Introducing our new podcast - The Conversation - dedicated to exploring Re-flow, the field management industry, and the latest technology and innovation within our sectors. Our debut episode features Ashley Wing, our Head of Sales & Marketing, as he sits down with Re-flow's co-founders, Mike Saunders and Lee Wade, to revisit the inspiring story of how the company was founded, as well as an engaging discussion that delves into the ethos behind our product, how it fits within the landscape of the field management industry, and where it’s headed in the future.
Re-flow has experienced tremendous growth since it’s establishment in 2018, with a constantly expanding team and client base. We’re now trusted by a community of hundreds of businesses across numerous industries, including titans such as M.V. Kelly, WJ, FM Conway and Colas. Ashley asked Lee and Mike how they felt when looking back at their starting point to where the company finds itself currently.
LW: “Yeah, I think for me, I don’t actually feel that the process of working with a client is any different. The first thing we always do with Re-flow – you’ve got to understand the client and their needs. I think the only thing that is different is that we can satisfy a lot more of those needs out the box, because the product has matured over the years.
But, clients will always have a new requirement, or there’ll be new industry requirements and we’re always constantly having to adjust the product for that, or add new functionality for that. But, I think, yeah, actually as for working with the clients it’s the same. It’s just… we’ve come a long way in the ability of the product and obviously we have a much bigger team.”
MS: “Yeah, that’s probably one of the nicest things I think, is having a really great team around us who are all adding so much more. So, having more customers, who are bringing more to us all the time and suggesting more ideas, and having a great team who also do the same and bring lots of new, fresh ideas to the table. It’s exciting.”
Although Re-flow was officially founded in 2018, Lee and Mike’s history together actually goes back many years further, all the way back to their time at college. After going their separate ways following their school years, the two reconnected, collaborating on several projects, one of which would eventually grow into Re-flow.
MS: “We met when we were 16 years old at college. I was doing all the arty courses. Lee was doing all the clever, technical, computer stuff. And, we had a mutual friend who was in my theatre class and we kind of ended up just hanging out together, and we then kind of drifted apart after that…”
LW: “I moved to Exeter and bumped into Mike again.”
MS: “Lee was running a IT company, and I was running Reactor, a sort of web, design and software company, and Lee was like – ‘We’ve got to get to apps! Apps is the future’. That’s where we started collaborating. We ended up very quickly getting to do all these quite clever business apps. Especially, somehow, we managed to start working for the NHS and a few other big firms.”
LW: “Yeah, that was a good client to get on board at the early days. It pushed the technical side of the app and what we could do as a business. And, obviously, there’s a lot of challenges when you’re involved with clinical data or data that has to be very accurate, so it helped us in our early days to really broaden our knowledge of what was required for apps within that environment.”
MS: “It was just through an organisation that Lee had been working with for many years in the highways sector who said that they had a need for, what is essentially a field service management system, but at the time we didn’t know that. They just needed a system the system and they couldn’t find something that fit what they needed. Something that could potentially hoover up data from on-site. And, they said – “Surely you guys could do something?” – and that’s where it all began.”
In addition to being co-founders, Lee and Mike serve as Technical Director and Managing Director respectively. With their own individual professional backgrounds and approaches, Ashley asked how their personalities come together in running a business, and how their unique outlooks have contributed to making Re-flow what it is today.
MS: “In lots of ways, I’d say.”
LW: “It’s helped balance out our growth, so the growth is done in a safe and sustainable manner. Because, if we went too far off the edge going – ‘Great! Let’s do all this stuff.’ - you’ve got a chance of tripping over or not fulfilling what you’re trying to achieve. So, I think, pulling on both sides just keeps us in that sort of middle zone. It’s all about balance. I think everything in life is about balance. That steady growth means that you’re more stable as a company and more stable as a team because you get time to put in processes, you get time for everybody to move along with what you’re adding to the product or new verticals you’re bringing in. It gives everybody to grow on a pace that’s achievable.”
MS: “I think you need in any business, to make it really successful, I think you need that technical side – that really analytical side, that clever side. You also need the creative side of the business. I think we complement each other and make it work, because in terms of everything from our marketing and our brand, it’s very, very strong, and that’s an area I come from. Coming from a film background, design background, those are things that I understand quite well. I think that’s often forgotten about in business, and it’s such an important part. Just creating an awful lot of noise, and that’s something I think we do quite well.
“I think you need in any business, to make it really successful, I think you need that technical side – that really analytical side, that clever side. You also need the creative side of the business. I think we complement each other and make it work, because in terms of everything from our marketing and our brand, it’s very, very strong, and that’s an area I come from. Coming from a film background, design background, those are things that I understand quite well. I think that’s often forgotten about in business, and it’s such an important part. Just creating an awful lot of noise, and that’s something I think we do quite well."
