Passion and a belief in your vision: Believing in what you are doing and having a passion for it is incredibly important as it gives a higher purpose to the trials and tribulations you face day in and day out. The nature of repairing and servicing 1000s of vehicles each week is that some customers may not have the best experience and they will vocally let the company know about this with bad reviews (thankfully our reviews are super strong with 4.7/5 on TrustPilot and an NPS of +90!). However, when these do come in, it’s always a priority to respond and resolve the issue. It’s also worth taking a moment to look at all the amazing reviews and experiences consumers have had to remind you of that vision and the reason why you are building what you are building.
Being a founder, entrepreneur, or business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur” we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Jervis.
Andrew Jervis co-founded ClickMechanic in 2012, an online marketplace for car repair which locates and provides quotes from vetted mechanics quickly and simply. The London-based business now has over half of a million registered users and surpassed £8.5 million in booking revenue in 2020.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Thanks for having me on here! My passion for wanting to create a better experience for drivers and mechanics in the auto industry didn’t happen overnight. My family has had ‘auto blood’ in them for decades. My grandfather was a military mechanic during the second world war and went on to create a successful mechanics and leasing company. My father, having left school at 15 to become a mechanic, now owns a Kia franchise dealership in the midlands of the UK and my brother is a mechanic too, owning his own independent workshop.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
The idea for ClickMechanic first dawned on me when I was in University. I was running another business in the automotive parts space during that time. Having grown the business into a sustainable business I started looking at other opportunities and problems that customers faced in the space. I soon realized that car repair was fraught with problems for both mechanics and consumers. After speaking with my brother and having read a series of industry reports I realized this was a space ripe for disruption. I then worked on a 75,000-word thesis during my Master’s course at the University of Manchester, dedicating all my research to this problem. Armed with a business plan, I joined the Entrepreneur First Technology Accelerator program in London, where I met ClickMechanic’s co-founder, Felix. The rest is history as they say!
In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
I’ve always had a bit of an entrepreneurial streak in me. When I was still in University, I successfully launched two ventures — a merchandise clothing company that supplied 30 Universities and sold over 30,000 units and an auto parts eCommerce business which I sold in 2012. I believe there are qualities in people that can lend more to the uncertainty of entrepreneurship like high-risk tolerance and perseverance but all the skills and approaches can be acquired and developed if you have a passion for making and delivering an incredible product or experience.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
I don’t think there is just one person but there were lots of people along the way in those early days who were all people I learned a little bit from. This could be from the founders of Entrepreneur First, to my University lecturer, my family, the president of the entrepreneur society (of which I was the vice-president), other founders who were present further along the journey. In short, I think you’ve got to get that inspiration and learn from as many people and places as possible.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The auto repair industry has an infamous reputation but on the whole, I don’t think this is largely any fault of its own. It’s largely down to a small minority of providers who give a substandard service along with the opaque nature of the industry. Our whole mission is about breaking these challenges down by providing more trust, transparency, and convenience and the solution we’re building is based around these pillars of our mission. We do this through our industry-first instant quote technology which has given out billions of pounds worth of instant quotes to give consumers transparency. We undertake vetting of all mechanics joining the network to give trust to drivers and also ensure the mechanics come to the customer (or provide free collection and delivery) for complete convenience.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
I think the three most character traits that have been instrumental along the way are dedication, respect, and humility.
In terms of dedication, building any company takes a huge amount of dedication and perseverance to ride through the highs and lows. You just have to look at the statistics and see that proportionally entrepreneurs suffer greater amounts of mental illness around depression and anxiety than the general population because there is a huge amount of responsibility and stress which comes with the territory. This is why having the dedication and perseverance to ride through the hard times and not quit is so important to be able to build a successful business. I’ve faced countless challenges since our inception but having the resolve to accept the position you are in and consider it a great learning opportunity enables you to persevere and carry on.
In terms of respect, I think it can be easy for founders to get carried away with the position of responsibility they find themselves in and not necessarily treat people the way they would want to be treated themselves. I try to make a concerted effort to respect our team, investors, customers, suppliers, and any other stakeholders as much as possible. Without these key people, ClickMechanic would simply not exist.
And lastly, humility. It’s a trait that I don’t think I regarded as something that was important until recently. A lot of people think of entrepreneurs as the alpha go-getter who won’t stop at anything. The reality is, I believe, being humble and taking people with you, and collaborating together with an empowering work structure is so much more powerful than exhibiting an alpha-type personality which can leave people on the outside.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
Hire fast! Technically there is nothing wrong with hiring fast if you can guarantee the quality of the candidate and that they will be the right cultural fit for your company. The reality is that hiring fast while doing a million other things in a company and cutting corners on the hiring process can be many more times painful and expensive than actually running a more thorough process that helps get the right candidate.
