Molly Johnson-Jones of Flexa Careers.
Tell us about yourself?
I’m the CEO and co-founder of Flexa Careers, the global directory of verified flexible companies. I was born in London and have worked here (often from home!) ever since graduating from university.
What lessons has being an entrepreneur taught you?
You’re more capable than you think you are. When you first start a business, it’s overwhelming looking at all of the stuff you have to do but don’t know how. But more often than not, you’re able to do it. If not, there’ll be people around you who can!
The highs and lows of running a business can also be pretty extreme, and the transition from one to the next is incredibly fast. This makes it hard to celebrate wins, and to work through the losses without feeling like the world is ending. But I’ve learnt that this is something you get better at with time.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
We spent far too much time listening to other people and doubting ourselves in the early days. So I would tell myself to believe more in my own abilities, and to keep listening to those who believe in you and your vision instead.
A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?
As an early stage founder, it can be hard to switch off from work. But my autoimmune condition doesn’t let me forget the importance of good work-life balance.
If I don’t find time to exercise and let stress build up, my symptoms flare up and can cause me a huge amount of discomfort. Having flexibility over when and where I work enables me to balance both my working needs and my health needs.
Having said that, I can’t (and wouldn’t!) change the fact that my co-founder is also my partner. This means that we inevitably end up talking about work during our weekends and evenings.
So our company-wide shutdown periods and annual digital detox breaks have become essential fixtures in our calendars, creating the space we need to truly switch off and reset.
Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?
Flexa Careers was inspired by my experience of asking a former employer to work from home one day per week, to accommodate my autoimmune condition.
Within ten days of making the request, I was fired. My subsequent job hunt was fraught with anxiety thanks to the lack of clarity around companies’ working or flexible hours policies.
It’s this lack of transparency which leaves candidates disempowered and in the dark, and which drove me (alongside my co-founders Maurice and Tim) to create a better way of finding genuinely flexible companies.
What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?
We’ve flipped the hiring process on its head. By helping employers build brand awareness and showcasing their flexible working benefits, we enable companies to be discovered by tons of talent who value those very same things.
It’s about creating a pipeline of talent, and building teams who are able to thrive in their working environment.
This way, expensive, time consuming and potentially misguided reactive hiring campaigns become redundant.
How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you just starting out?
We launched Flexa just before the start of the pandemic, at the end of 2019. This was entirely coincidental. But as far as sales go, it definitely meant that flexible working was already firmly on companies’ agenda.
We’ve grown in line with ever-increasing demands for flexibility from workforces ever since, and now have 180 companies on the platform. They include Allianz, Depop, Carwow, and Elvie.
To founders starting out in this market, I’d say: the world of work is both an exciting and noisy space to be in right now. So harness that energy, and work on finding a way to articulate what’s different about your offering.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far in your business, and how did you overcome it?
As a woman, as someone with a chronic illness, and as someone who launched a business with their partner, I can face bias on three different fronts in the business world.
This means overcoming other people’s preconceptions about who I am and what I’m capable of – particularly when it comes to raising funding – have made for the most challenging moments.
Targeting female investors meant that at least one of those three barriers was suddenly no longer an issue. It made me feel more comfortable and removed some of the biases and misconceptions that I’d faced when raising our first round.
What do you find are the advantages of operating your business in London?
We operate on a remote-first basis. This means that whilst our London-based office is always available to those who want to use it, there’s no obligation to come in. Instead, we have a monthly team meet up.
Usually this takes place in London, but we reimburse travel and accommodation expenses for those who live outside of the capital.
The upshot is that we’re able to attract talent up and down the country, whilst still being able to meet lots of our London-based customers and stakeholders in-person as founders. Video calls are great, and absolutely necessary. But so is being able to make more personal connections when the option is there.
Are there any issues with having a London based business? Have you experienced these?
There’s so much talent so much further afield than London. Businesses that don’t take a flexible approach to working locations are missing out. Our culture of autonomy – as long as work gets done and to a high standard, we don’t mind how, when or where it takes place – means we don’t have to.
How has the higher than UK average cost of living impacted your ability to work and live in London and how has this also impacted your ability as an employer?
A London office makes for very expensive rent. But it’s important for us to maintain the space so that people have the option to use it. Choice is the definition of genuinely flexibility.
If you had to relocate your business to another city in the UK, which one would it be and why?
Copenhagen. I love the outdoors and the Danes have incredible scenery. They also have amazing food, and are able to appreciate a much slower pace of life.
How has BREXIT impacted your business (if at all)?
Brexit itself hasn’t directly impacted our business. The recession on the other hand has somewhat slowed down the sales cycle.
What is your vision for your company in the next 5 years?
To be the global source of truth when it comes to company working environments. We want Flexa Careers to be the first place people think to go to when they want to know whether a company is flexible, and to find out exactly what that company is offering.
And finally, if people want to get involved and learn more about your business, how should they do that?
You can join our webinars, or follow us on social media to find out more about what we’re up to.
For employers who want to know what job hunters are looking for right now, I’d recommend reading our Flexible Working Index: a new series we’ve launched to offer monthly insights into exactly that. Then, to find out how your current offering compares, try our Flexification quiz.
Follow Flexa Careers on Twitter or Linkedin.