Spotlight on Adam Williams, CEO at Hero Labs20 February 2023 | News
Adam joined Hero Labs as CEO in November 2022 and has quickly become a hands-on member of the team. In this interview, Adam shares his insights on smart technologies and the sustainable proptech sector, his career path and leading a young, high-growth technology business.
Tell us a bit about your background – what was your first job and where did that take you?
My mother is an academic and my father ran his own flooring retail business, so I grew up without a sense of work being a Monday to Friday thing. “Work” was how you spend your time doing what you love and what drives you, and it blended with family life. I used to work in the shop on Saturdays, and on Sundays I would help with the company’s bookkeeping, go out with the carpet fitters, or help my mother gather research papers.
My mother has always been a passionate environmentalist, which rubbed off on me and led to a degree in environmental management. After university I did a stint in an environmental consultancy, but I missed the buzz of retail and ended up at Dixons for over four years. I developed a second passion – for technology that genuinely improves people’s lives – and it took me from there to Sony, then Samsung and ultimately towards smart tech start-ups.
In my early adult years I also worked for a trade wholesaler, in a warehouse, behind a bar, in a London media company and a variety of other jobs to pay my way. I learned a real respect for people who work hard and learn their craft to make a living.
Do you have any favourite professional projects or memorable moments you can tell us about?
When I worked at Lightwave, I realised there was a gap in how we served the market: we didn’t have a reliable national network of well trained, qualified installers for our products. We launched Lightwave PRO to address this. Unlike other brands, we only invited qualified electricians and we charged them a fee for the training. This was counter-intuitive but it worked: the electricians valued being part of a properly set up scheme with the resources to be well run, and only “serious” installers were members. There are now over 600 Lightwave PRO installers in the UK, and they are not only the eyes and ears for Lightwave and their customers, but the PROs are also a powerful sales force, promoting Lightwave to their own customers. This taught me a lot about the importance of engaging with quality tradespeople in the right way and supporting them.
How did you find out about the CEO role at Hero Labs?
Very occasionally in life there is an alignment of the stars. I first heard about Hero Labs around four years ago. I was amazed by Hero Labs’ vision for how smart technology and home insurance could be re-imagined to change the way we all protect our most precious asset – our home. Hero Labs were creating Sonic to address the biggest issue in home protection: damage from water leaks. In parallel, I have known Steve Moore [Hero Labs’ CEO before me] for many years, meeting occasionally at proptech conferences and other industry events. Steve and I have a shared background and passion for the technology industry. In a catch-up call with Steve in early 2022, he told me he was planning to step down as CEO at the end of 2022, and it was too good an opportunity to pass by. However I am very pleased to say Steve will remain as an NED: his expertise is simply too valuable to lose.
What first attracted you to the business?
What stands out is the vision for the business; how well placed it is strategically in the market – with a technology that will make a genuine impact to the sustainability agenda globally. Beyond the need to rethink how we protect people’s property, we are facing a global water scarcity crisis within the next few years. Our technology platform and hardware has been built from the ground up with a relentless focus on the customer, on solutions to real problems, and on quality. Plus, the level of talent among the company’s leaders and staff is truly inspiring.
What have been your immediate priorities for Hero Labs, and where do you hope to eventually take the business?
The first priority is to position the business for growth in 2023 and beyond. This requires every function to be well aligned to enable us to prove commercial success, win new clients, strengthen our operations to be scalable, and continue to lead the market in technology innovation. This requires a robust strategy with a clear business plan and a high performing management team, as well as a clear vision and highly engaged staff. Our partners are also essential, and I am greatly enjoying building our business momentum with Aquilar and SmartRent. Above all, people and relationships are the key to success in any business.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
I have four pieces of advice:
- Love what you do. If your passion and your work is aligned, you will not only be more successful but you will be happy.
- Learn how to prioritise.
- Balance your life: work, family, wellbeing. None of these can flourish if the others aren’t taken care of.
- Get help: no-one can do everything or be the best or most expert at everything. The key to success is working with other people, at all levels.
Have you ever had a mentor? If so who and how did they help you?
I’ve been lucky to have had some amazing bosses who guided me, and some that were not so great from whom you can also learn things that are just as valuable. I’ve never had a formal coach or mentor, but I’ve been lucky to learn in cultures where people share their experience to team members, regardless of seniority. I truly believe in the concept of servant leadership, and the duty of anyone in a leadership position towards everyone in their organisation.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
The MD during my time at Sony was an amazing leader. At every conference he would tell the whole company “bring the right attitude, we can teach the rest”. That has become a North Star for my style of leadership.
Do you have any (professional) regrets?
I genuinely believe that every experience produces learning. If you survived whatever it was, you can make something out of it. Of course I wince at some memories, I think everyone does, that’s part of how we learn.
I do sometimes wish I had been more resolute when starting out in my career about finding a role in sustainable technology. However I’ve had an amazing time so far, learned a lot, and I continue to be inspired by amazing people, many of whom I am lucky to call friends. And here we are now at Hero Labs determined to make a genuine impact on real world challenges through technology.
Phrases you over-use:
“It’s not rocket science” and “OK, what’s the worst that can happen?” The point here is to keep it simple, focus on what really matters, and see the risks but have a plan and do it anyway.
How you spend your free time
I’m a family man. I have a lovely wife of nearly 19 years, three amazing teenage kids, and two dogs. We live in the Surrey Hills and I love walking in the countryside, picnics, canoeing, cycling, gardening and home improvements. Oh, and I love great food!