Riding Unicorns

S4E7 - James Routledge, Founder @ Sanctus

June 15, 2022 Riding Unicorns Season 4 Episode 7
Riding Unicorns
S4E7 - James Routledge, Founder @ Sanctus
Show Notes Transcript

James Routledge is the Founder of Sanctus, leading providers of mental health coaches. After starting his first business at University James was hooked by the idea of being an entrepreneur. His first business venture, MatchChat, a social media app would however ultimately go on to be unsuccessful. As is often the case in life there is a silver lining to all supposed failures. James would ultimately go on to reflect more deeply about the stress he felt around this time and how it affected his mental health. Spurred on by this experience James launched Sanctus in 2016 and the company has since partnered with some of the biggest brands to help them transform their mental health culture. In November 2022 James took the difficult decision to step down as CEO but as he mentions during the episode he continues to have a very strong relationship with the company to this day. James now spends much of his time writing and is in fact a best selling author. His first book, Mental Health at Work, shares his stories, learnings and guidance on the topic of mental health. 

Riding Unicorns invited James on the show to discuss the highs and lows of working on MatchChat and the inspiration behind launching Sanctus. Mental health was of course a huge topic throughout the episode. James went on to share some practical advice on how to improve mental health in the workplace. 

Make sure to like and subscribe to the Riding Unicorns podcast to never miss an episode. Also don't forget to give Riding Unicorns a follow on Twitter and LinkedIn to keep on top of the latest developments.

[00:00:00] James: Hello. Welcome to the riding unicorns podcast. This is the podcast all about growth startups on James Pringle. I'm a technology entrepreneur and investor and founder of Pringle capital. My co-host is Hector Mason. Hector is a partner at B2B investor episode one ventures. This podcast is all about uncovering what it takes to build a unicorn business.

[00:00:36] We speak to some of the best founders and investors. Many from unicorn companies, and ask them about that journey, operational insight, tips, lessons, stories, and the thing that can help uncover what it takes to build a high growth business.

[00:00:52] This week's episode is with James Routledge, founder of Sanctus a purpose driven mental health company, making it easy for employees to talk to a professional about their mental health. James was my first boss. It matched up and both of us have gone quite a long way since then. We covered. James has reasons for launching Sanctus his book, mental health at work, which is available on Amazon metrics and much more great episodes. So let's get started.


[00:01:19] James Pringle: Hi, James. Welcome to riding unicorns.

[00:01:23] Very good. Thank you. And all the better for having you on. So James, maybe you could do a very quick overview of your career to date. We'll go deeper into some of it later, but a quick overview and also explain to any listeners that don't know what Sanctus is and what.

[00:01:41] James Routledge: Yeah. Start with psych tests and then I'll, go back from there. So I'm Um, and the moment the founder assigned us, which is mental health startups. So I'm mission is to inspire people, to proactively take care of their mental health, by providing coaching in the workplace. So we part of our businesses and then individuals lead as managers, employees get access to a coach to.

[00:02:03] Discourse and work through some of the challenges in their life. So I've started that business five years ago, six years ago. And that was off the back of, my experience started, first business, a university, which you were part of, And yeah, that was my first sort of foray into startups and entrepreneurship.

[00:02:24] So sort of fell down the rabbit hole pretty quickly. pivoted that business a couple of times and try to make something work and ended up, shutting it down. And, I suppose selling off the assets in the best way that we could at the time. And yeah, a few of the little bits and bobs in there, I'm an author wrote a book called mental health at work.

[00:02:44] So, yeah, a few other bits in there as well, which we can, we can go into I'm sure.

[00:02:49] Hector: James you've, failed to mention the most interesting parts of your career, which was where it all started. Looking at your LinkedIn, which was at KFC. of course the tastiest chicken shop in the world. what, what's it like behind the scenes?

