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Q&A with Matthew Phelan

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Matthew Phelan, Co-Founder.

How could you describe your career path in few words? 


We started our first business a few months before the 2008 financial crisis which on the surface was bad timing but looking back it created opportunity. In times of change established businesses look for new ideas and we were able to help them innovate. 

Over time I have discovered how to balance working hard but also creating space to focus on family, friends and health. The first few years of a startup can be all consuming but it is important to re-collaborate as you move forward on the journey as entrepreneurship is a marathon not a sprint.  The thread that pulls my career together is data and over time I have become more and more interested in how data can help organisations make better decisions.  At the moment most organizational data sits in silos and I am enjoying working hard with organisations to help link up those data sources so areas like employee happiness are not seen as fluffy metrics but as really important factors in organisational performance. 

What was your most challenging experience and it has changed your mindset? 


Guiding a business through the pandemic. Never was our Employee Engagement technology more needed but most companies in the short term started holding back payments to suppliers. This created a mini cash crunch across the globe that we had to be really careful to navigate. This resulted in an extremely stressful 4-6 weeks but once things settled down more and more companies were approaching us to support their employees and cash started to flow.  Longer cash runways are not just for your investors but also for the mental wellbeing of yourself and your entire company. The pandemic was a really good reminder of that. 


The pandemic was also a great awakening for many CEOs on the importance of wellbeing and The Happiness Index’s Employee Engagement platform is well placed to help organisations achieve emotional intelligence at scale. 

Based on your experiences, what skills should an entrepreneur develop in 2023? 


  1. Listen. Listen to your employees, customers and target market. Practice listening to learn and not to respond. 

  1. Resilience. Entrepreneurship is like an extreme sport and you will need to build resilience to deal with the daily ups and downs. 

  1. Have fun. Life is short and if you don’t enjoy the area you are trying to innovate then work will become hard very quickly. A cliche but don’t forget to enjoy the journey and have fun along the way. 

  1. Look after your health. Health is wealth and without prioritising your own health you won’t be able to achieve your goals. 

  1. Learn to read data like employee engagement and happiness data to better understand your people. 



Based on your recent experiences, if you had one piece of advice for an entrepreneur's success in the context of 2023, what would it be? 

Build a strong vision that energises you and your team but don’t be afraid to adapt along the way in an ever changing world.  The future looks more uncertain than ever so continually reevaluating your strategy will be key but without a strong north star this change could easily end up in a lack of direction.  My advice is to make time with your team to regularly evaluate your plan and check that your vision continues to drive energy through your organisation. At The Happiness Index our vision is what we call Freedom to be Human.  


Freedom to be human means to be happy and engaged at work. Traditionally, companies want engaged employees and employees want to be happy. In my new book The Happiness Index; Why Today’s Employee Emotions Equal Tomorrow’s Business Success I explore how neither side needs to compromise. It shows you how happy and engaged employees are win-win for employees and organizations across the globe. 


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