CEO INTERVIEW: Sprout Solutions - Transforming the way HR works!
New Success Stories - Asia
Please share with us briefly what you do.
I’m the Chief Executive Officer for Sprout Solutions, a tech company I founded together with my business partner and wife Alex. Sprout Solutions offers smart solutions around employee data management, timekeeping automation, and payroll + government compliance for businesses in the Philippines.
What were you doing before this?
Prior to founding Sprout, I was a founding shareholder of KMC Solutions, a leading business process outsourcing (BPO) and co-working space provider in the Philippines, in which I saw the need for automating HR and payroll processes with Payroll Pie and HR Hub – the predecessors to Sprout Payroll and Sprout HR, respectively.
Describe your product. How does it work?
Sprout offers three products - Sprout HR, Sprout Payroll, and Sprout Insight.
Sprout HR serves as a central platform for employee information and attendance management.
Sprout Payroll, integrated with Sprout HR, receives clean timekeeping data and uses it to automate the entire payroll process, including government compliance with BIR, SSS, Pagibig, and Philhealth.
Sprout Insight connects every data point across both systems, and interprets that data on behalf of admin users - it detects attrition trends and causes, salary trends and causes, and very soon will have significant prediction capabilities.
What are the key benefits?
The benefits of Sprout hit a number of levels. On one hand, companies today are wasting one of their most precious competitive resources - their own internal data. As artificial intelligence becomes more practically relevant in the business world, companies with deep data repositories will stand at a significant advantage - we’re helping our clients by getting all their human resource data stored, centralized, organized, and ready for the AI wave that’s coming. On a more human level, People Ops professionals in the Philippines struggle with heavy administrative tasks that keep them from the important value-adding tasks they would like to be doing, like performance management, workforce optimization, forecasting - those things that will land them the CHRO title.
Who are your closest competitors?
I’m proud that Sprout is the leading HR and payroll technology provider in the Philippines. Many other companies also offer similar systems - PayrollHero, ADP, and Jeonsoft to name a few. We compete with local players with a more robust feature set, absolutely amazing implementation and customer support, and real commitment to moving people ops in the Philippines forward. Against foreign players like ADP, we address the nuances of the Philippines much more deeply, both in software features and support services.
Who is your first customer and how did that happen? What were they using before this, and why did they switch?
Since this software was grown from my time in KMC Solutions, that company is really Sprout’s first customer. Prior to having Payroll Pie and HR Hub (now Sprout Payroll and Sprout HR, respectively), KMC was doing everything manually – from tracking employee attendance to processing employees’ payrolls. This was a major starting point for Sprout because we proved the software was effective for our 600+ strong workforce before ever marketing it to other companies.
What motivated you to start this business?
The Philippines is an amazing place - I love this country. I want to help make it grow and thrive even faster than it already is. Business efficiency and government compliance is just one thing to work on, but I’ve found it becomes a much bigger story as we grow. We aim to impact the lives of every Filipino by improving the business in the Philippines, with our suite of software and services.
What is your biggest sacrifice to make this work?
Time with my kids (because I get to work with my wife, I don’t have to miss her). If we could travel the world with our kids, spending 3-4 months at a time per country, we would.
How did you get funded?
Through a painful, boundary-expanding process (haha). I had never fundraised before, we bootstrapped KMC Solutions from 0 to the $85m+ company it is today. Presenting Sprout to investors was very new and intimidating when I started. It took quite a while to raise our seed round, and a whole lot of “no, this isn’t for us” before someone came in. But I’m a strong believer in getting outside your comfort zone.
What has been your most successful form of marketing?
I think we have an interesting two-prong approach that has been very successful. On one hand, we have a very solid digital marketing strategy, from ads to SEO. On the other, we do a ton of on-the-ground events. You can’t beat meeting face-to-face. Then we play the two sides off each other to make them both stronger.
Describe a typical workday
So, the typical workday is totally dependent on the stage of the business and size of the team. In the early days of Sprout, my days were insane - I didn’t have time to pee. A few times I went 24 hours without a bite to eat. But now we have 200+ employees, a super-strong management team, etc. I’m more focused on strategy, critical meetings with clients/partners/investors, and getting the next awesome person involved with Sprout.
Who has been the greatest influence in your business and why?
In Sprout, my co-founder/wife, Alex Gentry, no question. I originally founded Sprout alone since we both believe in the idea that you don’t work with your spouse. But I started bringing a lot of work home and after awhile we were already working together. She came on as co-founder within a few months of incorporating Sprout. That was (and probably always will be) the best decision I made for the company. Outside of Sprout, my longtime friend and mentor, Mike Mccullough - he is 100% entrepreneurial and has been the biggest influence on my own entrepreneurial journey.
What has been your proudest moment in the history of your business and why?
I wouldn’t say there’s a single proudest moment, to be honest - I think that’s still ahead of us. But what gives me the most pride - every month we have GA (General Assembly) where the entire company gets together to welcome new hires, share team metrics, talk company values, and eat/drink. I love seeing everyone, all these happy, successful young professionals, this wonderful little community we’ve created together - we’re all “making history” for ourselves and I’m proud to be part of that.
What is your favourite business failure (and what did you learn from it)?
In the early days of Sprout, we applied to Y Combinator - the premier startup accelerator in the world - on a whim. To our surprise, they flew us out for an interview (only around 3% of applicants get this opportunity). At the interview stage, we had a 50/50 shot of getting in so we kinda thought we had it wrapped up. We got rejected due to “lack of focus”. They were right, we were starting on a new product when we needed to just focus on what we had. It was great advice and we ran with it!
If you could go back in time to speak to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell him/her?
Life is longer than you think, and shorter also. What I mean is, there is time to grow your career and become financially successful. Soooo much time for that. At the same time, life is so short - those years when you don’t have a serious career, a family are so short - make the most of your time. It’s like, don’t be lazy but don’t focus on anything “important” - be a hard worker at playing. Disclaimer: this may not be good advice for everyone. Haha.
What’s one productivity hack you can’t live without?
Email filters. Email is one area that’s always clogged with noise and you need to not spend time sorting through that manually.
Where can people find out more about your product offerings and you online?
Our software is great for any business in the Philippines. Book a demo at sprout.ph or call us at +63 2 485 8338.
More about Patrick:
First job - Shocking fish in western Canada as an Environmental Consultant to forestry companies.
Someone you admire - Richard Branson
Favorite Music - Fat Freddy’s Drop
When you are not at work, where can we most likely find you? - At home with my family.