.
Two credit cards and a vision to disrupt.
We founded the business initially focussed on employee benefits. It was later that we expanded the product suite to include employee communications and employee recognition and later again that we repositioned to employee engagement. But right from the start we set out to disrupt a sleepy old industry, an industry that we believed wasn’t focussed on delivering for HR. Now everyone with any sense said we would fail – but that’s a story for another day.
To disrupt a well funded employee benefits industry led by banks and financial services firms we would need top talent. But we had no money to pay for it. Hmmm.
The employee benefits industry back then was dominated by financial services firms with big pockets. So how would we attract top talent to unsettle them if we had no money? We’d use the only thing we could afford. We’d share with them our vision, excite them by our cause and connect them to our mission. We’d do everything we could to make sure they knew they were key to us achieving our goals and that by working with us they would achieve something great.
We did everything that we would later become to know as they key tools of employee engagement.
You see we built a business founded on employee engagement before we started making and selling employee engagement technology. And that’s how Reward Gateway has become so successful. It has always practiced what it preaches – even before it started preaching!
And that’s why I always say – I know that employee engagement works because my own business, Reward Gateway, is the living proof.
So my mission now both personally and professionally is to help share those learnings and successes through my own work and by leading Reward Gateway to help more and more organisation all around the world every month.
So just remember. Happy, engaged employees build better, stronger more successful organisations.
Employee engagement isn’t something you do for fun. It’s isn’t something you do to be nice. Employee engagement builds great businesses. It builds bottom line value.