Member Spotlight: Harp Athwal, Adaptavist - Workhaus

Company: Adaptavist

CEO: Simon Haighton-Williams

Co-Founders: Dan Hardiker, Alain Moran

Workhaus Member: Harp Athwal, Head of North America Professional Services

“…to have teammates at various times of the day around the world get up and help this customer – including those from the mother ship in the UK – it was the moment I knew ‘We’ve done it’…” Over three years ago, Harp Athwal was solo in his mission in Toronto to expand Adaptavist in North America. Since then, the Adaptavist North American team has grown to over 40 people across 10 States and 2 Provinces. Their growth, however, is not limited to North America. With their original office in UK, they have since opened offices in the US and Canada, and their recent acquisitions of Awnaba Software and Kanoah Test Management has extended their global reach to Spain and Brazil, making these their 2nd and 3rd acquisitions to date. “We are doubling year over year in every measureable way including revenue, number of people, and products” says Harp, Adaptavist’s Head of North America Professional Services.

Adaptavist, a UK based company and Platinum partner of software giant Atlassian, provides professional services, Adaptavist Managed Services (AMS), Adaptavist Learn training, and over 20 add-ons from their product team. One of their custom add-ons, Adaptavist ScriptRunner (for Jira, Confluence, and Bitbucket and Bamboo) has become world-renowned. The creator of ScriptRunner, Jamie Echlin, has become an inspiration in the tech world, and according to Harp, a celebrity. “Now when we go to the Atlassian Summit other tech people approach Jamie to take a photo with him. He’s changed people’s lives.” What is even more impressive, Harp says, is that Jamie created ScriptRunner to solve a problem he was facing at a previous work engagement. Little did he realize the problem he was solving for himself was something the world was waiting to solve too.

Adaptavist’s clients include over half of the Fortune 500 companies, but in the beginning they were “one of Atlassian’s first customers” says Harp. He goes on to tell the origin story of Adaptavist. In 2005, Cofounders Dan Hardiker and Alain Moran stunned Atlassian with their out of the box creations to enhance their software. So much so that Atlassian was interested in acquiring their early work. Dan and Alain decided their love of development, and their enjoyment of Adaptavist as a lifestyle business was better served by partnering with Atlassian. They would do the training, and build products to enhance Atlassian’s software. And so, Adaptavist was born. As the company grew to 12 employees, they realized their potential for expansion. “They reached this point where they knew they really had something, and they didn’t know how to get it to the next level.” Harp says, “This is where Simon Haighton-Williams, CEO, came in to take Adaptavist even further with his extensive tech background and business savvy. Simon saw that this was the diamond that no one had discovered yet.” In just a few years Simon has expanded Adaptavist from 12 people, to over 130 people globally.

Adaptavist team members may be oceans apart, but their commitment connects them. Harp recalls a time when there was a client experiencing issues in California late at night, a few hours before he had to catch a flight. “It was the first time a customer could call someone in North America rather than the UK. The time zone was working in everyone’s favour. I was on that call in Toronto, but it wasn’t just me. I had Adaptavist colleagues from New York and California on that call. Even people in the UK, it was in the middle of the night for them, and they woke up and joined in to help this key customer. It was team members across many time zones working on a problem, together, and we solved it.” Interestingly enough, with the numerous successes of Adaptavist, Harp considers this his first milestone. His chosen milestone has more to do with the dedication of their team, and loyalty to their customer, than it does with revenue. “Simon had asked me to make sure the pre-existing culture and care that they have for each other in the UK was brought to North America. It’s tough to cookie cut something, but to have teammates at various times of the day around the world get up and help this customer – including those from the mother ship in the UK – it was the moment I knew ‘We’ve done it’. We actually got every person in the company willing to buy in to help a customer across the World.”

Whether Harp realizes it or not, he plays a big part in the growth of the Adaptavist team in North America. His strong leadership skills and his belief that “hierarchy for the sake of hierarchy is stupid.” instills an unparalleled enthusiasm within the team. However Harp doesn’t take any credit for managing the team. In fact, he’d rather lose the word management altogether. “Every time you say management consultant, I think it should be leadership consultant. We hire very smart and motivated people so I don’t feel like we have to manage anyone. Management is really giving them guidance of where we are going as a company, and that they understand our mission as a company. We always start from a position of trust, if you don’t break that trust, then we are never going to question you.”

The astounding success of the North American Adaptavist family seems to lie between their empowered employees, and their customer loyalty. “We are a very successful company but we wouldn’t be if we were only looking to be a financially successful company. I really believe that. If you give people the right motivation, the money comes. That’s a by-product of doing what’s right for your customers” says Harp. The theme of customers first carries on through Harp’s advice for young startups, “Your customers are your strongest advocates. They will speak from the top of the mountains for you. More so than any salesperson. Marketing and everything is a great approach, but really your biggest ally is the people you’ve already helped, that already love you. Let them be your voice for you. ”

The growth of the North American branch has been on a steady upswing and Harp doesn’t predict a plateau anytime soon. “My focus is to build the North American family to a massive scale. Everyone on our team is dedicated to the continued growth of Adaptavist. Not just the team in North America, but our entire global Adaptavist family. We are in 5 countries right now, and have over 20 products. We are looking to double everything next year, to be in 10 countries, have 40 products, and we’re going to have fun doing it.” says Harp.

The Workhaus & Adaptavist Love Story

The Workhaus team considers the North American Adaptavist team to be a big part of their extended family. We did grow up together after all. Our journey together began about three years ago, at our first and only location at the time, Workhaus Market. As the only Adaptavist team member in Toronto Harp was working from home, and was eager to escape his solitude. At first, Harp was a single dedicated desk member, that is, until the Adaptavist team expanded to three. At this point they upgraded to a 4 person office and became the very first company at our new location, Workhaus FiDi. By the time we had expanded to four locations – you guessed it – Adaptavist had expanded as well. They went from having both a 4 person and a 6 person office, to occupying a 20+ office suite. Once again, they became the first company at our newest location, Commerce Court, our biggest location to date. It seems our fates are  entwined. As we expand we couldn’t imagine doing it without Adaptavist by our side, for it was Harp himself that said “Your customers are your strongest advocates. They will speak from the top of the mountains for you.”