How saying no helped Lee Lomax build Beem

Contrary to pop psychology lauding entrepreneurs to say yes to everything, Lee Lomax believes that saying no at the right time helped him start and grow his start-up, Beem, into a global, venture-backed business it is today.

In a world where we’re constantly told to say ‘YES’ for success, Lee Lomax’s story proves that sometimes saying no can be the best thing for your business and for your own personal growth.
Lomax founded Beem, a mobile-first employee engagement tool, after years of following a set career path in marketing. He left that world behind and started up Beem with a mobile savvy co-founder, he tells GrowthBusiness.

“I think saying no has a rough connotation associated with it in modern society. ‘Yes’ is aligned with risk-taking, opportunities, and moving forward. ‘No’ has negative connotations like disappointment, failure, and rejection. But it’s interesting that sometimes saying no can be the most liberating and positive things you can do. When you mark the line in the sand by saying no, you’re focussing on yourself, whether your venture or your career,” he says.

“When I decided to leave the world of marketing, I was very young and on a steroid-injected career path. I said ‘no’ to that path. It takes bravery, but it takes the ability to say ‘this is an investment into myself, and I could potentially help tens of thousands of people with Beem.”

For Lomax, saying no to a nine-to-five job meant saying yes to building his business. “I’m helping far more people than I could have at that point.”

Beem creates bespoke employee engagement solutions that can be accessed on a smartphone on the go, and has worked with companies like Gap Inc, Nissan, General Electric, Old Navy and PPG to reach, mobilise and inspire an international workforce through a single integrated platform.

The London-based start-up is backed by Unilever Ventures, but according to Lomax, it doesn’t follow the usually start-up growth storyline.

“I often pride myself that we are not a standard story in the start-up world. No VC has yet said ‘heres £5 million, work it out’. In the entrepreneurial journey, the entrepreneur will formulate a hypothesis. If it works, we’ll stick with it. If not, we’ll pivot. But we didn’t do that. We were formed in the bosom of enterprise. It’s not just a romantic notion. We were formed so closely with a critical understanding of enterprise,” he says.

Lomax worked with the initial hypothesis that in the enterprise world, there wasn’t anything specifically catering to the satisfaction of employees. With his background in social media and marketing, and his co-founder Philip Mundy’s background in mobile tech, the two came together to address this gap in the market.

“There are a great deal of platforms that were great in some ways, but employees didn’t like them. Our M.O. was to provide a unified and engaging mobile location for employees to access everything they needed for work. This resonated with the VC community and accelerators in London. While in proximity to working with some large enterprises, we formulated our roadmap,” he explains.

Businesses that use Beem as a platform have employees in retail, manufacturing, supply chain, sales and more. “You can speak to any CEO in the world, and they’ll nod their heads and say they do face challenges in keeping their workforce engaged, but the solutions aren’t made to work in a way to solve this. We’re here to collaborate and connect people to better enhance their productivity and satisfaction at work, no matter which side of the business they are on.”

I’m from the school of thought that it’s all in the execution. Any entrepreneur in the world can sit in a pub and say, ‘I thought of Deliveroo before Deliveroo did it.’ That’s not the game. We all have creative abilities that can potentially change the world, but most of us wont do anything about it. It’s about having the vision and the understanding that execution is an iterative process,” Lomax explains.

“When you give birth to an idea, it’ll probably change a hundred times before you hit the nail on the head. You’re not going to get it right the first time. Look unicorns around the world. Airbnb took five years. Slack started as a bloody games company! It’s 99 per cent execution.”

For him, failure is not an absolute. With Beem, he envisioned a different growth path. “We thought we’ll be getting contact by VCs left, right, and centre. We thought we’d be hitting 10 million books, 20 million books. But then it was about having the knowledge and understanding that its an iterative process. Instead of being down and maudlin about this, we went back and said how can we better shape what we do around clients. We did that by working collaboratively with them.”

There are always ways to monetise ideas if you change the model, but it requires looking for a lateral route forward. If your idea is great, and you’re able to learn from execution, failure isn’t really an absolute, he explains.

“There are too many people in their entrepreneurial journey who think we’ve done what they can, so it’s time to move on. I’m thinking ‘what?’! If you move on too quickly, it’s not a testament of character. It’s twice as hard and will take twice as long to start something else. Starting up takes a lot of intellectual investment,” Lomax says. “For entrepreneurs to say ‘we cracked the whip once and now we’re moving on’, it’s not enough of a justification.”

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.