We caught up with Simon Swan, who co-founded Hiring Hub which featured in the 2011 O2 Smarta 100 awards list. He told us about how his company has gone from strength to strength since the awards and why companies should enter.
Simon, how did it feel to be named in the O2 Smarta 100?
Simon: At the time we were less than a year old, and as any startup knows, that first year is a rollercoaster, so it was a very welcome and extremely satisfying moment when we were notified of our inclusion. In a way it validated what we were doing, while giving us some much needed (free) publicity.
When you applied for the awards did you think you would win?
Simon: We believed in what we were doing, and thought we’d executed it reasonably well with the resources we had so, yes, we entered the awards believing we could win. I think you have to have that attitude. If you don’t believe in your product, and yourself, then why would anyone else – a judge on an awards panel, for example?
Did you receive any publicity in the period after it that helped your business? Were you recognised by your peers or trade magazines?
Simon: We did, and it gave us a good bit of momentum. It was our very first award and so it created some buzz on social media, and with our local media and the trade press. I think that, as a new business, when you get recognised like that by a national organisation with a solid reputation, it puts you in the shop window and endorses your success to date, and your intent.
Did winning the award help you gain new business or funding? Did you gain new connections thanks to being named in the awards?
Simon: It certainly got us noticed and, yes, that resulted in new business and interest from investors that wanted to learn more about us, and what we were doing.
What success has your company achieved in the time following your being named in the O2 Smarta 100? Do you have any specific achievements you’d like us to share with readers online?
Simon: We’ve grown significantly. When we were included in the Smarta 100 we were two founders in a shared office with one employee – we had a laptop and a mobile phone each, and were putting in 80-hour weeks. We’re now a proper business, with processes and procedures, and staff that know more than we do – we’re a totally different organisation to the one that blagged that Smarta award!
What plans do you have for the future?
Simon: Big ones. The business is growing quickly in the UK, with revenue and profits more than tripling since this time last year. We’re investing in our technology, and about to kick-off a national marketing campaign. We’re also launching a new product in 2015, and going international. Exciting times.
What advice would you give to companies who are unsure if they should enter the awards?
Simon: What’s stopping you? There’s really no excuses. It’s the same with everything, you just need to get on and do it. Today.
Finally – if you were judging the awards, what would you specifically look for in a company?
Simon: I can’t believe you haven’t asked me. Gutted. For me, I’d look for companies that are doing things differently. It might be a completely new invention or product that’s disrupting an entire industry, or it might be that they just have a really clever way of marketing their company, or driving customer service, or creating a great culture to work in. But they have to have a story, and they have to stand out for doing something that is bold, innovative, and different. And they must believe in it. Have a purpose. They have to stand for something greater than simply being another business. You don’t have to be developing a new material for NASA to be innovative and different. You can be a local hairdresser or Fish ‘n’ Chip shop doing something with a twist, with great ambition, a vision, and a plan to get yourself there. They also have to be really passionate about their business. I’m free for judging next year, and I’m cheap…
There is still time to enter the O2 Smarta 100 awards, with the closing date on September 12. The awards are in their fifth year and celebrate the most resourceful, inspiring and disruptive small businesses in the UK.