It’s often said that ideas come from the strangest of places, and that is especially true with my FormHero story.
In the startup world, ideas are either born from the need to solve a problem that doesn’t yet exist or by solving a problem that you already have. Personally, I think the success of any startup is mainly determined by what kind of problem they are trying to solve. For FormHero, that problem wasn’t obvious to me right away, but there was a moment in my life that clearly defined it.
So, how did it begin?
Prior to FormHero, I’d spent 20 years of my career working largely on solutions that were centered around collecting data for business processes. In a lot of those cases, that meant dealing with the paperwork that fed a business process or developing solutions that were meant to replicate/replace paperwork. Project after project, I witnessed how organizations were attempting to create a digital version of paperwork in order to collect the information required for a business process. This emphasis on the end result, the paperwork, always seemed like a limiting factor as it organized the user experience around the business process’ needs.
It became clear to me that that was quite inefficient and it should rather be the opposite - an optimized user experience producing something that feeds the business process.
After leaving a role at a previous company, I was fortunate enough to have the time to think through this problem while contemplating what I wanted to do next in my career. I began by experimenting with forms that were more user-driven and dynamic, but the real inspiration for FormHero didn’t arrive until tragedy struck my family. Ideas really do come from the most unexpected places.
While dealing with the sudden loss of my mother-in-law, and trying to help make arrangements, I was introduced to a service that assisted with tying up loose ends after the loss of a loved one. If you haven’t been through a loss like this, one of the surprising and challenging aspects is how long afterward the mundane little pieces of life continue to follow you. Whether it’s the delivery of an alumni magazine or a reminder to renew a credit card, there are so many different places, that don’t immediately seem important, that need to be updated.
It was brought to my attention that there was an existing service to help address this problem. For a fee, this company would interview us to determine the required paperwork and then, once completed, they would mail a binder with already-filled-out paperwork and pre-addressed, postage-paid envelopes, that we could use to notify all of the most relevant parties.
What really struck me was how personal the experience was. They would start by asking questions like: “Where did [your loved one] go to school?”, “Were they part of the alumni association?”, “Which pharmacies did they use?” “Did they have a preferred hotel chain?”.
They covered nearly 600 different types of interactions a person might have had, but because it was personalized, they’d quickly get a sense of for your loved one and adjust their questions and focus in on areas that made sense.
During such a difficult time it was a comfort to simply have a conversation and know that someone else would take care of the legwork; finding and completing the paperwork.
It certainly wasn’t planned, but right-then-and-there, while speaking to a funeral director, FormHero sprang to life.
While I had been experimenting with how to make dynamic and secure forms for enterprises, I now knew that the user experience I was aiming for should be a guided conversation that eventually produces the appropriate data or documents for a business process, no matter how complex.
Where are we today?
My thesis seems to have struck a chord with others because since then, we’ve taken that initial idea and grown it into a platform that supports multiple major enterprise clients (some of the largest banks and insurance companies in the country) in helping make their processes easier and more accessible for their customers.
However, as important as an original idea is, a company needs to continuously evolve to ensure it is always bringing value to its clients.
We are always in service to our customers - so we can’t just create ideas in a void. Building solutions for enterprises with tens-of-thousands of employees - and even more customers of their own - requires constant listening to-and-for new ideas and dealing with the realities of organizations that size.
A major evolution for us, one that we often have to communicate with new team members, is the understanding that while nearly every one of our client’s desire change, our emphasis - and ideas - need to be equally focussed on both the platform that delivers that change and processes and support that help them realize it.
We have to build processes that support how our customers operate. We have to invest in security and compliance to bring peace of mind. We have to develop features that reduce the amount of time and resources required to intake new projects or pass through internal testing.
Much like that original service I experienced at the funeral home, a great product doesn’t just accomplish a task, it makes a person’s life easier/better. For us, that means continuing to build great products that allow end-users to engage with the company’s processes with less friction, but also finding ways to support and simplify the lives of the employees that are looking to bring change to their own organizations.
Where do we go next?
As a growing business, we don’t always know where the next great ideas will come from. But, we do know that those ideas come from great people that are open to trying new things, people that are willing to fail, and people that can get things to where they are past good enough.
It’s critical to me that we remain a company of ideas and that we put the culture and systems in place to foster the ideas of others. And that's where our focus will be as we continue to grow and scale our company.
No company can’t survive off just the ideas of its founding team.
It is also very important to me that we’re always guided by doing the right thing. I think that’s the best way to build and keep both a strong team and a happy group of customers. This belief is more than just a list of values or promises we post on our website, but quite honestly, it’s the tried and true lessons I’ve learned on my journey from software developer to founder.
I’ve spent the last 20 years working in both large corporations and early-stage startups and the one constant I’ve seen across each and every one of them is that real, long-term success, and the continuation of new ideas, almost always originates from the places and people that genuinely want to do good.
That’s the culture I try to bring to FormHero every day. I’ve learned that always trying to be a good human being and putting in your best effort doesn’t just bring value to shareholders, it also delivers incredible returns for each individual where:
- your peers will treat you well & provide better support,
- your customers & managers will do everything they can to help you, and,
- when things do go wrong, you will have earned the benefit of the doubt and the opportunity to make corrections.
At FormHero, I truly believe our success and growth are directly related to the kind of people that make up our team: Every one of them is a decent, smart and thoughtful human being.
That’s how we try to run the company as well, using some guiding principles that every decent, smart, thoughtful human being should have. These principles not only help us to achieve success and surface great ideas, but they also help us to understand what prospective employees are a good fit, and provide guard-rails that help govern our behaviour in all sorts of situations.