Startups to watch

Startup to Watch: Commusoft

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Chris Apostolou

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Here at Work In Startups, we’re on a mission to champion the best and most exciting startups in the UK. To support this, we’re starting a new blog series highlighting some of the most innovative and fast-growing startups around. Follow us as we interview startup founders and employees across the country and find out more about their goals and ambitions, what the future holds and (for all you startup jobseekers out there looking for the inside scoop) what they look for in a prospective employee.

This week, we’re interviewing Jason Morjaria, Founder of Commusoft, a cloud-based workforce management solution for field service companies of all sizes including plumbers, gas and heating engineers, electricians and oil technicians. Commusoft is growing quickly, rapidly hiring and helping field service companies improve their value proposition.

What would you say Commusoft’s mission is? 

To educate and empower field service companies to provide world class customer journeys. Field service companies traditionally have a bit of a bad rap in terms of how people perceive them. For example, when you call a plumbing company, you often wonder whether the plumber will turn up on time and get the job done in a timely matter. We want to get rid of this stigma and encourage good companies to provide good customer journeys. 

When you call up a business and book a service, you have a number of interactions with them. How do they treat you? What do they say over the phone? Do they let you book the service right there and then? Once you’ve booked the service, do you get a confirmation straight away? Do you get a reminder a few days before the service? Do you know for certain that they will turn up? What about when they will turn up? Do you know what they’re like when they’re on site? Do they wear dirty boots on your carpet? All of these interaction points amalgamate into an experience that you have with this field services company. We want to educate them on how to ensure every one of these touchpoints comes with a brilliant customer experience. 

It doesn’t matter how much tech you provide a business, if they don’t know how to execute on it then they’re ultimately not going to improve their business proposition. If they don’t schedule specific time slots or send well-written emails, regardless of the tech they have access to, customers will have a negative journey and, therefore, a negative overall experience. So we focus on educating our clients, implementing our job management software and reviewing their accounts and content. We have a whole team dedicated to producing marketing content for our clients, whether this be video content, blog posts or articles. We want to help them get into the shoes of their customers and ask “does what we’re doing make sense? Can we change anything?”

What are your employee values?

Definitely going “above and beyond” for our clients. This is pretty evident in our inbound content. We had one company call up the other day and say “we know you’re not Sage, but they suck at answering the phone, is there anything you can do?”, which I think is testimony to the amount of support we give our clients. They genuinely believed we would go above and beyond for them – which we would! Another support email came in asking us to consult on how their website looked, which has nothing to do with our business but they trust us and believe we can make their business more successful. 

We also strongly value learning! From all the interviews we’ve conducted, every person we spoke to said they wanted to learn more, and we have an open policy about that. For example, someone in our Client Services Team was asking about SQL. She didn’t really understand it and wanted to learn more, so I set aside one hour with her in a conference room, explained it to her, and gave her tips about how to learn it. We feel people with scaleup jobs should be actively encouraged to show interest outside of their roles, and firmly believe that what you learn here shouldn’t necessarily be tied to what you do. This is exemplified by the fact that we also run cooking lessons. Cooking is a basic, fundamental skill and vital to leading a happy and healthy life – so we want our employees to know how to cook and look after themselves. We also invest significantly in our employees’ professional development.  We regularly pay for formal training and conferences, which are especially important given how quickly we’ve grown. We’re adding new layers of management every year and we really don’t like the idea of someone becoming an ‘accidental manager’. If they have just started managing a team, we want to make sure that they’re supported so we have consultants come in and teach them how to be managers. We’ve loosely done this forever, but it was when we wrote it down and thought about it properly that we realised how a few things that didn’t work three years ago can be attributed to people having insufficient training.

Additionally, we think employee wellness is extremely important and this is one of our core values. Lots of us go climbing together and many practise yoga regularly, however this isn’t what makes wellness one of our startup values. The fact that we invest in it is what makes it a core value: we pay for everyone’s gym membership, climbing or swimming, etc. We also give our employees the space to do activities: if they want to attend a yoga class in the morning and get in at 10, that’s completely ok, providing they’re adept at managing their own time and make up the hours elsewhere. 