[00:03:02] James Routledge: I mean this sort of fast scaling chicken. This is about you. This is about unicorns is an hour. You know, I think we only talk about tech businesses these days, but there's a lot to be learned in the world of fast food the operations behind the scenes. As something to behold actually.

[00:03:19] my mates always laugh that makes a band got about work at a calf seat. Cause I just felt like I learned so much there just through working with the people from all sorts of backgrounds and then genuinely, I genuinely did get a bus from like the fast paced nature of fast food.

[00:03:33] Like it was actually enthralling. where I worked was like the third highest grossing KFC in the country as well at all the towers say it was. Yeah, I wouldn't drift. That's why I got like my starter sort of boasts from, cause I just found a, so a kind of addictive in a way, like it was really high energy.

[00:03:50] It was a lot of fun.

[00:03:51] Hector: As a proper business. None of this loss-making venture backs that the profit business makes profit

[00:03:57] James Routledge: Definitely, definitely took more revenue, uh, in my time as a store manager at KFC than I did at my first business. Let's put it that way.

[00:04:04] James Pringle: Well, maybe you could tell us a bit about Matt shot and, some of the highs and lows of, building that company. And then why that led to you ultimately launching.

[00:04:15] James Routledge: Yeah, I think for me, like with much shout, which was my first so of startup, I suppose, or the first time I even considered startups. I was just like that union. I just wanted to do something different than when I look back. I think, I think I've gone through a bit of a period, I think at a time in my life where I've looked back on that period and sort of resent it a little bit and think like, oh, what was I doing?

[00:04:37] So, yeah, I think my first business, I just thought, God, just, you know, I just want to give it a go like, uh, I would have done anything. I think if I'm honest, like when I look back, I think it ended up being a, I mean the initial plan was to create like a social network for sport.

[00:04:52] You know, and, and you were, can you pour that, all of this, like it was then, you know, let's take this technology and embed it onto websites. And then that then led into this like crazy world of ad tech and all the light complexities there. So it was kind of just like pivot after pivot, after pivot, after pivot, just to kind of find a product and a, and a market, to be honest, uh, there wasn't like a real.

[00:05:17] In a drive if like I am really passionate about costs. So I want to make the experience of buying cars better. I really cared about mental health and I want to make the whole mental health experience better. It was kind of just like, not one big experiment, but just like, I just want to start off. I think if, if I'm honest and there are good enough.

[00:05:38] Parts of that. I think that the good part is that, you know, there was a genuine enthusiasm and joy, and I given something to go and, you know, bringing a team together and be part of that and, and enjoying that sort of tribal nature of it. I think maybe the sort of darker side was that there was a lot of just a, like a lot of my own ego wrapped up in it.

[00:05:59] I think there was a lot of, unconscious motivations where I didn't really know what I wanted to do in my life. And I was actually quite scared and a bit insecure and really worried about what the hell I was going to do. So actually saying I had this cool startup was like, actually a really good front for that.

[00:06:16] And I suppose when we did, make the call to kind of throw in the towel, that front, that I was using to protect myself, to make myself flat field, but I just fell away. And, yeah, I felt, really exposed. Like I'd gone on this sort of four year. Yeah. Jenny from dropping out of university and telling them my mates and my family, I was going to build something amazing.

[00:06:35] And, Just kind of left out. I felt left with nothing, to be honest, like, you know, I had no money. I was living in some weird house in London and dropped out of uni. So all I really had was a load of experiences and a load of people I'd met. And, and yeah, that, that led me to struggle with my mental health.

[00:06:53] Like I was, a mess. Like I was, I was anxious. I was having panic attacks. I was really just lost and confused and felt really, really alone. I felt really lonely. so that was a, it was a difficult period. And just felt like where's my support for this. Like, who am I talking to? I was used to being in a startup world where you've got lots of support for your business.

[00:07:16] So I'd lose like mentors and stuff, and then like some investors and co-founders and really close team. But I just, wasn't used to actually talking about myself and saying that this is actually how I feel. I'd go and speak to people and say, well, what should we do to. You know, well, how do we raise money and ask for like really specific startup advice?

