9 Years of Hive IT.
Celebrating 9 years of Hive IT, we got to know the founder - Jonny Rippon.
- Jonny Rippon
- 18 mins
Tom: Hello and welcome to Episode 29 of the Make Things Better podcast.
Today I'm joined by founder of Hive IT, Jonny Rippon. Welcome on the show Jonny, how are you doing today?
Jonny: I'm doing well Tom, thanks.
Tom: Yeah thank you for coming on and today we're going to sort of celebrate Hive getting to nine years and basically go through how the last nine years have been for you really and so we'll start off with a bit of an introduction.
Do you want to tell us a little bit about what you were doing before Hive and then why you created Hive?
Jonny: Yeah I suppose, where do I start? I suppose I could start back when I was young I suppose, when I was a child. I grew up in a family where my dad was a mechanic and a small business owner himself so I've kind of always been around a business, and I used to chip in so I used to wash cars, I used to sell spares on the side when I was 12 years old - so I've always had a bit of a work ethic and a spirit in me.
Then I went to university, I did sociology and that kind of really opened my eyes up to a different world, to studying society and people and interactions. It kind of made me realise the inequalities I suppose that we've got in the world, it opened my eyes up to, other than the class divisions that I saw in my childhood, to gender and other issues that are out there so it's kind of part of my DNA I think. So I'm a sociologist at heart, so nothing to do with IT obviously.
Then I stumbled around and didn't have any kind of direction you know you've got your degree. So I did have an interest in marketing and advertising and again why... what makes people tick I suppose.
So yeah having done a job in Leeds, I landed a role in Sheffield, a company called Technophobia and just started as a junior and worked my way up. The company grew, it was a great, great place to be it was just a really good company, a really good culture and I made a lot of good friends.
Tom: Yeah so starting out seeing your dad have a business and working in that, is that right?
Jonny: Yeah yeah it was just, you don't even think about it, you're just mucking about. My dad worked hard and you know I realised, I appreciated the commitment of a business. So yeah from an early age I was probably you know dealing with customers and trying to make money, I suppose I was doing anything. I've always kept busy.
Tom: And then doing sociology has opened your mind up to some inequalities, is that partly what Hive's about, addressing some of those inequalities?
Jonny: I guess it is, it's become that. I'll be honest when I first started Hive it wasn't necessarily the plan, that's just something that's within me, but no, we started because well I was working somewhere, working at the place I was talking about and the culture changed, it became less enjoyable and I said I was going to leave.
The company became more driven by profit and kind of lost some of the ethos it had had so I just thought I can do this better and started up with a blank sheet of paper or blank post-it notes and I just thought right let's do this different and nine years later.
Tom: Yeah nine years later it's been quite a journey and we'll talk a bit more about that in just a moment but over the last nine years there's obviously been a lot of changes in the world and I'm just curious to get to know you a little bit better I suppose.
So here's a couple of more general questions. The first one is what has been your favorite album over the last nine years, since Hive was founded?
Jonny: That's a tough one that because I think the problem I've got is that I'm not just out of touch, I do listen to music and probably put together playlists and running playlists but yeah I probably consume music differently. So back when I was a kid you'd get an album wouldn't you, you'd rush to the shop and the new albums out.
I have no awareness of that anymore and I'm more likely to listen to you know, dip in and out of music I suppose and put together playlists with different genres and public service broadcasting I do like so that stands out to me as an album I don't know whether you're familiar with them?
Tom: No, no.
Jonny: So there's a fantastic album about the space race so they use real footage from the British Film Institute and put that to music and tell a story through the album so one of the albums is telling the story of the space race between the USA and Soviets.
There's an album they've got which is called Happy Valleys or something (Every Valley) it's about Welsh steel mining and the rise and fall of the Welsh steel mining industry. I know that sounds a bit strange.
Tom: The whole album is just like about telling that story?
Jonny: Yeah yeah and it's an album so you want to listen to it because you know it follows, it's telling a story so check it out.
Tom: Yeah it sounds good, it does sound good. It's interesting because I remember like up until a few years ago I never ever would listen to an album at all. I'd only ever just like listen to like songs in isolation and then yeah I was in a car on the way to the beach actually that was when I was living in Portugal and my friend was heavily criticizing my lack of knowledge of albums in particular. And then I realized oh actually there's a bit of a rhythm like it's not like they just put some songs together in any any order you know they're really thinking about that system of like right I'm gonna put this song first and then you get that flow of it so I mean it sounds like that album that you just talked about really really put some thought into that in particular.
