Guy Mucklow is the co-founder of PCA Predict, the ‘what’s your postcode?’ business, whose service helps to remove one of the main frustration points in ecommerce by making it quicker and easier for customers to complete and validate their contact details in the checkout process.
Everyday the service is used by over 20 million people so it is no wonder that PCA Predict dominates its niche market with over 40% of the Internet Retailing Top 500 retailers using its service. A recent winner of a Queen’s Award for Innovation, the company is looking to capitalise on its existing 11,000 strong customer base to use data to predict and influence online behaviour.
Based in Worcester, with offices in New York and Germany, PCA Predict is unusual in that it is still founder led and self-funded from when the company was set up in 2001.
1. Tell us about your business?
Over the last 16 years we have grown PCA Predict from an idea to a $20m annual turnover business, which dominates its market. All with our own money.
Innovation is very much at the heart of what we do. It has helped us to change the face of our industry by introducing a centrally-managed service. This has allowed us to open up the market with an easy to set up, low cost, always updated service and more recently through the introduction of intuitive search, which means that people in countries which do not have postcodes, can still easily find their address.
PCA Predict remains a dynamic, forward-thinking technology business which has considerable ambition to repeat its success in the US and further deepen its relationship with existing customers by introducing predictive services to help them better understand and interact with their own online shoppers.
2. What excites you most about the work you do?
I love the pace of change in our industry. The fact that it is so dynamic and the ability that data has to disrupt the way things currently work, now more so than ever. New open source database technologies such as Spark and ElasticSearch which have recently emerged are set to radically alter the relationship between man and machine - potentially scary but exciting all the same.
3. How do you keep your employees happy?
We’re big believers in creating an environment that will encourage staff to perform at their best and invest a lot of time and resource ensuring that all employees understand the direction of the business and the role that they play in achieving the vision. It’s important for us that each and every employee knows how they are contributing to the mission of the company, and that they feel engaged and motivated in their role. It’s for this reason that we decided to move to an employee owned business model to give all our employees a share in the business. As well as seeding an entrepreneurial passion for success across the wider employee base, it also creates a driver for employees to stick with the business during the scaling process.
4. Tell us about a challenge you faced in your business and how you overcame it?
The biggest challenge that we face at this point is how to increase our growth rate by selling our services more widely and deeply into the market. With the UK market for our main service being relatively mature, we are looking to capitalise on the demand for search based addressing in the US through our new Addressy brand.
Our other key challenge is to educate and encourage more of our established customers to trial our new predictive services, which greatly complement the technology that they buy from us now. We are answering this challenge by developing a simple clear road map which helps to explain our vision and what it may mean for our customers. It is a conversation that we are very much looking forward to having!
5. Apart from your own, which other businesses are exciting you right now?
I have a lot of admiration for businesses which, like ours, are trying to master how to sell high volume, lower value B2B technology online. Partly because it requires a completely frictionless process from discovery through to repeat purchase and partly because to sell a low value technology service online and still make money, requires most of those processes to be automated.
This requires huge amount of thought around the customer journey and how to deliver an experience which encourages customers to recommend your service to their peers, as well as very careful consideration around the supporting technology which will provide both the visibility and information to enable you to scale, without messing up in the process. I think that companies like Slack, Box and Dropbox do this very well.
6. What’s your best piece of employee management advice?
If there’s one thing that is a regular area of attention in our business - it's employee engagement and motivation. I've learned over the years that it's not just about getting the right people and providing the right financial rewards, but it goes much deeper than that.
For me it's about having collective and individual accountability around specific core business objectives and in being able to measure and monitor against those targets to see whether you are having an impact or not. Regular progress briefings are key to maintaining engagement and to help colleagues to not only feel that they are part of a team effort, but that their personal efforts are important. Getting your employees and customers to care about the journey that they are on – is, ultimately, what we’re all looking for.
7. What one business application/piece of software could you not live without?
As I do a lot of travelling I'm a big fan of the many apps which help you to get from A to B, whether you’re in your car or on foot. Other than the usual mapping apps, I particularly like Citymapper which helpfully brings together the different types of public transport and is invaluable in making tight meeting deadlines in the various cities that I visit around the world.
8. What are you driving right now?
I like practical cars and am currently driving an Audi all road A6, which is capable of getting me anywhere in any weather. Besides that, it is very comfortable and capable of taking my bike and any other junk that I want to throw in the boot.
9. If you could employ any famous person in your business, past or present, who would it be and why?
I have huge admiration for people who follow their passions literally to the ends of the earth. Ellen Mcarthur who sailed singlehandedly around the world and showed exceptional bravery in fixing a problem at the top of her mast in the Roaring Forties, would definitely be in my team.
10. What's your best piece of advice for anyone else starting their own business?
To succeed, never take no for an answer. In business, there are lots of people who might doubt your ability whether through a lack of trust, jealousy or just pure ignorance. The key is that these people can help to fuel your motivation as they need to be proved wrong.
A good example of this is an email that I received from a VC when we started the business 15 years ago and were losing lots of money, that basically said I'm not going to invest in you because you don't stand a ‘cat in hells’ chance against a competitor like Experian. That stuck with me and was (and probably still is) a very powerful driver even though we've largely proved our point.