We’re passionate about the world of work, and how we can make it better. To help satisfy our curiosity, we’ve launched an interview series where we pick the brains of experienced leaders, business owners, managers, and individual contributors to get their thoughts on how we can collectively build better workplaces.
Join us in our next installment below as Clint Van Marrewijk—Founder and CEO, SaferMe—shares his insights with us.
We’d love to get to know you a bit better, tell us a bit about your backstory.
I grew up on a farm in New Zealand. A dairy farm, with lots of cows that roam around freely and eat grass. The weather is warm there most of the year, so the cows don’t need a barn. The farm itself is in a remote place, even for New Zealand. It’s close to the sea and it feels almost magical every time I go back there. It's where I recharge and get time to think deeply about SaferMe, new opportunities, and to strategize about the future.
As a child, I was always into making money in one way or another. I’d buy piglets and fatten them up on scraps or milk we couldn’t sell. Then as the pigs got bigger and fatter, I’d sell them for money and at a profit. As a teenager, I got good at stacking hay barns, and I would make money doing that for all the local farmers. Eventually I went to university and studied engineering, traveled the world, and started my business career. One of the first places I traveled to was America, which I loved. Our American office is based in Austin, Texas and I am enjoying building a business here.
If we were to ask a friend to describe your personality to us, what would they say?
Persistent. I suppose that’s a dominant trait that typifies me. As an engineer, I always try to find a solution and I do not like giving up.
Thinking back to your career journey, what’s an interesting story that stands out?
Once I found a large deposit was made into our company bank account, and I didn’t know where it came from. I thought it was a mistake that the bank had made, but it turns out it was from an investor who was excited about our mission. He heard our seed round was close to done—I was raising money at the time for a startup, and he didn’t want to miss out. He got our bank details from another investor and transferred money to our bank without telling us. He hadn’t even seen the pitch. We didn’t know who he was.
After I worked out the money wasn’t a mistake, I had to figure out who it was from, which isn’t as easy as you would think. We took him through all the legal checks and paperwork afterwards.
Anyone who has completed a capital raise understands it can be a grueling process. A lot of people saying no, a lot of slammed doors. So, this investor interaction stands out for sure. It turned out that he was easy to deal with the whole time. And because he got in early, his investment did really well in the end. Although, I’m not sure I’d recommend his strategy to other investors.
What’s the most impactful lesson you've learned over your career thus far?
One life lesson I live by is the saying: “Action is the great redeemer.”
Simply put, the best ideas flow from action, and that it is action, itself, that generates a deeper understanding.
That when you take action, you generate a better perspective and better judgment, and this will help you solve your problem. Whatever it is. When I really feel stuck and don’t know what to do, that saying is my fallback. It helps a lot.
Thanks for giving us some insight into who you are! Let’s jump into things. When you hear the phrase “build a better world of work”, what comes to mind?
Well, SaferMe’s core mission is to save at least 1 million people from dying because of the risks posed by dangerous aspects of their job. This would count as building a better world of work because
Our goal is to dramatically reduce illness, injury, and death, by using advanced technology like our automated contact tracing, predictive risk evaluation, and safety management software.
To do this, we arm businesses with technology to protect the longevity of their workforce. Through wearable devices and apps, we can actively prevent accidents from happening.
Don’t forget that employers have a duty of care towards their employees and all parties that enter their business premises.
We aim to be at the forefront of creating a safer worker environment, particularly from a pandemic perspective.
For you, what’s the main blocker you see as standing in the way of building a better world of work?
From experience we know that most businesses use outdated and disparate systems to try and track and prevent more accidents and illness from happening in the future. That has to stop if they want to effectively manage employees and build a great work environment. If data isn’t organized well, how do you predict where the next injury or outbreak will happen? How can you send a predictive warning to the right user if their systems are not modern? It’s impossible.
Regulatory creep is also a problem to watch out for too. This is because bureaucratic rules don’t have renewal built into them when they are created. Regular reviews are not held. Forests have fire literally built into their ecosystem.
Regulations need the same thing–regulations shouldn’t be made without an automatic expiration date or at least a date for a full review. Otherwise, new and better ways of doing things struggle to flourish.
They are always stuck behind old methods. There is no advancement for companies and employees and consequently growth is stifled. That is not ideal.
What’s one thing within our control that we can practically do to build a better world of work today? And, how do you recommend going about it?
Well one thing we can do is to focus on collecting the right data, so that it can be used to protect employees and intervene if they are unsafe. Backwards looking workplace safety systems, which are useful, are no longer the state of the art. Businesses need current data which is easily accessible and can be turned into actionable intelligence. This will help those responsible for strategic and risk management make better decisions that will positively impact workers and the office environment.
A practical way for a business to start though, is to make sure it is using a modern and easy to use wellbeing and safety platform.
Can you share one thing you’ve experienced, seen, or read about that is leading us towards a better world of work?
I think the Covid era has generated a lot of change in how we work, and this has been a net positive for the future of work for both employees and business owners. In the short term it has been difficult, to say the least. But we are having the right type of conversations now. Businesses are being more deliberate about how their work environment and culture is built. It is also important that employees have a share of voice in the conversation and drive aspects of it.
I’m curious, thinking about building a better world of work, is there a company and/or leader who stands out to you as someone we should follow? If so, what are they up to?
From my perspective, the Employee Experience Design School (EX Design School) is worth watching closely. They are the leaders in Employee Experience Design, which helps a business attract and retain a modern workforce. Designing the right experience for your employees will become more and more important in the future. If you look at how the workplace and employee needs have changed just over the last 30 months due to Covid and work from home experiences, you can see how important it is for HR managers and companies to create a unique experience for employees.
How can our readers follow your work?
Thank you for adding your voice to People Managing People’s interview series on How to Build a Better World of Work!
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