Six years of Street Group! Co-founders discuss achievements, learnings and future plans
Tell us how it all began
Heather: I think we’d need to go back quite a long way…! We’re siblings and our parents were both estate agents, so we pretty much grew up in the industry. Although we went on to do different things after university (Heather went to KPMG and qualified as a chartered accountant, Tom set up multiple businesses and taught himself to code), we both kept ‘a toe’ in by dipping into our parents’ businesses pretty regularly.
What was the motivation/driving force behind setting up the business six years ago?
Heather: It was when Tom was working in our Dad’s business that he spotted the huge opportunity to build technology to automate some of the processes they were doing very manually. He bought a textbook, taught himself to code in the evenings after he’d finished working on his other business and started to build essentially what is now Spectre. Spectre v1.0 started to win instructions and save a massive amount of time for the business very very quickly. It was at that point Tom knew that he had built something incredibly valuable for Agent’s and I joined the business to help scale.
Is this still the same motivation that gets you out of bed today, or has this changed?
Heather: I am still incredibly driven by the opportunity to put more and more sophisticated tech into the hands of talented Estate Agents across the UK, to make their lives, and their clients lives, easier — there is so much more we can do. There is just something very exciting and rewarding about seeing tech ideas come to life and hearing from clients who love using it on a day to day basis. Reading a new testimonial from a client still gives me a buzz that I can’t really describe (side note to all of our clients who do that — thank you! It means a lot!
Tom: When I started building the first version of Spectre, I was motivated by taking something that was just an idea, turning it into a real product and putting it out into the world. In that sense, not much has changed. As we’ve grown, we have more products and a bigger team but there always seems to be more things we want to do than we can!
The biggest difference between now and then is that now, I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by an incredible team. Working with some of the best technical people in the North West becomes a motivating factor in and of itself and I find myself constantly having to up my own game to try and keep up with them!
What’s been the most memorable moment in the past six years?
Heather: I’ll never forget printing, hand-signing and stuffing envelopes into the early hours in the morning 6 years ago to get Spectre off the ground! I’ll also never forget winning our first industry award — we went wild!
Tom: There are a lot to choose from! I don’t think I’ll ever forget landing our first big client, and desperately trying to hide my excitement and play it cool in their boardroom. (I recently shared that story with said client and found out I was not even close to successful in hiding it!).
What’s been the biggest challenge?
HeatherI think it’s fair to say from both of us that it would have to be COVID. The first few weeks of lockdown back in March when there were so many unknowns were incredibly tough and there were some very late nights that went into making sure we were overcommunicating both with our clients and with the team to make sure everyone was ok.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known six years ago?
Tom: How important it is to have the best and right people in your team.
It’s such a common answer to that question that it’s almost counter-intuitive; how could we not have known that 6 years ago when every founder, business book and article tells you how important it is?
My view is that there are some lessons you just have to learn for yourself. For those things, no amount of reading or listening can make you truly understand it and I think having the right people falls into this category.
What are you most proud of achieving in these last six years?
Heather: Being awarded world-class to work for by Best Companies is probably the proudest moment. From the very beginning of the company, we knew that the processes and culture we put in place then would form the basis for what they grew into as we scaled. We both spent countless hours reading every book on building company culture we could (highly recommend Work Rules! by Laszlo Bock as we borrowed a lot from that!) and to see that effort translate into our culture today has been amazing. To see it recognised externally was even better!
Where do you think the company will be in six years time?
Tom: This one is impossible to answer! We used to work on the basis that if we could project forwards 6 months and be accurate, we weren’t pushing ourselves hard enough and we were getting predictable.
Now the company has grown, we’ve had to flex this rule a bit and we now plan further ahead, but our projections never match reality. We’re still an extremely agile company and have the in-house skill and culture to be able to react quickly to our clients needs and market changes (this came in very handy during COVID).
In 6 years, all we know is that the company will look very different to what it looks like today.