We chat with Bhavin Turakhia, founder and CEO of messaging and collaboration app Flock. Bhavin tells us how he has wanted to be an entrepreneur his whole life and how communication is essential for success.
Please explain who you are, what your business is, and what it does/aims to achieve?
I am the founder and CEO of Flock, a messaging and collaboration app for teams that speeds up and simplifies communication and boosts productivity. Flock comes with powerful features and a slick, easy-to-use interface. It is the ideal tool for organisations looking to enable their employees to communicate in real time outside of email.
Flock also offers a platform for developers, FlockOS – the world’s first chat operating system. Developers can build customised apps, bots, and integrations on top of Flock and either use them within their organisation, or publish them on Flock’s App Store, making them available for all Flock users. Flock also comes with its own, pre-installed apps, built on top of FlockOS. These apps boost productivity and improve task and notification management. For example, the Shared To-Dos app and Mailcast app for sending group emails from within Flock are built into the product.
Enterprises and communities today need to be agile and nimble, and it is essential to work in teams and collaborate on projects. This makes it vital for them to have a superior team messaging app to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Our main business objective is to become the messaging and productivity app of choice for enterprises and communities across the globe.
What time does your day usually start and end?
My day typically starts around 7 – 8 am, and lasts until late into the night. I spend 10 to 12 hours in the office working with different teams and in meetings. After this, I spend about 4 to 6 hours working from home on the business, such as developing documentation on strategy to share with the team. Collaboration is at the core of my day – for example, the day usually starts and ends with cross country calls with global teams.
What is your favourite part of your job and what is your least favourite part?
I most enjoy meeting, interacting with and learning from the amazing talent at Flock, as well as ensuring that we have the best possible team members. I personally spend over 40% of my time on recruitment related activities.
As a firm believer in automation, manual tasks are my least favourite part of any day. To maximise my productivity, I try to delegate or automate anything that I need to do more than twice.
What inspired you to start your business? (And what made you want to be your own boss?)
I was convinced that I wanted to be an entrepreneur as a teenager. By the time I had finished university, I had started experimenting with a few ideas that led to my first business ventures. Eventually, in 1998, my brother Divyank and I co-founded our first company.
I’ve always been driven by the idea that we can use technology to solve the problems in our current business landscape. I realised that team communication had become a stagnant space, as there had been no significant change over the past decade in the way we communicated at work. And while email continues to be a mainstream communication tool among teams, it hasn’t really evolved. At the same time, our activities have become much more team-oriented and we need to be able to respond in real time to many challenges in the workplace. Thus, there is clearly a need for tools that let users collaborate in real time without any delays.
This is how we came to develop and test multiple chat applications. When we were convinced of the results of our various experiments, we launched Flock in 2014.
How did you fund your business?
Flock does not have any external investors. We are completely bootstrapped. Flock currently offers a free plan, and a pro plan at $3 per user per month where teams have the option of upgrading select users only. We also offer an enterprise plan, which gives users everything in the pro plan. For this, we charge an additional one-time cost for on-premise deployment.
Our pro plan has considerable benefits for users. The key difference is that while most of our competitors ask enterprises to pay for all users, we charge only for users for whom premium features have been activated.
What has been the biggest challenge for your business?
As with all disruptive technologies, Flock has its share of challenges. The most significant of these is convincing organisations to rely more heavily on a real time communication and collaboration tool, rather than email. However, this is a market change that we believe will take place naturally over time.
What do you feel are the biggest obstacles to growth for SMEs in the UK?
UK SMEs are faced with issues that affect SMEs globally, including difficulties in managing cashflow, navigating the competitive landscape and effectively communicating company strategy to employees. In the UK, slow broadband connection is also a problem in many areas that makes it hard for employees to communicate. To succeed, UK SMEs must ensure that they are finding agile, innovative ways to communicate on the go. Additionally, cybersecurity is an increasingly prominent risk for all businesses that many SMEs may not have the bandwidth to manage. UK SMEs must ensure that they are using secure products and services to manage their IT systems, including employee communication.
Have you made any mistakes along the way and how did you overcome them/learn from them?
I believe that everyone makes mistakes, but that failures and mistakes are often stepping stones to success. I have been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to learn from recognised leaders in the industry by devotedly reading hundreds of biographies of successful entrepreneurs. The credit for this habit goes to my father who instilled the daily habit of reading in me early on in life.
That’s how I learnt that if something doesn’t seem to work, I should immediately change my course of action and try something different. This has now become my default approach and is the reason why I don’t see anything in life as a failure. As long as you continue to innovate and try, you never fail. You’ll eventually find success. I also think that many people who are successful tend to seek to master a skill or idea and not just seek success.
What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to anyone looking to start their own business?
If I could give one piece of advice to anyone, I would say never compromise on the quality of the talent that you hire. We follow this principle diligently at Flock and across all my companies. At Flock, we have excelled at innovating and launching unique products and features only because we have the best people on board.
Secondly, I would advise that it is important for entrepreneurs starting out to understand that the definition of a successful business is that you create more value for your customer than you seek from them. Business models that meet this criteria are more likely to be successful.
What do you do to relax away from the hustle and bustle of work?
Though it may not be relaxing, I do participate in a lot of adventure sports. I regularly wake board, wake surf and snowboard, and occasionally go on weekend vacations to go jet skiing, fly boarding and scuba diving.