Jonny: Yeah yeah.
Tom: Yeah another question for you is about football this time because I know you do like your football just like me we're obviously supporting opposite teams in Sheffield but yeah what has been your favorite football game that you've been to over the last nine years?
Jonny: Yeah obviously we are rivals aren't we Tom? I thought you were baiting me with this one but I can't remember you beating us over the last nine years.
Tom: I just hope your answer to this question is not a Sheffield United win against Sheffield Wednesday.
Jonny: Not at all not at all, so yeah you know within nine years I've seen Sheffield United go from League One to the Premiership to back down again so in many ways it's been a bit of a rollercoaster. But to be honest the football match that stands out in my head was actually the Women's Euros last year at Bramall Lane, so I took my daughter it was the first match she'd been to and it was just such an amazing atmosphere experience and we won 4-0 yeah I just felt part of it and it was really really refreshing to just enjoy that experience.
Tom: Yeah all right and bringing it back to Hive in the last nine years here what would you say have been some of your favorite moments?
Jonny: Yeah nine years. So, obviously the early days were fun it was quite scary we didn't really have a plan and it was very lean and we grew up through that so there were always those those kind of rollercoaster moments. I think over time you know I guess there's key times when you might win a contract so say we get the pleasure of working with Shelter or UNICEF or a client like that. That does mean a lot to me and they're key moments but I think ultimately really it's more about when we get feedback back from the clients it's not winning the work it's finding out what we've done really works for the users.
Tom: Like actually knowing that your work and like what Hive are doing is genuinely having an impact on people's lives.
Jonny: Yeah or it might just come from the client themselves you know as I sometimes might just get that random call or an email just saying your team are great and that's always always a buzz but yeah I was at an event a few weeks ago where I met someone who had suicidal thoughts and they'd been on one of our websites, the Sheffield Suicide Support website and said that made a difference, that made a difference to them in their situation and you know that was special to me and that makes it worthwhile.
Tom: Wow, absolutely and then with the Hive team I feel like we have a very good team here really and what have been some of your best days out or do you have like a particular best day out that you can remember? So like enjoying your time with the team?
Jonny: Yeah yeah we've we used to have lots of away days, I guess Covid's kind of prevented that a little more recently but yeah we've had Tank driving days, zombie apocalypse days and we're well well trained if there was a zombie apocalypse next week - we're sorted.
But, no I think the best ones are just getting together so we often just go for a walk in the peaks or get together for a barbecue so no real agenda just it's great to sort of chat to each other
Tom: And show and tells as well I always enjoy that you have your food and then it's like a bit of work as well it's just a nice combination. How about favorite night out with the Hive team?
Jonny: That's such a loaded question isn't it, I can't remember the best ones, we've had some good nights out, good celebrations, good parties.
I'm going to bring it back to clients again because often we're working together on a project, we're working as a team with that client so the best times are you know when you get to meet them and go to their events and there's a few of us there and we just celebrate our achievements.
Tom: Yeah it's a great answer you get to celebrate with them as well. And also with like the Hive team, something I've personally noticed, I've only been here maybe like a year and a half, two years or whatever and before working here I worked for like another organization where people just come in and leave the company after like a week or two and it was really really weird and that was my first, as like an 18 or 19 year old, that was my first experience of like the workplace and then this is like my second proper job working at Hive and it's just totally different when it comes to staff turnover.
Like I think we've had one person leave since I've been here, yeah only one person in like two years and most people here have been working here like for years now and I was just wondering like what do you think has led to that staff turnover being so low?
Jonny: It's probably a question for the staff isn't it as much as me? But yeah we do try to make a safe environment. We listen to people. We care about our staff and hopefully then they appreciate that. I think we let people grow and develop as well within Hive, so people can train to new skills. We listen to people and and yeah let them nurture their career I suppose.
So I guess one of the early things we've always done, I just kind of took it for granted really, but we've measured staff satisfaction as a key metric for the business. So we've always asked that question, do you feel valued? Do you feel respected at work and you know we get the feedback from our staff and always work on that even though it's, you know, a nine that's not good enough we know we want more on that but it's always been important, as important as the profitability and various other metrics.
