Exceptional entrepreneur: Roam Creative
L-R Ben Morreau (Chief Design Officer), Lucas Coelho (Design Lead)
Ben Morreau and the team at digital product company Roam Creative had plenty to celebrate last month when they clinched a spot on the 2018 Fast 50 index at the Auckland & Upper North Island regional awards. We caught up with Ben to talk about his experience as part of the Fast 50 programme so far, his approach to business growth and the challenges of being an entrepreneur…
Can you tell us a little about Roam Creative and your role in the business?
I’m the Chief Designer Officer here at Roam Creative and a Co-Founder. CEO, Chris Moore and I started the company about five years ago with around three employees and we are now 80 people with offices in New Zealand and Australia so it’s been a busy time for us. At our core, Roam specialises in innovative digital experiences that have a positive impact on business.
How did you get to where you are in your career?
I'm a digital native, so I've been designing and coding products since I was a kid. I initially did a Computer Science degree in Hamilton, then moved to Auckland and worked at TVNZ, helping deliver the first version of TVNZ OnDemand, before doing some work delivering platforms at ASOS.com and the BBC in London.
After that, I came back to New Zealand and worked for a while, and decided to give the start-up world a go. I happened to meet Chris, we did some work together, enjoyed each other's company, and felt like we could create something great. The rest is history.
What was the motivating factor for starting Roam Creative?
For Chris and me, we've both always been driven to create products that matter, so that's been the constant force behind why we do this.
We have been so lucky to find clients driven by that same mission too.
What has driven your growth?
I think it’s a combination of the quality work we deliver and the people inside Roam Creative who make it all happen. The companies we work with, and for, have recognised this, and our reputation has grown.
What challenges have you come up against, both as a business and as a player in the industry?
There have definitely been stages of growth for us that have come with challenges. Once we reached a headcount of about 20, we managed to figure a model and hierarchy to adjust for scale, which was important.
We operate Roam by grouping the team in ‘tribes’, split up by clients and projects, and those 20-person tribes help us effectively operate as a few different start-ups within the company. These tribes are then supported by the leadership groups.
As an entrepreneur, how do you maintain a work/life balance?
It's hard, but being able to switch off when you get home is key. It's not easy but it's pretty important.
Are there any specific lessons that you would share with other entrepreneurs?
I think your first ten hires are pretty crucial, so make sure that you get those right, but also ensure you’re keeping on top of the business by challenging yourself and making changes when needed. Treat your business like you would a product, and keep on fine-tuning it.
What is the most important element of your business?
Our culture is crucial, and that's driven from our leadership team. We've all come from a digital background and that's what excites us, so our culture reflects that.
How do you encourage creative thinking in your workplace?
We're a collaborative company, so we definitely like to bring in people outside of digital to help us come up with new ideas. We’ll often make an effort to create things together too, instead of just in separate teams, so that helps get different conversations happening.
Why did you enter the Deloitte Fast 50 this year?
While we know we've created an amazing business in terms of our specific skillset - and we get recognition for that regularly - we entered the Fast 50 because it’s a great way to see recognition outside of our field. It’s really important for us (especially Chris and me) to get that acknowledgement for our work from the wider business community. It’s also great to meet other people from all different areas of business on the same journey.
And finally, who are your three dream dinner guests?
Michael Jordan, Mark Zuckerberg and maybe a comedian... Ricky Gervais!
Jen Scouler works in the Deloitte clients & marketing team across digital content and social media. She also works closely with Deloitte Private.