In this episode, Legislate meets James Kent, Founder & CEO of Safe2, an online property compliance management platform with integration capability and nationwide on-demand certificate ordering. James shares the story behind Safe2 and why it's important for everyone to be one the same page when entering into contracts.
Listen to the episode below:
Learn more about Safe2
Learn more about Legislate
How to reduce communication bottlenecks with Adoor
And the legal risks every early-stage startup founder should be aware of
Charles Brecque: Welcome to the Legislate Podcast, a place to learn about the latest insights and trends in property, technology, business building, contract drafting. Today I'm excited to welcome James Kent, the founder and CEO of Safe2, the leading provider of property safety certificates. James, thank you for taking the time. Would you like to please share a bit of background about yourself and Safe2?
James Kent: Yes, sure. Yes, thanks for having me. My name is James. I'm the founder of Safe2. We are an online tool for compliance certificates for properties, so gas safety, electrical safety, EPCs and things like that. I founded it a couple of years ago, it was stemmed through problems that I was having not only as a landlord but as a gas engineer there is the breakdown in communication when let's call it a gas safety certificate is ordered, the stepping stones in getting it booked and speaking to the tenants, trying to marry up the times that they trade, there was always a breakdown and it took too long and it was a classic cliché of, 'There has to be a better way,' and then there wasn't. That's when Safe2 was created to simplify the outdated method of booking in compliance certificates, so not only do we supply vetted trades cross-country, nationwide, we also keep track of expiry dates, remind you when it's due and make the whole thing, sort of, convenient and, yes, hassle-free.
Charles Brecque: That's really interesting and what's been your favourite moment so far?
James Kent: So, the favourite moment for me was when the very first thing became automated, so the whole point is not only to make it simpler for the landlords and letting agents, also for us as well. So, right at the start I remember whenever a certificate would come in we would likely grab that, we would have to phone the tenant, we would phone our gas engineer to try and do it ourselves, so we took the management away from everybody but it just took a long time for us to do and for us to stay competitive the margins are very small, so then there was a lightbulb like how all of this. So, it took a bit of a while but now we can actually have the whole thing automated, so a landlord would order a gas safety certificate, the tenants will be sent a text and then put in convenient dates when the inspection can take place, the trade will get a text and can accept those dates, or one of those dates and then upload a certificate. So, my favourite moment, I'll always remember the very first job, it was booked-, it was ordered, booked and completed without any interference from us.
Charles Brecque: Congratulations and as a founder I can definitely relate to having to do a lot of manual work at the beginning to get things right, which is also, you know, a valuable opportunity to learn what you need to automate because if you don't do it once it's difficult to know as well. It seems like you've cracked it, so well done.
James Kent: Thanks.
Charles Brecque: What do you wish you'd known before starting Safe2?
James Kent: If I could go back and talk to myself when I started it would be, 'Just stay true to your prices and believe in your product.' It's not so much that I didn't believe in it, at the beginning it was the classic so desperate for customers to be there, to show you can do, you can drop your price too low and they would try negotiate. Like I said, you were so desperate for, yes, to please the customer, at these prices realising, 'Actually, we're not going to make any money out of this.' So, it's just we're not making this money and then ever since for twelve months I had to go back to them cap in hand and say, 'Look, I'm very sorry. I'm going to have to raise the prices that we just gave to you.' Most of them were just, 'Yes, fair enough,' and I was really kicking myself saying, 'Why didn't I do this twelve months ago?' Yes, I said that.
Charles Brecque: Yes, I can also relate to that but I guess my question is what advice would you give to a first stage founder or when you were marketing or selling a new product, how do you find the right price?
James Kent: I guess there is a little bit trial and error, for sure, but, you know, the advice that I'd give is the customers will come, if you have the product the customers will come, especially but believe in your product, the customers will come.
Charles Brecque: That's great advice. What's the vision for yourself and Safe2 for the next five, ten years?
James Kent: We want to set the standard in property safety certificates. For every good trade out there there's a bad trade massively on the trade side but there's always that half inspect the properties. What we're trying to do is not only making it more convenient to order and but they're good inspections. So, five or ten years, is your property inspected by Safe2? Is it Safe2 trying to set the standard, like I say, so it's not just, 'Does it have a gas or an electrical ?' 'Is it Save 2 standard?'
Charles Brecque: I think especially if you're going for that standard, you've got the perfect company name.
James Kent: Yes.
Charles Brecque: Yes and as a founder and CEO I imagine you must interact with quite a lot of contracts. What have been the most common legal documents that you interact with and what are maybe some common issues or areas of friction that you have to overcome?
James Kent: So, most of our contracts are either with our clients or with our trades, so we have the trades that they have to stay qualified, they have to send us their accreditations, so that's a pretty standard one. The client one is a little bit more tricky, so we do have, you know, a standard one where there's always something they want changed or amended, or, 'Can we add this?' So, for me to have one that would be a little bit easier to amend because it's always sent in a Word document and then they add the comments and they'll highlight this and then you'll delete as appropriate and put it in a PDF or a DocuSign and send it over. If you can just have a standard contract that you could change and amend live almost together, that would probably be a lot easier.
Charles Brecque: Yes, no that's a valid point and I guess one of the reasons why I started Legislate was to minimise those back and forths via email because comments on Word documents are not really easy to deal with and you do lose track of what's actually happening in those threads. That's definitely something we're trying to address at Legislate. With that feedback from clients and requests, how do you find a solution? What tips would you give for negotiating those contracts?
James Kent: The biggest tip is just to explain it, make sure it's outlined in the contracts clearly one person's interpretation can be different to somebody else's. So, make sure it's simple and clear, and concise. You know, clarity is everything when it comes to contracts.
Charles Brecque: Great. No, a great piece of advice and I'm conscious James that I have taken a lot of your time already. I'm going to ask you the closing question we ask all our guests, if you were being sent a contract to sign today, what would impress you?
James Kent: What would impress me? It would impress me to have the ability to go back and forth live, almost have a system within the contract that you could amend, that changed live and sort the contract out there and then rather than, as I mentioned before, going back and forth losing what was said in the thread and having to pick it up again. Let's get together and let's bring up a contract and let's hash it out now.
Charles Brecque: Yes, no that's a great piece of advice, a great solution that you've described, which does sound very much Legislate in the sense that we try to present the contract as a sort of question and answers and if somebody wants an amendment it's just a question of changing an answer to a question and the updates will be done automatically with an audit trail of everything that's been changed all centralised in one place, so that you don't have to, again, re-read the whole contract. This is something that has worked quite well with tenancy related contracts and also employment contracts that I guess we're just gradually getting more exposure to client facing contracts where there is more negotiations, so I'd definitely be interested to see how your contracts look like and if that's an approach that could work.
James Kent: Yes, I'd absolutely be interested in having a look.
Charles Brecque: Great. Thank you very much, James, for taking the time. Best of luck building the Safe2 standard and look forward to keeping in touch.
James Kent: Yes, great. Thanks very much.
Charles Brecque: Thank you. Bye-bye.