Tom: I've definitely felt that while I've been here as well for sure and you may have already answered this with a few of your answers about you know the clients and the one with Sheffield Suicide Support a few weeks ago, but is there a particular moment from working at Hive that you've been like most proud of Hive achieving if that makes sense?
Jonny: Yeah I don't think there is that one moment. I think probably because our growth and the nine years has been very organic and quite incremental successes. So you know, we might deliver something for a client and it's kind of almost taken for granted in many ways - that's what we got paid for. Should it be that much of achievement? We've done our job. So I guess I'm most proud really that we've survived, that we exist, that we can do the kind of projects that we do and that we stayed true to ourselves throughout that and our values.
Tom: Yeah yeah I mean nine years is definitely something to celebrate. I think most businesses they don't exist for that long do they and to continue being able to work on what's actually important to Hive and the people within the company. And kind of looking into the future now, what would you like Hive to achieve over the next maybe few years?
Jonny: Yeah I think it goes back to, back to our mission again really. We will be stronger with that, we'll really pursue that, we want to make a positive difference to the world we live in so we're always looking for those opportunities to make more of a difference. To work with the right kind of organisations, partners, whoever it is that that gets us closer to that goal so there's no end to that, I guess it's a big goal, it's a journey, it's a path that we've been down and I hope to continue on that.
Tom: Yeah yeah absolutely and there's always going to be loads of people in the world doing amazing things, so just having the opportunity to work with them and continue helping them through the use of technology and other things as well because you know there's a few tools that we can use and all sorts really.
Jonny: I think just to add to that I guess we've got a really good reputation within Sheffield locally, people know us. We want to get our name out there to across the UK and globally because we know we're good and we want to shout about that and let other people know about it.
Tom: Yeah so in addition to continuing trying to make a positive difference to our world, is an aspect of sort of your goals for Hive over the next few years to sort of expand upon that and sort of impact more people in a way?
Jonny: I think so yeah. So do you measure yourself based on how many people you've got or? We want to grow. We always want to improve as much as anything else, so we're always improving, we're always learning, we're always getting better at what we do. I want to retain the staff that we've got because you know that's something that we are good at but you know grow in the right way and stay true to ourselves.
Tom: Yeah so only grow if it's staying in alignment with Hive's core mission which is helping people right? Okay awesome final question then, so this is the question that obviously I ask everybody I'm very intrigued to hear your answer on this.
Jonny: Yeah I know what you are going to ask.
Tom: Yeah it's the name of the podcast so there we are. What can people do to Make Things Better?
Jonny: I've mulled over this. I listen to your podcast and I often think about this question and it's really difficult isn't it because everyone's different. On a personal level I wish everyone would be a bit less selfish, a bit more compassionate, a bit more empathy to others and just appreciate the situation other people are in, you know around the world or locally or whatever.
So, if you listen to this podcast you probably are in a privileged position yourself, you've probably got a bit of time, you've probably got a bit of capacity to help. So there's so many tools out there now and so many means of helping I would really encourage anyone who hasn't to sign up to something called Be My Eyes (Find all the links below the transcript) which is an app to help blind people so you just get a call every now and again to help a blind person who is stuck in a situation where they need your help they just need to know what color that is and that tiny two minutes of your time has probably made a big difference to someone else. So there are other things out there like that, not enough, so if someone is out there with an amazing idea - we will help help make it.
But yes Kiva, micro loans, you can from Sheffield from your sofa you can make a difference to the life of someone in Guatemala and that's an amazing thing about technology and the world that we live in.
Tom: Yes I think compassion is just like the one thing I'd love to see more of in the world so I love that answer and it's great that you've given some sort of practical advice of how someone can go ahead and start helping someone else straight away. So we'll have all of the links to the apps below this podcast. So yeah brilliant thank you so much for coming on the podcast really enjoyed chatting to you where can people find yourself online and maybe Hive as well?
Jonny: So, obviously you can get in touch you know with Hive or me personally it's probably best on my email so that's firstname.lastname@example.org and yeah I'm kind of on social media but don't go on there.
Tom: Yeah awesome alright well thanks a lot for watching listening or reading and I hope you have joined the podcast and I hope you have an amazing rest of your day.
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