A well-paid job in the City, two swift promotions, managing a budget and a UK-wide team – Luke Fisher appeared to have it all, before he hit his mid-20s. But it wasn’t enough.
Somewhere inside, a voice was niggling: “Follow your dream, Luke. Work for yourself. Go on, try out that idea!”
Less than two years on, Luke is CEO of his own business, ThanksBox, and loving every minute of his incredibly busy life. He’s even found time to get married, is dad to two young sons – and he’s still only 28.
The idea that niggled him was that many employees don’t feel valued by their bosses and many managers hate the prospect of setting up annual appraisals, or staff surveys, to check on their team’s progress. How to combine the two and produce an innovative, appealing, entrepreneurial business?
ThanksBox appears to be an answer. In a nutshell, it provides employees and managers with easy-to-use software to communicate ideas, make nominations for awards, convey simple thanks messages and hand out rewards for achievements. Its slogan? “Make work a better place”.
So how did Luke, who was born in Fleet, Hampshire, get here? He left school to start a business IT course, but dropped out after a few months and took a job with RBS in its customer services department. He was promoted within six months to the sales team and found his niche. “I reached number one in the company’s UK league tables for my sales figures,” he remembers proudly.
Luke’s next job was with Worldpay, a leading UK company in the payment services field. He looked after a portfolio of about 20 top companies as relationship manager and at the age of 20 managed some of the largest brands on the High Street. He was swiftly promoted and stayed for about five years, running sales teams across the UK.
The experience he gained with Worldpay left Luke with one burning thought – companies focus hard on improving customer relations, but rarely do enough to gauge how their employees are feeling, or what they want from their job.
“I realised there was a revolution in how people approach work,” Luke said. “Millennials like me don’t just work for the money, we need something more. We are known as the ‘needy generation’ for our love of feedback and it shows in the way we respond to praise, the environment we want to work in, how we are regarded by our colleagues. Companies like Google are famous for offering incentives which are not necessarily money-based – ‘fun’ working environments, dress-down days, hot-desking, table tennis games in the office etc. Now it’s become the norm to provide these things and people still want more.”
Luke hopes ThanksBox, created in May 2015, will play a part in the work revolution. He’s already got a number of companies interested in it and at the end of a symposium for 700 HR directors in Birmingham in January (where he outlined his innovative business idea) representatives of several corporations including Citibank, Virgin Media and Rolls-Royce came up to ask for more information.
“It’s incredible how quickly this is moving,” Luke said excitedly, throwing open his laptop to show me how ThanksBox works.
The company now has a small base near London Bridge, where Luke and his founder members – designer Steve Wikeley and the wonderfully named techie Merlin Mason – meet regularly to share ideas. They have also taken on Mark Davies, who has a Masters degree in theoretical physics, to run the data analytics.
Luke and his team also rent “hot desks” in various parts of the capital, where they can meet clients and check on progress with developers, designers and freelancers. Again, it’s a modern way of working which they find stimulating and useful. Despite his title of CEO – which he refers to as meaning “cheap everything officer” because of his current hands-on role – Luke is not yet ready to take a back seat in the company. His plan is to see out another five to seven years and perhaps move on to another idea, leaving ThanksBox to function without him. A very Millennial approach to life’s potential flexibility.
And when he’s not doing the crazy work hours, how does he power-down?
“I do high-intensity training at the Evolution Project in Camberley three to five times a week, it’s fantastic,” he enthused. Then it’s back home to his “amazing” wife Natalie and their two sons, aged 20 months and just two weeks at the time of our interview.
“I do my share of dad stuff, including bedtime routine, when I can get back in time,” Luke tells me with a smile. “It’s a full-on life, but I’m loving it.”