[00:07:35] And I was actually pretty good at that. I was quite proactive, but the thought of opening up and saying like, oh wow, like, you know, I'm really struggling and I'm really lost without a purpose. I just didn't even consider doing that. So I, uh, base, everything I've just said, I put in a blog post one day and shared it and started talking pretty openly about mental health in the start at worlds.

[00:07:59] And probably one of the early people doing that. I don't think there was a lot of people doing that five, six years ago. Um, especially a lot of men, and linking it really closely to the feeling of starting a company as well. so. I think I was, one of the few during the. and then that led to sign because that's just basically from my story, I suppose that, first business didn't have a problem I wanted to solve and then found one.

[00:08:23] Cause I was really feeling it.

[00:08:25] James Pringle: Yes. So I think. I think there was always a sense of being a little bit worried that we weren't having enough impact, even though we were working on some things, but the impact didn't feel so obvious that must be so different at Sanctus. So can you explain what that feels like to be working on something that is so critical to people's wellbeing and outlook on.

[00:08:53] James Routledge: Yeah, I think that definitely like it matched char and then the pivots and our native, like, I felt like there was problems there in like the ad tech industry and stuff, but I just didn't feel connected to them. I think some people could feel really connected to like a sense of fairness and integrity of like, Every pound must be spent on a really good display art or something.

[00:09:15] I bet there are people that do feel really connected to that industry. I just did not at all. I think the trick stays mates be honest. Like I think I was pretty like selfishly connected to Sanctus at first. Like really, like I wanted to get better. That was like, no, don't get me wrong.

[00:09:34] I'm not saying I wasn't thinking about the market and making the world a better place. But the truth is like I had a problem. I was feeling. Rubbish. And I just had no idea what to do. And really Sanctus was like my vehicle to experiment and to explore what would work for me. And I think my skill set was to go on that journey and to share it with others.

[00:10:01] That's what I was really good at. And it meant that I built this community and this following of people that were basically feeling like exactly the same as me. And then. the first thing we did for Sanctus was put these groups on like Wednesday night groups, proper light fight club for mental health thought, really Latin undergrounds.

[00:10:20] And I thought they were class. and then loads of other people would come to them and then eventually started working with a coach one-to-one and I was like, wow, this is amazing.

[00:10:28] And then that was that. So I think the drive initially, like, not that it wasn't about others, but I'll be honest.

[00:10:35] I think it was probably more about me. I feel a little bit like narcissistic they in that book. Yeah, I do. I just think that's true. Like, I think I really wanted it for myself. I wanted Sanctus for myself. I wanted those products and then yeah.

[00:10:52] Hector: Yeah, I think it's perfectly fine stop a business that solves your own problem. I was speaking to a founder this morning, who, who did exactly the same and I think Problem is shared by others and to help, then you're. Okay. And I don't think it's self-indulgent or anything like that.

[00:11:06] It's just lucky you had the motivation get up and, solve the problem yourself. you wrote a book called mental health at work, which was published by penguin random house. And obviously writing a book is a huge issue. I wonder what the inspiration for that was, I knew is that, can you just tell us about where it fits in was that post Sanctus or before Sanctus and, and so why did you write that?

[00:11:30] James Routledge: I mean, the truth is about the book I got asked to do it. I wouldn't claim that it came from anywhere else. they asked me and, you know, there's no way I was going to turn down, write in a book. With penguin, I think the book came at quite a good time for me to be honest.

[00:11:43] Cause I was, I just sat down as the CEO of Sanctus and I was kind of like, I was in this kind of like weird space where I kind of realized that it I don't want to be a CEO, one of a scaling business. Like I'm not really interested in that. Uh, I didn't know what else I wanted to do though, and I didn't want to leave Sanctus so to be honest, the book was like the perfect opportunity to see.

