Our fifth anniversary

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I started this blog not long after founding MyWorkSearch in 2009. We started product development in February 2009 and provided our online service to our first customers in September 2009. In what seems like a blink of the eye, our portal is now five years old. We have a reasonably large team, numerous customers and are about to expand overseas. Whilst I still consider MyWorkSearch to be in startup mode I often hear others refer to us as an established business and the benchmark in our sector.

Fifth anniversaryThe five-year milestone has resulted in my thinking back to our original plans and how they have evolved over the years. The technology world often refers to business ‘pivoting’. This is a fancy way of describing when a company discovers that its anticipated business model has not worked out and survival necessitates a change of strategy. MyWorkSearch has certainly done its fair share of pivoting and it has only been in the last year or two that we have had a clear sense as to who our target customers are and the value we bring that will result in them paying for our services.

Our original rationale was that most people find job search a challenge. They approach the task in a chaotic and haphazard fashion and this reduces their effectiveness. Having paid consultants/advisors provide job search assistance is in most cases simply too expensive. We believed that technology would provide an effective and affordable alternative and this led to MyWorkSearch. We decided to create a portal that would provide all the resources a jobseeker would find useful as well as the tools to stay organised. We knew that this would increase job search effectiveness and real-life experience has demonstrated this to be the case.

Which brings me back to our business model. We have identified five types of customer. However, our ‘compelling value’ proposition only works well with four of them:

  • Motivated jobseekers see immediate relevance in MyWorkSearch. They access the resources they find useful and recognise the value they have received from their MyWorkSearch account.
  • Providers delivering a programme for the unemployed also appreciate MyWorkSearch. Our portal provides the structure and reporting that both enable effective job search and demonstrate that it is happening. MyWorkSearch ensures that systematic job search takes place and the provider can require that those they are assisting use it. We are a low cost, scalable and efficient way of delivering business performance and we can readily communicate this to our prospects.
  • Employability is important for colleges and vocational training providers and they can see how MyWorkSearch helps them systematically achieve progression. MyWorkSearch is part of how the students’ courses are delivered and they just get on and use it. Study Programmes, Traineeships and employability courses all generate customers for us.
  • Some organisations, such as libraries and job clubs, want to have a range of useful resources available to their users. MyWorkSearch is a readily accessible portal that service users will appreciate and a sector for whom we have a clear proposition.

Our challenge is the fifth type of customer. This is the unemployed individual who lacks job search motivation and is not on a programme where MyWorkSearch usage is mandatory. We know that MyWorkSearch can help this person, however, we also know that there is a high chance that the individual will either fail to open a MyWorkSearch account or quickly give up. As matters stand we don’t have a compelling proposition for these customers as our service cannot benefit them if they won’t use it.

As we look to the future my hope is that we find some solutions for this fifth customer group. How can technology engage with and motivate individuals who have got into the habit of giving up and who are not on mandatory programmes? If we can solve this our next five years will be even more successful.

The irony of success

I started MyWorkSearch Ltd a year ago and by all commercial measures the business has been a tremendous success.  We are on track for several millions of turnover and the business is healthily profitable.  There are 11 employees and we are hiring more as we continue to expand.  Meanwhile a lot of my time is spent looking for new markets for us to move into – both sector and geography.  A very rewarding recognition came from LinkedIn with their European Business Awards. MyWorkSearch has been shortlisted in the Startup category and my colleagues and I are nervously waiting for the awards ceremony on 24th March when we will find out how we have done.  If you are a LinkedIn member you can show your support and vote for us at http://www.linkedinbusinessawards.com/Nomination/Details/438.

However our success has been based upon the very large number of people who are unemployed.  Yes, we console ourselves, we are helping our customers be the ones who swiftly secure new jobs.  However to be a customer in the first place the individual has first lost his or her job.  As a business, rising sales are a good thing yet each additional subscription is an unemployed person who is inevitably experiencing a very challenging time.  This goes with the space we operate in and I feel great that we are providing a sufficiently good service that people choose us.  But it is a sobering thought that must temper our celebrations of commercial success.

And this brings me to the future of MyWorkSearch.  I don’t believe the economy is out of trouble and high unemployment will remain a problem for some while.  However a recovery will, I hope, come and with it greater employment prospects.  The future of MyWorkSearch will be in helping people far more actively manage their careers.  Instead of relying upon a buoyant economy providing opportunities I hope that the majority of those who wish to work will actively manage their careers.  They will think about the working life they want and what they need to do to achieve this.  Our service will be the resource that helps them define their aspirations and then manage the activities that will realise these goals.  If we get this right our service will be usefully available 24*7 for as long as it is required whilst also being affordable to all.  Working on this plan is inspirational for the team.  If we get it right it will make life better for huge numbers of people.  Meanwhile we will build a great and sustainable business.  And if we don’t get it right we hope that at least we inspire someone else to do it properly and effect this necessary transformation.