Welcome to the first of our Founder Interviews! We’ll be speaking to founders and senior leadership about developing their teams, company culture, networks and success. First up, the wonderful George Bettany — co-founder of Sanctus (sanctus.io)

Sanctus founders George (L) and James Routledge (R)

Hi George! Thanks so much for sitting down with us. First off — could you tell us a bit about what Sanctus does?

Our mission is to change the perception of mental health — we want to put the first mental heath gym on the high street. We’re doing that by putting Sanctus in the workplace — we have a team of coaches who go into businesses and create a one to one space for people to work on their mental health. People call us their personal trainer for mental health and fitness.

That’s awesome! How did the idea come about?

We ran a tech company before this and suffered ourselves from poor mental health and burnt out. James, my co-founder — started to talk publicly about how we were feeling and what was going on. He wrote a blog post called ‘Mental Health in Start-Ups’ which kick-started everything.

You’ve grown your team really quickly in the last two and a half years —  you're now at 28 coaches! Where’s been the main place you go to look for talent?

It’s always been our Immediate network — whether that’s LinkedIn, social media, Twitter, friends. We’ve not yet tried using other platforms and the thought of a recruiter didn’t feel right — partly as a start up you don’t want to pay for anything! But also as quite a personal business we didn’t want to hand that hunt over to a recruiter — want people to live and breath the Sanctus mission as much as we do.

Do you think there’s a common trait across all the people you’ve hired?

Yes, they really align with mine and James’ values: honest, genuine people — they care, they’re passionate and they’re ambitious. All of that comes before whether they are technically good at X. The mission is at the very core of the business and filters through from there. We see this with the companies we work with too — each company has such a unique character and environment — not just because of what they do, but because of the founders and core leadership team. The core team influence the first hires, and they in turn influence the next — and the culture builds outwards from there.

Some of the wonderful Sanctus team & coaches

You also manage a team of coaches who don’t sit with your team on a day to day basis. How do you find managing essentially a remote workforce?

It’s not as easy as having a full time office based team. With a remote team you need processes and good communication — communication is really important. We use WhatsApp as our main tool — we have group chats and day to day individual check ins. Emails are mainly used for scheduling dates. It’s also really important to have a schedule in place to check in with people. I’d say being organised — having calendars, is key.

We did a 360 review for the first time recently where the team gave James and I feedback. It was amazing to do, and being open to receiving feedback is also super important. For example, there have been times when our remote coaches haven’t known what’s going on at HQ. Instead of this becoming a problem, the issue was communicated very early on so we could then change it.

Sanctus as a company has a great community around it who really embody your core values and spirit beyond your employees. Has it taken a lot of work achieve that, or did it grow naturally?

There was an initial wave that was really organic and natural, that’s when it was really raw. Just James and I shouting about what we were doing and people wanting us to do well. But your own audience and network is only so big, and eventually you reach that limit. So we thought — how do you get that message to reach more diverse communities that we don’t normally hang out in. Our 2nd employee was a graduate film director. Scott has helped Sanctus to tell other people’s stories through content and videos and it’s other people’s stories that help the community grow. It’s taken a lot of work and it’s something we think about and work on every day.

Sanctus Community Manager Rose Scanlon-Jones at a recent Sanctus event

As Sanctus gets bigger, do you think you’ll struggle with maintaining your culture?

It’s hard to say. If we hire great people and we stay true to our values, I’d hope that we’d have more people to protect what Sanctus stands for. Our team are doing that every day in meetings, coaching sessions and online. James and I are a degree away from a lot of the action these days so we have to make sure our core is strong — and as long as our core is strong, it will evolve and change from being just us two which is a good thing!

And finally — what most excites you about growing your team in the future?

More impact — the possibility of being able to do more and change more people’s lives.

George thanks so much — it’s been amazing chatting to you!

You can learn more about Sanctus at sanctus.io