Sheffield Operations Manager Wayne Adams smiles at the memory of when Perkbox co-founder Saurav Chopra paid the Sheffield office on Scotland Street a visit.
Saurav, founder of a company recently awarded Scale-Up Business of the year at the National Business Awards, sat himself down next to the company stereo, which was belting out some, as Wayne puts it, “Soulful House”.
“He didn’t bat an eyelid,” the Doncaster-born Adams, 34, says. “That sums him up – he’s happy to just get on with his work as long as his people are happy.”
It’s fair to say that Perkbox isn’t your standard Sheffield employer. Complete with a PS4, basketball hoops, ping pong tables and a Friday beer trolley, Adams brings his pet dog, a Shih Tzu called Peppa, into work.
As well as the constant music on rotation, there’s the thwack of ping-pong – “there’s a competition on at the moment”, Wayne says, and meetings can be held on beanbags and sofas, or picnic tables.
It’s telling that Perkbox is a company that puts its employees first – only right for an employer that makes its living offering a platform that rewards and recognises employees to help build happier, more productive company cultures.
Wayne admits he’s never worked anywhere like it. “It’s a bit different from working in the call centres and office of E:ON in Rotherham and Nottingham,” he says. “I was attracted to the role because I really liked the company’s ethos and the way they put employees first.”
Perkbox is one of a number of IT and tech companies that are transforming the digital sector in Sheffield. Now employing 41 people from its offices in Scotland Street, the company is now recruiting a number of Christmas temps and considering a move to larger premises, overseen by the inward investment team at Sheffield City Council.
Perkbox was created by Saurav Chopra and Chieu Cao in 2014. Today it ranks among the leading providers of employee benefits programmes for thousands of companies of all sizes such as Nando’s, Holland & Barrett, Royal Berkshire NHS Trust, Levi Strauss, Wasabi, Noble Foods, Firmdale Hotels, Hawksmoor and Revolut. To date, Perkbox has raised over £11.0 million in funding from investors such as Alex Chesterman, founder of LoveFilm & Zoopla, Sherry Coutu, former advisory board member at Linkedin, as well as the leading European venture capital firm Draper Esprit.
Perkbox recently won the Smith and Williamson scale-up business of the year at the National Business Awards 2017, and was this year selected as a Sunday Times 100 Best Small Companies To Work For. They were also listed at number 2 on the “LinkedIn Top Companies | Startups UK: The 25 industry disruptors you need to know now” list.
The Perkbox Platform is based on the full spectrum of employee wellbeing; financial, physical and emotional. Users of the platform receive unlimited access to discounts and freebies from hundreds of big name brands across 17 different categories, from food and drink to travel.
Their reward and recognition function allows users to share recognition, both peer-to-peer and top down, and the health and wellbeing element of the platform fits around employees’ lives, giving them access to exclusive savings on memberships to hundreds of gyms nationwide, as well as discounted dental insurance and health cover.
Perkbox has grown rapidly in the last three years. Turnover jumped from £4.3 million in 2015 to £14.7 million in 2016. In early 2017 Perkbox opened an office in Sheffield to meet increased demand. Perkbox now has over 180 employees between its London and Sheffield offices.
Perkbox recently acquired London-based Loyalty Bay, which offers a SaaS platform for the automated delivery of digital rewards. In combination, the Perkbox trajectory remains exceptionally strong.
But why is a company like Perkbox an ideal fit for Sheffield? Wayne is clear: “Driving over the Parkway, you can see the changes to the city and the cranes on the horizon. It’s an exciting place to be.
“Also, there are two Universities turning out brilliant graduates who want to stay in the city. The competition is high in places like Leeds but here we can cherry pick the very best and most innovative people who want to be here – you can’t argue with that.”
He’s in no doubt that the talent in Sheffield can take the company forward – and offers a distinct benefit to its Blackfriars operation.