Thankfully most of the hires we’ve made have been fantastic and we have an awesome team but there are several examples of us hiring too fast and cutting corners in the past which ultimately led to bad hires. One that springs to mind is an ex-employee that still has one of our laptops worth £1k+. This particular person was never seen or heard from again even after attempts to contact them and letting them know we’d need to share their information with the Police due to the theft of the laptop. The very fact that someone joined our company who did not live by one of our key values of honesty, shows we got something wrong and we hired too quickly in that instance.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?
This is a really interesting topic and something we’re all learning more about especially with the forced remote working experiment the recent pandemic has brought about. I think it all starts from the values the company holds true. If your company lives by them and your team aligns with them then this should better equip your team to thrive in your company and not burn out. Aside from this, I think it’s about giving flexibility to your team to enable them to optimize their own working preferences as not everyone’s the same. Some people like to work in a busy office while others prefer the quiet of home. If you can provide a flexible work routine and environment for your team to allow them to optimize what they need to work at their optimum then I think you can have a happier team and limit any possibility of burnout. When things return to normal, this insight we have learned more about during the pandemic will definitely guide our own work culture.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
Again, I think this boils down to your own values, what you regard as important, and not forcing something that’s not you. There is no single way to build trust and credibility. Some entrepreneurs like to be out there all the time networking and building those relationships while others can build that credibility and trust by the quality of the very product they’re building without ever attending a single networking event. Do what works for you but whatever you do, be dedicated to it!
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
Ultimately, following your values shows your authenticity. If you’re seen to be authentic in your approach I think this will translate into the type of credibility you deserve in the space you operate in.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
I’m a massive advocate for lean start-up principles, something you can learn more about from the lean start-up book. Essentially, this methodology advocates for lots of customer development to learn more about what your customers actually want. Creating minimum viable products which can be launched to the market quickly and using customer feedback to iterate the product and improve it further.
With this in mind, perhaps one of the biggest mistakes many founders make from my perspective is first, they don’t speak to their customers enough and then secondly they try and build the all singing and dancing product which takes a huge amount of time to get to market with limited insights to know if it’s actually what the market wants.
Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?
A couple of years ago one of Silicon Valley’s highest regarded entrepreneurs called Ben Horowitz wrote a book about entrepreneurship and building a start-up and called it “The Hardest Thing About Hard Things”. I think the name he gave the book summarises quite nicely why being in entrepreneurship can be filled with big highs and big lows. It’s because building a company will be one of the hardest things you can do in your life. And naturally, as a human being, if you succeed at something, it can be incredibly satisfying. However, with the very nature of that thing being incredibly hard the chances are you are going to run into some major difficulties and road bumps along the way which will cause you huge degrees of stress and turmoil. It’s the nature of the beast!
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
When I first moved to London in 2012 to join the tech accelerator Entrepreneur First and started building our company with my co-founder Felix, the emphasis was very much on validating your idea in a very short period of time and getting your first investor onboard. It was an exciting yet stressful 4 months or so, right from moving to a new city, initially sleeping on a friend’s couch, regularly pitching investors at events all while trying to build our startup and trying to validate our hypothesis and get some customers. I remember one particular investor took a bit of shining to us after several meetings. After inviting us out for lunch and giving us a final grilling he proceeded to tell us he wanted to be our first investor and was going to make us an offer. The feeling of relief and euphoria that someone actually wanted to back us certainly stands out to me. We realized at that point we could actually do this! People believed in us and our idea by offering to invest and give us their money. Ultimately, we did not take the offer as we did not think it was right for us but at that very moment, it did give us an unusually high level of excitement.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
The nature of start-ups especially in the early days is that you are constantly reviewing your bank balance to understand how much runway you have left (number of months before you run out of money based on your current cost base and revenues). There have been times in the past where that runway has run perilously short and we’ve had to act by doing things as forgoing our own salaries for many months despite still having our own rent and other expenses to cover.
Being in these situations can be incredibly stressful and leave you feeling vulnerable with sleepless nights. We were faced with challenges such as figuring out how to make payroll, updating investors, and keeping the business running all while trying to figure out how to pay your own bills. Thankfully, today the company is at a more mature level where we are very strict about monitoring our costs and revenues so we can adjust our course if needed all while keeping a sufficient buffer in the bank that can see us through most emergencies (such as the pandemic!).
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
When faced with a problem this is where those key characteristics can kick in with perseverance and determination. I think most sane people would probably quit and remove themselves from what would be a very stressful situation but by keeping going it is possible to get to the other side. And yes, when you do get there, there is a huge amount of relief.