[00:12:10] Essentially full-time in Sanctus with like quiet, like a public facing role. is the honest truth to that? no, that's the only reason to write the book obviously has loads of thought leadership benefits for Sanctus and great for B2B marketing and content marketing and, just worked really well for our brand.

[00:12:28] And obviously, what we do. but also it, kind of did give me a bit of a, um, something to do at a period when I was a bit confused. Cause I I've made the call of like, right. I don't really want to be like a manager and a leader in that sense. Um, but I don't know what else I want to do.

[00:12:44] So it was, it was amazing chance to just write off like everything I've learned like five years mental health in the workplace, thousands of companies, loads of lessons and get it all into one place.

[00:12:56] Hector: that's brilliant. You had the opportunity as, I mean, I was going to draw comparisons between, being an author and being an entrepreneur because I actually a normal circumstances think they're a huge comparisons I have a, a friend who is an author and.

[00:13:10] You create this thing, you have an idea, you execute on it, which is painful and hard and lonely. you then go and try and, get a publish, which I think is almost identical to finding a VC, you get rejected loads. but if you get one, then it can be a huge breakthrough. so I mean, we had a slightly different experience, but I do think that.

[00:13:30] James Routledge: I completely agree. You also make, absolutely no money, which is also a pretty good analogy as well. Fair a for most founders. It's a bit of a, it's a slug and the returns for writing books are venture returns. It is one author out of a thousands that.

[00:13:48] Returns the fund as they say, The process is very, very similar. I completely agree. I think, people don't talk about entrepreneurship in like a creative way, which just blows my mind. But like entrepreneurship is a creative process there isn't. Well, it's different between ed Sheeran and Alex Chesterman bike.

[00:14:09] To me, that is just like the same person. One creates an album, new the crates Zoopla, you know, that was just a second album. That's how I see it. And I think there's loads of similarities actually.

[00:14:19] Hector: Yeah, I couldn't really agree more. And we talked about this a few times on the show, how, you know, people at the top of their field, they're often. Similar, you know, um, there are lots of things that are common that you have to do in order to succeed across different industries.

[00:14:34] uh, yeah, it's an interesting topic. I wonder, just kind of moving back slightly to the core of what you're doing with Sanctus. and what your real mission appears to be in life. what are some practical steps that companies can take to improve the mental wellbeing of their employees and support their employees?

[00:14:52] Um, because I think it's, it's something that everyone knows they sort of want to do, or most people know they need to do it and want to do it, but it's, sometimes it can, all seem a little bit abstract.

[00:15:03] James Routledge: I think there's two routes. You can go down. There's like this sort of like the sort of structural stuff you can put in place, which is incredibly valuable and the cultural and the cultural stuff, which is a little bit harder to, to play something, both very clear importance. how a company is built, massively impacts people's mental health.

[00:15:21] Like, if the company is losing money, And he's gonna, probably going to die in six months and people are worried about that. Then people's mental health that work's going to be impacted. That's just like, as like a structural thing, or if, you know, if the tech team is completely under-resourced.

[00:15:38] Then yeah, they're going to be overworked and there's going to be stress there. So that's just like, that's kind of like the practical. having a well-built well-functioning company very good for people's mental health. but there could be thousands of hours of podcasts about how to do that.

[00:15:54] I think the thing that, you know, that's unique to every business, I think. Company. And he found that any CEO, any manager, any leader can do at any level in any business is though contributes to a culture where people feel safe and comfortable talking about how they feel and can do that. role modeling basically.

[00:16:16] specifically for founders, which, you know, I'm imagine their founders listen. So I think it starts right there, my Monzo or a business that have got really good mental health culture. and the stories you hear is that Tom Blomfield talks about going to therapy in front of the whole company in the early days.

