At Unprecedented, we had the opportunity to speak to Bradley Gough, Founder of Groubook, who spoke to us about what it means to be a leader and how the pandemic affected his business.
A background into you and your business?
I was born and raised in Nottingham. In 2012, whilst I was resitting the exams that I failed at GCSE level at 6th form, I fell into the world of recruitment and had since spent over 7 years in the sector. I started as an apprentice and have grown through the ranks from a resourcer, to a consultant, BDM, Sales Director and now a business owner.
Groubook was conceived in Aug 2019 by myself and a childhood friend, Ollie Pod, whilst we were attending a leaving party. We were shocked to find how difficult it had been for him to arrange a get together for all of us and began looking around for a solution. When we couldn’t find one, we both decided to create one and didn’t let the fact that we had never built anything in technology before get in the way.
Groubook is now the UK’s first group bookings platform. It allows users to simplify the process of arranging nights out and offers them rewards for seeing friends, a great concept right? After spending months trying to source venture capital, and failing, and of course, with Covid coming into the picture in early 2020, we had a decision to make. We realised that we would have to build the platform ourselves or risk having to walk away from the project, so we built it.
It took us 7 months, but we did it, and in August 2020, before restrictions tightened, we launched the platform in our home city. We saw users booking 2.1 times every 6 weeks and achieved very encouraging sales.
Define leadership and what being a leader means to you.
Leadership is about vision. It’s about knowing where you are going and inspiring your colleagues to go there with you.
It’s a cliché, but it is also about leading. I cannot expect my team to be working hard if I’m not, and I cannot expect them to go the extra mile if I won’t put petrol in the car to get them there. Above all else though, being a leader is about inspiring your team with your passion.
Who are your Leadership role models/inspirations?
I have obvious choices and a few weird ones, all for different reasons:
Gordon Ramsey – I LOVE how passionate he is about what he does. He probably needs to work on communicating a little better, but you never hear anyone say he isn’t inspiring or doesn’t give a s***.
Richard Branson – I love Branson because he has fun with what he does. Business is tough, you have ups and downs, but it’s important to remember to have fun. I learnt that from Richard.
Jeff Bezos – The vision he has for Amazon is incredible and is what has made him the best at what he does.
Cristiano Ronaldo – I love the dedication that Ronaldo has. For him, it is all about being the absolute best he can be.
Eddie Hearn – Eddie is absolutely relentless and has completely changed people’s perception of boxing in the UK. Again, Eddie has a huge vision and gets excited every day about what he does. I think that’s important.
What impact has Covid-19 had on you?
Mentally it has been tough, extremely tough at times, but it has also been really good. It has given me the opportunity to discover how resilient I am and has also allowed me to spend more time at home with my puppy.
What impact has covid had on your business?
It has stopped us in our tracks but has also been the making of us. Compared to some, we’ve been very fortunate. We haven’t really stopped working, we’ve just stopped selling to consumers, which has given us the opportunity to improve on as much as we can internally. Not many young companies have the chance to sell and then accurately understand feedback, change it and re-launch.
Are there any people within your support network who made a big positive impact on you as a Business Leader during those early weeks/months?
Loads – It goes without saying that my partner, Jade, my business partner, Pod and our close friends have been a huge support. There are also people who have recently become essential to me, such as Alastair Campbell and Joel Cymberg – these guys have been, and continue to be, immense support networks and soundboards.
What was your internal comms strategy at the start of lockdown? Has that changed in Lockdown 3.0?
Our internal comms strategy initially consisted of us being on the phone with each other every 2 minutes. However, once we got back into the office we started to be much more structured in our days and the way we communicate with the use of slack, trello, team calendars and set calls with the team booked in.
What have been the Unprecedented decisions you have made? Those where there was no playbook.
Launching a tech company without understanding coding, backend and frontend, and having to work it all out myself. It’s been incredibly tough, but these are the experiences that you learn from.