Can you tell us a bit about your growth over the past few years? What’s next for Commusoft?

I started Commusoft in 2006 while I was at Aston University but I began writing code well before then. I had been writing code with one field services client in mind and realised that there was a strong business case for the software I was developing. As part of my degree, I had to do a placement year, so I went to the business school and asked if I could run my own business during that year instead. No one had ever asked to do that before, so it was quite novel, but after giving it a lot of thought they agreed. It’s funny because since then they’ve actually started encouraging entrepreneurial activity!

I was meant to return for my final year after my ‘placement’ – but I never went back. By then I had taken on 30 clients and Commusoft was doing pretty well, so there didn’t really seem any point in returning. I met our CTO, Raj, in 2008 and we grew Commusoft steadily until about 2013 – by then we had a fairly large number of clients and were turning over a million a year. I would say we properly focused on Commusoft in 2011/2012 – that was the year we decided to completely rewrite our product base, which was expensive and arduous, but so, so worth it. We launched our re-written product in 2016 and our growth since then has been pretty astonishing: we’ve more than doubled in size to 54 talented startup employees, and we expect to add another 50% to head count this year. We also opened an office in Chicago last September – so have started expanding overseas. There’s so much potential to grow the business and we’re in a great position: bootstrapped and turning a profit! 

As for what the future holds, we’re doing a couple of things. We’re firstly trying to align more of our team in one direction, which is especially important given the number of people that will join the company this year. We’re doing this by defining and redefining our mission and values.

We’re also looking to expand our US operations. It’s a new market and new team, so it’s a great learning opportunity – like building another new startup altogether, but bringing to bear the lessons we’ve learnt already. We’re trying to figure out how to best serve our US clients, and grow our client base. In the UK, our work in 2020 is all about scale. We’re looking to bring on as many new clients as possible and we’re seeing our product develop even further. We have companies that have grown with our business and don’t want them to outgrow us! As such, we’re reinvesting in engineering to make sure our product can grow and develop with our clients.

What do you look for in a prospective employee?

It entirely depends on the role. However, attitude is probably number one and this is really hard to gauge in an interview.  When the interview is only an hour long, you have to glean as much as you can, but even then you might not get the full picture. I firmly believe that most people can be taught anything, providing they have the right attitude – so turn up enthusiastic, having done a lot of research into Commusoft – and you’ll do well here. However, I do think experience is fairly important as well. If you’re new to your career, or new to the natural demands of a startup job in general, you probably don’t know what you want yet, so it’s more ambiguous whether you will enjoy the role. For example, client services can be one of the toughest roles. You have to deal with clients all day, every day, and they can be quite difficult at times. If you have experience in this role, you’re more likely to enjoy it.

We also look for people that are personable. We do the classic litmus test of “could I stand to be stranded in an airport with you?” – if the answer is yes, then you’d be a good fit for Commusoft. Additionally, we really value diversity. Our leadership team is 50/50 men/women and our whole company is almost 50% female – something we’d recommend every startup (and in fact every company) try and pursue. We also have people from all over the world working in our office.

Do you have any advice for people thinking about founding their own startup but currently unsure?

I think if you’re starting out with the intention to ‘found your own startup’ – you’re already on the wrong foot. Startups are not glamorous and you really do get your hands dirty, especially in the beginning. I once had to delete 25,000 records one at a time to resolve a problem, which was laborious but necessary. There was no one else but me who could do it. 

Because it’s not glamorous, you have to be passionate about what you’re doing. When I started out, I liked coding and the product. Commusoft was a project of sorts that I put time and effort into because I loved it. It was only after I had developed it a bit that I thought maybe other people would be interested in it. It became a business a few years later and the rest is history. 

If you don’t love it, then it’s going to be tough to stick with it. The first few years can be really difficult and you’ll likely make little money. If I told you you were going to make £50 a week doing it for a year, would you still pursue it? If you can do something for free and love it, only then should you start it! 

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