[00:16:30] Like, there's just No shocks there that they've got a really good mental health culture, because it's been role modeled from the top. People feel it's okay. in, uh, companies that are still pretty hierarchical. You know, the CEO, the leadership team, I looked up to as role models. And if they're there, you know, sending emails at sort of 4:00 AM on like Thursday night and like, uh, shown up to meetings 10 minutes late, like shoving a cross on down.

[00:16:59] And now like this slight really stressed and like, Tachie, That's going to set the tone for what's expected. Whereas if you know the founder or the CEO is looking after themselves, they're sleeping well that working with a coach to support, the emotional roller coaster, starting a business again, that just trickles down.

[00:17:18] So I think the practical stuff, like we could debate for days, but. Fundamentally if, as a founder, CEO, C level person, you are looking after your mental health and then communicating that you were doing that. So you did it very actively. It goes a long, long way, a long, long way. And then the practical stuff can come cause this fertile ground and to have conversation, you're not going to talk about the practical, mental health support.

[00:17:43] If you think bloody out a lot, the CEO ain't going to want to listen to this cause he's all over the place. yeah, I think there think looking after yourself first as a leader, then, then that creates the opportunity for it to sort of really be embedded in the company.

[00:17:56] Hector: I just have one follow on question two. cause I think of the challenges that companies have is just how, how they can measure the impact of, positive culture around mental health. And it is like very hard to measure the impact. I suppose you would have come across that way.

[00:18:16] You know, you're, you're pitching to companies saying, you need to do this, but it's actually, it could probably come across as quite intangible. And you know, how is this actually going to impact our bottom line? people kind of believe it, but they don't know just how important this is and what impact it's going to have on that.

[00:18:31] How do you respond to that?

[00:18:33] James Routledge: I'll be honest. I think like the thing about it not being able to be measured is I think it's quite lazy actually. I think that's just quite like lazy people, lazy people function, or probably an under resourced people function. it's pretty simple to measure like, Employee engagement, staff, retention, candidate attraction, and plenty of brands.

[00:18:52] Like these are like pretty hard metrics that if any people direct or had a people that you actually give chance to speak. Worth their salt. We'll talk about in an instance. So I don't actually think it's that hard to measure. I just think if in companies we paid as much attention to people as we did to like marketing sales and products.

[00:19:12] So absolute doddle. I actually think that sentence, I'm not putting this on you is a defense and an avoidance tactic for. I think that happens all the time. It's like, oh, we can't measure it. So let's not do it. It's like, yeah, you can measure it. Just actually spend the time. Um, and I think, especially in startup environments, people just aren't really prioritized and we can talk about why that is.

[00:19:37] And I think there are some much good reasons for that or the functions are prioritized. So I think people come down with like NoDa.

[00:19:44] James Pringle: Really really interesting How difficult is it to implement at a big company versus doing it from day one is the opportunity to try and get it in grained in the new company. So that, that always built with that culture or are you desperately also trying to switch the culture at some big companies that have just never really done this or.

[00:20:08] James Routledge: I think we're kind of trying to do both. It's definitely easier in your businesses. Like you've just got less dogma and tradition and, Generational like stories and deeply entrenched ways of doing things and people that have been there for 30 years, that don't want to do it any differently, you know, and a new business with new founders, fresh bloods, fresh perspective.

[00:20:32] you can set the tone from the star and people are what set the tone. It's the people that, that make it do. But having said that the culture change in bigger organizations is perfectly possible. I just think it's a bit harder, but you just have to have the same thing again. You've just gotta have a leadership team that is completely bought in to wanting to have a healthy organization.

[00:20:55] and healthy people in a healthy system. And if they really want that, and if the board are behind it and the CEO is behind it, it can't happen. It, my just take much take a bit longer,

[00:21:06] James Pringle: Yeah, absolutely. We've already touched on. Stable healthy businesses have sort of been mentioned a couple of times already. And obviously the port cost is cooled riding unicorns. And when people maybe think of unicorns, they think of the boom and bust the sort of the kazoos and the faucets and that kind of it's you're one or the other, but there are lots of different ways to build businesses and you don't always have to raise venture money off the bat.

