“It’s our culture and values that I feel really set us apart,” — CEO Q&A with Rory O’Connor of Scurri

By Business & Finance
05 October 2022
Pictured: Rory O’Connor, Founder & CEO, Scurri

Rory O’Connor is the founder and CEO of Scurri, a carrier management platform that assist retailers with ordering, shipping and delivery. 

What are your main priorities and goals in your role?

Top three priorities are building a high performing team, ensuring all stakeholders know what we are doing and why (clarity of purpose, vision, mission and values), and making sure the business is adequately financed.

We call what we do at Scurri ‘connecting commerce,’ we help retailers get their parcels into the hands of customers in the most efficient way. Working closely with our customers and continuing to find solutions for them is always a priority. 

The leadership team here is focused on our continued growth, so helping to put the right structures, partnerships and capabilities in place, is a big part of what I do. I’m also out there at events and conferences meeting people and talking to our customers. It’s also about building the right teams and developing a workplace and culture that lets people thrive.

What are your biggest challenges as CEO?

The biggest challenge is always alignment. Making sure everyone understands why we exist and how we make our customers’ lives better. Seems easy but it takes a lot of work.

Recruitment is a key issue, not just for Scurri but across the whole business spectrum. We have a number of opportunities in areas like engineering and software development. I’m confident we will fill them, but the recruitment market, and in some ways the whole world of work, is heading into uncharted territory. Companies are now judged on a whole range of factors as employees prioritise work life balance, flexible and hybrid working arrangements, and workplace culture.

How do you keep your team/ staff motivated?

It’s our culture and values that I feel really set us apart.

For the fourth year running, we’ve been named one of Ireland’s Best Places to Work in Tech. We take immense pride in providing an open and positive work environment, with a flat leadership structure. In a hybrid setting, we try to create strong employee connections by making sure everyone is included, and recognised for their contribution. It’s all about strengthening bonds, working closely together to achieve our targets, and having fun along the way.

What are the challenges facing the industry going forward?

The pandemic and acceleration in online shopping, as well as Brexit-related trading and logistic complexities, have increased the need for retailers to improve shipping and logistics processes. What’s also key is that a customer’s satisfaction with a retailer really hinges on the delivery experience, now more so than ever.

With eCommerce demand weakening as growing numbers return to brick-and-mortar shopping, and with rising inflation and shrinking household budgets, consumers are prioritising practicality over pleasure. For retailers, the cost of doing business keeps increasing, and labour and materials shortages are not helping. As supply chain difficulties persist, for consumers, prices will continue to rise. We will see customer experience, and meeting post-purchase expectations become a key differentiator for online retailers.

Experience is what will help them stand out and build customer loyalty.

What new trends are emerging in your industry?

Post-purchase customer experience is an area where we see lots of opportunity for retailers, and where more and more emphasis is being placed. In most cases, when the parcel leaves the warehouse and goes to the carrier, the retailer has little or no oversight. This can be an issue in terms of customer experience and support in the last mile. We are looking at helping retailers use real-time shipping data to improve the delivery experience, and potentially build more profitable engagement with their customers.

Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?

eCommerce never really stands still, it’s always evolving. One area that I believe is on the verge of big change however, is around personalising the online shopping experience. It’s the part of the process that has received the least attention in some ways. A truly customer-centric experience has to reflect our individual behaviours and preferences, as much as possible. 

The eCommerce market is experiencing the growing popularity of timed delivery slots, greener more sustainable options, expedited shipping, and click and collect options, while many now expect free shipping. So for retailers, it’s about reacting to those evolving customer needs. The delivery and pricing options you provide customers at checkout are decisive in them completing a purchase. Tailoring delivery options to match the buyer’s behaviour and preferences, means that customers are given the most relevant options to choose from.

How did your strategy develop in the context of the banking crisis and economic crisis?

I started the business on the 22nd November 2010, the day the Troika came to Dublin, and the financial crisis was a fact of daily life. Back then, we were a small start-up, so dealing with lots of challenges, and overcoming them was part of the package. My initial idea was to build a solution to connect up transport companies to create a virtual network of carriers, to make the delivery process easier for consumers. Of course online retail was not immune from the economic crisis.

It’s hard to attribute any direct influence, because we were still finding our feet, but after a couple of years I realised that B2B was a better fit. So perhaps the underlying economic environment back then was more conducive to a B2B revenue model.

How has Brexit affected you?

While we are headquartered in Wexford, 80% of our business is in the UK, so our customers did experience major disruption as a result of Brexit, and continue to do so. However, the Scurri platform is set up to automate the cross-border shipping process around new customs regulations and label harmonisation requirements. We’ve had to adapt to help our customers solve those challenges.

For UK retailers, international expansion is also becoming a top priority. We’ve just partnered with a new cross-border data provider, Hurricane Commerce, to ensure that shipments have the right data to pass smoothly through customs and on to the end consumer.

How has the COVID-19 crisis affected your business/sector?

Of course the COVID-19 pandemic was a very difficult time for people and communities. It’s important to reflect on the suffering, and loss, that so many endured. One thing the pandemic did teach us is that we can come together, show resolve, and carry on in the face of adversity. 

In terms of the eCommerce market, we saw a huge spike in online sales, and a fundamental change in people’s shopping habits. For us in the online retail logistics space, one silver lining has been the growing need for shipping and delivery solutions that help retailers deal with increased demand and changing customer expectations. Even as worries surrounding COVID-19 subside, retailers face new challenges like global supply chain issues following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the threat of global recession. Hopefully the pandemic has increased our resilience to such events.

How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?

To be successful you need to be able to overcome barriers, and I believe that thinking or being told you can’t do something, is the motivation to say, why not? I suppose I’m driven by the desire to improve and test my limits.

Financial success matters, but you’ve got to be able to enjoy the journey and create a life you enjoy. 

What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?

There was a time when we assumed only those well versed in coding and programming could have a future in tech. Technology can be for everyone, especially when applied to a problem you feel is worth solving. Another lesson I’ve learned is how important relationships are – both with your customers and the team around you. People want to buy from, and work with, those they feel have their best interests at heart.

What have been your highlights in business over the past year?

Receiving Series A funding last year, and having great investors onboard, is a big milestone. Seeing Scurri grow and provide jobs in the Wexford area, and impetus to the local economy, is a source of pride. Being named one of Ireland’s best places to work is recognition of the work we do around our culture and values. Winning new business with major UK retailers and expanding our footprint far beyond these shores is very satisfying.

What’s next for your company?

There is a lot in the pipeline for us currently. At present, we successfully connect over 100 million customer orders for retailers each year, and we have ambitious growth plans to significantly increase that.

We recently launched our new mission statement and we’re planning to double our monthly recurring revenue by the end of 2023.

That will involve moving into new larger premises, tripling our people count, growing our presence in the UK market, and expanding our offering into new global markets. So, without doubt there are exciting times ahead.

Read more interviews with leading CEO’s below:

Pat Phelan of Sisu

Ed Rositer of Phoenix

Ben Betts of Learning Pool