As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Ed Reeves.
Ed co-founded Moneypenny with his sister in 2000. He was a competitive windsurfer, marketeer and graphic designer before launching Moneypenny which is one of the fastest growing technology businesses of their type, handling 20 million calls and chats annually on behalf of 20,000 businesses in the UK and US.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I am the co- founder of Moneypenny. We offer thousands of businesses across the UK and the US very best and latest telephone answering, Live Chat and Digital Switchboard services so we can help businesses provide amazing customer services for their clients 100% of the time. The idea of Moneypenny came about following a disastrous experience with a telephone answering company I used whilst I was away windsurfing. The receptionist there told one of my clients that she couldn’t put paper in the fax machine as she was ‘only the answering service’! As a result I lost that client. That was the moment when I really felt that there was a better way that these businesses could be run, so I set about selling the concept to my sister, Rachel, who I founded Moneypenny with in 2000.
We were both into marketing in our individual careers and we’d learned a lot of good lessons between us but it took that bad experience for us to take the plunge.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Our first recruit. What a disaster. We employed her off her CV, and didn’t pay attention her attitude. We were naïve. Within the first hour we realised there was a problem. As a result of the copious amount of Coke she was drinking, she burped repeatedly down the phone. To her it was normal. We were dumbstruck. We had no idea that people could be so wrong. Our first recruit, to this day, was our shortest.
CVs mean pretty much nothing to us now. We always recruit on attitude first and then teach the skills. Anyone who effectively smiles down the phone can be taught the skills to become a stunning receptionist. Even with senior hires, if the attitude isn’t right, they’re immediately written out of the hire process.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I’m not a big reader of business books, which is probably not a great thing. Podcasts, I’m a lover of the Business Wars series, which is as much about entertainment as it is learning. I am a complete soak when it comes to business articles, profiles and case studies. Above all though, my primary source of inspiration comes from people. I’m the worst person to sit next to on a train. I quiz and quiz. When I meet up with a client especially, they’re by far the best people to learn from. They like to know that they can influence the business going forward.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
When we started, and still to this day, we were absolutely clear that the world of traditional answering services did not reflect what businesses wanted. Nameless faceless people answering calls following a script. That’s not good for any business. They wanted one person, a brilliant individual who they know and trust, handling calls exactly as if based within their office. A phone call is not a simple transferable commodity, it’s a valuable opportunity. We have the best people and business in the world at ensuring businesses turn those opportunities into money.
The research is correct, but unless everyone within the business buys into your purpose, there’s no point. Ask anyone at Moneypenny where we stand against traditional answering services and you’ll have the above response recited to you. It’s the reason why we’ve so quickly become the world’s largest.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Recruit people who are better than you at every single aspect of the business than you are. That’s the only way any business can truly scale. If you’re the best recruiter, you’re the best business person there is. And when you make mistakes, which you will, act quickly.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I think I speak for anyone with children when I say that it’s hard for us parents, it’s an awful lot harder for them. Their school routine, their friends, their activities, their interactions, they all stopped overnight. And those are all imperative parts of growing up, the distractions that keep them eternally busy. At home we focused on the new normal, giving them the support to explore what they want to do to find their new version of entertainment — three months ago, the thought of one of my daughters wanting to invent a meal simultaneously with 4 friends over a video chat… this is the new world. So much is going to change and that change is so exciting.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
At the start of these ‘unprecedented times’ we considered that the whole Moneypenny business was incapable of being run on a daily basis from homes. We’re ostensibly a tech company, but that tech required everyone to work closely for a whole host of reasons.
But we were wrong. Akin to handing someone a ticking bomb to diffuse, the operations and tech teams had two weeks to achieve the impossible.
For the Tech department, this was their opportunity to show off, and they took it. They worked all the hours, sleeping at desks, breaking things, fixing things. Doing what great tech people do. And they did it because they were empowered. No one asked them. They knew they held the future of one of the fastest growing companies in the land in their hands.
Within 7 days the best part of a thousand staff, split between the UK and US, were all working from home. And most importantly, as far as our clients are concerned, it was and still is business as usual.
And they’ve done it again for our clients. Off their own backs they’ve churned out Covid 19 checking bots for our clients. Brilliant.
Companies across Europe are adapting, changing their business models and surviving the crisis. Look to them for some inspiration. It doesn’t matter what industry they are in, there are lessons to be learned. From Christian Dior Perfumes switching production to hand sanitiser or Barbour producing scrubs for the NHS to McLaren and Dyson offering expertise, staff and factory space. It is brilliant people and brilliant things again.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
These are tough times and I can’t imagine how it would be for someone living alone through this period. But we adapt, we all adapt. And the onus on all of us is to ensure that our new ways focus on supporting those in need. But the people who have it the hardest, they’re the ones for whom social isolation really does mean that. The first thing we did was teach our parents how to use Facetime, and ensure that they have sustained and routine contact from friends and family. And it seems to be working. Spirits are good. And remembering that, whilst things will be different, there’s an end to the isolation.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
We traded through the 2008 downturn well and sustained growth through keeping a glass half full approach. We’re there again. The world’s changed and the losers will be those who don’t embrace that fact and recognise the incredible opportunity. One thing that’s certain is that every business out there has taken stock of where they are and where they’re going. This is a fresh start. People are more open to new ideas, new ways of working and accepting change more so than has ever been the case in our modern history. If ever there was a landscape for opportunity and growth, this is it. Seize it and profit from it. We will.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
It’s hard to start a list. The magnitude of this change cannot be underestimated. We will have Pre-Covid and Post-Covid comparisons just as we did pre and post-war. I struggle to see where’s there’s no change. The big one for business practice is the communication and interaction. My Physio Therapist has started doing pre-consultations over Facetime. That would have been laughed at months ago, but now makes sense. Board meetings over video. They work brilliantly. And the value we place on true face to face interaction, that’s now priceless.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
The post-Covid world is our oyster. We were already making big moves into tech products, and this is going to increase even more. And we’re going to push harder the merits of our ability to support homeworking, where we provide a central point for companies’ staff calls with their clients, totally removing the need for business to have an in-house switchboard. And as change is happening so quickly, we’re ensuring that we can react just as fast. The simple fact is that no person in the world knows what’s coming, but they all agree, it involves massive change.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
Motivate everyone? You are their motivation. Your belief and enthusiasm, let everyone catch it. That’s your energy that they’ll adopt. Under no circumstances is this the time to share tales of woe, hardship or impending doom. If you think the sky’s going to fall in, your team will too and it surely will.
Yes, there’s a P&L for you to worry about. But that’s just good practice. It’s a maintenance job. And empowering those same people who are driving the business to focus on creating efficiencies at the same time, they’ll step up to the mark. Everyone loves responsibility and opportunities to shine. The virus has changed the landscape forever. It’s reset. From here on, whilst staff hunt for growth, they do it with an eye on the profit. They’re accountable
Can you please give us your favourite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but can start now and change the ending.” And sorry, I’ve no idea who said it. Academically I was a disaster at school. I knew how to have a good time, very little else. But I was somewhat lost when most of my friends were landing the city jobs, and I was still surfing around on the waves. So I did it myself and to this day and, temporary work aside, have never been employed by anyone else. The same applies now with this virus. Look forward.
How can our readers further follow your work?
Linkedin is probably best (https://www.linkedin.com/in/ed-reeves-28492ab/). I’m looking for business investment opportunities at the moment, post start-up businesses looking to scale. I also write regularly for the media on leadership lessons. We also have some great social media activity on our Moneypenny accounts.