[00:21:32] And you decided with scientists that you were going to be. A much more kind of unit economic from day one sort of profitable business from day one. And then you have raised money later on. So do you want to just explain a little bit why you wants to take that approach and take it more on a kind of, we're going to build real products that solve a real need, charge, real money for them before we start looking at most venture capital.

[00:22:00] James Routledge: couple of reasons, three, three, that spring to mind, one, I wanted to prove to myself that I could, make money. Like I could create a product that people would pay for. And I wanted to prove to myself that I could build a profitable business. Like I hadn't done that. I'd raised some money and spend other people's money and lost it basically.

[00:22:22] Which I'll be honest. I didn't find that hard to do if I'm just calling it out. I didn't find it that hard to like create a pitch deck, go out there, pitch, speak to a thousand investors, get calls with a hundred of them and raise money for my idea. I did not find that that difficult. And I'll be honest.

[00:22:41] I don't think it is that difficult in the world we live in today. many people can raise 150 K S S seed rounds. you know, I came out through the side of much pretty burned, pretty hurt. And like, I just wanted to prove to myself that I could just get someone to just like pay me something and did that pretty early on and felt a real buzz off it again, as well, like just felt It felt better than all the investment I'd ever raised. You know, I remember you know, making the first like 30 quid and like just seeing it go in it just what a feeling like it's just an absolute dopamine hit like such a rush, like really enjoyed it and got a big buzz off that creatively really liked it.

[00:23:20] So I think I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder that I wanted to do that. secondly, another chip on my shoulder on the other shoulder heart is that obviously I had raised money before and I think I felt. When things weren't going well, and the business was dependent on investment. Like, I felt really powerless.

[00:23:39] I felt like my life was just in the hands of someone else and not mess with me. I really, really think looking back like that really mess with me, I just made me feel awful. I felt like all of the twists, like, you know, please Cirque and have some more like, you know, I need you to literally like literally, laugh, you know, this is my income.

[00:24:01] And it just felt, yeah, it just, just felt well. And I just didn't want to be there again. I didn't want my life or the life of my company to like be in the hands of, somebody else. So I think the way to do that for me was to just like take back control and create something that made money that was self-sufficient that could support me and the team or the people.

[00:24:23] and its own way. Now we did raise angel investment for Sanctus, but it just felt really different. Like it was just really passive. It was really easy because we were making money. We weren't reliant on the angel investment. It kind of acted as a bit more of a buffer. All the angel investors were. just really passionate and engaged in the mission again, because the company itself was different.

[00:24:49] And then I think thirdly also, because of the nature of the space when I started Sanctus I hired, I suppose, a view that to build like a healthy business, a sustainable mental health business, we probably shouldn't grow As fast as we possibly could, dealing with sensitive content.

[00:25:11] And we do like people go to saying to sessions, and even though Sanctus might not be right space for them, because we talk about mental health, they might be suicidal. so to like, take, for example, coach recruitment to just be like, fuck it.

[00:25:24] Let's grow as fast as possible and hire any old coach off the street. And then someone comes to a session. They don't get a good coach experience and then they take their own life. that's not a laughing matter. That's not move fast and breaks. That's like people's lives. So I suppose I had quite like a, um, cautious approach, I think.

[00:25:43] Hector: it's an interesting way of thinking about it and I think it is true and there are, of course other ways to raise money. So, amen men to what you say? I'm kind of curious to hear, from someone who must've seen it all, what some of the worst practices are that you've seen in seen in companies, you know, what would be the key points in your, in your next book? How not to do mental health in the work?

[00:26:03] James Routledge: I think the worst thing you can do is just like, pretend you care. It's just like the worst. so like a classic that people love talking about in like the whole mental health burnout culture is Revolut. So like the Revolut founds, I don't know if you remember a few years ago he just came out and was like, This is really bad place to work.

