Be humble: it’s not your typical value statement for a company with ambitious growth plans. But it’s an approach that is helping GoCardless achieve great things. “Success is not about individuals, it’s about the collective and delivering the best outcome or solution possible,” explained CEO Hiroki Takeuchi. “Being humble, doesn’t mean you have to be timid.”
And he’s right, there is nothing timid about GoCardless. Co-founded by Takeuchi in 2011, GoCardless has reinvented how businesses collect recurring payments by making bank debits more accessible and affordable. It processes around $15 billion in transactions a year for 55,000 organisations around the world - from small charities to big brands, such as TripAdvisor and Sage.
As you would expect from a CEO that advocates humility, Takeuchi is quick to credit his team for the ongoing success of GoCardless. “If I was doing this on my own, the ship would probably have sunk by now!” he joked. “I’m surrounded by a lot of talented people and I get the odd free lesson about how things could be done better.”
Takeuchi believes a strong culture is fundamental to inspiring people to do their best. And he’s worked hard to establish the right culture at GoCardless - and to ensure it remains organic. “For me, culture is equal to the sum of everyone’s behaviours. Every time we onboard new people or develop new skills or products, our culture evolves,” he said. “We want to stay focused on what is going to make a difference.”
To keep this focus front of mind, another GoCardless company value encourages its people to ‘start with why’ - whether they are evaluating new customer offerings or diversity in the workplace.
The idea for GoCardless was prompted by Takeuchi and two friends when they posed a very simple ‘why’ one evening in his bedroom: why can’t we make it quicker and easier for businesses to get paid?
This remains the company’s mission to this day: to take the pain out of getting paid for businesses with recurring revenue. The GoCardless platform simplifies the collection of invoice, subscription, membership, and instalment payments as well as key tasks, such as reporting and reconciliation.
With new bank debit schemes, software integrations, and features constantly being introduced, more and more partners and merchants are joining the GoCardless payment ecosystem.
And ecosystems are important to Takeuchi. He and his co-founders witnessed the potential of this approach first-hand in Silicon Valley when attending the Y Combinator seed funding programme, which also helped to kickstart ventures such as Dropbox and Airbnb. “To create a successful ecosystem, you need a constant cycle of companies being formed - that’s why Silicon Valley has worked so well. There’s always people coming up with new ideas and embarking on new journeys,” he explained.
GoCardless has also proved to be a good incubator for new ideas: its two other founders as well as several employees have left to form their own companies. “We look for people with an entrepreneurial spirit, so it’s inevitable some of them will want to do their own thing. I am sad but also excited when someone decides to leave, and I feel just as proud of the companies created by former team members as I do of GoCardless,” said Takeuchi.
And he has a lot to be proud of: GoCardless now has more than 400 employees and has attracted more than $145 million from investors, including Salesforce Ventures. “Salesforce is one of the most successful companies in the world and it’s great to be able to leverage the team’s expertise. They are strong advocates for us,” revealed Takeuchi.
The two companies have also partnered to provide customers with automated payment collection through Salesforce Billing and the AppExchange. “There’s a strong synergy between GoCardless and Salesforce and a number of interesting opportunities to explore,” said Takeuchi.
There are also challenges to overcome. The COVID-19 pandemic meant that GoCardless and Takeuchi had to make some tough decisions resulting in several employees being furloughed and others being made redundant. The reasons behind these decisions weren’t just communicated to the GoCardless team but the entire world via a very honest (and humble) blog, which Takeuchi posted on LinkedIn.
“Being transparent builds trust. It’s not about how you behave when people are looking, it’s about how you behave when no one is looking,” said Takeuchi. “When we’ve been open with our customers about a mistake, it’s often been a turning point and led to a stronger relationship.”
Takeuchi was inspired to share GoCardless’ response to COVID-19 after reading a similar post by another CEO. “Although Steve Jobs was my hero when I was growing up, I am now inspired more by specific acts by specific people,” he revealed.
The 34-year-old is no stranger to adapting to unforeseen and difficult events. In 2016, Takeuchi was involved in a cycling accident that left him paralysed from the waist down. “I took an extended time out of the business, which gave me the opportunity to think about my role and how I worked,” he explained. “It gave me a sense of positive impatience and a new spark.”
That spark has ignited new growth ambitions that will see GoCardless strengthen its position in its five strategic geographies, which include the UK and the US, and expand into new markets.
“We want to keep growing and enable our customers to do the same,” said Takeuchi. “My job is to help the company adapt as we scale up and make sure we learn from any mistakes that we make along the way.” Being humble isn’t just a company value for GoCardless; it’s a personal one too.
Read the full sotry to see how GoCardless helps more businesses get paid with Salesforce.