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A Q&A with Joe Gaunt of hero

Thursday 9th May 2019

It's currently Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, which has been a fantastic opportunity to reflect on the sheer amount of initiatives, projects and organisations dedicated to the improvement of mental health and wellbeing. 

In light of this, we caught up with Joe Gaunt, the Founder and CEO of  hero in Leeds. hero uses technology and in person services to promote proactive wellbeing across physical, mental, social and financial areas.

Working with the highest levels of research and elite sport, hero creates simplified digital and in person services to help clients and individuals at all levels achieve customisable and personal wellbeing goals, in partnership with ukactive.

Here, Joe tells us more about the idea behind hero, plans for the future and more...

Where did the idea of hero come from?

As the former UK MD of multi-billion pound co-working company We Work, a psychology graduate, and qualified personal trainer, I have always had a lifelong interest in health, wellbeing and helping people.  Set up in 2017, the idea behind hero is to ultimately deliver positive change in the world by creating healthier and happier communities, one unique human at a time.  

I had always wanted to run my own business. I passionately believed that I just needed to find the right idea and wanted to create something meaningful, which could have a positive impact.  I saw a gap in the market to provide a proactive and completely personalised support for people in both the fitness and corporate health space, designed to genuinely help people, so I resigned from my job and the rest is history!

Why is technology important to the way that you deliver your service?

Every person's journey to a healthier lifestyle is unique, and it should be treated as such.  Working within the corporate wellbeing world, hero has designed and developed a unique digital platform to enable employers to create and host personalised experiences for employees.  The technology can also be used to help connect employees with similar health and wellness interests as well as supporting and rewarding individual progress. Employers can expect to see higher participation rates with a more personalised approach to employee wellness. What’s more, this activity can be measured, bench-marked and valued.  The ability to personalise health and wellbeing is vital and this is where businesses and organisations which recognise this will be the true winners
Many employers and employees have participated in a wellness week, which probably consisted of a healthy breakfast one day, free smoothies another and a yoga class on the third.  Did this make a significant impact on the health and happiness of your employees?  Perhaps?  Do you really know?  The key to launching and managing a good and effective wellbeing initiative is ongoing measurement and evaluation - starting before you launch - with technology at the heart.  With the right platform the person responsible for wellness within the company will be able to see at any given moment how the team / teams are engaging with the initiative, what’s popular, what’s getting engagement, what people like and don’t like. You can also look at different departments, age, gender and even location specific data.  The dashboard we provide offers invaluable insight that senior managers can use to make informed and rational business decisions.

You were shortlisted for the Tech4Good award at the 2019 Leeds Digital Festival Awards – well done! What’s happened over the last 12 months that’s contributed to this?

The past 12 months has been such a roller-coaster of a ride - in a great way!  We have achieved some amazing successes from securing a multi-million pound deal with Moda through to acquiring two businesses and working with some amazing partners and clients.  The feedback and results we have been achieving is outstanding and simply supports the fact that the technology we have created really does have a genuine impact on improving the lives of people.  I would like to say though, that central to this success, is the hero team.  The team has a genuine passion and really do care about what they do.  This is hugely rewarding to see.

What plans do you have for growth this year?

hero is based in Leeds and employees a team of 7 but will be at 40+ by the end of 2019. It really is onwards and upwards.  We are looking at more acquisition opportunities, more Training Club locations and more organisations to work with.

What has been your best achievement so far?

We have genuinely achieved so much but I think the results from an exciting project we carried out with Inspired Villages earlier this year sticks in my mind as one of the most rewarding.  Using our digital platform and services we were able to apply them to a traditionally 'non tech-savvy' and 'inactive' group, with an average age of 76 for a period of 12 weeks. The results of this trial were outstanding.  Twenty-seven residents at Millbrook Village in Devon achieved an average of more than 8,000 steps a day. This is more than double that of the average Briton, which stands at 3,000-4,000 steps a day. Together, the participants achieved a combined distance of over 7,300 miles, which is the equivalent of walking to Hawaii, with some steps left for a walk around the island too.  hero's role was to encourage and educate residents in a bid to proactively manage all aspects of health and wellbeing as well as providing support to the busy schedule of community events such as nutrition-led cookery classes and group fitness sessions.

One of the real highlights was the fact that this initiative helped reduce loneliness, which is a huge issue and challenge for this age group.  The anecdotal feedback was just as rewarding and perfectly brings to life the very reason hero was formed. One resident commented that "I feel more motivated and encouraged to make the most of life."

You also work as a mentor, what in your opinion are the main challenges being faced by entrepreneurs looking to start their own businesses?

I have a huge amount of respect for anyone who takes the leap of faith and sets up their own business but there are unfortunately challenges, which can stifle innovation and growth.   The issues which, can have a huge and negative effect on businesses; large or small, new or existing, is cashflow, sales and consistency in the execution of good ideas.  I am keen to use my experience to help and support fellow entrepreneurs; as I believe these people and organisations are the lifeblood of the UK economy.

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