Each week we catch up with a different entrepreneur to discover what makes them tick, their top tips and more. This week we spend five minutes with Alex Hirst, co-founder and joint CEO of Huckleberry Partners.
Hi Alex! Please explain what Huckleberry Partners is and what is does.
Huckleberry Partners is a virtual marketing agency that works with big brands as well as startup businesses. We use technology to enable people to work flexibly, wherever and whenever they choose, tasking and rewarding them purely on their output. This makes them more productive, more motivated and more creative in their approach to problem solving.
What is your favourite part of your job and what is your least favourite part?
I take great satisfaction from freeing people from the drudgery of 9-to-5 working and the tediousness of office politics. With every new member that joins our community, we get a little stronger and the number of people joining us each week tells me that we have built something that people want to be part of, which is incredibly motivating. As with every new business, there are always challenges, but I can honestly say that there is nothing I dislike about my job – our business exists to help people do what they love, on their terms, and that applies to the CEOs too.
What inspired you to start your business, and what made you want to be your own boss?
I’ve never liked the unspoken pressure of having to work more hours than your employment contract in order to succeed in your career; it’s called presenteeism and it’s everywhere. Late emails and early morning meetings can create a toxic feeling of uncertainty that doesn’t reward people for the quality of their work. It’s office politics at its worst and so at the heart of our motivation was to create a business that rewards its people for the quality of their output, not how many hours they work. Whilst it is a big challenge to start a business of any kind, I am fortunate to have an incredible business partner in Lizzie Penny and we inspired each other to take it on.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
It was from a combination of wanting to reward our people for the quality of their output while concurrently revolutionising the eight hour working day – which is almost 200 years old and was created before electricity, nevermind the internet.
The working world has been painfully slow to catch up with technology, and to recognise that flexible working is good and healthy for everyone, and not just for mums. Working flexibly is about achieving a balance in life for yourself, whatever your circumstances. It’s time to consign out-dated thinking to the past and embrace this wonderful opportunity that has been afforded to us.
What has been the biggest challenge for your business?
The biggest challenge is to change people’s mindset – this is not a corporation, it is a community. That means we are only as strong as our individuals and will only realise our full potential when we all play our part. There’s therefore a different level of accountability placed on each person and on the need for collaboration when working in this way, so it takes very talented and ambitious people to make it work. Thankfully, this means we have a very talented workforce that our clients can benefit from too.
What do you feel are the biggest obstacles to growth for SMEs in the UK?
I believe that access to the highest level of talent is a limiting factor for SMEs, talent who could give the best advice or deliver the best output. This level of expertise is very difficult to attract, and even harder for small businesses to afford on a traditional 37.5 hour employment contract. We truly believe that our community provides SMEs with access to such talent, tasked towards their outputs and paid for only against the time they spend working. This should change the way SMEs think about growing their businesses entirely- investing in the delivery of high quality output rather than spending on the permanent placement of employees.
Have you made any mistakes along the way and how did you overcome them?
Certainly. Mistakes are the quickest way to improve, just don’t make them twice. When I formed my first company, I managed to do it without making myself a Director and it definitely won’t happen again!
My work ethic has always been to never make the same mistake twice and I think having an ethos like that is the most powerful way to ensure you actually learn from your mistakes.
What would you be doing if you weren’t running your own business?
I really don’t know, hopefully Lizzie and I would be running someone else’s business if we weren’t running our own! There is nothing more exciting or interesting for me than working in a start-up company, it’s an unbelievable way to learn and a hugely rewarding way to spend the day.