Over time I’ve also brought in practices into my life to try and have a healthy foundation to proactively tackle challenges. This has included ensuring I get 8 hours sleep most nights, whereas I used to think 6 was more than enough. It includes ensuring I get some good exercise on most days, eat healthily, and even having coaching or therapy to improve. We recently enrolled our team into a program called Spill which gives them access to 24/7 mental health care which they can access whenever they want. Our brains and minds need looking after just like our bodies!
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Perseverance and determination: Building a company is going to be one of the most challenging yet exciting things you will do in your life. Accepting the fact that there will be plenty of highs and challenges and you will need the perseverance and determination to work through them is absolutely fine and normal. As mentioned earlier, in the past we’ve had cash flow challenges and our most effective way to deal with them was to make a plan and act on it to get through the experience. Without that, it’s easy to get lost and flounder.
- A Co-founder you can trust: A problem shared is a problem halved. Running a business can be hard so being able to share the experience with someone who compliments your strengths with their own but more importantly with someone you can trust, is incredibly valuable. There have been numerous times where I’ve been able to have a very frank and honest conversation with my co-founder which in that moment of time I would not have been able to have with anyone else due to the extremely unique nature of the content.
- Passion and a belief in your vision: Believing in what you are doing and having a passion for it is incredibly important as it gives a higher purpose to the trials and tribulations you face day in and day out. The nature of repairing and servicing 1000s of vehicles each week is that some customers may not have the best experience and they will vocally let the company know about this with bad reviews (thankfully our reviews are super strong with 4.7/5 on TrustPilot and an NPS of +90!). However, when these do come in, it’s always a priority to respond and resolve the issue. It’s also worth taking a moment to look at all the amazing reviews and experiences consumers have had to remind you of that vision and the reason why you are building what you are building.
- Values you and your team believe in: Having internal alignment and culture in the company that enables people to flourish without friction, is so valuable. At ClickMechanic we have 4 key values which everyone is aware of and are central to our review process. By getting everyone on the same page it creates more harmonious team interactions in what already is an environment that has a high degree of uncertainty.
- Self-care. Humans are not machines and instead are a complex mass of irrational emotions, values, and motivations. Ensuring you’re nurturing your body and mind with what it needs can set you up to deal with whatever may come your way. Furthermore, there is no right or wrong answer to what self-care means for different people. Some people may need 9 hours of sleep to function properly other people may need 6 hours. It’s just about finding out what works best for you and trying to maximize those things by making sure they are high up on your priority list.
We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
I think resilience is the ability to accept the circumstances you find yourself in whether it is good or bad and carry on with your best efforts regardless of the situation. I think some of the key characteristics of resilient people include determination, being calm, consistent, optimistic and accepting.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
I think from a young age I’ve attempted to put myself in situations that have challenged me. I’ve persevered with them which has given me a characteristic of just getting on and doing what I set out to achieve and very rarely quitting. An example of this could be when I was 17 and in my last year of high school. I was offered an opportunity to do a year abroad in a high school in the USA. Before I left I made a pact with myself that I would not come back to the UK for at least a year. The year abroad was certainly a culture shock and challenging but led me on to do some great things. I was the youngest coach in a national soccer coaching company with coaches who were many years older than me and coaching students who were often not much younger than me. This was a challenging time but helped build that resilience and confidence to strive and not quit.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
I certainly make a concerted effort to keep a positive and constructive attitude in any situation we may find ourselves in. I think creating positive and constructive vibes of how we can improve despite the outcome, is the best motivator for everyone — myself and colleagues included. No one particularly likes working with a pessimist and a purveyor of doom. I’ve seen firsthand what impact these approaches can have on a team or individual so it makes it easy to make this decision of making a collaborative effort to bring positivity.
Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.
When the pandemic first hit we lost literally 50% of our traffic to the website overnight and like pretty much every business we did not know what the future would hold for us. However, instead of worrying about the future, we put that nervous energy into finding opportunities and trying to make a positive impact for the greater good. Within a few days, our team had come up with the idea of contact-free car repairs, had created specifications, operating procedures, and updated our tech to create the product and experience. Our customers loved it as it helped keep them and their loved ones safe if they needed to get their car maintained. As a result, we saw onsite conversion rates go up over 20% which went quite a long way to help stem the revenue gap we saw from the drop in traffic. We then went on to realise more opportunities such as this and we were back to hitting record revenue months in the summertime. Without a positive outlook such as this, we would not have been able to respond as well as we did.
Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?
I don’t have a favorite but I did recently read a fantastic autobiography by Phil Knight the founder of Nike. So with that fresh and at the top of my mind, I think a very appropriate quote most entrepreneurs would do well to embrace would be “Just do it”!
How can our readers further follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!