Waikato software specialist Company-X is celebrating its first decade in business in 2023. Co-founders Jeremy Hughes and David Hallett look back at the foundation of their successful team and at the Company-X philosophies that have mattered most over the last 10 years.

Company-X was founded in 2012 by software specialists David Hallett and Jeremy Hughes.

IN GOOD COMPANY: Company-X co-founders and directors David Hallett, top, and Jeremy Hughes.

Both directors ran their own IT businesses before founding Company-X. Hallett was a solution architect and the director of Pulsar Computer Solutions, founded in March 1998, while Hughes was managing director of Ignition Software, which he had started in March 2001.

“I'd been ‘working in and working on’ my first software business with a business mentor for some time and knew it was time for things to change,” Hughes said.

“My business mentor said, ‘Jeremy, you need to get out there and network’ and he named several things that did not come naturally to me.”

Around that time, Hughes went to a presentation by Orcon Internet founder Seeby Woodhouse.

“Seeby was talking about this little internet business that he was running. He figured that there were very slim margins because Telecom had changed everything and he said, ‘I must change something for this to work.’”

Woodhouse soon founded Orcon. “That observation about change was the key for me, and that moment was the inspiration for the formation of Company-X. It was to take the business that I already had and recreate it in a new form. If you want something to change or grow, then you must change something.”

Hughes had known Hallett through networking events for about four years when he approached him for a business partnership.

“Jeremy suggested that we complete DISC profiles, focused on the personality traits of Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness,” Hallett recalls.

It turned out Hughes and Hallett were a perfect match.

“David and I find enjoyment in quite different aspects of running a business, so the variety in our passions and interests complement our approaches really well, we find,” Hughes said. “Right from the start, David and I based our business on strengths-based serving leadership.”

“Our profiles dovetailed,” Hallett said. “We soon realised through this process that we were both driven to reinvent the way that specialist services were delivered. It helped us decide quite quickly that our companies would cease trading and something new and exciting would arise from the ashes like a phoenix.

The Art of Life consultant Steve Murray proposed Company-X as a placeholder name but it soon gained traction with the pair as a viable brand for the business. They realised how much it would fit with messaging that supported their hopes for this new venture together “From a sales perspective, it’s brilliant, because people ask me ‘what is Company-X?’ I answer ‘well, let me tell you about Company-X...’” Hallett explained. “It’s a cool concept that you can play on and do many things with. You can talk about the software company with the x-factor, x marks the spot for software savvy, the Company-X men and women, all sorts of stuff. It’s a fun kind of brand for us.”

The strong desire to build a software development team offer with that real x-factor made Hallett and Hughes appreciate from day one that their hiring strategies were a priority.

“To deliver on a promise of something brilliant, you need brilliant people” said Hallett, “From the start, we’ve focused on building a team of people that we can trust implicitly to represent Company-X and to do the very best they can for our clients.”

The business has grown to around 50, with the majority based in the Waikato but with people across the country and overseas.

“Nowadays, we're lucky enough to attract frankly awesome staff from around New Zealand and, in fact, from around the world.” said Hughes. “Finding great people is never easy but we’re always blown away so the incredible expertise and enthusiasm that we’ve so often managed to find right on our doorstep.”

Hallett and Hughes have made a deliberate effort to ensure that the culture and character of Company-X continues to be strong, especially as the business grows in numbers.

Leadership and team coach Tracey Olivier leads every member of the Company-X team through Gallup’s CliftonStrengths assessment tool.

“Company-X was founded on Jeremy and David understanding their strengths and the power of harnessing their differences,” said Olivier.

“They understood the power of each individual understanding their own strengths.”

“CliftonStrengths measures how people think, feel, and behave. On an individual basis it helps people understand how they are wired and what activities energise them, and what they have a natural ‘bent’ for,” Olivier said.

“When we understand how we and other team members are wired we can leverage our strengths and fill the gaps with other people's strengths. It is also powerful in building trust between team members as they realise what makes people tick and why they behave the way they do. When we understand each other, we can make allowances for each other and celebrate those traits.”

The leadership team has also completed a Working Genius assessment.

“Working Genius is also a powerful tool we have trialled with the leadership team. It has had a huge impact as this is about people’s natural genius when it comes to productivity,” Olivier said.

“There are six working genius attributes: Wonder, Invention, Discernment, Galvanizing, Enablement, and Tenacity, and each used in any body of work.

“Everyone has two genius attributes that they rock at, two that they are competent in and two that frustrate them. Knowing this is powerful as we can leverage each other’s genius and understand where the gaps are and make allowance for them.”

The use of DISC profiling, CliftonStrengths and Working Genius say something about Company-X culture.

Of the profiling tools, Hallett said: “I find them very fascinating and useful, especially the alternative ways that they enable one to view self and others. For as Socrates supposedly uttered, ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’.”

It’s become a pervasive philosophy in the company,” Hughes said.

“We have this seats on the bus concept, and you use people in the areas of their strength and don't abuse them for their weaknesses. We started out with this raw concept that that's how we want to work and build our team, and as we celebrate 10 years, hey ho, there's this more structured tool which fully supports exactly what we've always done. It helps reassure us that we’re well-placed for the next 10 years ahead, and that feels pretty good to me.”