Success stories behind tech's top founders: HRLocker

Harry Gooding, Director, Hays Enterprise Technology Practice - UK and Ireland

Last year we launched Tech Founders, a series of live events in which we explore the career stories behind some of the world’s most exciting tech founders. In each instalment, I meet a different entrepeneur to discuss how they got to where they are today, arrived at their business concept, and secured investment to build their business.
 

"An accidental entrepeneur"

 
On Tuesday 22nd March, I sat down with Adam Coleman to discuss HRLocker. Adam has worked in recruitment and HR for 30 years, and pivoted toward tech in 2013 with a cloud-based solution for organisations' personnel needs. Based in the town of Lahinch on the coast of the Republic of Ireland, HRLocker is founded on clear principles and a company culture that works for everyone. 
 
Watch our conversation in full below:
 
 
Alternatively, if you’d like to watch a specific part, you can use these timestamps to find the relevant question:
 
Can you tell us a bit about yourself? 06:20
Adam has spent a total of 30 years in recruitment and HR - he actually started out at Hays! Having worked at a company that grew from five employees to 800, he later founded an HR firm that became HRLocker as the tech was developed.
 
How critical is the role of HR in a company growing at scale? 09:10
Adam spoke about working and interviewing as a recruiter before the internet and how he desire for a new challenge took him to Ireland's second-ever unicorn.
 
In those first few months and years working in HR, what were the main things you took away? 13:50
Two words: "common sense". Adam also stresses the importance of emotional intelligence in an HR role.
 
Where did HRLocker and start and what is it? 14:55
Adam spoke frankly and honestly about his family and how it brought him back to Ireland. Having founded an HR consulting company in 2004, Adam's desire to automate his processes nine years later led to HRLocker. He did point out that he still can't read or write a line of code!
 
How would you describe yourself? 17:29

Rather than a knowledge of tech, it's been Adam's knowledge of the HR market that has propelled his business. He describes COVID as "the great university" that forced people to learn and made it easier to educate. It's here that he labelled himself as "an accidental entrepeneur".

Would you say that an ability to adapt has been a big part of your story? 19:45
What are the main principle for HRLocker? Adam looked back on his time at Digifone and decided what he did and didn't like. These principles now guide the business. It's also clear that Adam is an avid reader. He lists the books that have helped him - and the one he wished he'd read sooner!
 
Tell me about "surf time". 26:06
"Surf time" allows HRLocker employees to take time out of their working day to do something else. As Adam pointed out, if the surf's only good for a limited period, there's no time to waste.
 
What would be the perfect problem statement you'd hear from a client? 29:10
HRLocker has an impressive retention rate, which Adam credited to the business' ability to solve problems. He wants to make life easier for not just employers but also employees, allowing them to manage their own careers.
 

What was it like shifting from a very manual approach to an automated, hands-off approach? 33:17
Honestly and authenticity is important to Adam, which is something he's not always encountered in his career. 

What would you go back and tell to a younger Adam as he became a founder? 37:25
Again, he wishes he'd read that book! He also stressed the importance of finding a mentor, and shared his interest in psychometrics.

Would you say that HR is your passion? 41:35
Adam's first passion was philosophy. He cited his favourite Socrates quote (which is tattooed on his arm) and how that's informed his outlook as a founder.

What's served you well, and what's been the hardest part to get to grips with? 46:24
Working at Digifone meant that Adam got involved with, and recruited for, all departments. As for the other side, he's made a lot of mistakes, but that's how he's learned.
 
What do you find hardest when it comes to hiring. What's changed in recent years? 49:04
HRLocker have been used to hiring remotely, as a lot of talent won't be willing to relocate to Lahinch. Adam explained how his outlook has changed over the years and told me about his upcoming tour to visit all of the HRLocker workforce! He used a term I really liked: "Work is no longer a place".
 
What advice could you give to any founders out there? 55:00
Adam gave our viewers advice based on his mistakes, such as working without a co-founder. He also spoke about "triangulation" and how that helps him today.
 
What's next for HRLocker? 57:55
I'd already heard about the tour, but Adam is looking ahead to building HRLocker's presence in the UK and US.
 

Watch more events from our Tech Founders series here.

 

Author

Harry Gooding
Director, Hays National Technology - UK&I

Harry Gooding is part of Hays Technology, working across our Enterprise Technology Practice and supporting new initiatives around skills development. After beginning his career in recruitment, he then worked in VC backed start-ups and scale-ups for six years across two different portfolios before joining Hays.

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