Benjy Meyer finds 100 new challenges a day running his digital marketplace VenueScanner – but that’s a good thing and it’s all worth it, he assures us…
What is it the company does?
VenueScanner is a digital marketplace with the largest choice of venues in the UK. It empowers Personal Assistants (PAs) and other events organisers to find the right venue for any event in a timely and cost-efficient manner. We developed the platform with one goal in mind – to use tech and data to make finding and booking venues as simple as online shopping.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
As co-founder, my job is to drive the growth of our business. I’m focused on the Member Experience, looking after our Event Organisers and Venue Hosts who’ve already signed up and are using VenueScanner to market their venue or to enquire about venue hire for future events. In any one day, I might be defining the software development roadmap with our engineers, putting a call out to one of our most loyal clients to see if they’ve started planning their Christmas party, or interviewing for a data scientist who’ll build increasing levels of automation and personalisation into our offering.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I have worked in the retail industry for 15 years focusing on the strategy, operations and growth areas of big businesses. I have been the Head of Customer Journey at M&S.com, Customer Director at Majestic Wine, and sit on the advisory board of Bijou Commerce. Having worked to maximise the growth potential of these companies it was a natural next step for me to identify other sectors that had an opportunity to supercharge their customer proposition through digitall. The venue booking sector and wider events industry fitted this description and, on the back of this realisation, myself and my co-founder, Rebecca Kelly came up with the idea of VenueScanner.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
I think every great leader has three key traits: an innovative mind, human touch and agility of thought. Firstly, for a business to make an impact in its sector its leaders must drive innovation throughout the company – in the people, processes and user experience. Secondly, they must understand how to build, nurture and inspire their team so they generate quality output. Finally, it’s crucial that they can switch mode quickly between highly operational and highly strategic thinking.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Honestly, in an early stage business like this one, there are 100 new challenges every day. And I mean that in a positive way; 100 new white-knuckle moments. The biggest challenge is to figure out which is the most important, the one or two or three things that really matter. And to be really disciplined about if, and when, to change those priorities when we learn something new: from a customer, colleague or piece of data. Getting this wrong can be very costly in terms of time spent on changing priorities, and also the impact it has on your team needs to be considered.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I’d love to say I play hockey or tennis three times a week, but my young kids are probably the best tonic when it comes to de-stressing (and re-stressing!) me. I cycle to work most days and find that freewheeling my way in really helps to relieve tension.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a child, I was enthralled by the idea of travel, so my aspirations ranged from geography teacher and hotel manager to ski or windsurfing instructor.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Not to be too literal, but dogs. I don’t mind them in principle, but invariably they bark, poop and lick your lunch, or all three. Other than that, I’m not a big fan of emails. I much prefer Slack and Trello - which allow you to keep in touch with your team’s progress quickly and easily.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
In five years VenueScanner will be a prominent presence across the UK’s major cities, and will have expanded well across Europe. We will have opened up access to lesser known and more affordable spaces, such as churches and pub rooms, that are currently crying out for business. And crucially, we’ll be known and respected for rewriting the rules of the venue hire industry and placing event organisers in the driving seat.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Ensure your company is at a stage where it really needs you before jumping in full time. Before that point, find creative ways of getting things done, you’ll be very surprised how much help you can get from friends and family. Rebecca and I worked on VenueScanner as a side project for eight months before we left our jobs to pursue it full-time. Although it meant a lot of late and stressful nights, which made it tempting to make the move prematurely, it was worth it to ensure we and our business were in a stable position before we took the leap.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Borrow, don’t build. Our developers (like most) have a desire to build everything themselves. I wish we’d had better knowledge of the tools and plug-ins already out there that might have been just as good, if not better, at delivering some of the features we were looking for.