When our PR firm suggested I do a CEO blog, I thought “Why not? you are only 65. You like to try new things. Give it a go”. So, here it is and, having committed to it I will post regularly on three recurring themes. They are:
Reward stuff – got to really, as CEO of a reward tech start-up, that’s a given and … how lucky I am. Reward is under the spotlight. It is not just of interest to HR folk who work on employee engagement, experience, purpose the Future or Work but, in a turbulent world, where the headlines shout about pay gaps, inequality, cultural division, and sustainability, everyone has an opinion on reward. This is a great time to talk about “reward stuff”.
uFlexReward – Without a doubt, this is the best company I have ever worked for and that is saying something. In a career stretching over 30 years in tech start-ups, I have worked with many great people in many great companies where we established great new markets, but this is the best and so are the people, including fellow travelers who have worked with me since the 1990s and a new generation who are hooked on our creative mission. As CEO there is an obligation to share the story of how we created a spinout from Unilever, a global multinational.
Being a Start-up CEO in Unilever – These days it seems everyone wants to do start-ups. Back in 1987 when I did my first early-stage funding was difficult to raise. It was your credit cards and re-mortgaging. Starting uFlexReward as a spinout from Unilever, a global firm with $1bn in the bank could not be more different. This is unlike any start-up I have ever worked in. In fact, it is so different that’s what I am going to blog this first.
When I meet new clients, or I am at an event where I am asked “Why is a soap power company (Unilever) selling HR tech?”. The answer to that is; Unilever didn’t want to develop the world’s first real-time, total reward system but it was forced to because there was (and is) nothing to buy off the market. And, if you stump up millions to create an important new product that holds the key to a billion-dollar market, you would be stupid not to sell it.
From here we face two obstacles. The first is to persuade global firms it is safe to buy HR Tech from a soap powder company (Unilever) and the second is to ensure that Unilever (a soap powder company) is never embarrassed by a failed customer IT project. Given the track record of IT failures, especially in HR, this could be daunting but it’s not.
Fortunately, no IT system ever has been so thoroughly wrung out, ironed out, and totally proven. Before it was launched uFlexReward was fully developed and in daily use with over 120,000 Unilever employees in 140 countries. It actually works! which is not always the case for HR Tech, especially new HR Tech. And it doesn’t just work, it tops the league of HR applications in terms of employee engagement, monthly logins, system performance, reliability, security, and strategic benefits. Thanks to this we are so confident offer the same “try before you buy”, an offer pioneered by our colleagues in soap powder. If clients don’t like it, they can send it back without paying a penny but none of them does, because they soon realize, they can’t do without it. Unfortunately, it can take one to two years to win permission to start a free trial, as the system must pass all the same IT, procurement, and security tests as a product that cost $1m on day one, but the important thing is: there is no risk of a failed project for clients or Unilever.
So, my job as CEO of uFlexReward is to deliver two disruptive events. Firstly, create a whole new category of HR tech (real-time digital total reward), and secondly, prove it is possible to sell IT systems with no failed projects. Who wouldn’t want that job?
Ken Charman – CEO of uFlexReward