When Charlotte Petris conceived online invoice-trading marketplace Timelio, she looked around for a co-founder – and discovered him at the kitchen table.
How did you decide to both work in the business?
Charlotte: It was quite thought-through, quite analytic on my part. In the end, I pitched the idea to my husband Andrew as I needed his skillset. I thought, he’s the person I would love to have as a co-founder. This is a big business, this is a big mission and vision that I have, and a co-founder would be perfect for what we are trying to do.
Andrew: The business began not as you typically see where a husband and wife start a business together. Charlotte had the idea for this business and she was looking for someone on the investor side when she started thinking about this idea. I was a natural fit from my background [in investment] as opposed to me just being a husband and starting a family business.
What sparked the idea for the business?
Charlotte: I’ve always wanted to set up my own business and it was around, “when is the right time?” It doesn’t feel strange to me to want to go and take risks and go out on my own. I did have a fairly typical career where I graduated, worked for KPMG, qualified and worked in banks. But always underlying, I wanted to do something a little bit differently.
Andrew: Charlotte’s parents ran a family business, so she could see some of the pain points that businesses have around that working capital and that mismatch between receipts and payables.
How do you make it work?
Charlotte: A respect for all the people around you is key. In this industry, businesses that require funding are not always treated with respect by other people in the market. But just because they require cash flow doesn’t mean they’re bad people. They’ve got good, growing businesses and that’s why they need working capital. A lot of businesses may have issues because different founders can have different values and visions for what to do with the company. We’re very, very aligned. We’re going in the same direction and we have the same matching values around treating people appropriately.
Andrew: Even in the fintech space that we’re in, a lot of people say there is no way in the world they could ever work with their husband or wife. You have to have a strong relationship and it has to work for you. And in this particular business, it does work because we’re from a similar background. Having clearly defined roles is also critical.
Businesses that require funding are not always treated with respect by other people in the market – Charlotte Petris CEO of Timelio
Running a start-up isn’t easy. How have you found it?
Charlotte: It certainly keeps life interesting. It’s challenging and we’re always learning something new. My role in the business over the past 2½ years that we’ve been operating has changed as we have moved from trying to start something from nothing to being a leader of a fully-fledged business with an office and a team. Now we are working to raise capital to scale our business. It’s interesting, it’s challenging and I’m always learning, and I think that’s really important.
Andrew: When you’re starting up a business it is risky. You’re putting all your eggs in one basket. You need to have an alignment of risk appetite. I don’t think this would work if one of us had a much greater risk appetite than the other. But we both have similar ambitions and we take calculated risks and this is one of those calculated risks. We both recognised the opportunity and sometimes it’s a bigger regret not to do something than to try something.
How do you balance family and business life?
Charlotte: Our children know way too much about the word ‘finance’ but that’s kind of reflective of our excitement and passion. If you’re not putting 100% into it, you’re not going to get the output either.
Andrew: We’re like any modern household, where we both share domestic responsibilities and chores fairly equally. Quite often we’re having quiet discussions in the office, but half the time it’s about who’s picking up our girls that evening or who’s making dinner. I’d say that work life is much more clearly defined in terms of roles and responsibilities versus home life, where – especially Monday to Friday – we’re juggling things like everyone else.
Originally published in Acuity Magazine.