It’s our Birthday and to celebrate we’re taking the time to reflect on how far we’ve come through the eyes of our Co-Founder, Tom Williams.
From 4 Partners, 20 Members and a team of 3 in the office (or Tom’s kitchen in Clapham) to today, over 1000 Partner sites, tens of thousands of registered Members on our platform, and a team of 50 people in the office, this milestone has made us realise how far Rota has already come. Talking to Tom, it’s clear that this is merely a dent in how far we’re going though.
So, we’ll let Tom take us back to where it all began…
When I was 18 years old, I would work at the farm during the day, and was the Bar Manager at my Dad’s Hotel, by night. When we had a large event such as a wedding I would go to a traditional temporary agency and ask for 15 bar staff for example. The day before, I wouldn’t know who was turning up, and what the calibre of those staff would be like. It was just generally a very opaque and concerning process.
On the night of the event, I would often have about 7 of the 15 turn up, and the event was a lot of hard work, we would have to stretch ourselves really thin. On top of that, the calibre of the staff perhaps wasn’t exactly what I needed and I would also have to faff around with lots of paper and timesheets on the evening, faxing them back the next day. The sting in the tail was getting a great big bill at the end of it with no understanding of what the breakdown was and how much of that had actually gone to the staff. That was the ‘aha’ moment for Rota really.
With that in mind, I had the idea for an app to connect hospitality employers with great staff just when they need them, providing a level of transparency that I felt just wasn’t available at the time - Uber for Temporary staffing if you will. I had the idea to have a rating system both ways that would mutually promote better quality of staffing, and also importantly better treatment of Members. Because I had been on both sides of the equation, I really wanted something that would positively impact both parties. I met my two co-founders and we set about starting the business from my flat in Clapham. I lead the Partnership side of the business and went to Marriott Grosvenor Square, The May Fair, the Andaz London and the Four Seasons Hotel in Canary Wharf at the time to pitch my vision to them. The Food & Beverage Managers bought into me and the idea. Before we knew it, we had orders coming in. So, then we had to go and find the staff…
The proudest moment for me was when we launched our second city, Manchester. I always truly believed in the positive impact that Rota could have for both Partners and Members, but to achieve a large enough impact we knew we’d have to do it at scale. Launching outside of London for the first time was a real moment of ‘wow,’ this thing is really going somewhere and both Partners and Members love what we’re doing.
I also have to mention the time some of our Members got to be a part of hosting the Queen with one of our Partners at Lincoln’s Inn, hard to top that moment!
When you launch a start-up, it’s all about you ‘getting stuff done’ and chipping in with all parts of the business - onboarding, check-ins, sales, contracts etc. and then you get to a point where you realise you can’t do everything. At this point I realised, it all comes down to the team and the trust that I have with them to do the job to the standard that I feel we need to do it in order to delight our Members and Partners. I’m a big believer in ‘always hire people smarter than you.’ I look around my team and I think, if I was in that role, I know I couldn’t do it as well as the team can. It’s all about trust, and we have some phenomenal people in our team, but at the start it can be hard to initially let go of trying to do everything. It was an important learning curve for me.
I think the product that Rota provides to our Partners and Members is much more than an app, which is one of the best things about it, but it can be a challenge too.
Having industry leading technology is at the core of what enables us to do what we do; on the scale we can do it. You could argue that matching talent is best done from person to person, however it’s just not possible to do it at the speed and efficiency and at such a scale to make a real impact than without supplementing the experience with smart technology. To me, the human element is still vital but our technology is really what makes Rota special. Our algorithm gets smarter every day, making more accurate matches based on what happens during every shift, with both Members and Partners mutually rating the experience. The challenge is, because people on people curate this experience, you really must ensure you work to provide a service where both parties are incentivised to have respect for each other and have a good experience together.
It’s not just about the way that Barista froths the milk, it’s how they turn up that day; have they had a bad morning commuting, did they wake up feeling under the weather? It’s a hurdle you can never truly overcome, instead you strive towards making it as best as you can.
It’s so important that our technology thinks and understands our Partners and Members like we do ourselves so that is why we’ve set up in this hybrid approach as I believe it’s the only way you can make the experience as close to perfect as possible for both sides.
I would love Rota to be THE PLACE people come to build their ‘dream team’ for a day, a week, a month, a year and find great talent for their teams just when they need, allowing them to focus on taking their business to that next level. I think we are very much on our way to achieving this.
At the moment I think many clients are still held back due to spending much of their time on recruiting which can be such a challenge. If we can take this hard work away from clients, I would like to enable them to spend far more time on tasks that can add more value to their business.
Ultimately, I can’t wait to see us as a team at Rota create not just more opportunities for our Members, but better opportunities for people who want to lead a healthy life of flexibility, pay they deserve and a greater chance for career progression.
From day one at Rota it’s been about creating an unmatched pool of quality hospitality talent in our marketplace. Even when there was just the 3 of us at the start, one person was dedicated to training and vetting our Members and it’s something that as we’ve got much bigger, we’ve never compromised on and never will. We currently have teams vetting and training Members across our locations in the UK every week, and I think committing to this quality from the start is what makes us stand out from the crowd.
The vision is to keep this momentum of growth but staying true to what we set out to do, and that's all about the quality service we provide to our Partners and Members. It’s not only about our world class technology, which is certainly in place to support efficiency and scalability, but it’s about the people and our vision behind it. We have an exceptional team who are passionate to innovate the world of work and I can’t wait to see what we achieve over the next four years.