Lucinda Carney tells us why after spending 18 years in HR the hunt for a performance management system led her to leave and start Actus Software to fit the need.
What do you currently do at Actus?
I am the Founder and CEO at Actus Software, founded in 2009. We provide SaaS HRM software and specialise in the performance & talent management space. We have almost 100,000 users of the across a wide range of sectors. As the business has grown, I have worn most hats as is typical for an entrepreneur. I provide the leadership and product vision as well as taking a lead role in Sales and Marketing. Thankfully, I also have a great team of people who can refine the vision, dot the i’s and cross the t’s and turn things into reality.
What was the inspiration behind your business?
I spent 18 years as an internal HR professional and in one of my latter roles we built an internal performance management system because we couldn’t find anything suitable in the marketplace. When I left and set up on my own, I realised that there was a gap in the market for software that would support managers and businesses in embedding better quality people management practise. We started by enabling year-round performance and feedback conversations and have expanded to support the end to end talent journey increasing retention and productivity. However, the real inspiration is for us to support many businesses in using the software as a catalyst to achieve culture change. That’s why we offer such a range of value-add consultancy and services as well with our white papers, change toolkits and our popular HR Uprising podcast.
Who do you admire?
I admire people who make a difference, and would start with healthcare workers and teachers because of their ability to make a difference (particularly during the recent Coronavirus pandemic) is disproportionate to the reward they receive.
I also admire people who are experts in their field and have challenged the Status Quo. An example would be Caroline Criado-Perez who researched and wrote a compelling book exposing data bias throughout the world called Invisible Women. I also admire the usual suspects like Bill Gates but more for the foundation he has set up and the way he and his wife have used their success to do good.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
I would have had more self-belief and gone out and got investment earlier. I bootstrapped the business for the first five or six years which kept us profitable but also meant that the marketplace became louder and more crowded during that time. More than once I have spotted an early niche that we could dominate in but needed to put more effort into gaining that position in the marketplace, so I guess confidence in our marketing position.
What defines your way of doing business?
A partnership approach, we work best with businesses who want to collaborate with us and are prepared to work together to achieve results. My approach is always to understand the desired business outcome for the business, in other words why they are looking to invest in software. Once I understand that, it is easier for us to make recommendations around configuration and messaging which will maximise the chances of success. We are incredibly client centric, sometimes to our detriment and we have had to learn not to give too much away for free!
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Believe in yourself, follow your gut and move fast. Basically, back yourself if you have a clear idea and vision and run with it (without spending stupid amounts of cash). Choose your initial team really carefully and consider the culture you want to create. One overly dominant or negative individual can have a huge impact on a small team so recruit people who will be loyal and positive and who compliment your blind spots. As soon as you can justify it, hire a great management accountant (not the same as a traditional accountant) you want them to provide you with monthly metrics and cashflow forecasts that will be invaluable in keeping the business solvent.
Don’t put too much trust in expensive marketing experts without keeping a close eye on the results. Instead, set up key metrics that you can track to see if the business is going in the right or wrong direction and be prepared to tweak. Examples would be white paper downloads, demo-requests or conversion rates in sales and marketing or might be numbers of bugs or support calls in other areas.
Finally, develop processes. It is really easy to be too busy doing things and reacting to stop and think how you can improve them for the future and save time in the long run. If we stop to set up standardised implementation documentation, templates and processes for example, we can save lots of time in the long run. It’s all a balance driving the top line while ensuring the business is sustainable for the long term.