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“Everyone works their own way” With John Furneaux

Everyone works their own way — This is core to the Hive philosophy, and I started to think about this after a discussion with Scott Irwin of Rembrandt Ventures. There are no two people with the same work patterns, and if you’re in the workplace SaaS space, like we are, you have to be malleable. […]

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Everyone works their own way — This is core to the Hive philosophy, and I started to think about this after a discussion with Scott Irwin of Rembrandt Ventures. There are no two people with the same work patterns, and if you’re in the workplace SaaS space, like we are, you have to be malleable. I’ve built Hive’s flexible project views around this concept, which turned out to be the most popular part of our product.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing John Furneaux.

John leads Hive as CEO and co-founder, and received his MA in Mathematics and Law from the University of Cambridge and is a keen pilot and cyclist. Starting his career as a strategy consultant to Fortune 500 companies, he saw the serious challenges teams faced while trying to work together effectively. It was the catalyst for a career-long specialism in the tools teams use to achieve their goals productively.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Idon’t know if I was born a ‘teamwork nerd’, but I certainly became one. All I think about all day long is how to help teams work better together, so they can accomplish the thing that they’re working on faster.

I love those ‘tallest paper tower’ challenges from summer camp just as much as I love reading about the 400,000 person team that put Apollo 11 on the Moon.

I taught myself to code and built the first version of Hive, a collaboration hub and project management tool in 2016. Hive has now grown to a company of over 60 employees, and is proud to power the teams at Starbucks, Comcast, Google and thousands of organizations around the world.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Hive is the only app you need to power your day-to-day. No, seriously. At its core, Hive is a project management tool, but in reality we’re a product-led company on a mission to change the face of remote work.

That means we’ve got all of the tools you utilize on a daily basis: task management, notes, chat, a Slack integration, an email integration that pulls your inbox into Hive, a Zoom integration, and soon we will have a slew of meeting-related features that will be the catalyst for your most successful meetings ever. This is the next frontier and our big bet on totally transforming how we’ve been working remotely.

Think about it — what has the biggest monopoly on your time? The answer is probably meetings. And what’s everyone’s biggest pet peeve about meetings? For me, it’s the fact that I never know if what we’re talking about will actually be accomplished or followed-up on. I mean, 63% of meetings start without an agenda — that’s not exactly a recipe for success.

With Hive’s new Meeting Notes functionality, you’ll be prompted to open a new Hive Note before the meeting starts, you’ll be able to take interactive notes during the meeting in the same window as your Zoom call, and you’ll be able to assign next steps directly to individuals from the note itself, regardless of whether each assignee is a Hive user. This is going to totally change the way we meet and the efficiency with which we can get things done in this new age of remote work.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When Hive first started, I wanted to find a great name. My inspiration was hard working animals. I asked my mom for some suggestions, as one does, and she suggested beavers. Beavers seemed like a great option because they’re very hardworking and thorough. I was very close to naming Hive something related to beavers, but quickly took a poll and my friends cautioned me against using beavers and pointed me towards bees instead. They claimed bees had “a more positive connotation” — after all, who would want to use a project management tool with a name related to beaver dams? It ended up working out for the best, as I was able to snag the domain name Hive.com.

The lesson here? Always do your research before naming your company. A name is forever, and you want to make sure that you’ve surveyed the options from all angles — is there any possible way the name can be misconstrued? What are friends and family’s first reactions when they hear the name? Can you get the domain name?

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

There was a man named Matthew Whitson, who I worked with at my old company, Capgemini. He might not remember me, but I remember him. When I worked there, at my first-ever job, Matthew asked me to do some photocopying. The other junior people around me were sort of turning their noses up at the task — they didn’t want to do it. They were tremendously smart, young graduates, and thought their time could better be spent elsewhere.

But for me, who spent time in college working at restaurants washing dishes, this was a very exciting task. So I went and did the photocopying, I made friends with the man in the photocopying room, and I realized that the copies would look better if they were put into a binder and polished up a bit. So I did that, and I brought it back to Matthew. He was caught off-guard by the binder and impressed by the attention to detail.

After that, he took me under his wing and we worked together for the next two years. He taught me a lot of what I know about working collaboratively and how to manage with emotional intelligence. He also taught me that you need to do the small things well and the rest will follow.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

All innovation is born from disruption. It’s human nature to keep doing the same thing, especially if it’s what has worked in an industry for decades, unless there’s a catalyst for change that forces us to reassess.

Take something like the Samsung Galaxy Fold for example. That foldable phone that was released a few years ago that was more expensive than an iPhone and started breaking when people would fold it (very counterintuitive). This was definitely disruptive, but it wasn’t successful. It didn’t change the iPhone’s dominance in the industry, and the public largely ridiculed the concept.

But fast forward to this week. Microsoft announced their Surface Duo, a foldable phone that blurs the line between phone and tablet. Without the Samsung Galaxy Fold’s “disruption” of the industry, this release would’ve hit much differently. There was a trial run, of sorts, that helped Microsoft understand what NOT to do, and how they could better innovate.

That being said, I think disruption is always positive at a macro-level, as it forces people to think differently, but it might not always be positive for you as the disruptor.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Nail the boring stuff — This goes back to my previous comment about the photocopies. You need to be able to do the boring stuff well — not everyone has the patience and humility to execute on it, and it’ll set you apart from everyone else if you do.

Everyone works their own way — This is core to the Hive philosophy, and I started to think about this after a discussion with Scott Irwin of Rembrandt Ventures. There are no two people with the same work patterns, and if you’re in the workplace SaaS space, like we are, you have to be malleable. I’ve built Hive’s flexible project views around this concept, which turned out to be the most popular part of our product.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” — If you can’t deal with failure, don’t found a startup. Failure is a healthy and critical part of startup life.

Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

This. Sharing the Hive story with people around the world through content is a huge part of our lead generation strategy and has been critical to our success.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

I mentioned this earlier, but we’re on a mission to totally revolutionize remote work. As we shifted to remote work during COVID, it made us reassess our product roadmap and think critically about the parts of our workday we could dismantle and reassemble. How can we change the ways we work remotely? What are the areas that need improvement? Where can we reduce friction?

Meetings felt like a natural place to start, as they’re the things that take up the most of our time (execs spend up to 50% of their time in meetings), and video meetings are what has helped maintain some semblance of normalcy these last six months. But they’re nowhere near as efficient or effective as they could be. Those nuggets have served as a launchpad for innovation and disruption that we’re excited to bring to market later this year.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

Predictably Irrational, a great book written by Dan Ariely about decision-making and rational thought. It helped me realize that software is used by people, not machines, and we need to focus on making Hive into a software that matches how human beings operate. That’s why making Hive a flexible tool that caters to individual working styles has always been so important.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“It always seems impossible until it is done” — Nelson Mandela. I absolutely love this quote, because it’s the essence of being a startup founder. Everything that I’ve achieved at Hive, from securing our first customer to breaking $1M ARR seemed utterly impossible at one point. But if you have an incredible team behind you, like we do, anything is possible.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’ve always been passionate about working with a group called The Innocence Project. They focus on exonerating the wrongly convicted, and that passion inspired a new initiative we’ve been working on called Hive Heroes. Hive Heroes will donate $1 from each seat purchased in Hive to charity over the next few years, and we’re excited to make an impact on a global level.

How can our readers follow you online?

LinkedIn — https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnfurneaux/

Twitter — https://twitter.com/jfurneaux

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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