The industry Re-flow is a part of – field management – is still a fairly young industry, albeit one which continues to experience rapid growth and increasing popularity year on year. As projects become more demanding, margins shrink and scrutiny over aspects such as HSE and environmental sustainability increase, more and more businesses are opting to go digital and get ahead of the curve. Ashley asked Lee and Mike what their thoughts are on the current state of the industry, and where Re-flow fits within that landscape.
MS: “I think that’s difficult because the field management industry is still at it’s early days. I think there’s still a huge amount of green pasture out there to be covered. Many of the organisations that we bring on board don’t have anything, and I think that says a lot. Whereas I would imagine in 4 – 5 years’ time, it’s going to be a situation where everybody has a system, and it’s more about looking for the next best system. Also, many systems specialise. Because we specialise in infrastructure primarily, we can only really essentially compare ourselves to other organisations who are similar to us, because there are other field management systems out there that are perfectly good for certain kind of industry sectors. Would you agree, Lee?”
LW: “Yeah I think that field management is a broad term, and obviously there’s a lot of specialised versions of field management for particular sectors and particular markets. I think for me it’s more that the areas that we concentrate in, like infrastructure, covering highways and such, their requirements are changing. You know, they know want to be more involved with green policies, better health and safety, so within the areas we specialise, I see more that we are now reacting to the needs of that market and trying to be at the forefront of delivering that functionality that they require.”
MS: “I think we feel like we’re doing pretty well, and we’ve got a lot of big people coming to us now. It’s a really nice thing when you have a very big name phoning you up and you’re thinking, ‘Wow’, and even saying to them – ‘Okay, so why are you contacting us?’, and they say – ‘Well, you’re the guys right?’. That’s a nice thing.”
One of Re-flow’s greatest strengths is its flexibility and adaptability to the varying needs of the many different businesses we serve. We must ensure that our solution can fit into the working processes of organisations of many sizes and remain scalable to enable businesses to grow comfortably and sustainably. Ashley asked whether Lee and Mike think this is the product’s strongest selling point, and how it compares to the competition.
LW: “I don’t know the competition obviously first-hand, so it’s hard to answer something like that. I know Re-flow really well, and I know the flexibility of our product, I believe, is very good, and I think that’s a key feature and a key part of its attractiveness to small to enterprise size clients. I think also, the way we work as a business and as a team, I think that the mentality we have as a team as well allows to be very rapid at adapting the software to meet new requirements. I’m always proud of how quickly we can roll out functionality and deliver it, because you can easily get stuck in a trap where you build a platform and you grow to a certain size and the technology sort of stagnates. You don’t see there’s a need to continue to develop it as you gain enough clients or whatever it may be, but that’s never the mentality at Re-flow. We’re always learning, listening, developing.”
MS: “It certainly feels like that’s one of our strengths. It’s that we’re always adding to the product, constantly. As far as we can see, we are doing that more rapidly than a lot of other, similar organisations might be. But, it is very hard to know, there’s a certain amount of secrecy out there as to what other people are doing. We can only do what we feel is best from our customer feedback and who we’re working with, and they certainly give us the impression that we’re doing a better job that some of the others might be.”
As a fully integrated field management solution, it’s crucial that Re-flow is able to meet client needs around the clock. Ensuring stability and reliability is a hugely important responsibility that our team is constantly committed to. Ashley asked how Re-flow is able to meet customer needs, and where we’re headed next.
MS: “To the stars.”
LW: “Just general security and maintenance is a big thing that’s important, because we’re always obviously making sure that we’re keeping up to date with all of the most current security risks and issues to make sure that the platform is stable and secure. And again, maintenance-wise, as clients adopt the system and use it, they can store and create lots and lots and lots of data, and we want to make sure the system stays responsive and fast and stable as they grow and get years and years of data in there. We’re always, again, focusing on making sure that the system is well maintained and kept safe.”
MS: “We have a list that goes on and on and on of things which are asked of us by customers. Some of them, a year ago, that we’re doing now, we were saying ‘We’re not going to be able to put that in. We’re never going to be able to do that’. But of course, as a team, as we get bigger, it gives us more ability to do these things. It also gives us more confidence to do these things as well, I think. Although we have lots and lots of plans which actually go 2 – 3 years into the future, I could see that whatever we say now, we’ll be surprised if we could look 2 – 3 years into the future, we’d probably be like – ‘Oh wow, really? We’re doing that? That’s amazing.’, you know. I could imagine that would be the case and we’d step forward even further. Who knows, really. I think that a lot of it will be dictated by what’s required in the market, because, even though we have a plan, we try and be adaptive and try and be responsive, and also to what new technologies come out; what comes along.”
With continued growth in Re-flow’s future, we’re excited to see where Lee, Mike and the rest of Re-flow’s team take the company next, and the milestones we’ll hit along the way. For more on Re-flow, field management and the latest technology, innovation and stories from the industries we serve, make sure you don’t miss future episodes of our brand-new podcast – The Conversation. To stay in the loop, simply follow us on social media or opt-in to our regular e-mail news alerts.