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#49: Flexing your business model to support the new way of working

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Stephanie Reuss and Victoria Stuart, Co-founders & Co CEOs of Beamible (formerly Beam) are helping to move the needle on normalising flexible workplaces.

Five years ago they created a flexible jobs marketplace called Beam alongside their consulting business supporting flexible work solutions.

After helping to normalise flexible work, they saw the was more work to do. They’ve shifted their business model to a cloud-based platform solving the next set of flexible work challenges for business leaders, such as burnout, resourcing, lack of visibility and lack of access to real workforce data. It’s all about removing barriers to flexible and sustainable working.

A great podcast to listen to on the workplace need for different flexible work options in order for everyone to participate, which adds more value to the business right up to leadership level.

In this episode you’ll hear:

  • How Beam identified the supply and demand issues with flexible work
  • Giving manager tools to map out and optimize a team to include flexible workers
  • How they made the decision to shift the business through client demand
  • Understand the opportunity the new Beamible platform provides


Stephanie: Welcome to TEC Live. Stephanie Christopher here, CEO of The Executive Connection. We connect leaders with a trusted network of people who help them succeed.

LeahThis is the most exciting time I’ve had in the last few months. I’ve got Stephanie back in this studio, but it’s a brand new studio. Do you like?

Stephanie: I love it, I love it. This studio is very cool. Feeling pretty, pretty special and I do have my own personal microphone cover. I’m settled. We’re back. It’s really good to be here.

Leah: Awesome.

Stephanie: Today I’m here with another Stephanie, Stephanie Reuss and Victoria Stuart, the co-founders and CEOs of a business called BEAMable. Now our TEC Live loyal listeners are going, no, I know those two from two years ago when you were the CEOs and co-founders of BEAM. We’re going to have a chat today about the story of what’s been happening, why you added the extra letters in your rebrand, but both of you, Steph and Vic, welcome to TEC Live.

Steph R: Thanks for having us, Steph.

Victoria: Thanks so much, Steph. It’s great to be here.

Stephanie: It’s great to have you. All right, Steph. I think you better tell us the story. BEAM. I probably could have done a better introduction. I think that you two were critical to the conversation about workplace flexibility in this country. I think you made a huge difference, a huge splash when you first came to talk to me about what you were doing, and it was recognised in the awards you won and in the community that you built.

Steph R: Thank you so much, Steph. That means a huge, huge amount, especially coming from you. Yes, you’re right, that we’re very, very passionate about this issue and about the need for organisations to provide different, flexible work options in order for everyone to participate in work and not only just participate, but to advance and be promoted and to be adding as much value as they can and right up through leadership levels. Yeah, that is the challenge and the problem that we’ve been solving or trying to solve for the last five years.

Stephanie: Five years, you’ve said that before, Vic. That’s incredible five years that you first came to say, all right, this is what we’re doing now. So with that, and with the BEAM model, why the switch to BEAMable, and we’ll get to what BEAMable is, but what made you change?

Victoria: Yeah, well, I think when we first looked at the problem and we saw that people were just excluded from the workforce, often they needed to choose either all in or all out when they weren’t quite advanced in their careers because-

Stephanie: Which happened to both of you two.

Victoria: Exactly. Yep, so that was a personal experience of ours and hence why we were so determined to find more options for more people and to think about what a different work model might look like. The obvious place to start, for us, was to test whether there’s a market for it. We set up the marketplace, which was mid to senior level part-time roles within the sort of professional sphere and bringing together those jobs and talent.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Victoria: Not just for women, although women are overrepresented in that flexible workspace, just for everyone. What we saw was a resounding sort of demand for these roles-

Stephanie: And it was meaningful roles because I remember five years ago, you both saying to me that your only choice was to go and do something that you were overqualified for. I won’t even say the classic examples because I’m not demeaning any role, but something that wasn’t really using your experience and skillset, just to get the flexibility. For you, I remember with BEAM, it was all about how can we match these people with businesses that could really use the talent, but in a way that’s going to work.

Steph R: Yeah, absolutely, Steph. We were really saying to organisations, can you create roles or do you have roles that you need someone three, four days a week and you want to be able to tap into that incredible experience, that education, et cetera, that these people have. I think that the challenge that we were seeing was that people were afforded the opportunity to work flexibly, but that stagnated their career. A huge career hand break, and no opportunity to progress within their organisations. As I looked outside as well, what we knew was that there were very few roles and that’s why we created the employment marketplace.

Stephanie: Yeah. From a small business perspective, because I still have one BEAMer with me, with us, it worked from a small business… from a budget point of view because businesses of a certain size can’t afford the heavy hitters, but you could afford three days a week. Your salary would match three days a week of this expectation from a very senior role.

Victoria: Absolutely. I think what we found was that there were a lot of organisations that were leaning into that because they saw the opportunity, they saw an untapped talent pool, but there were a huge number of organisations that were saying we would like to, but we don’t know how. Which was really, I guess, a precursor to how we’ve ended up here. We started to do a lot more consulting work with organisations to really understand that problem behind the problem.