He said: “The company’s Sheffield operation will play an integral role in the brand’s future development. Having a base in the North of the country will also help the business to break out of the capital and expand nationwide.
“As an international city Sheffield has two world class universities with a vast talent pool, Sheffield was identified as the perfect location in which to base the brand’s second office and realise the business’ strong growth ambitions.”
Q and A about Perkbox – Wayne Adams
How do you see the business expanding now it’s in Sheffield?
The team in Sheffield has expanded rapidly since opening here in January 2017. We’ve grown from zero to 41 in numbers, with anticipated growth to double in the next 18 months. It’s been an exciting time.
How would you sum up what your business does? How can somebody get into one of these roles and how much will they be paid?
At Perkbox, we believe happy employees perform better and stick around for longer. To that end, we’ve created an online platform that offers teams a wide range of rewards and recognition to help support that happier, more productive company culture.
We advertise our roles through an array of channels and do some on-the-ground relationship building with universities to secure the best talent. New starters can expect a competitive salary and benefits package at Perkbox.
How much office space have you taken up in Sheffield – and why is Sheffield ideally placed to provide this?
To account for rapid growth, we plan to double the size of our current office space to approx. 6000 sq ft. Sheffield is a two-hour train from London and has a wealth of talent from both universities which we’re already seeing the benefit of.
Why would a company like Perkbox, with its links to Silicon Valley start-ups, move to a city like Sheffield? What does Sheffield have to offer that other cities don’t?
Sheffield is a central UK city, which allows us to build stronger relationships with businesses across the nation who may benefit from Perkbox.
Employee disengagement is a national, and most certainly global issue, so it’s important for us as a progressive business to ensure we are connected to businesses across the UK. Sheffield is a thriving city, and it’s a great place to be for any business.
As an employer you famously put across a series of opportunities for your employees and others – will that continue in Sheffield and what kind of incentives are there to work at a company like Perkbox?
Our culture is very important to us. We want our employees to feel appreciated for the hard work they do. From shares in the company to the Friday beer trolley, we have various initiatives to keep our team engaged. The most popular perk is access to the Perkbox platform itself.
How will you be engaging with the local business and education community to grow your business?
The business community in Sheffield is bustling right now and we want to play our part. Investment within the Sheffield City Region is a hot topic and we feel that Perkbox demonstrates very well how businesses from the capital can expand into Sheffield and continue to flourish.
Who do you see as your natural contemporaries in Sheffield? Any local companies working with you to develop incentives for their staff?
There are many businesses we’ve met at city events or who’ve been referred to us who are all keen on the Perkbox product and excited by our brand.
What do you think Sheffield has to offer to other Shoreditch-based so called “hipster” companies? What has impressed you about the quality of life here and accommodation on offer?
Often referred to as the outdoor city, Sheffield has the countryside on their doorstep. It has plenty going on, from standout restaurants to theatres and a huge variety of nightlife that suits all tastes. Sheffield certainly enjoys an impressive social scene.
Accommodation is plentiful with new developments happening all over the city both commercial and residential. Transport links are strong in Sheffield, and allows easy access to other large Northern cities. London is just 2 hours away by train, so it’s a fantastic position for any business, or talented individuals looking to progress their career.
The company has ambitions of hitting £100m in turnover by 2020. How will its Sheffield operation help it achieve this?
We have a number of growing teams with exceptional individuals working towards ambitious goals. Perkbox recently won the Smith and Williamson scale-up business of the year at the National Business Awards 2017. They were also listed at number 2 on the “LinkedIn Top Companies | Startups UK: The 25 industry disruptors you need to know now” list. The Sheffield team form an important component of the Perkbox business, and our talented team will ensure the Perkbox growth trajectory remains strong.
How has the inward investment team at SCC helped to achieve this?
Working close to the team has helped open up and build relationships across the city. There are many initiatives and incentives businesses can take advantage of here in Sheffield the SCC have helped us understand and take advantage of them.