Getting to Know You: Paul Rhodes, founder, WellGiving

Paul Rhodes

Paul Rhodes talk to Business Matters about Wellgiving, the fitness platform with plans to raise £1 million for UK charities.

What do you currently do at WellGiving?

I’m the founder of WellGiving, a health and fitness platform designed to improve the mental and physical wellbeing of employees while raising money for charities across the UK. With WellGiving, we wanted to help connect remote and hybrid teams, and bring back those essential water cooler moments.

I spend about half of my time managing my team and overseeing projects, with the rest of my time spent on sales, marketing, and leadership. I think the goal of any entrepreneur should be to essentially make themselves redundant in the day-to-day operations of the business, and instead focus on executing their vision. I’m now in this transitionary period and working on scaling my team so I can spend more time concentrating on the direction of the business.

What was the inspiration behind the business?

I knew I wanted to start my own product business, and I wanted this new venture to be based on a genuine passion I had. The pivotal point for me was an ultimatum set by my own team. We had already tried numerous times to develop products with limited success. I was given 100 days to find my own passion project – one that could be a viable, commercial opportunity.

I had gotten into running to improve my fitness, and for 35 years of my life had not really considered myself to be a runner. With a bit of persuasion from my cousin, I got into parkruns, and ended up doing the Birmingham half-marathon for a local children’s hospice. With donations from friends and family, I raised over £1K, and when I finished it, I truly felt like a superhero. This cemented the idea of charity as a powerful motivator for fitness, and the following year when I completed another half-marathon, this time without fundraising, it felt like a hollow victory despite achieving a better time. I kept falling back on that idea of charity motivating sports performance.

WellGiving was designed with this in mind, to turn people into superheroes, and make every physical activity count, whether it’s a marathon, team sports, or even daily yoga. Anyone can take part, and use any physical activity to raise money for the causes they care about.

Who do you admire?

Having played in punk bands for a lot of my life, I have an affinity for companies and people that have that rebellious and DIY attitude towards business, and those that dare to be different in what they do.

People like Jason Fried and David Heinemeier, the co-founders of the software company Basecamp, are a real inspiration to me. Like me, they also transitioned from a service-based company and moved into developing their own products, but they also encapsulate that “dare to be different” mentality. They’re not afraid to be opinionated, or throw traditional business thinking out of the window, and these are things I really admire in entrepreneurs, and have informed my own approach to WellGiving.

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?

I come from a tech background, where we run constant trials to innovate, improve and find better ways of doing things – in essence we are constantly experimenting and testing to see what works and what doesn’t. I look at my journey as an entrepreneur in much the same way, and accept the fact that obstacles and things not always going to plan is simply a part of that journey and an opportunity to learn and improve – it’s only a failure if you didn’t learn something from the experience.

Having said that, if there was one thing I could change about the development process of WellGiving, it would be to have spent less time theorising about it, and instead building it. Getting the product out to your target customer is absolutely vital, and allows you to begin that discovery phase much sooner. It’s only your customers that can guide this process, and it’s so important to get your product in front of them, no matter how crude that initial prototype might be.

What defines your way of doing business?

At the core of everything we do is the idea that “there is always another way”. As a founder, your job is to validate or disqualify your ideas and assumptions by putting them to the test, and let the market decide what they want and how much they are prepared to pay for it. It’s this mentality that has led us to create a solution that is the complete opposite to many of our competitors – it may sound like a cliché, but when everyone else zigs, we zag.

From the inception of WellGiving, I’ve taken a collaborative approach with my team and my customers. At the heart of everything we do is transparency and equality. We have developed a truly remote, flexible and open way of working where all ideas and issues are discussed openly.

This has led to some unbelievable engagement and opportunity, and this approach translates into sales, too. We’ve been called “brutally transparent” by several of our clients, because we place such an emphasis on finding the right customers to go on the journey with us, and I think developing that personal connection with the people you work with is really the key to WellGiving’s success.

What advice would you give to someone starting out?

My biggest piece of advice, and one of the most important lessons I learnt in business is to talk openly about the challenges you face. Being open, honest and transparent is one if the best things you can do. Surrounding yourself with support networks, whether it’s family, friends, your team, or other business owners, is invaluable in overcoming those inevitable moments of doubt. The practice of talking through an idea, or having my own pre-conceived notions challenged by those I trust helps me to process and organise my ideas in a way I simply wouldn’t be able to do alone. Never underestimate the value of surrounding yourself with the right people!

Don’t be too precious about your idea. Instead, identify and interact with your target audience, and get to know your customer better than anyone else in your market. When you do execute your idea, don’t try and achieve perfection. Instead, aim to make even 1% progress each day towards your vision.

Finally, for me, at the heart of being an entrepreneur is a desire to pursue a passion, and go wherever that journey takes you. You’re choosing to go on this adventure, and it’s important to truly enjoy what you do every day. If you’re not having fun, change what you’re doing!