In Mansion House, Dublin, I was seated at a table with other members of the Swoop team to watch the countdown of the The Deloitte Technology Fast 50 Awards, which ranks companies based on revenue growth over a four-year period.
We were here last year, placing a creditable fourth. But as the countdown progressed and Swoop’s name didn’t pass the lips of the host, the tension around the table rose. Fifth place… fourth… third… When the second place was announced and it wasn’t us, one team member burst into tears (not me, though I wouldn’t mind admitting if I had). When we reached Number One and the Swoop logo flashed across the screen to confirm that we hadn’t just been invited as spectators, the next few minutes were frankly a blur as time somehow simultaneously slowed down and sped up.
In the 24 years of the Deloitte Fast 50, Swoop is the first female-founded company to take the top spot, and I promise this: not the last. I’m living proof that awards can be collected in heels.
It’s hard to overstate how big this is for us, an Anglo-Irish company founded just before the pandemic, dedicated to giving SMEs access to funding at a time when all businesses have suffered a rocky journey of uncertainty, rising costs and governments which haven’t always done what we wanted them to do to help us.
This win means that Swoop ends 2023 on a high note. But even as I was leaving the stage I knew that this was a challenge as well as an achievement: we’ve spread our wings to The USA, South Africa and Australia. We’ve found millions of pounds of funding for customers. We’ve partnered with Sage, major franchise operators and hundreds of advisors, brokers and bookkeepers to deliver real financial muscle to business owners who need it. But what do we do with this? We have to deliver on the values that got us to this point and realise the dream that every business everywhere will have access to the funding they need to grow. Swoop has always been about helping other businesses, and it always will be.
Looking down the list of businesses on the Deloitte Fast 50, I don’t see competitors, I see some of our customers (and a few potential future customers, too). I’m about to hop on a company-wide call to thank everyone who made our win possible, namely, everyone in the business who has aligned with the vision and pulled their weight. But I’ll also be telling them that we don’t stop now: there’s work to be done to take us even further.
It’s Christmas party season. From one founder to another, I would urge you to stand in front of your people. Thank them for their work this year. List the achievements. For some it’s been about great accolades, closed deals, won accounts, for others it’s been about survival. Either way, celebrate that success. And here’s the next bit: lay down a challenge for the year ahead. Make it big, make it scary and make it about them. Because when you tell people they can achieve great things, they will go out and prove you right.