Stephanie: Yeah. Tell me, Steph, tell us more about that, the problem behind the problem.

Steph R: What we found, we did a lot of research. We spoke with more than 600 organisations, thousands of talent, really understand why is this so hard because we saw a huge demand for these jobs, but not a huge supply of the jobs.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Steph R: Aside from awesome organisations like TEC-

Stephanie: Thank you very much.

Steph R: -and very leading progressive organisations. Through this research, we really found that there were sort of seven big barriers to doing flex at scale and making it a really high functioning organisation with flex. If you’re glass half full, then they’re levers, right? Or they’re enablers of that flex. But what was really one of the hardest parts, one of the hardest barriers to overcome and sort of at the heart of it is this issue of role design, which sounds a little bit like lingo, HR speak. But actually what we are talking about is just what does a full-time job look like and what does the part-time equivalent job of that look like? How do we make sure that the business outcomes are met if there’s less capacity in the week?

Stephanie: Yes. When you say role design, is it individual role design or design across the whole department or team or workplace?

Steph R: That’s such an insightful question because you really can’t do role design in isolation.

Stephanie: No, but you can’t.

Steph R: No, you need to look at, for instance, let’s just say there’s a hiring manager. We’ve done this with so many organisations and managers now. Let’s say there’s a manager of a team and they have someone, I will say the classic example, coming back from parental leave, going to a part-time role. They say, well, okay, well either I’m going to say no, because I can’t get my work done or I’m going to say yes, then the work’s going to fall on me or the rest of the team or on that person and they’re going to end up doing full time.

Stephanie: They’ll get a full time target, which is what always happens.

Steph R: Yeah.

Victoria: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Stephanie: They still come in three days, get paid for three and they work five.

Steph R: Yeah. So what we need to look at is let’s give the manager those tools to say, here are my outcomes. Here are the people I’ve got, the resources, the skills, the passions of the people that I’ve got in my team. How do I map out the team and their roles to be optimised? What is the best way to do this? What’s super interesting is not only does it give a way for managers to be able to say yes to those flex requests, but also to be really creative with their resourcing and to be really ruthless when they think about their prioritisation and what work we can potentially stop or delay or bring in resources from another team, or share a resource or use that budget that’s left over to create a more junior role that’s working in a triage capacity. It’s just, I think mapping it out is real enlightening and it really gives that sense of empowerment to managers to say, actually, I could do this better.

Stephanie: Their talent pool increases.

Steph R: Yeah.

Stephanie: Vic, you’ve now created then, in BEAMable, that’s your business model around this resourcing for hiring managers or managers in an organisation, is that right?

Victoria: Yeah. First and foremost, it creates visibility into what work is being done. At a team level, right. At a role and at a team level, and also at an organisation level as well. What’s really interesting is that once you create that visibility, you are supporting the availability of flexible work and the co-creation of flexible work, but more as well, it’s supporting other bigger issues that we’ve heard emerging over particularly the last 20 months with COVID around burnout, hybrid working, those sorts of things. Because with visibility, you’re able to start having really unbiased conversations and data-led conversations around what work can be done remotely. What work do we have to simply stop doing if we are not coming into office, or if someone is working 60, 70 hours a week. At the moment there’s very few tools that provide that level of visibility for managers to say, well, what are you spending your time on? You’re telling me you’re working 60, 70 hours a week. I can’t see it. I know that you’re on late at night. I know you’re send sending early morning email those sorts of things. If you can’t really understand where that time’s being spent, you can’t really help people to reduce their hours and with that-

Stephanie: So this is part of the platform you’ve developed.

Victoria: Exactly.

Stephanie: What’s the extent of the platform then? What does it actually do, Vic?

Victoria: Essentially we are referring to it as a flexible work platform, but it creates flexibility at an individual team and organisation level, right? We use organisation design principles to take a bottom up approach to designing work. Enabling co-creation at that role level, and then across a team. As we said, the intention here is to create more adaptable and agile roles and organisations that mean that they’re better set up for these moments in time where we have… maybe it’s a macro event or changes in your business where, for example, we talked earlier about not being able to receive product on time. Like, what does that mean for our business? What do we have to reprioritise and refocus on in order to ensure that we’re hitting our strategic goals as well.

Stephanie: Really good. Really good. Steph?

Steph R: Yeah, and to go back to the story as well, how we got there is we really heard that HR teams needed the capability to be able to tackle this role design. We heard that managers, to your point, managers need to know what to do and how to do it. We started doing some great sort of engagements with the likes of Woollies and NRMA and others who were very progressive. That was wonderful, but actually what we learned is that we need to provide… I think it ties to our vision, particularly Vic’s vision, is that we need to provide a scalable solution. This needs to be available to everyone, not just those huge organisations who have a lot of, um-

Stephanie: Resources. Headcount.

Steph R: Resources. Lot of HR resources and so on. When we thought about that, we just really wanted to provide a practical tool for even individuals to say, here’s my role now, here’s how I’d prefer it to look. Or to propose a scenario, what about this? For managers to be able to use it, for CEOs to be able to use it, to map out what their leadership team’s doing and so on. We really kind of went from providing consulting engagements to actually seeing, well, the problem behind that is that the business doesn’t have the tools to do it. Then developed the platform.

