Like all successful new businesses, as a young startup, Xref was launched with one very specific goal in mind, to overcome one of the HR industry’s biggest pain points. As co-founders, Lee and I had the perfect combination of expertise to bring the idea to life – technology and HR – we needed nothing more than sheer determination to get the company up and running.
At that stage, we couldn’t afford to hire staff, the two of us worked tirelessly to overcome any teething problems ourselves but we quickly came to realise that two pairs of hands simply weren’t enough to keep up with the evolution of the business.
We came to the decision that we still live by as a successful and growing company six years on – if we touch a business process three or more times, we automate it. We expanded the business by automating absolutely everything we could.
Automating to Add Value
Of course, there came a time when the only way we could continue to grow was to hire additional staff. But what’s important is that we would not have been in a position to do so, if we hadn’t built the business as quickly and efficiently as we were able to use automation wherever possible. Now, with 45 staff operating across five countries we think we’ve demonstrated the perfect small business mix of automation and human interaction.
While we have an excellent team of ex-HR and recruitment specialists who drive our business development and customer engagement, the nuts and bolts of the Xref sales cycle is now almost entirely automated. From request and proposal to invoicing and payment, we ensure limited human involvement, meaning the entire process can happen very quickly and efficiently.
I believe this is an element of startup culture that is yet to be embraced by big business.
Recognising Automation as More Than “Robots”
With all the doom and gloom around the threat of robots stealing future jobs, it’s important to note that our intended outcome – both for our own business and for the clients we work with - is not to automate people out of a job. We want to see skills and time applied more appropriately, on more strategic or value-adding tasks. Automation is at the core of the Xref business, and we encourage our staff to work across different disciplines and areas of the organisation, to help find ways to innovate and streamline the work we do.
Automation is not always just about being cost efficient, but also about adding value. Introducing an automated system that does something more quickly is great, but introducing that system and allowing the individual who would otherwise be conducting the task to spend their time on something more valuable, is even better.
Seeking True Innovation Not Just Another Iteration
Often this means investing more money up front, given the inevitable initial overlap between the newly introduced automated solutions and the existing human involvement. However, the value of the company will undoubtedly grow with the benefits of fast and effective automation married with the increased mental capacity of a newly motivated staff.
Unlike other startups that have become popular in recent years, Xref has automated an historically entirely human-driven process, going beyond just introducing a new iteration of an existing solution. We have taken a process that suffered from inefficiency, biases and risks- due entirely to the human delivery of it and enabled technology and data to turn into something valuable and reliable for businesses globally.
Launching a startup takes guts and resolve but a truly useful idea will always succeed if the business model is accurately and thoroughly thought out. Our focus and goal has never changed, but the way we do things as a company has. This allows us to stay nimble and efficient for our clients’ ease, and innovative and forward-thinking for our own success.