When you don’t understand something, you become a sponge and try to soak up as much information as possible. I think that if I’d done any of this before, I would have thought there was one set way to do everything, and there isn’t, especially not in this game.
The word pivot was used unprecedently in May/June. What have you done to innovate or differentiate you or your business?
We’re quite lucky in the sense that our early concept was based on pre-bookings and was very covid friendly. We had to add security measures such as “are you part of the same bubble?”, but we already had track and trace capabilities so we just enhanced the strength of them and didn’t hold customer data back from our partners.
What were the 3 biggest (or best) decisions you made in 2020?
To build the platform ourselves
To hire for an internship which later bought us our last co-founder
Not to give up
What remain your 3 biggest challenges?
Improving our platform (technology-wise)
Relaunching (this is going to be tough)
Expanding at the right times
How have you/your business evolved from a digital/tech perspective?
Again, we’ve been making ongoing improvements. For example; adding simpler signing in/up processes, adding a ‘pay a mate’ feature, introducing the team calls, slack, trello and a robust HR system for onboarding.
How have you (your business) coped from a mental health/stress perspective?
We’ve all struggled at times. It's been the toughest year I can remember but we have a philosophy here which is; take time when you need time. We encourage people to take a couple of days off if they need them to avoid burning out. Once you burnout it’s hard to bounce back so it’s important that people know they can take the time off.
Looking ahead to 2021 what are your predictions for the economy? For your sector?
Hospitality has been badly affected by Covid, that’s no secret, but events are selling out pretty instantly at the minute, and with major retail brands shutting their doors for good, we can see the high street being dominated by hospitality. We are looking forward to the economy as a whole bouncing back.
At the beginning of 2020, we were in a talent short market. What is at the top of your "people strategy" agenda for 2021?
Our plan for 2021 is to hire again and make sure that we’re not rushing the process. Instead, we want to make sure that we find people who we can not only incentivise, but also who can grow within the business. We want to upskill our team and help them personally develop, but also better manage our customers and our brand’s presence.
What are you doing to retain your superstar / Leaders of the future?
We have a number of internal schemes, including regular pay raises, bonuses and the opportunity for progression within the company. I think that the most important thing is that we actually recognise those people, and tell them “we see this in you” in order to help them grow.
We allow our team to think freely and actually have a policy where we encourage people to “air” their ideas. I’ve worked for companies that think they know everything and it made me feel trapped, so I don’t want to create that environment.
Fast forward to 2050 .... what would you say to your future self....That you did well or badly in 2020 to learn from.
I’d tell myself that I grew in the face of adversity and that no matter what stands in your way, you can achieve what you want to achieve, and you can diversify yourself into new areas.
I’d also tell my future self that I am proud of him and that he shouldn’t have so much anxiety around the things that he can’t control.
As a Leadership Team, how have you re-defined your vision and values? What have you done to make your culture remote-work friendly?
As a company, our primary core value is called the chameleon effect, which means being able to adapt to situations. This is something that we have, as a tech business, been able to achieve already.
All of the team has laptops so can work from home if they need to and we won't have any more than 5 in our office at any given time. We also allow people to work when it suits their job as we understand that people work better at different times of the day, obviously role permitting.
What advice would you give to those entering the workforce today?
I personally would tell them to be themselves. If there are 1000 people with the same education and experience as you, you need to work out what really defines you and what makes you unique. This is what companies will buy into.
The Pandemic has caused many of us to reassess what is important in our lives. In what ways have you recalibrated your own priorities and goals.
Our drive is the same, our passion is the same but what I’ve learned is that life isn’t always about the end goal. It’s about the journey to get there, but it's also about switching off and going on walks, appreciating your family and friends, smiling and being happy.
If you’ve found Bradley’s story inspiring and want to learn more about Groubook, why not check out their website, Twitter or Instagram to stay updated. Alternatively, you can also find Bradley on Twitterand Instagram.