What I've Learnt: Dean Sadler, CEO and Co-founder at TribePad

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by Charlie Spargo
Dean Sadler, TribePad

Dean Sadler travelled the globe and worked as a bus driver. He then started a PhD in computing, before joining a startup called Plusnet.

There, he wrote the billing and CRM platform, became CIO and helped grow the business from a handful of employees to over 700. Once his life at Plusnet was done, he looked to recruitment as the next industry looking for disruption. 

TribePad, the company he founded, specialises in recruitment and HR software - offering businesses talent attraction tools, social search, and posting across job boards. It's trusted by leading organisations such as the BBC, Tesco, and KFC.

We sat down with Dean to find out what makes him tick.

Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?

Sleep. I'm a 10-hour type of man, but I am happy with eight. Being successful isn't always about getting up at 5am and doing 18-hour days. It’s about knowing your body, and knowing how to stay productive.  

What's been your luckiest break?

Meeting the people I have met and going to the places I've been. They have all taught me valuable life lessons some way or another.

For example, I went to tech conference SXSW in 2007 and saw Twitter launch there. I thought it was dumb idea on the first day and by the end of the weekend I couldn't believe how it blew up. It opened my eyes up to the power of software and the viral nature of conversations.

What's your best failure?

It has to be when working at Plusnet, and accidentally changing the password for 300,000-plus broadband customers on my 30th birthday.

Nobody could get on the internet for eight hours! It was easily the worst birthday ever, and my wife had to go out and celebrate without me. However, as a result of this mistake, it sparked a fire in me to write a code to make Plusnet’s backend more automated and efficient.

What is the best investment you've ever made, either financial or time?

Reading. Nothing gives a greater return on investment in life. You can continuously develop yourself and build upon your knowledge for as little as a few quid! I read a book a week. It keeps me entertained, enlightened, sharp and motivated.

How would you describe your work/life balance?

Very nearly perfect. In this age, everything is accessible so I get to work wherever and whenever I want most of the time (even from the pub, the peak district or in my sauna!).

This means that I can choose the hours where I am at my most productive, not just because of regimented working hours, and it’s something I encourage my staff to do as well. I would like to see more of this in business, a realisation that by giving employees freedom to choose their own working hours it can actually benefit business and the happiness of your staff.

Which book would you recommend others to read and why?

'The Intelligent Investor' by Benjamin Graham. It taught me to start early in regards to investment. And not just financial, investing in you and the people around you too. The longer you invest in yourself the easier and more valuable it becomes.

What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Forget University. Don't spend all of your time in the pub. Keep in contact with friends and surround yourself with positive people.

Do something you believe in, something interesting will more than likely happen as a result.

Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?

Honestly, my perspective on work was changed forever after watching a family member fall ill with cancer and being made redundant whilst on sick leave.

It made me determined to never allow a business to put me, or anyone I care about in that position. This has also impacted on how I am as a business owner, and it is why TribePad provide critical illness cover that lasts for up to seven years among other health benefits.

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

I'm just about to do my black belt in Taekwondo! I started martial arts when I was 14, but it got put firmly on the backburner once I got to university and found beer and women. However everything changed when my daughter turned 13 a few years ago and wanted to give it a try, so I went along with her again.

With Taekwondo, your ego is firmly left at the door. It helps me to stay humble, as it doesn’t matter how big you are or how much you have, someone a lot younger and a lot smaller can kick your butt. This is a valuable life lesson, and is one of the reasons I am always looking to develop myself to stay one step ahead of the competition.

What does success look like to you?

Freedom to do what I want.