CEO and Founder of Gas Tag Discusses Leadership, Innovation and Failure
“I don’t try to hide behind the fact that I’ve had a failed business.”
Gas Tag is the only end-to-end gas compliance system, created to provide landlords with a full, real-time audit trail of all works carried out at their properties and the only system that validates the qualifications of engineers carrying out the work. The asset and property data captured allows for better business decisions and, most importantly, the peace of mind that their tenants are safe.
We caught up with Paul Durose, CEO and Founder of Gas Tag – one of the finalists for The Lloyds Bank New Business of the Year award to talk about the sleekness of their tech, the strength of failure and how to avoid a burnout.
Paul has been in the construction industry since the age of 17, but when the crash of 2008 hit, the construction business took a tumble. When he later found himself in the gas safety industry, he discovered that there was very little safety to it. The archaic system often involves rogue gas fitters, illegal checks and only a piece of paper to prove the work has been completed – which is sometimes filled in fraudulently. After his construction business went under, the idea of Gas Tag came to him.
Tell us a little bit about how Gas Tag is innovating the gas safety industry.
Around 1.1 million gas jobs are carried out every year by illegal gas fitters who are not properly qualified, putting householders at risk.
Unsafe gas appliances can cause gas leaks, fires, explosions and carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning which accounts for 50 deaths per year, and as many as 4,000 medical visits, according to the Department of Health.
The gas safety industry needs a shake-up. It’s based on old-fashioned record-keeping and archaic systems which are no longer fit for purpose.
Recent research from the Gas Safe Register, who regulate the sector, has revealed that almost 5 million people across the UK are putting themselves at risk by employing illegal gas engineers who are not properly qualified.
It has also shown that 65% of gas jobs carried out by illegal fitters are unsafe and one in five gas appliances are so dangerous that they must be disconnected immediately.
Worryingly, one in five people who employ a tradesperson to work on a gas appliance do not check their ID card or qualifications.
Gas Tag has been developed to ensure that the correct work is carried out on gas appliances at the appropriate time, by the right engineers. As soon as a physical Gas Tag is installed on the gas inlet in a property it tracks all the property’s gas appliances, services and installations – and can only be used by a qualified Gas Safe Registered engineer.
Each engineer can evidence their competency, and their completed job gets uploaded to a centralised portal where the data can be monitored. Rogue gas fitters are unable to access the Gas Tag app and are not able to carry out any work through the Gas Tag portal.
We are looking to revolutionise the gas safety industry.
We want to rid the industry of rogue unregistered engineers and stop them in their tracks before they can do damage to heating systems and put residents at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning, or worse.
What was it about the Lloyds Bank National Business Awards that made you want to apply?
Our PR Adviser suggested that we go for it. Also, our sales director previously worked for an organisation that won the award several years ago. He said the Lloyds Bank National Business Awards is like the Oscars of the business world and it’s great for recognition.
Do you think that being shortlisted has boosted your credentials so far?
Oh without a doubt. We want to gain credibility and we think an award like this will give us that. Just to be shortlisted is unbelievable for our credibility. Not only are we getting recognised on a national level, but we’re also getting recognised on a national business level.
As CEO and Founder, do you find yourself wearing two different hats? And how do you think the roles differ?
If I’m completely honest, I wear about a hundred different hats every single day. And that’s not with regards to being a CEO or a founder, it’s about managing people. I think you have to deal with different people in different ways. In small companies, I think the chief executive and the founder usually are the same people.
What I try and do is point to the horizon and say “I think we should go over there”. I’ll get people to agree with me, or disagree with me, and then we’ll put the processes in place to get there.
The business is growing really fast at the minute. I think – in fact –that I’m the right person to lead this business at this moment in time. I’ve always said this: there will be a time where I might not be the right person, and I will go down to being a founder, and the right person will come in. All I care about is the business. And if I’m not the right person to move this business forward, I will definitely move aside and recruit the right person who is. It’s about getting the right people in the right roles.
A core part of the Gas Tag offering is the app. What’s the hardest part of maintaining or developing an app?
I’d say constant scrutiny of the app to be honest with you, more than anything. You have to have testers who literally do nothing but test all day every day. We’ve got two that try every way to break it. And while it’s great to think about the innovations that you want to implement, it’s also important that day to day issues get addressed straight away. Having a really good ‘business as usual’ team is vital.
We have a team of 14 app developers. Some of them are developing in different languages for different app stores as well. It’s full on. It costs an awful lot of money to have it run smoothly. Simplicity costs money.
What are your strengths and weaknesses as a CEO?
More than anything, my strongest point is building teams. I’m not really that good at most things, but I am good at finding talent and saying O.K, we’ve got a gap here and I think you’re the person to fill it. It’s about making new recruits feel comfortable. It’s about making them feel like the culture is right for them.
What advice would you give to other CEOs to instil the right culture?
Just try things. If it works, great, if it doesn’t, tweak it and try it again. I suppose that’s the kind of culture that we try to have. A lot of our employees have joined us because they believe in the product and they liked the culture when they first came in. I’m not a micro-manager – if I feel like I have to micro-manage someone, they’re not the right person for the role.
There’s a reputation for a lot of new businesses to do really well and then burn out – how do you tackle that risk on a personal level?
I think because we’ve created something brand new, it’s very exciting and I’ve learned a lot. I don’t think I will burn out. I do switch off. I’ve learned from a failed business that bringing everything home with you is not good. It’s toxic.
You will burn out if you take things home and you open your laptop up when your kids are trying to play with you, or you’re trying to watch TV. Your life is over. There’s no point. It’s not about living to work is it? It’s about working to live.
What advice would you give to young business-minded professionals?
Get on with people. Genuinely, I advise everyone to just get on with people. If you’re not a nice person, opportunities do not find their way to you. Be honest, show your weaknesses, and explain them.
I don’t try to hind behind the fact that I’ve had a failed business and I’ve made mistakes in the past. I kind of wear that as a badge of honour. I think in the UK we’re starting to come around to the idea that it’s O.K. to fail because that’s how you learn and move forward.
Don’t try to have an answer for everything. Don’t try to be the smartest person in the room. I think that’s one thing I’ve learned. If you don’t know something, just say you don’t know and learn from it. Learn from other people who are willing to teach you.
Never settle. Never say we’ve cracked it and we can’t do anymore – you’ll never hear those words come out my mouth. Always keep driving forward.