Interview with Jonathan Richards, CEO and Founder at HR Software Platform: Breathe

Breathe is a cloud-based HR software platform. We were founded in 2012 with the ambition to remove the needless friction associated with traditional admin. We wanted to simplify HR processes, giving SME employers the space to focus on driving their business goals and developing a positive and inclusive company culture.

What drives us is giving teams time back to focus on their people and their wellbeing within the business they work for. This stems from our own culture here at Breathe — our people are at the very heart of everything we do and company culture isn’t a fluffy concept or simply a ‘nice-to-have’.

It’s woven into the fabric of every business, and difficult to define as a company grows, so it’s critical to get it right from the outset We’re committed to creating an environment where wellness is actively championed. We do this by ensuring mental health support, flexible working options and encouraging open and honest conversations at work. As a result, we’ve maintained very high staff retention as we have scaled up over the years.

We now have an established network of over 500 HR partners and we work with over 8,000 customers in the UK, including household names such as Huel, Wildlife Trusts and Thortful, and Breathe was recently named ‘The Best Tech Place to Work’ at the National Tech Awards. Last year, Breathe was bought by an Australian HR software company called ELMO which is an exciting next chapter for us as a firm.


How did you come up with the idea for the company?

As with most business ventures, the concept for Breathe was born on the back of a napkin, so to speak. My co-founder and I were floating the idea of the software for a while but discussions really took shape over a curry.

At the time, I was running a software consultancy that implemented bespoke HR systems for larger companies, but it was my ambition to create a simple and user-friendly HR software product to help small businesses create engaged and inspired teams. For these smaller businesses, admin can be a time-intensive headache that prevents them from spending time focusing on their company culture and broader business goals. Existing solutions were either too complicated or too expensive, so creating one which worked for smaller firms made sense. There was clearly a gap in the market for such tools so we seized our opportunity and Breathe grew from there.


How has the need for Breathe evolved during the pandemic?

Over the last year we’ve seen many businesses furlough their people and unfortunately, a huge amount have been made redundant too. It’s been a challenging time for businesses and their people, not least because of the number of complex regulations, government guidelines and admin processes they need to follow in order to stay compliant. Simplifying this process and reducing the time spent time on admin frees up business leaders to focus on what’s truly important — supporting their people through this uncertain time.

We introduced a furlough feature on our platform during the first national lockdown, allowing businesses to easily keep track of who was on furlough and engage with them, keeping them in the know about what goes on while they are away.

Once they’ve been added into the system, managers can divide people into ‘furloughed’ and ‘non-furloughed’ groups and issue relevant communications to each. Introducing this feature provides transparency to everyone across the business, it means those who aren’t working can stay up to date with company activity, helping them continue to feel like part of the team while they’re away. They can also access the other platform features including holiday allowances, for example.

What can we hope to see from Breathe in the future?

We were recently acquired by an Australian HR software company, ELMO. It’s a really exciting stage of our business and we’re looking forward to tapping into the Australian software market to offer our products and services to SMEs over there. It has always been a mission of ours to take Breathe global, and this is certainly a positive step in the right direction for us.

Considering the economic climate, we are fortunate to be an SME that has persevered through these hard times and our software offering aims to support employers get back on track. Contributing to business recovery in this way is important to us so we will continue to provide in depth content, guidance, webinars and host support groups for the HR and small business sectors as a whole.

Our people remain central to everything we do, and as we grow our business, this won’t change. In future, we’ll continue to develop and renew initiatives designed to support our people to ensure that they’re engaged and Breathe remains a great place to work.