PLATF9RM Culture

9 Minutes With - Ciaran O'Donnell

Ciaran O'Donnell is PLATF9RM's Finance Director and has been working with the company, virtually, for the past two years. Having recently won CFO/Finance Director of the Year at the British Accountancy Awards 2019, we thought this would be the perfect oppourtunity to find out more about how he makes work wonderful.

You’ve recently won CFO/Finance Director of the Year at the British Accountancy Awards 2019, huge congratulations! What does this mean to you?

It’s great to be recognised by the sector’s equivalent of the Oscars and the esteemed panel of judges given the sheer number of applicants. I’ve been hustling in this space for 10 years so to be shortlisted was all that I was looking for - winning the award is a little surreal. And i think my mum finally now understands what I do for a living.


Ciaran, you’re the founder of The Virtual FD, could you tell us about your business and what led you to start it?

Simply put, I wanted to surround myself with remarkable people so I left the corporate world in 2009 (when my wife was 8 months pregnant with our first child) and set myself up as an early stage FD for start-ups and entrepreneurs who are creative, talented, ambitious and focused on creating value.

You’ve been PLATF9RM’s, FD for over two years, and we’re clearly super lucky to have you. Please tell us how this started and what the needs of the company were?

Seb reached out back in spring 2017, he was already up and running and Tower Point 6th Floor was open and busy. Seb, being Seb, wanted to get clearer visibility of his immediate and actual financial position and also build a robust plan to expand PLATF9RM to other locations. Like all businesses I work with, it starts with addressing immediate issues - which might require not much time at all. And then build an open/flexible relationship that ends up with a structured finance function, Finance Deck, metrics, forecast, cashflow, etc. robust to track our performance and underpin our planned growth. The first time I met Seb, I passed through Brighton en route to Gatwick with my wife and three daughters who all loved the guided tour (and icecream).

Working from home on the Isle of Wight, how have you managed to stay motivated? Surely you should be co-working?

I’ve never had a problem working from home - mainly because I love that I do, the room/setting has great energy (light, positioning, yellow wall opposite me - I know, feng shui works!). And I balance this with a ferry/train to see clients when face-time is needed.

I’ll continue to influence PLATF9RM to open a hub (or offshoot) in Ryde on the Isle of Wight as they expand and own the co-working market along the south coast - it will transform the community in the same way as Brighton and Hove. I love the model. On the day I went to the British Accountancy Awards, my wife had a number of colleagues using our living area for the day as their office is being refurbished - they all loved it so much it’s now known as the best co-working space in Ryde. I would happily lose the title to PLATF9RM.

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Your model means you have other clients other than PLATF9RM, how do you manage these multiple requests on your time?

The CEOs and teams I work with are all busy people, and we all get into a workflow which gets stuff done, cleared, balanced up, paid, resolved, etc. in the smoothest possible way. So our work methods compliment rather than clash. Of course, diaries clash from time to time, but relationships are based on making it happen. And CEOs know I sometimes have to triage my inbox. There are some occasions when you can’t be in two places or on two calls at the same time. 

It’s not all about the numbers, how do you spend your free time?

This isn’t going to sound very rock n roll, but at the moment with a young family I get just snippets of free time. Aside from work, school runs, ballet runs and other kids activities, I will sneak in a quick walk by the sea whatever the weather with some music or sport on headphones. I’m easily pleased. 

Can you let us know some of the other companies that you work with? What motivates you to work with them?

I’m pretty diversified across different sectors, the current mix includes coworking/creative-workspace (of course), property-tech, financial securities-tech, marine-supplements, SME-flexible-working-capital, Zip-Lines, free-from-plantbased-meals, internet-TV-platform, creative-childcare. Quite a mix but so many common threads!

I’m always conscious of being the right fit - which can be hard to define, but such an important factor. So we (me and CEO/company) need to be the right fit. After that tech, online, recurring revenue qualities are the business models which I’m genuinely interested in and lean towards, mainly because success and value is driven by customers returning and their lifetime value. 

What do you offer PLATF9RM? How does this work day-to-day?

