James Fuller - CEO at Hnry
Dreams of playing professional football were scuppered by a somewhat harsh self-assessment of a complete lack of any talent or natural ability. We caught up with James Fuller, CEO and Co-founder of Hnry, to learn more about his career journey into tech and eventually co-founding Hnry.
Frustrated with the admin of working as a freelancer, he and his co-founders set out to create an all-in-one service that takes care of all tax and financial admin for self-employed contractors, freelancers, and tradies. James shares some insight into what a typical day-in-the-life looks like for him, as well as some great career advice for anyone considering tech as a career path. Thanks for sharing your story, James.
“I find ways to help out the other people that work with me, so that they can be successful in what they do.”
How would you explain to a five year old what it is that you do?
I find ways to help out the other people that work with me, so that they can be successful in what they do.
And for the adults, what does that translate to in regards to your day-to-day?
I spend most of my time working to optimise everything we do as a business - from ways of working, to product, to long-term strategy.
This might involve checking in with our teams to move problems out of their way, meeting with external providers, and working with existing and potential new investors.
I also spend a lot of time speaking to the media, doing presentations, panel events and conferences, representing the interests of Australia and New Zealand’s self-employed individuals as their advocate.
“I always dreamed of playing football professionally, but I never really got my big break… or any break.”
Was building a tech company something you dreamed about doing as a kid? If not, what was?
I’ve always been somewhat entrepreneurial - but I don’t think I ever imagined that I’d be the co-founder of a tech company though! I always dreamed of playing football professionally, but I never really got my big break… or any break.
In fact I think I was somewhat held back by a complete lack of any talent or natural ability whatsoever.
I seem to remember I played one game for a Sunday league club once when I was 12, coming on as a substitute for 5 minutes and making zero impact. It doesn’t stop you dreaming though!
Tell us a little bit more about your career journey and what inspired you to start Hnry?
My background is mostly in tech strategy and delivery, and I’ve also done a lot of work as a startup coach here in New Zealand. I’ve always got a kick out of creating things to make things simpler or to streamline ways of doing things.
Hnry was started to solve a personal pain. When Claire (COO and Co-founder) and I came out of salaried work and started earning as self-employed individuals, we were blown away by the huge amount of admin involved:
Having to sit down with an old-school accountant; being trained on how to use over-complicated accounting software; having to constantly make tax payments and never being sure of how much money was actually ours.
We started off just making a couple of spreadsheets to make our lives easier, and when some friends found out that we’d potentially solved their problem too, Hnry was born.
Where do you hope Hnry will be in five years from now?
My big hope for Hnry is that we can help as many people as possible, in as many places as possible. Traditionally, the self-employed have been left to fend for themselves, marginalised from things like good financial management, and even loans and mortgages. We’re looking to change all of that, and to level the playing field.
So many people these days are realising that this idea of having a ‘permanent’ job just doesn't exist any more, and so they’re taking control of how, and from whom they earn an income.
My vision is that Hnry will be the default choice for anyone earning independently, providing a fair and accessible service to give anyone the opportunity to take control of their income without any of the stress and anxiety traditionally associated with self-employment.
“I don’t really see myself as a ‘boss’ per se though - I’m just another member of the team, and we all have our parts to play.”
What kind of boss are you, if I was to ask one of your employees?
Everyone would probably say that I’m quite involved - I’m not sure if that’s a positive or negative thing for everyone else! I love to work with the team and collaborate to solve problems.
Whether that’s working with the marketing team on campaign ideas or speaking directly to our customers to help understand their needs better. I don’t really see myself as a ‘boss’ per se though - I’m just another member of the team, and we all have our parts to play.
My role has changed a lot over time, and at one point or another I’ve probably done each of the roles in the business - so that always provides great context when working with the team.
What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received?
I’m not sure it’s specifically career advice, but I once heard someone say “never sit in the comfortable chair” and it’s always stuck with me.
Always pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and forcing yourself to embrace a bit of discomfort and ambiguity is critical in my view.
It’s always something that’s pushed me to consider whether I’m too comfortable, and therefore whether I need to push myself more, and to keep driving forward.
Then again, maybe I’ve totally misinterpreted that, and they were just talking about chairs...
Lastly, as Hnry grows, what kind of talent do you want to hear from in the coming months in terms of attitude and character?
At Hnry, we hire mainly for culture fit first. I’m a big believer that smart, driven people can learn anything. So the first thing we look for is candidates’ alignment to our values, and then how they might fit alongside the rest of the team.
We’re aggressively hiring for engineering roles at the moment, and have a number of other vacancies across our Wellington and Sydney offices - so we’re always keen to hear from people who share our vision and want to be on the journey with us.