“I didn’t hire people soon enough”

Trusted Housesitters’ Managing Director Tim Lyons now knows to look far further ahead

A simply great idea that has developed into a simply great business, Trusted Housesitters brings together people with pets or homes that need looking after, with people who want to look after pets or homes while seeing a bit more of the world. Forty-one- year-old Tim Lyons is the managing director and he has overseen its growth into 130 countries with over 50,000 subscribing members. Not a bad track record for a man who got the job by chance…

I got the job by accident. Back in 2015, I was on holiday with my family and I bumped into a guy on a paddleboard. We started talking, he told me about his business and it just so happened that he was Andy Peck, the founder of Trusted Housesitters. Given the circumstances, it was just a relaxed, friendly conversation, and I mentioned that my background was in finance and how I was looking to apply what I’d learned working with big firms to small and growing businesses.

I received a call out of the blue when I got back home. Andy had looked me up and he asked me to come to Brighton to help him develop the business. The timing was uncanny – I had just left a previous position with RAC and was looking for a new challenge. Plus, I own two Labradors and the whole concept really resonated with me. So, I joined as CFO.

The thing about working for smaller businesses is that you can make a real difference very quickly. It’s a huge cultural shift from working for a large, hierarchical firm. Just eight years ago, I was working for an airline and when I wanted to communicate with the CEO, I needed to send him a paper memo. Can you imagine how long it took to get things done?

You get to wear lots of different ‘hats’ in growing businesses, and you can be a better leader if you can cut across everything and are adaptable. My flair has always been at the commercial end of finance – so really more about how we can solve problems through people than through looking at the numbers.

We allow people not to be afraid to fail. Ours is a tech-based business, and we have a test and learn approach to everything we do. It’s natural that not everything will work and as long as we’re moving forward, that’s all that matters.

We couldn’t keep up with our own development plans and that was because I failed to plan in advance what our resourcing requirements would be. We were growing at an astonishing rate and there was so much functionality and so many features we wanted to add to the site, but we just didn’t have the people to do it.

It was a huge opportunity missed and it cost us growth. We had the demand and we had the desire to meet that demand, but we just couldn’t fulfil it. It takes around three to five months to hire the right people and I felt that I was playing catch up. I had to curtail our development plans.

The lesson? Think far further ahead and plan further ahead, and encourage everyone to do the same. When I joined in July 2015, there were 12 of us and now there are nearly 50. It’s been a huge learning curve and we’ve made mistakes along the way – hire the wrong person and that’s three months’ training time and investment lost.

It’s about having people who are passionate about the product and service. We hire pet lovers. If you’re not the sort of person who’d use Trusted Housesitters, I’m not sure working here would suit you. We all get together once a week to share insights and ideas with each other, and we encourage continuous feedback. Every member of the team can also go out and housesit for two weeks per year, in addition to their holiday leave, to get an on-the-ground understanding and feel for what we do.

It’s a fantastic opportunity. We’ve had all sorts of places come up, from beach huts in Costa Rica to New York penthouses, to actual castles in Ireland.

Dogs are very welcome at work. We have a few office dogs and I have no problem at all with pets in the office – although it could be more difficult to bring in your iguana…

This interview was carried out by SIM7’s Simeon de la Torre and first appeared in easyJet Traveller magazine. To read the latest issue (and the entire back catalogue of magazines), visit: https://ink-global.com/our-clients/portfolio/easyjet-traveller/