Over a month we have some clear outputs and deliverables which we use to review performance and address certain issues. We call our monthly report a ‘Finance Deck’ which consolidates financials, metrics and investor outputs - has the input from all the team and also reviewed at Board Meetings. So whilst the operational team are working day-to-day, aside from monthly workflow, I’m easily reached if needed to step in, contribute, advise, update or forecast, put out a fire (of the numbers variety). Our operational team are great, we’ve got some slick/agile processes in place, they continue to grow and develop and handle issues with the professionalism and maturity of an ageing/greying FD.

What do you bring to Make Work Wonderful?

I’ve always been output focused and like that I work with people who are normal and don’t get all that excited about a page of numbers so I need to bring something different. I think that my collaborative approach to working, patience and a sense of humour underpins what I do and makes work wonderful. I am probably heavily influenced from listening to BBC 6 Music and Shaun Keaveny for a couple hours most afternoons?!

9 Minutes With - Emilie Lashmar

Emilie Lashmar's passion, creativity and infectious enthusiasm for making work wonderful has earned her the title of Creative Director at PLATF9RM. Her days are hectic and full of surprises, but there’s absolutely no doubt that Emilie lives and loves her job. We caught up with her to find out why.

Emilie, you’ve been flying the PLATF9RM flag since we first opened the doors! Your role has evolved from Membership Manager through to being our Creative Director. What does your day to day look like?

My main goal at PLATF9RM is to Make Work Wonderful. I want us to provide an unmatched experience for our members. My role is really varied, which I love. I work across the entire business and running the day-to-day. I get to collaborate with our freelance members, our copywriter, our graphic designer and our social media team to make sure we stay true to our PLATF9RM brand. I’m also on our board, so there’s strategic activity to keep me busy too. I really enjoy making use of all of our different co-working areas throughout the week.


Over the course of almost three years (!) at PLATF9RM you’ve given some of the fabulous Brighton Creatives the chance to shine. Which commission or collaboration are you most proud of?

I’m going to say our ‘Beer O’Clock’ beer!

You’ve seen all of our projects go from drawn plans to real-life which means you know every corner of PLATF9RM. Where’s your favourite place to work from?

It’s got to be The Grounds. I even had my very recent wedding reception there! I love the atmosphere, and the space is just gorgeous. It's a playground for business creative adults. So much light, greenery and colour. The 7m high ceilings provide real impact. I feel so fortunate to sit in a place Seb had envisioned for so long.

We want to open up The Grounds every evening and weekend and make it a real creative community hub with food, drink, music. I can't wait for our first weekend brunch!

If I really want to get my head down I’ll work in our PLATF9RM office at Tower Point, or the Library at Hove Town Hall. Meetings in the Penthouse are perfect for more creative thinking.

What’s your dream version of PLATF9RM?

Our Hove site, with our Brighton site on top and a few more floors in between, plus a rooftop bar! There would be a media floor with a podcasting room, gaming and screening facilities and a creche or nursery. Maybe there would be a dedicated games room, and hotel rooms or apartments to stay overnight in. It would be a whole coworking + living complex, perfect for work and play.

With almost 13 years of Brightonian life behind you (lucky), what is it that you love most about our city?

Perhaps it’s clichéd, but the people. There are so many kind, creative, brilliant people in this city. They’re closely followed by autumn sunsets on the beach.

If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?

I’ve been going to Berlin every year for over a decade. It always feels like returning to my spiritual home! I just got back from my last trip. We stayed at Michelberger, where I felt totally welcomed and part of something greater. I hope anyone coming into contact with PLATF9RM feels something similar.

Considering your love of music and going to gigs, I speak for all of the team when I say we were surprised when you went through a ‘Baby Shark’ phase. We’re pleased you’re over it now. What’s your go to album or song at the minute?

I was so late to the party on the Baby Shark thing! But I stand by it being a great song. Now I’m playing the album that Lana Del Rey released on 30 August on repeat.

What’s been your PLATF9RM highlight?

It has to be the Kickass Women event last March, which we hosted just after the opening of Hove Ground Floor. It felt really special to see such an inspirational event come to life in our brand new venue.

What do you bring to Make Work Wonderful?

I bring my whole self to work each and every day, and I champion an open and honest culture, where everyone feels heard and valued. I use creativity to problem solve and encourage others to do so too, and always aspire to lead with positivity, creating a fun and supportive space for the team.

