July 24, 2024

Thrive Insider

Exclusive stories of successful entrepreneurs

Michelle Fotheringham Founder and CEO of Werkling

Who are you and what business did you start?

I am many things… mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, ice cream lover …. but I am also the CEO and Founder of Werkling.

At Werkling, we match business leaders with peer-recommended on-demand talent (i.e. independent consultants, freelancers, gig professionals and corporate escapees), while at the same time creating a sense of community and belonging for those who have stepped outside the traditional work model.

What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I understand how workforce preferences are changing because I have lived it myself! I have worked in corporate in-house roles, consulting agencies, as an independent consultant with a portfolio career, and now as a start-up founder.

In 2019, I noticed more and more highly talented people opting out of the traditional employee-employer work model and moving towards portfolio careers and the professional gig-economy. It was this, along with an increasing business need for nimbler and more dynamic workforces, that led to the creation of Werkling

Describe the process of launching the business.

The first and most important step was conducting a whole lot of customer research. I interviewed over a hundred business leaders and on-demand talent before doing anything else. This helped me deeply understand the problem to solve and how we could address the most common pain points on both sides of the market. 

We wound up launching just as the pandemic hit Australia. Not ideal! But we were lucky enough to have some early adopters on board and our early months were focussed on continuing to talk to our customers to learn how this massive disruption was reshaping their talent strategies and how we could help.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

I am a big believer in authentic relationships and simply focusing on how you can solve problems for people. When you connect with businesses and their needs, and deliver on what you promise, that’s when the magic happens. And word of mouth is king!

The changing conversation around the future of work is also really critical for us. We try to contribute to the thinking and challenge leaders to think differently about how they design and resource work. With the Great Resignation looming, now is the time to reimagine how work gets done inside an organisation.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

The future of work is here and the timing is perfect for Werkling. We are experiencing exciting growth and partnering with a range of organisations from corporates to non-for-profits, small and medium businesses to rapidly scaling start-ups. 

We are busy matching leaders with amazing on-demand talent but are also shifting our focus to the curation of proactive On-demand Talent Panels that act as a strategic extension of an internal team. This is where we see our offering moving to in the future.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Surround yourself with great people who will support you and believe in you. Find a mix of cheerleaders and those who will challenge you.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We use Slack to create connection across our community, Wix, Google Workspace, Xero, Hubspot and a few more.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Finding time to read with little ones running around and a business to grow has been a little challenging and podcasts have been my friend. It Will Never Work with Marc Randolf has been great. It has been super helpful to hear his advice to early stage startups.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Head into your customer research with an open mind and be ready to listen. Ask lots of open-ended questions and don’t be married to what you *think* is the solution! 

Where can we go to learn more?

Head to www.werkling.com to learn more and follow us on LinkedIn @werkling