This month will mark 10 years since the company - now known as Every - was first formed by Ian Bond and Adam Watson. Over the past decade we have seen many changes, including a rebrand, office moves with expansion and an ever expanding product suite developed with our customers. We sat down with the directors to discuss what it was like at Every (then PropertyPrefect) back in 2010 and how things have changed through the years…
Thank you for speaking with me both of you, I can’t believe it’s been 10 years already! What are your first thoughts when you hear that it’s been a decade of Every?
Adam: Two things come into my head: ‘Has it really been that long? Was my hair really that much darker!?’ but also ‘Wow, we have so much more that we want to do!’ It feels like we’re still setting out to achieve what we started.
Ian: I think it still feels like the start of a journey, so the ‘so much more to do’ is definitely what comes to mind for me too.
How did you both meet, and what are your memories of getting started with bringing Every to life?
Adam: We met at a small software company based in the north of Leeds that provided Asset Management systems to LAs of which schools were the largest portfolio of buildings. I was the Sales & Marketing Director and Ian was the Software Director. Ian and I were always the ones speaking to each other about what customers liked and what we think would work best for them. Ian I helped take that company from five LA customers to dominating the market over the next seven years. But the world was changing and the owners at that time weren’t willing or able to adapt to meet that changing need, i.e. that it’ll be schools we need to focus on and help.
Ian: Yes, because we had worked together for years previously we knew each other’s strengths, and that has really helped over the years. We also knew the education sector very well, having worked with big systems in the education part of Local Authorities. That experience definitely gave us both the desire to product really useful, effective systems that we would live or die by and I think that has been the main strength of the business. It has always been exciting and, for me, every year it feels like we are on the cusp of something amazing.
Adam: The early days were exciting and very tough. I remember being really excited with our first marketing campaign and feeling good about how schools would respond because we believed in what we were doing. I think we also gained a valuable insight into the mindset of schools and the business managers because setting up and running your own company you have to be a jack of a trades and get stuck in so we really understood the problems schools and the professionals were grappling with.
What were your initial goals with Every and do you think you have achieved them yet?
Ian: We always wanted to provide software and systems that a) customers would find really useful and b) would be great value. We’ve tried to keep that ethos through everything we do, including the many products and services that we now offer. It’s always the most interesting test when we look at what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. We have achieved this although it is never finished, and we work on the basis that we can always do better.
Adam: We had a vision of a company that could be a market leader and meet a need that no other business was fulfilling, namely to provide really easy to use software to help schools do the right things consistently, with evidence for auditors. I think we’re well on the way but, as Ian said, we have quite a way to go in our own minds.
Do you remember your first customer?
Ian: Adam tells this better than I do, but our first potential customer meeting ever was with a group of nine headteachers at the same time…
Adam: We had help from an ex-customer of mine who set up a meeting with nine headteachers. We drove to their schools and delivered a presentation around what our new company was about and what the product was designed to do. We really wanted to see how they responded and give us a hard time. Well, after a bit of discussion they told us they’d subscribe for a year! We learned a lot that year as we got down to the hard work of delivering on our presentation. It was the lessons in that year that really helped us appreciate that the product is one thing but it’s the support during and beyond the implementation that cements you as the type of company schools value as their partner.
“I’m most proud when I speak to customers and they are getting great value from their Every system”
What would you say is your proudest moment?
Ian: It’s hard to define one moment, but the times I am most proud is when I speak to customers and they are getting great value from our offerings. This always comes from having great products, but also mostly from having the support and services from our staff wrapped around them.
Adam: My proudest moments include having customers dragging over delegates at a show saying ‘you’ve got to speak to these guys, they’re brilliant!’. I’m proud each day I go to the office, or these days sign into our virtual company meetings and see how far we’ve come with everyone so busy and seeming to really enjoy themselves.
Along the way you must have had some funny moments as a company, do any stand out to you now?
Ian: During a re-branding, we played about with different images and icons and, for various reasons, one was a parrot. The next day Andy, our Regional Sales Consultant, brought in a full- size parrot costume. He tried it on and just as he fixed the last button, the fire alarm went off. Andy joined around 300 other people from many companies in the car park in full parrot costume. He still thinks we arranged it to this day! Photos are available upon request…
Adam: Another one that is a little bitter sweet for me was our second Christmas do. The company (about eight of us at the time with partners) went to Wagamamas in Leeds before going onto a casino. It was Bond themed and I was the only person to be rocking a tuxedo whilst everyone was smart casual. Did I feel like a plonker!
If you started again now is there anything you’d do differently? (Not counting the tuxedo incident, Adam)
Ian: I personally would have listened to more of the advice I was given, most of it was right, it seems I just had to learn that for myself!
Adam: Hindsight is a wonderful thing but I think I’d have timed having my second child (who didn’t sleep through for five years) with the start of the company a little better. Having read a few stories from interviews with successful entrepreneurs they all say how much they value their sleep!
How do you think the business has grown and developed over the 10 years? Have you seen the market change alongside you?
Ian: I think both of us have learned a lot about managing and growing a business! The hardest thing for me has been trying to grow the business but keep the same standards of care and attention that we aim for. Getting good people with the same values really takes a lot of dedication.
I personally feel that the education market has massively changed for the better. We are seeing far fewer inefficiencies and generally schools are doing more and doing it better with higher quality outcomes for their children and staff.
Adam: How has it grown? Well we have over 60 employees now and thousands of customers with hundreds of thousands logging in each month, which is very impressive considering there are other companies that have been established in the market for longer – we’ve now overtaken them to be perceived market leaders! When we started there were no Academies and certainly no MATs. I’ve worked in the education sector for over 20 years and one thing is constant, change!
I don’t think Ian and I would have imagined 10 years ago that we’d be providing a HR system to the market! It’s also amazing to see how people (employees and customers) have grown with Every too and it really does feel that we have a lot to offer those who want to grow with us.
“Everyone has adapted brilliantly!”
How do you think Every has managed as a business during lockdown? Has it been hard?
Adam: I’ve been immensely proud of what we’ve managed to achieve during 2020. I think we’ve adapted really well and been able to help schools thrive under the circumstances. It’s not been without its challenges, but everyone is facing that and I feel we’ve made really good choices around processes, technology, and people to help springboard Every into 2021. I’ve been really encouraged too that schools, academies and MATs are turning to us for support in keeping everything tight and together around their compliance and HR. Lockdown certainly has cemented the value of Every as a holistic, each to use, cloud based system.
Ian: I agree with Adam, everyone has adapted brilliantly and we are just pleased and grateful that we have been able to keep everyone working and able to support our customers (who have been amazing too).
So, what about the next 10 years of Every?
Ian: We just want to keep going and growing. We will continue to produce quality products and services that actually help our customers every day. Where we will be in 10 years’ time will very much depend upon what our customers want. Onwards and upwards!
Adam: We’ve really only just started! We have so much we want to do and it’s very exciting to see the possibilities ahead of us.
Here’s to the next 10 years! 🥳