Thank you so much for answering these questions Emilie!

9 Minutes With - Jessica Samson

It’s likely you’ve seen her walking the hallways of both Tower Point and Hove, usually accompanied by prospective PLATF9RM members. As far as roles go, Community Lead is a significantly impressive game of juggling multiple tasks at any one given moment, and there is no one that does it better and with such verve, than our very own Jessica Samson. We caught up with her to find out a little more about her and just how she does it!

Jess, we normally see you scampering between Tower Point and Hove Town Hall as Community Lead but what are you getting up to?

I’m really lucky and have quite a mix in my job role. I get to spend time with our members, making sure that they’re having a wonderful PLATF9RM experience. I also look after sales, keeping our offices full and bringing more great people into the community. Plus I get to work with The Drop Digital to oversee our social media.

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How long have you been at PLATF9RM, there must be a number of highlights, but what’s been the biggest?

I’ve been at PLATF9RM for 2 years next month! There are more highlights than I can count but for me Hove Town Hall Ground Floor was massive! Watching how people use this entirely new space that has been created and filling it with life has been a delight. It also meant I got to wear high vis for 12 weeks of the build which is my favourite thing.

Now, is there a certain skill one must acquire to be able to remember all the 700 plus members? Or is it a superpower?

I’m not going to lie - 500 names was just about manageable, but the influx we got at Hove when we opened the Ground Floor was the real struggle, I’m just about getting there. I think the trick is to talk to people regularly and make a LOT of cups of tea.

We’ve got quite the eclectic mix of members here at PLATF9RM, don’t worry we won’t ask you to name favourites but what are the top five industries in our member make up?

We do have such a mix! I find it fascinating that you can have a room of people in different fields sat next to each other, bouncing ideas and being supportive. We have a lot of creatives; photographers, graphic designers, writers and another field that you’d sort of expect is tech; developers, web designers, UX designers but I really enjoy that so many different people can utilise the space - electricians, yoga instructors, doctors, clowns — you name it - we’re home to them!

Not many people know that you’re not a thorough bred Brightonian, how did you end up here?

I’m a Yorkshire girl at heart - I came down here to do a degree in Graphic Design and fell in LOVE with Brighton and it’s huge array of pubs, dogs, the sea and the most wonderful people.

Did you always want to go down the route of Graphic Design?

No not at all, I actually didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do. I’m a creative person and I love beautiful ‘things’ so going in the Graphic Design direction sort of made sense - didn’t stop me getting cold feet the night before I moved to Brighton and thinking ‘Oh God what am I doing, I want to be a vet’. As it turns out it all led me to the right spot and I feel so lucky to have found a job I adore doing.

You’re known for having quite a distinctive laugh, what’s brought about the biggest laugh since being at PLATF9RM?

Distinctive, ha! I generally find myself the funniest human on the planet. Also, the more I laugh the bigger my laugh gets. The biggest laugh was possibly the time I had a dream about Leanne dressed up as an (angry) carrot for a Harvest Festival and when I saw her and tried to explain it I completely lost the plot.

It’s also no big secret that you’re a dog fanatic, so who’s your favourite PLATF9RM Pup?

Clarence Hillier's the Original PLATF9RM Pup for me, he has stolen my heart in a way I never expected a yappy / sassy / hilarious terrier to. I have a tendency to keep hold of him for days longer than I need to. Good job David (the dog Dad) knows where I live!

Other PLATF9RM Pup Ultimate Babes include Oscar Cornelius belonging to our Sparkly Fairy Queen Amy Brown, Monty who belongs to the legend that is Emma Croman and Kipper - hero dog of Lizzie Hodgson. Also Shelby who Jason Rhahi brought in when she was just weeks old and is now a fully grown well behaved pupper. Oh, but then there’s Benji Lamb’s rescue dog, Amber, who is an extra special clever girl with just 3 legs!


You know what, they’re all just brilliant! Hove’s had some extra dogs join recently and I know our Front of House team over in Brighton have been getting jealous - we have dog treats and so much love to give them! This was NEVER going to be a short answer, was it.

What do you bring to make work wonderful?

