Starting and growing a company during a worldwide recession is not easy but they say that all successful entrepreneurs have one thing in common – grit and determination. This grit is something that Pat King and Brendan Griffin, co-founders of OneLook Systems, have in spades. Not to mention a great product that solves a real problem, a focus on customer satisfaction that has paid off massively, and good support when they most needed it.
OneLook Systems offers an innovative software solution to managing contractor compliance at all stages of the contractor journey, and now counts such massive names as Google, Diageo, Stryker, Johnson & Johnson, Baxter, GSK, AbbVie, Heineken, Kerry Foods and Nestlé among its worldwide clients. From modest beginnings in Cork in Ireland in 2008, with a couple of local customers during the recession, this has been quite a journey for the co-founders.
Like many other successful start-ups, the basis for OneLook was finding a solution for a problem. “Brendan and I worked in pharmaceuticals, and we always noticed a huge line of contractors outside the Facility Manager’s office, to get their Permit to Work forms filled out and stamped,” explains Pat. “No worker could start onsite until these permits, which covered things like permissions and health and safety regulations, were issued. The whole process always took a long time; our idea was to make the process faster and easier by using software.”
Working with Abbott took OneLook Systems worldwide
Brendan and Pat devised a business plan and were accepted into the Rubicon Centre for its year-long Genesis programme. Unfortunately, this was in 2008, which meant that the journey to success was going to be an arduous one. The turning point came in 2012, when one of their Cork companies, pharma leader Abbott, had a corporate audit covering items such as compliance and health and safety.
“Out of their 80 sites around the world, only the Cork site passed the audit – and that was because they were using OneLook Systems,” says Pat. “That was the turning point for our business. I went to Abbott’s headquarters in Chicago to begin discussions to roll out the system to a number of their sites around the world. After about a year going back and forth, we went into all of their worldwide sites.”
Another turning point for the company was support from Enterprise Ireland, the trade and innovation agency, which enabled them to widen their customer net beyond the pharmaceutical industry.
“Acting on advice from Enterprise Ireland, we hired a marketing team, and they’ve taken our products and created a marketing plan where we solve a problem. That’s allowed us to expand into a much wider range of industries. Before that, we were focused on Permit to Work; but now we have a focus on the contractor journey, and specifically taking the fear away for anyone responsible for contractor health and safety, or work safety on a site. This, then, makes the product, and our company, relevant for any company that has a lot of contractors.”
Unique benefits and excellent customer service lifts OneLook Systems above competitors
This widening of focus has also had the effect of rising above competitors. “We have a lot of competitors in areas that we touch on, but right now, we’re the only company catering for the full contractor journey, from identifying the contractor, to vetting them, to managing their work to following up and making sure that everything’s ready for compliance auditing. That whole process is unique to us, and if a client is already working with a competitor on one aspect of the contractor journey, our software allows us to incorporate the competitor’s product into the overall contractor compliance management system – we simply make sure the whole problem is gone.”
A notable feature of OneLook Systems is that they have a 99% customer retention rate amongst customers who have implemented their product – and this, explains Pat, is down to their emphasis on customer service. “We have the internal mission statement to be the software company people love to work with. With every decision we make, we ask ourselves does this help us to achieve this mission. It’s written on our walls and discussed at every meeting. We’re a global company, yet we’re just 30 people in Cork. Our difference is that we focus on solving a problem, managing the whole contractor journey. Recently we’ve hosted webinars, where our customers discuss and answer questions about our system – we had representatives from Mars, GSK and Abbott. That’s been a real contributor to our success – the companies that we work for have been willing to go to other companies and tell them that our systems really do work, that they really solve the problem. That’s why a good customer success team is the number one priority for growth.”