‘We set out to help UK retailers get their products to customers quickly and cost-effectively – and that is still what we do today’
Launched in 2017, Huboo is one of the UK’s fastest growing fulfilment providers, working with more than 800 eCommerce retailers worldwide.
Renowned for its unique ‘micro hub’ technology, which enables online retailers of all sizes to access a complete end-to-end fulfilment operation within minutes, Huboo has grown dramatically over the past few years – expanding its total UK warehouse space to 11,000sqm, and growing its team to 250 people.
Despite a tough 12 months for retailers, Huboo’s growth is showing no signs of slowing. This year the business has moved to new Bristol headquarters and is expanding internationally.
Huboo’s founder and CEO, Martin Bysh tells Business Leader what it’s like to be at the helm of a fast-growth fulfilment technology company, and shares some of his biggest learnings from two decades of entrepreneurship.
Huboo has been a game-changer for the fulfilment industry. How did you come up with the idea?
I am a massive nerd at heart and I’ve always had a keen interest in technology. However, despite having spent over 20 years in the tech industry as a computer games programmer and running various tech-driven businesses, it wasn’t my day-job that inspired the idea for Huboo. It was actually on the sidelines of an under 10s Sunday League football game!
My co-founder Paul and I met while we were dragging our kids to the match (despite them hating football…) and, as we got chatting, we found we had a lot of mutual interests – entrepreneurialism being one of them. Paul told me about a fulfilment business idea he was experimenting with. He was reluctant to quit his day job in global logistics for P&G, but I could tell there was definitely potential in his idea, so I offered to join him and perfect the business model.
We started exploring the fulfilment and logistics space further and we discovered that the small business and start-up fulfilment market, totalling £1bn in the UK alone, was uncontested and ripe for disruption.
What were your goals and ambitions when you first launched Huboo, and how have they changed over time?
Our goals haven’t really changed since we launched in 2017. We set out to help UK retailers get their products to customers quickly and cost-effectively, and that is still what we do today – although we’re now working with businesses of all sizes and scales, not just smaller firms.
Growing a successful business comes hand in hand with growing a successful team. What is your approach to finding the best talent?
Growing the right team is one of the most challenging things about running a business – and there’s no hard and fast rule to getting it right. You can get people who interview brilliantly, and then fail to perform well, and you can get people who interview terribly but are great at the job.
So what you need to do is create a company that talented people really want to work for. If you think carefully about your culture, your company benefits and the opportunities you provide for people to grow and develop, the chances are you’ll end up attracting great people.
When you do make a bad hiring decision, don’t be afraid to act quickly. If you have a gut feeling that something isn’t right, it usually isn’t – so don’t waste time.
What skills or personality traits do you think are important in business?
One of the most helpful skills in business is the willingness and ability to iterate really quickly. You need to move fast and be decisive, and assume that every problem is your problem. Don’t leave it to someone else to deal with. As a leader, you need to take charge and take action.
When it comes to personality traits, I’d say being able to trust your intuition is right up there. Following my nose and sniffing out the right opportunities has always served me well.
What has been your biggest business learning?
Never look back, always look forward.
And seek out the right funding. Bootstrapping a business is really hard and you have to truly commit yourself to it. Funding can give you the breathing space to worry less about the money and focus on driving your business forward and refining your proposition.
What’s the best or worst business advice you’ve ever received?
The worst advice would have to be all those times people tried to tell me I couldn’t or shouldn’t do something! You have to figure things out for yourself.
Making mistakes is an inevitable part of business. How have you handled them when they’ve happened?
For me, the key is moving quickly. We’ve all heard the saying ‘fail fast, learn fast’, and in my experience it really is true. Because we’ve always been good at pivoting and responding at speed to change at Huboo, any mistakes we’ve made have always been easily solved and we’ve moved on from them.
And because we’ve had funding, we’ve been able to make mistakes without them having a critical impact on our finances. Getting solid investment behind you means you can accelerate quickly whilst reducing your risk. The key with this is finding investors that you are aligned with and ensuring you’re all on the same page when it comes to the expectations for your business.
What’s next for Huboo and where do you see the biggest opportunities lying?
For us, it’s about continually evolving and doing what we do best – but ensuring that we always maintain the highest quality standards as we scale.
We’ve got an excellent track record working with ambitious startups and SMEs, but as we look to the future we want to ensure we’re broadening our client base and onboarding larger scale businesses. We’ve started this already and had great feedback, so it’s definitely a key area of growth for us.
International expansion is also an important next step, particularly in the wake of Brexit. Lots of UK companies now require an EU base so the opportunities there are huge.