STORM: One entrepreneur's leap toward better benefits
By Jean De Ramon
STORM has been a really big part of my life—it is my professional story. – Peter Cauton, Founder and CEO of STORM Technologies (formerly known as STORM Benefits)
With five generations coming together in today's workforce, a one-size-fits-all approach to employee benefits no longer applies. For benefits to bring value and satisfaction to employees, they need to be relevant. How do companies now craft benefits packages that appeal to traditionalists and millennials alike?
For Peter Cauton, Founder and CEO of STORM Technologies Inc., the answer is this - by taking the guesswork out of the equation and instead giving employees the power to choose.
Turning rejection to opportunity
Today, STORM is the largest provider of flexible benefits in the Philippines, serving over 65,000 employees of the country’s top companies. Back in 2005, it was a two-man start-up born from Peter's conviction that benefits should be made better. A long-time practitioner of human resources, Peter was first exposed to flexible benefits as a project manager in a consulting company. He pitched it to his firm as a possible business line, only to be rejected because it did noat have a proven place in the market. Instead of giving up on his idea, he found a technical partner and started STORM. STORM grew steadily as a bootstrapped startup with no funding. Peter divided his time between STORM and his fulltime line HR job while his partner Paolo dela Fuente held the fort. Then came the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. At this point, Peter had to choose between the safe route - staying with his corporate job and providing a stable lifestyle for his family - or taking a risk and pursuing STORM. In making this decision, Peter did something different from how he’s always done his decisions: he turned to his faith. "I typically use logic in making big decisions. If it were just me and my logic, I would've just stayed at my corporate job and waited it out, but God’s call for me to take the leap was strong." Peter shared with TechShake. Going full-time was not easy, but it was worth it: "I took a huge pay-cut, but I was happier and so much more fulfilled"
Better benefits delivered
STORM Flex began as a software service where companies would pay a monthly fee to use technology. Difficulties with payments and manual processes prompted them to think of a simpler, better way - thus the shift from flexible benefits as a software service to a platform. STORM created an online benefits marketplace where employees convert their traditional benefits into currency called flexpoints. With these flexpoints, they can choose the benefits that matter to them, from insurance and gym memberships to gadgets and travel packages. As STORM's client base expands, so does their marketplace. They continuously add products and services to ensure that employees get the most from their flexible benefits package. "Our strength is that we are an HR firm and tech firm combined. We understand both," Peter shared. Although faced with challenges, it is very important to them that each client feels that they are taken care of.
The choice to leap
Peter considers STORM his best professional decision. It led him to a vast array of experiences that honed him to be the entrepreneur that he is now. "We really have to learn through the mistakes…but I love it. Being an entrepreneur is never easy to begin with—the time, the effort, the sacrifice—because there is so much at stake. I think a big component is conquering that fear of doing something that you know has a high chance of failure. Then it’s just facing so many uncertainties: not knowing where your money will come from, not knowing if your plan will succeed, and then of course it’s facing actual failure," Peter shared. When asked when would be a good time to do a start-up, he said, "There is no good time. Just jump in. You just start." Starting, for him, doesn't necessarily mean devoting all your time and effort outright. You could start small. What matters is that you take concrete steps that bring you closer to your goal. Just take the leap.