[00:26:22] And we like, we don't care about how people feel at all. And we're just going to scale the business and like, honestly Fair play to him. and we can argue about, yeah, well that's capitalism and that's really bad. I do probably agree. I don't think that's great, but I'd rather a CEO come out and just say, look right now, we're scaling business.

[00:26:43] We're going for it. And to be honest, how people feel. At work and their sense of wellbeing is not a priority for us. Our priority is building a bank that reaches a hundred million people in the next five years. Now I don't necessarily agree. And I think as humans, we can do better than that, but I appreciate, and I respect honesty.

[00:27:06] The worst thing is just when just people just lie and because people, we are all humans have got amazing, like bullshit sensors. Like we can all just smell it a mile off and you get so many founders and CEOs. Just pretend you just, there they'd be better off just like, just being honest.

[00:27:26] And I think the bigger miss the biggest mistakes is when it's like box ticking, you know, just like this disingenuity, you know, like, you know, clearly like it's world mental health day. And like the people direct is like written the email for them and sent it out. It's just rubbish. That is just the worst thing that you can do.

[00:27:46] Hector: I mean, Keep going on that I think it's dangerous. when you have a CEO in a company is saying that we care about it, you're going to be attracting people don't have great mental health, if your revenue, and you're saying we don't give a shit about mental health, that's the signal.

[00:28:03] If you're going to be anxious and depressed, it don't join. and it's a warning and people who are anxious and depressed and not going to join Revolut because they know it's going to be a terrible decision for their mental health

[00:28:12] James Routledge: by the way, I don't want to say your way. I think revel, I don't think that's necessarily. I just think like, at least there's like, So I'm just authenticity there I think just think box ticket is just literally, the worst thing that, can be done.

[00:28:27] And I think the other thing, when you ask about like, what not to do. And then this happens in small businesses. Big businesses is clearly when the leadership team have like absolutely no semblance of reality. Like when they have just like no connection to like the people and like a classic, you know, Uh, you know, all the leadership team, they've obviously I've got together and had a chat in that room and it's like, you know what?

[00:28:55] Let's, uh, you know, like let's, as an airline, let's put some free beers on a Friday or whatever. And really actually like, people are still working on a Friday because they're so bloody stressed out and they can't get the work done. And I think, leadership teams make a lot of mistakes when they don't have like a people representative in the room, not when they don't have someone.

[00:29:14] Who's the voice of the people, whether it's a head of people, people, director, who's just saying that. Wait there, actually by the way, people don't care about that. You know, actually people would rather be paid more than for you to have that amazing Christmas party we have where you just pour a lender drinks for us as an example, these are just some really common examples and to Cooley out let's just call it.

[00:29:38] It's often maybe. CEOs and founders typically, and this is just stereotyping here. So it's not always the case, not listening too often. Female heads of people who know what's happening. They, they are the beating heart of the company and not being listened to. So that's often the dynamics that play out.

[00:30:03] James Pringle: Yeah. I just wanted to ask one. Big thing I think is, would be really interesting for other founders across all different sectors, which is around building a brand because we we've had lots of founders on and, we've had some amazing brands, but you've built a brand from scratch in a very sensitive area.

[00:30:24] So like, what are your tips to other founders when thinking about brands and what have you learned along that journey? Yeah, you would advise other fonts to think about brand building.

[00:30:35] James Routledge: Yeah. I just don't think it's full, but I'm watching the startup space. Like, I don't know if that's because of the nature of startup founders or maybe quite technical, but yeah, I'm always like a native. the lack of thought around. And to be honest, I think that my sense is I wouldn't call myself like an expert on this.

[00:30:54] My sense is like, I actually don't think many founders actually consciously think about their brand. I think they think about the product and the mission and the vision. And I think a lot of founders will be able to write a good pitch deck and, present it to investors and, and scale.

