If you’re like most people, you’ve probably been laid off a time or two in your career through no fault of your own: Perhaps the company was sold, perhaps the product focus shifted, or perhaps your employer fell on hard times and had to reduce staff to conserve cash. In any case, when the layoff is unexpected — and even in cases when you had an inkling something was going on — the act can be a blow to your self confidence and result in a period of wallowing, both professionally and psychologically.
For Leah Hutcheon, getting laid off was one of the best things that ever happened to her.
“I often wonder, if I had not been made redundant, would I have had the guts to quit my day job and go full time” pursuing her entrepreneurial passion, Hutcheon told me during a recent interview for my podcast, Back Yourself.
At the time, Hutcheon was an editor at a luxury homes and interiors magazine, which was fine until the housing crash. She started freelancing and consulting, but noticed a problem: it was hard to engage with independent businesses. You could book an appointment with a hairdresser but not with a normal High Street business.
“I came up with the idea to solve that problem,” she said. “My passion was to empower these small businesses to get their hands on the same technology that large businesses had.”
Hutcheon’s business, Appointedd, now serves everyone from micro-businesses to Fortune 500 companies, making it an incredible success story.
“We really care about every customer, which works for both micro business and large businesses,” she said. “We are in the trenches with them, and that amount of care has allowed us to move steadily upstream.”
Getting to Know Your Customers: Learning KPIs and Macro Environments
Founded in 2011, Appointedd is a booking tool. The company is based in Edinburgh and operates in 23 countries. With Appointedd, companies of all sizes can turn their services into bookable experiences. The company combines the ease and convenience of 24/7 online booking with intelligent data and curated customer journeys. The solution, which makes booking available in as few as two taps, is scalable, so as businesses grow they do not lose the personal connection with customers that helped them succeed.
Appointedd has succeeded because the company has gone to great lengths to understand what their customers truly need. Appointedd, Hutcheon said, takes the time to understand their customers’ key performance indicators, their small challenges, and their macro environments. This way, Appointedd can make strategic recommendations that go a long way toward facilitating success. They add a dedicated account manager to each project to ensure performance and make more recommendations based on deep dives into data.
“That just leads to some magic, and some great results that we have seen from that approach,” she said.
The Value of Winning Awards: They Get You Noticed (and They Get You Money)
Entering contests can be a time-consuming process, especially for a small business that has a lot on its plate already. Yet Appointedd has won more than its fair share. The highlights include:
- 2017: Shortlisted for Scottish Business Award
- 2017: Ranked 4th for software in the IP League Table
- 2017: Ranked top 20 for Critical Databases in the IP League Table
- 2017: Innovation Entrepreneur of the Year runner up and Small Business Entrepreneur winner in the Great British Entrepreneur Awards
- 2017: Entrepreneur of the Year finalist from the Scottish Women’s Awards
- 2018: Ranked 5th in the Software category of the IP League Table
Winning was also valuable for Hutcheon and Appointedd because the cash awards helped the business stay afloat.
“I really needed that money,” she said. “If I did not get that money, the business was going to die.”
Appointedd has grown rapidly but faces stiff competition. Luckily, the company has brought on great investors who have both wisdom and patience to engage in growth for the long term.
“The key is to be in it for the long haul and to have the resilience and drive to keep going through that, and that’s tough for anyone,” she said. “If I had known how long it would take, whether I would have done it I just don’t know.”
Hutcheon’s one piece of advice for entrepreneurs? Make sure you surround yourself with great people.
The journey for an entrepreneur is demanding and difficult, she explained, and founders need all the support they can get. Make sure your team is there to help you and support you, whether it comes from family and friends or someone else.
“That camaraderie helps you get through the tough times because it is so tough,” she said. “We don’t talk about that enough.”
Leah Hutcheon turned being laid off into something great, founding an award-winning startup and staying relevant in a competitive market dominated by much larger players. Her recipe for success? Her company focuses on its clients’ KPIs and macro factors, creating a passion for support and empowerment that most other companies can only dream about.