Stephanie: That’s good. Getting to that, and here’s the question about the pivot for your business, because BEAM was really important and it was important to the both of you, and I was lucky enough to be involved in early conversations about the business model and where you were heading and the vision, and you have actually… BEAM’s been sunsetted. Steph, how was that for you?

Steph R: Oh, it is a little bit like a breakup. Yeah. When we were making this decision, really the reason for the decision is because we felt we were spread too thin. We’re trying to be too many things to too many people. We’re in this sort of talent acquisition, or job finding space with the platform, with this other platform here providing consulting to implement, and sort of program implementation. We really saw, and we started to hear from our clients that the BEAMable platform was providing a solution to the problems that other people were talking about, but there was nothing else like it. One of those clients actually did a global search and couldn’t find anything that would provide the same types of solutions. Just by virtue of having, I guess, that momentum and working with some wonderful organisations, Google, McDonald’s, there’s heaps. Net Wealth and some other really progressive… FinTech and Fitness Powersports, some just wonderful organisations.

The work that we were doing with them was just having a really huge impact, not only on people working flexibly, but also on their teams and providing that prioritisation tool and role clarity and so on. We had to make that tough decision, so sort of look at where can we have most impact. It’s also a platform that can scale globally as opposed to the marketplace. The next hard part was thinking about the talent and the employers who are using the platform. I think what was it, Vic, over the last five years, we’ve added…?

Victoria: 35 million.

Steph R: 35 million in incremental salaries to the economy by virtue of it’s a part-time role, yeah. I could do part-time, I could add someone new. We’ve measured that along the way, and we’re really proud of that. We’re advisors to the office women in the government and so on, but through BEAMable we can support all the employees internally as well.

Stephanie: Yes. Yes.

Steph R: The part that wasn’t hard was our internal team. We’re able to bring across the incredible people that work on the BEAM marketplace into the BEAMable-

Stephanie: Oh, that’s great. Really, I mean, it’s a true startup story, isn’t it? Vic, who helped you to make that really big decision, because when I spoke to you about a month ago, and it was just before the sunset, and I was like, this is really, really big. AI just said to you, Steph, I want to hear the story so I thought, well, come and tell the whole world the story. Who helped you make that decision?

Victoria: Yeah. It’s a good question. I mean, I think just to note, we were really thinking about this move and this shift, and we started building about a year before COVID hit. I think because COVID accelerated so many things, a big part of that was the desire for flexibility, but also as Steph mentioned, it just exacerbated all of these problems that had existed even previously as well, and presented some new ones. When we say who helped us make the decision, it was actually clients who were saying this is helping us solve issues that are coming up at the moment and we have no other way to solve them. That was a big part of it. Obviously we spoke to our investors, and part of that is our husbands that are also part of the mix as well, being in a small business and startup. We also spoke to other people around, where are they seeing the trends, where are they seeing the market going, et cetera?

With that in mind, Steph and I kind of deep down knew that we were solving probably a deeper problem, which means that the opportunity for businesses to improve the experience for their employees is much greater if they have a platform like BEAMable. With that in mind, it was little bit of a no brainer, right. I think the other part of it was, again, what Steph touched on, was that everyone in the business was then brought together and really focused on one thing. Now our focus is on executing really well on one product for the business, and with that just comes so much more clarity for the team.

Stephanie: It’s really interesting. I’m thinking of a couple of other podcasts and I suggest anyone listening go back and revisit… One, Mike Logan, because the whole thing about getting to the nut of what the real problem is, because the presenting problem is never the problem. You go down a few more layers and usually through questioning. Mike Logan’s from, again, a couple of years ago. Then Ben Grozier really recommend. Wonderful expert on startup and his passion and story. I think these two are really good companion pieces. So Steph, finally then, what’s the vision for BEAMable?

Steph R: Well, we want to help employees. We want to help workforces. We just want to help the people in organisations to have options. We want to help organisations to be able to give their people options and to feel more confident being able to respond to future of work trends, to be able to say, yeah, we can pivot to this. We can be adaptable. We can be agile. Yes, we can say yes to flexibility. We can say yes to different career pathways, internal mobility, portfolio careers, all of these things, and for it not to be a burden on the organisation. With that purpose, we want that to be available to everyone globally. That’s, I guess, the mission that we’re on is to be able to equip those organisations and to speak for all the employees as well, to be able to tell that story to organisations, to make it compelling and actually better for business than just being better for employees.

Stephanie: That’s really good. It’s actually also looking at bringing flexibility into the way an organisation… you’ve said agile, but the way an organisation operates. From the first time, five years ago, or even more now that we were talking about BEAM, and now hearing you talk about BEAMable, you two are really living a purpose-driven organisation, and it’s inspiring to hear the story, to hear what you’ve done with your business. We wish you both and BEAMable every success. Steph and Vic, thanks so much for joining us.

Steph R: Thank you so much, Steph.

Victoria: Thank you.

Stephanie: Discover more about TEC.

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