Ex-Yahoo! Finance Manager Robert Gorle and his new role as Financial Director at Perkbox
This month’s CFO Insight feature looks at the work of Rob Gorle – Finance Director of Perkbox, a leading digital employee engagement and customer loyalty saas platform. It’s designed to help businesses of all sizes attract, retain and motivate staff and customers. Since its launch in 2015, Perkbox has grown its annual revenue to £14M and recently raised £4.3m through crowdfunding platform Seedrs – the largest of its kind, which included an investment from VC Draper Esprit. Robert has previously worked at a number of other tech start-ups, including Zattikka and Plumbee. Here he talks about the ins-and-outs of his position and the challenges and rewards of supporting financial and commercial projects in such a high-growth and fast-paced environment.
You worked for Yahoo! Inc. for over 7 years – could you tell us a bit about the experience? What did these 7 years teach you and how do you draw on this in your current role?
Yahoo! has some of the smartest and most driven people, many of whom have gone on to work with or set up other leading companies. Despite its size, it’s managed to keep a fun, young ‘work hard play hard’ culture. I had a number of roles, where I focused on financial planning and analysis. I spent three years at its HQ in Silicon Valley, getting involved in group-level planning. It was a rare opportunity for me to learn and get experience across a range of finance areas, ranging from systems, planning, management insight, commercial product analysis through to governance and M&A – much of which is still relevant to a fledgling start-ups’ finance team. I learnt how to work within a complex matrix organisation structure – everything after that has been relatively simple!
What goals are you arriving with as a Finance Director of Perkbox? What do you hope to accomplish?
It’s important to understand the structure of the business and ensure that there are appropriate systems and controls in place, so that we have a solid foundation to scale. I’ve been here a few months now and we’ve already rolled out a new budget and forecasting framework, planned our first audit and are mid-way through implementing a new accounting system. I’m also looking forward to bringing a different perspective to the leadership team to support key decisions and prioritization, and to help identify any potential issues early. With this combination of governance, insight and decision support, I hope to help the company scale to achieve its huge potential in a growing market.
What are some of the challenges have you been faced with so far?
Perkbox received a £4.4M funding in December and has already started to invest in its team. One common challenge at this exciting stage with new funding, is the difficulty in prioritizing investment across multiple requests from different products and functions, as well as new initiatives. Perkbox’s management team have maintained its focus on the core UK market to firmly establish itself as a leader, but different opportunities and extensions to the product are constantly under review.
Where revenue has tripled for two years running, the company has certainly experienced some growing pains. Without the time or priority to invest in new systems, the level of manual work has increased significantly in some areas. The new Netsuite accounting system will help to address this and help us scale by interfacing between different systems and automating various time-consuming processes.
Perkbox is a young, innovative start-up and it is critical to keep the energy and spark alive by empowering individuals to make quick decisions, while at the same time having robust processes and control in place during periods of rapid growth. We have updated key processes and even found, in some cases, that it was possible to reduce decision-making friction through clearer approval responsibilities, but we are aware that this is an area that needs to be regularly updated as the company grows headcount and expands.
Could you tell us about Perkbox’s extensive plans to expand in the UK?
Over the past two years, Perkbox has become one of the leaders in the UK market, with over 5,000 customers, ranging from employers looking to engage a small team, through to customer loyalty schemes with 100k+ users. We are continuing to focus our resources on the UK, where we have now grown to over 130 staff. In January, we opened a new office in Sheffield to handle some of our sales and customer support areas.
We’re aiming to increase our market share for both customer loyalty and employee engagement products, and are rolling out tools across the business to help us segment our markets. Our initial offering was very much focused on SMEs, but as our range of perks and discounts has grown, we’ve become an effective retention tool for customers of all sizes.
What does the future hold for you and Perkbox? Do you have any upcoming plans or projects you would be willing to share with us?
We’re very much a technology company and are constantly redeveloping and improving our product. The 2017 plan includes a full roadmap of new features for making the rewards and discounts easier to use and administer and more relevant and engaging for different types of customers. We’re always on the lookout for great channel partners to offer new rewards, and for enthusiastic staff who share our passion for creating engaging products.