Editor’s note: From the typewriter to the propelling pencil to our favorite, the world wide web, inventors and innovators from the United Kingdom have brought us brilliant advances that have changed the way we work all around the world. Over the next few weeks, we’ll share a handful of stories from disrupters and trailblazers in the UK who are using Google Apps for Work to support their mission while growing at faster and faster speeds. Today, we hear from Taavet Hinrikus, Executive Chairman of TransferWise, a company disrupting the international money transfer marketplace. He shared his insights on managing fast growth with a culture of collaboration and flexibility, with Google Apps for Work.
The story of Transferwise started with a pair of frustrated Estonian ex-pats. My co-founder, Kristo, and I were both living in London but getting paid and paying mortgages in Euros, leaving us with a trail of bank fees incurred from transferring money between currencies. We knew there was a better and less financially painful way to handle these transfers, and created a peer-to-peer network with complete transparency and no hidden fees. Since launching in 2011, we’ve processed 1 billion pound sterling in transfers, and in the last year alone, we’ve gone from 20 to 120 employees. What follows is a series of five insights we’ve learned along the way that we hope may help other businesses seeking a path of fast growth.
1. Seek to offer a better service. It’s really easy to say but hard to do.
We’re focused on making things faster and cheaper, but when you boil that down, what really matters is keeping our customers’ needs at the core of our strategy. We focus on making their experience as enjoyable as possible, and constantly tracking customer satisfaction across all touch points of the business helps drive the strategy that fuels our growth. And since our customers are so passionate about our service that they want to share it with their friends and relatives, virality has driven a lot of our growth over the past three years.
2. Measure satisfaction constantly and fix problems quickly
When we discover an issue or source of dissatisfaction, we set out to fix it — If we fix a problem that’s affecting one person, it’s likely we’re fixing potential problems for 100 future customers. We want to build a trusted financial service that people want to use every time they need to send money abroad. Part and parcel of that aim is keeping proactive perspective of specific issues users that could become larger. To do this, we place a heavy emphasis on measuring customer satisfaction to ensure that every customer has an excellent experience.
3. Recruit people who understand and evangelize your value proposition
We’re on a mission to make international money transfers more transparent, and we’ve built a team that’s passionate about making it a reality. A big part of our culture is our belief that the financial services industry needs to change. It shouldn’t be slow, out of touch or painful; it should be dusted off and reinvigorated. That’s why we look to hire creative and focused people who can help us shake up the old system; they understand that we’re making a difference to people’s lives by making it fairer, easier and quicker to move money around the world.
4. Invest in technology that allows your teams to work anywhere, on any device
These days, we can work anytime from anywhere. Productivity doesn’t depend on being in the right place; it depends on being in the right state of mind. We’re no longer limited to working in an office space because we have technology that enables us to access our work when we need to, no matter where we are. Google Drivemakes sharing quick, efficient and simple across the company. Since we have offices in London and Estonia, it’s important that we can store and work on documents simultaneously from different locations. Google Drive is intuitive, makes us a flexible team, and allows us to turn ideas around quickly. This speed and agility helps set us apart from our competitors.
5. Keep teams in touch with the bigger picture
Communication becomes increasingly crucial as growth momentum accelerates, especially when it comes to keeping the whole team aware of the big picture and high level strategy of the company. We use Google Hangouts to drive these essential check-ins between our Estonian and London offices via a real-time video stream, so we feel like we’re all in the same room together. We even view and edit documents from within the Hangout by sharing our screens, so it’s almost as if we’re reviewing documents next to one another in person. We also host a bi-weekly company meeting over Hangouts, where we introduce new team members and update the company on big news, ideas and developments. And that’s just the beginning. Hangouts has enabled us to foster a unified vision, collaborative workflow and single culture across our office locations.