We have an incredible team who support and cheerlead each other in every aspect of life - they make everyday fun and being part of a powerhouse of a team really makes it simple to make work wonderful. I’d also like to think I bring an overall constant enthusiasm, it makes my days at PLATF9RM so much more fulfilled knowing that I can help take care of people, from anyone’s very first tour, all the way to their signing up — either in cups of teas, a friendly chat or yes, my often heard “distinctive” laugh.

Thank you so much for answering these. Hopefully we've shone a little light onto the world of Jess and your invaluable role in making things work like clockwork.

9 Minutes With - Leanne Doutré

It's been 2 years since the original team members were tasked with the lionhearted endeavour of bringing PLATF9RM into existence. Since then, our lovely Leanne has metamorphosed from 'Front of House' to 'Operations Manager', all in the meagre space of two earthly cycles. We caught up with Leanne, AKA Queen of Tower Point, to unpack her thoughts on P9 and perhaps dig a little deeper into the mysterious world of managing operations.

Hi Leanne, we know you're the Operations Manager, but what exactly does the life of an Operations Manager entail?

Generally speaking, I deal in the back end of PLATF9RM’s day to day running, occasionally 'epitheted' as a fountain of knowledge and general Guru of our CRM system. I support the team, from community to events as well as helping our finance team who work remotely, as being the man on the ground. I also look into ways to improve the running of the business and member experience simultaneously. It’s a position that requires many hats.


Where were you born? If not in Brighton & Hove, what brought you to this wonderful place?

I’m originally from Worthing which is only 30 mins away so sort of Brighton?(Let’s try and swing it that way). I went to college here but when I finished uni and immediately panicked at having to join the real world of adulting - Brighton was a natural choice to look towards. I’m glad to have always been so close to Brighton, its atmosphere and people as it’s fortunately kept me being sucked into the post graduate London black hole - I’m happy to be finally living bang in the centre, conveniently between our Hove and Brighton sites.

You've been here from the start, what has been your favourite PLATF9RM event to date?

I’m a sucker for the May social as we always descend to The Warren. Having it literally at the bottom of the road this year was ideal. It’s great just to be able to hang around with members, drink in hand. From an operational point of view, it’s great too as there’s not much to do apart from let people relax and enjoy themselves. That and manage the bar tab.

Within the confines of acceptable discourse, what is the most bizarre thing you have witnessed at PLATF9RM?

My birthday present from PLATF9RM last year was a taxiderm'ied' mouse.

If you can possibly imagine some ethereal utopia beyond PLATF9RM as it is today, what improvements would you make?

I’m dying for outside space as I’m a complete glutton for sitting in the sun with a pint. Obviously it would be done in the unique PLATF9RM, but I’m imagining a lot of plants and colours and a sun trap for me to curl up in. And no seagulls. And better weather.

Outside of your job here at PLATF9RM, what is your extracurricular pastime/ hobby/ plan for world domination ?

I’ve gotten far too into my house plants in the last year or so and when I moved a few months ago, I immediately eyed up new spots for them. I’m currently on 13, have a wish list as long as my arm and definitely not enough space to fulfil it.

If you could live anywhere in the world other than Brighton, where would it be?

I used to live in the south of Spain so that’s got a special spot in my heart but I’m pretty chill - I think whereever it would be, it’s got to have water nearby and a toasty climate - then I’m set.

Cats or Dogs? Why?

Unfortunately, I think cats just edge it out for me. I grew up with cats and had a severe dog phobia when I was younger. I’m all for puppy cuddles now (thankfully plentiful in PLATF9RM) but I think cats are ever so slightly the front runners. I think I should have been a cat in a past life, they have the right lifestyle attitude - eat, sleep, be warm, affectionate by choice and mildly annoy those closest to you.

What do you bring to make work wonderful?

Honestly, I don't need to bring much, it's the people - both members and team. The space is amazing, I love the colours and the light in both places, but there is a real sense of community here. I love being able to sit on one of the coworking tables and get chatting to any of the members that pass by for coffee or howling away with the regulars. We do do work, I swear.

Thank you so much for answering these. Hopefully we've shone a little light onto the world of Leanne and your invaluable role in making things work like clockwork.