Phorest: Seeing The Wood For The Trees In Business Growth

Tech takeaways from one of Dublin’s top SaaS contenders…

The reasons to talk to Ronan Percival, Founder and CEO of Phorest, about growing a business in Dublin are two-fold: Firstly, Ronan has adopted a bootstrap approach in growing his company to 80 employees and approaching €10m revenue with a long-term focus sustained over Phorest’s 11-year history. Secondly, Phorest’s stated mission is to help salon and spa owners grow their business so knowing what it takes to grow a business is very much his bread and butter.

The Phorest story may seem unconventional these days in a software startup world that encourages short-term focus, applauds external investment, reveres hyper-growth, and is ever-searching for the next billion-dollar unicorn business. However, there are lessons to be taken from the slow and steady approach to growth that prioritises accuracy over speed. There are also many advantages to locating your software business in Dublin if sustainable growth is your ultimate aim.

1. Software is eating the world, so you had better nail a niche
SaaS guru Jason Lemkin’s first rule for achieving growth is “You’re not ready to grow until you nail a niche.” Phorest can certainly claim to have ticked this box as it has identified an industry that is largely underdeveloped and underserved and is crying out for a technology platform to underpin its operations. Ronan explains “It’s one of the biggest industries in the world yet it’s out of touch with technology compared to travel, health, or anything else. As a result, there’s a huge opportunity to put the underlying layer of technology into this industry.” Ease of access to one’s target market is also an important part of the growth equation and an area in which Dublin-based companies are particularly strong given the openness of the Irish economy and lack of exchange rate risk when trading within the EMU – this being a priority target for Phorest who now serve customers in England, Scotland, Wales, Finland, Luxembourg, and France.

2. Take the time to really understand your industry
Phorest started out doing relatively straightforward salon software, but having spent 11 years with its customers, imbedded in the industry, Ronan believes that it’s only in the past few years that the opportunity to become a global leader in the area has become clear. The elusive concept of product-market fit seems to have fallen into place and is reflected in the company’s double-digit growth in 2014 and 2015. As Ronan says: “It takes many years for you to understand the industry in which you’re working. It also can take many years for you to actually see the opportunities that are open to you.” Of course, if taking the time to do the research on your target market and is vital to growth, it is abundantly helpful to be located in a regulatory environment that offers a R&D tax credit scheme, highly-competitive CPT rates, and the support of agencies like the IDA and Enterprise Ireland.

3. Hire the right talent and make every employee feel like a founder
Phorest boasts perhaps a unique record in that six of the first ten employees that started out in the company are still in the team over ten years later. Ronan believes that this not only aids in maintaining the company’s culture but also instils a sense of ownership in each team member safe in the knowledge that the company has a long-term focus and their work is part of something bigger than a race to the exit. “Being able to say to people that we’re building for the long-term has helped us create one of the best tech teams in Dublin.” The Dublin factor is of particular relevance when it comes to hiring top tech talent that, owing to the presence of so many tech MNCs, has extensive experience in growing businesses to large scale across EMEA.

Phorest CEO Ronan Perceval will be speaking at this month’s #1stFriBrekkie, hosted by the Dublin Commissioner for Startups – register to attend HERE.

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