We talked to Tom O’Neill, founder, and CEO at FaultFixers, about maintenance services, and this is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Tom O’Neill: All ok, thanks for asking, looking forward to things returning to normal, although I certainly think it will be a ‘new normal’, both for individuals, but also for nearly all businesses.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded FaultFixers.
Tom O’Neill: I started my career as an Accountant at PwC, spending 7.5 years there; originally starting off in Banking Assurance, moving into Tech M&A, and then finally into their Commercial Innovation Team. It was a great foundation, added a lot of professional rigor and processes to the way I work, but my passions have always been in Startup Land.
I left Pw1C and began a short career in VC at Founders Factory in London. This was great and Founders Factory itself was a startup at the time, but I always wanted to be an operator as opposed to an investor, so whilst at Founders Factory, I was tinkering with the idea of FaultFixers.
The idea itself of FaultFixers was actually incepted many years ago when I was at University in halls, where at the time the only way for me to report issues in my room/common areas was to walk down to the Halls Office and write the issue in a logbook. I’d probably never get any feedback on whether the issue was resolved and it actually put me off reporting the issues, especially if it was insignificant. I thought that if there was a quick and simple way for me to report issues that I saw, and it alerted the relevant team(s), then this would be a much better experience. This encouraged me to help spot issues proactively which was where the idea of FaultFixers began.
So, when I was at Founders Factory, I met an investor who had also faced the same pain points. We clicked, we loved the idea, we started building our initial product and he became our first investor. It was at that point I left my role at Founders Factory to go full time into building FaultFixers to what it is today.
How does FaultFixers innovate?
Tom O’Neill: FaultFixers is a modern and simplified SaaS solution that helps businesses to manage their maintenance efficiently, gain oversight of their performance, and save costs. We’re primarily helping SMEs to access affordable software where traditional solutions are often expensive and outdated, and so our customers have been forced to adopt manual, paper-based, or spreadsheet-driven processes. FaultFixers automates all of the administration and scheduling aspects for our customers.
Additionally, and crucially, FaultFixers has specifically been designed to enable the entire workforce to report issues into the system, so rather than it being a tool for just the maintenance/back-office teams, we’re enabling every end-user in a business or building to be the eyes and ears when it comes to maintenance.
In relation to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, we have been innovating hard over 2020/21 to adapt our product to the new and socially distant ways of working. FaultFixers now enables customers to operate fully virtual and digital maintenance processes – our reporting tool helps businesses to reduce the transmission opportunities and avoidable in-person communications when it comes to maintenance. For example, we’re working extensively in the UK Social Care sector to help healthcare businesses such as Care Homes to digitalize their maintenance processes, allowing all care workers to report issues they experience completely digitally, eliminating the need to hunt down the maintenance team across the site, or repeatedly touching a paper-log book, which is also incredibly inefficient.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Tom O’Neill: On the broader perspective, it’s actually been a net positive. In the beginning, during the spring of 2020, winning new business certainly slowed down as we were all getting to grips with the impact of lockdown. Still, there are many businesses that are cautious at making new technology decisions and investments, but on the whole, everyone is very aware of the need to operate digitally and adopt virtual processes. Where previously manual and in-person tasks and operations were fine, they’re not sustainable in the current situation and they are also extremely inefficient.
Very recently, we have been able to increase our revenues as businesses are wanting to invest in digital technologies like ours and certainly in the care sector, the advantages of our virtual reporting has been a significant driver. We have also been able to raise further private investment from angel investors to help grow the business and the team and continue our momentum over the next 12-18 months.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Tom O’Neill: Fortunately not. We were a full-time team of 3 until December 2020, but we’ve doubled in size in 2021 off the back of the recent funding and the growing traction with customers in our markets.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Tom O’Neill: We’re a software product at the end of the day, so without being able to demo the platform in person, we’ve had to adopt Zoom for virtual demos – more zoom calls – yay! Actually, the best thing in this context is that now that everyone uses Zoom, it’s made it way easier to perform demos with customers because they’re all used to using Zoom, whereas back in early 2020, a lot of prospective customers had never heard of Zoom or other web-conferencing software, which made it more difficult to nurture our customers.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Tom O’Neill: Yes, the innovation to our reporting features and being able to offer customers the ability to digitally manage their maintenance in a 100% virtual and socially distanced way has allowed us to win £270,000 of grant funding from InnovateUK. The funding is specifically to help us expand our work in the UK social care sector and continue developing our platform to help address the impacts of Covid-19 in Care Homes. Over the next 16 months, we’re aiming to release further innovations to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases and grow our position in the care homes and healthcare markets.
Your final thoughts?
Tom O’Neill: Covid-19 has been a real pain for everyone over the past 12 months, but fortunately for FaultFixers, we have been nimble enough to weather the storm, and because of our hard work and innovation, we’re starting to show strong growth and traction with our maintenance software across a significant number of market verticals, which in turn has helped us to gain further investment to continue growing – 2021/22 will be exciting times for the FaultFixers team!
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