Neil Kelly is on a mission. The Chief Financial Officer of plan.com makes for engaging company. He exudes the gravitas of a consummate professional – borne of knowledge, experience and passion for his career. He’s a dream interviewee. Gef presses record and sits back as the spirited monologues burst forth with feverish force.
In the first article we spoke of the energy in the plan.com office: a visceral intensity, almost tangible, as though when you walk into the office you instantly become part of the buzz. Gef was swept up in it last time. In simple terms, that atmosphere was real-time success. This is a company not just on the up but bursting through the stratosphere.
In addition to their ever-growing success, plan.com has carved out a reputation for being a work hard / play hard kind of company. Their social media presence is cheeky, personable but direct; their nights out or trips to Iceland, legendary. But this isn’t party central 24/7, as Neil is keen to stress:
“Rather than work hard, play hard, I think it’s more accurate to say we ‘work smart’. More people may know us as the business who took their employees to Iceland but we’re a Tech Track 100 winner.”
The Sunday Times Tech Track 100 is the prestigious ranking of Britain’s fastest growing private technology companies. plan.com were not only the fastest growing tech company in the UK but as Neil points out, they were the fastest of the past decade – all the winners for the previous ten years had slower growth. It’s easy to see why Neil deems the award “without question, the highlight of my career”. plan.com is now growing at a rapid rate, with a creative and ambitious team; one whose ideas are actively encouraged in the organisation. However, it’s the discipline to focus on one idea at a time and execute it well that he attributes their fast growth too.
Before the glitzy awards ceremonies or global domination, plan.com was just another idea. Neil reminisces about the earliest days, before it was even a spreadsheet, when he and CEO Dan Craddock would judge potential private equity opportunities, hunting for the next big thing.
Dan has a portfolio of different businesses and Neil, meanwhile, has worked alongside him dealing with the financing and accounting aspects of all businesses. They looked at a host of private equity businesses; everything from coaching personal trainers to watching flying robots in action. When plan.com came about, it was a no brainer: an industry in dire need of a shake up and the potential for a tech platform to revolutionise the way it operates. When they find the right fit, it is all-consuming and absorbing.
“We don’t sit back and wait for quarterly board reports… we dive into the granular detail, actively manage the processes and live and breathe their day-to-day operation.”
Such passion and drive is infectious. The long-term vision, Neil says, is to become a billion-pound company. Talks have already started with potential partners in America and other geographical expansion is on the horizon. This is neither posturing or arrogance. It is belief. Belief backed up by a great product and eager, dedicated staff. Unsurprisingly, plan.com is expanding and creating exciting opportunities for ambitious Manx professionals. For those who are hungry and want to ride the wave and push themselves forward. 100 new jobs have already been created. There’s one particular role Neil is keen to talk about: the vacancy for Financial Controller.
A qualified accountant is a prerequisite. But what else is Neil looking for?
“Someone in a similar situation to me when I was 18 months to two years qualified. I was frustrated, twitchy, eager to add more value and do something beyond working for the big four. We are looking for energy and hunger. Energy that we can harness. Energy that matches our own at plan.com.”
It’s the one word that comes up throughout Gef’s time here: energy. You need to have the energy and drive of the elite sportsperson to work here; the determination of the likes of Neil and Dan. Although he doesn’t want to alienate anyone else from applying, it’s more important to plan.com that they attract someone with the right disposition and – that word again: energy – that can be utilised within the business.
Perpetually enthusiastic he might be, but the most animated we see Neil is when he talks about his staff. He smiles like a proud dad when he speaks of some of their earliest starters forging long-term careers at plan.com, buying homes, starting families.
“We’ve created jobs from nothing. That’s what makes me proudest of working here.”
In the role of Financial Controller, you’ll not only have a kick-ass title, you’ll be given autonomy, too. There is no culture of middle management or layers of staggered communication at plan.com. This, as we’ve well established, is a company that does things differently. They want a candidate who isn’t fazed by a fast-paced environment, who is confident and assured in their leadership capabilities, and who thrives on responsibility.
As Neil’s colleague Chad Willard (more from him next week) says:
“We’re looking for exceptional people and rightly so. Everyone here is at the top of their game.”
Starting your own business is a sexy proposition. More people than ever are taking the plunge and an entrepreneurial bubble is now forming. The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well at plan.com and still forms a huge part of their culture. Many businesses come and go, bubbles bursting before they have time to float. The plan.com bubble has morphed into a hot-air balloon, floating blissfully towards the clouds. Neil concludes aptly:
“Yes, we’re an entrepreneurial start-up but not only have we survived the difficult early stage, we’re the fastest growing tech company in the UK. We have an ethos of continual improvement instilled among all our employees.”
If you think you’ve got what it takes, what the Gef are you waiting for? Click here to take a look at the job spec and submit your application.