Getting To Know You: Nigel Shanahan, MD of Rapide

What do you currently do?

I am the MD and founder of Rapide who are one of the UK’s leading customer engagement specialists, providing real-time, voice of the customer solutions to over 250 global brands.

Our hero product is Rant & Rave which gives customers a simple way to moan or cheer about a brand. It is an award winning technology that gives our cilents’ customers a platform to rant, or rave, about whatever they are providing them with. So, for example, we work with West Bromwich Building Society and after every telephone conversation, customers are invited to answer questions and leave feedback verbatim that is then analysed by our technology and uploaded onto a dashboard for them all to see so they can find out just what their customers are really thinking. And it doesn’t just mean analysing what your customers feel but also finding out what your employees think about certain things which helps build a harmonious working environment.

Today, evolution in technology (particularly the mobile phone) means that capturing feedback is so much more than just having people answer a quick fire survey. Businesses need to know what their customers are thinking while the experience is fresh in their mind and that is how we can help.

I launched the company in 2000 and we’ve changed dramatically since then. Being pioneers in mobile technology we need to ensure we always know what’s going on in innovations and use them to our and our client’s advantage.

What is your inspiration in business?
To leave a mark and make a difference. Whenever I talk to people in the business, I talk about the legacy that I want to leave with Rant & Rave. I want to be able to sit down with my grandchildren one day and for them to know instinctively what Rant & Rave is and the way in which it has impacted the world.

My team has always inspired me too. We are now 50 person strong and we pull together extremely well and this has encouraged me as I know I have their support to succeed.

Who do you admire?
There are three key people who I admire for different reasons. Firstly, Richard Branson because he has made a success of so many complicated ventures and had fun doing it. The Virgin brand has never lost that fun factor.

Next, there’s Alex Ferguson. Obviously, I’m a Manchester United fan but also because of his focus and clarity of vision. He knows what he wants to achieve and he will single mindedly run with it until he succeeds.

Finally, David Cameron. Not because of his political persuasion but because of the way he is able to retain his composure when faced with very tough situations. That’s a quality that I really respect.

Looking back would you have done things differently?
Yes certainly. I had a Venture Capitalist on board when I first launched Rapide in 2000 and this was a mixed blessing really. Of course, we had the investment for the business but this came with lots of caveats and constraints and I would be much more reluctant about doing that again.

I think I could have taken a few more risks along the way. We certainly could have grown quicker if we had been less cautious but we’re making up for lost time now!

What defines your way of doing business?
Transparency – I’m fairly clear with whoever I’m dealing with. Fairness is a big thing for me but then again so is FUN. It’s important to me that we celebrate our successes together too. Often sales teams are treated to an annual conference somewhere exotic. We do it differently. Later this month we’re heading to Miami and everyone’s invited. These annual trips are a way of recognising our achievements from the past year and bringing the team together. There is a caveat though – we only go if we hit our revenue target and these are deliberately ambitious. We find the focus and anticipation of this shared target is a great way of keeping the entire team motivated. Of course some staff will need to remain at HQ but those people will be recognised with a trip of their own so that everyone is included and rewarded for their hard work.

We try to live by our values every day and they are respect, agility and positivity. Respect – and by that I mean, respect with each other and customers – not taking any liberties. Agile – and that’s being able to move quickly in the market place and having a fast response to each other and clients. Finally, positivity. We don’t just go around high fiving each other but we take positive action if something isn’t quite right; we don’t mope around, we always put a positive spin on things and it’s that that makes us resilient.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Have massive clarity of focus and a big bloody vision. Have bags of resilience and expect things to go wrong. Things aren’t perfect, that’s business, and the ride will be bumpy. You need to remember that you won’t reach perfection but you do want progress and that’s what we’ve succeeded in so far.