[00:31:11] But I don't know if many founders actually think about brand and it was something I just really consciously thought about really early on. I think the truth there is possibly cause like I enjoyed the creative exercise of it. like I created a, um, back a V1 brand book, like really early on, which was like, you know, your classic, like, you know, why do you exist your values?

[00:31:38] Tone of voice. logo, color scheme. And I thought really deeply about, you know, the name like there's loads of like, you know, what Sanctus means, like sanctuary and safe space. And actually, you know, it's the roots of the word is whole, which is connected to the word health and Latin and all this stuff.

[00:31:58] So I think I really enjoyed like the sort of. creative part of it. And definitely just encourage more found this is your site spend the afternoon on that. Like, I just don't think people just like go away and spend a bit of time and just ask themselves like, okay, you know, why are we called this?

[00:32:16] what's our tone of voice. Like what's our personality. I just don't think people do it. so I don't know if I got, I don't know if we've got any tips. I just think I just did it and. And it's kind of works like quiet.

[00:32:29] James Pringle: I guess you would to get, would be put some effort into that.

[00:32:32] James Routledge: Yeah. I just don't think people, basically what happens. Like let's be totally honest. There's people get inside a series a and series B and then they have. You know, they're higher, like studio Koto and spend like 60 grand and just get like, they do it for them. That is literally what happens the amount of times, like we've just raised our series B and not like, oh, we're also rebranded.

[00:32:53] It's just, it's hilarious because obviously that's when it happens. again, I think every business is unique to its founders at the end of the day. I'd like to think I'm, my skillset is, writing and his marketing and brands. So that's probably why it was front and center. I think if know, if I was a developer, we'd probably have a better product because it would be, well, you know, it'd be well-made and automate it or something, but, I just think those people to actually think about, so I think it's quite fun to be honest.

[00:33:19] And, and also it can help you from a personal perspective because actually the biggest part of your brand as a founder in the first couple of years, You literally are the brand, like when people invest, they invest in you when people buy, they buy from you, when people work for you, they work for you. Sad.

[00:33:38] I think that she doing that, kind of journaling exercise of what's our brand about, you know, it'll help you communicate and it'll help you write and they'll help you share your story, which will ultimately, be good for every part of the business.

[00:33:51] Hector: James we had a great conversation with you and it's been an absolute pleasure having you on the show. We've we could have gone on for hours. we have to wrap up, unfortunately. So, as you know, we always ask people who they would ask, to an imaginary, dinner party.

[00:34:03] So who would your three guests be? They can be dead or alive.

[00:34:06] James Routledge: asked, come from nowhere, to be honest, that's a good, I'd have Jesus. I honestly would. I just be lying me.

[00:34:14] What, you know, tell me all about. How much is real, how much is true? That it will just answer a lot of questions for me. who else would have, at the moment, honestly, it's a bit topical, but I don't want a south to have duty.

[00:34:27] And again, just try and just use everything I've learned in sank tests and just try and open them up and just be like, what is going on by that'd be pretty interested in mine, Luther king fruits and, and Jesus.

[00:34:39] James Pringle: Absolutely. Well, James, thank you so much for coming on and telling us your Vita unicorn story.

[00:34:46] science is doing some amazing stuff out there and founders that are the start of building that business should definitely, look you guys up and consider stepping forward the right foot from day one. So, hopefully that message has transcended out to the audience, but really amazing and lots of useful tips in there for I've found it.

[00:35:05] So thanks so much, mate, for coming on and doing a recording of us.

[00:35:08] James Routledge: Been an absolute pleasure. Thanks for having me.

[00:35:10] James: That's it for this week. Thanks very much for listening. To stay up to date with the latest episodes, please follow or subscribe on your favorite podcast platform. We also have a newsletter called reading unicorns, which is another great way to get every episode direct to your inbox. Please tell your friends about it and engage with us on social media And we'll see you on the next episode.