It’s not an everyday tech story when you hear of someone’s rise in the business come from being physically attacked. However, for Merideth Schutter, Co-Founder and CEO of PROtect – that is her story.
Performing as one of the top 10% of realtors in Canada’s Pacific Northwest, Merideth Schutter’s career changed when she was attacked on the job four years ago.
At the end of a mid-day showing – Merideth heard the front door of the property and quickly lock. Two men were in the house – one charging at her in the kitchen – the other guarding the door. Pushing her against the stove – Merideth struggled hard to get away. With the situation unravelling quickly, she got lucky as a family looking at the backyard of the property, heard her struggles. The husband barged in and the attackers bolted.
Terrified, but fortunately safe – Merideth’s career would never be the same. And fortunately – for the tens of thousands of users of PROtect app has acquired in its young life – Merideth’s story will not become their own.
M.R. Rangaswami: PROtect is a very important platform – how do organisations use it as an HR benefit for employee safety?
Merideth Schutter: The weeks and months following the attack highlighted two critical things for me. First – I was no longer able to do the job I loved in the way I had been doing it. I worried I was no longer able to even sell real estate, something I had loved and had fed our family. Secondly – I felt a HUGE lack of corporate responsibility and fear in the workplace. Something I had never experienced before.
I began interviewing as many people as I could and quickly realized I was not alone. Workplace assaults were far too common, especially in the real estate sector. Real estate agents are so vulnerable to crimes of opportunity. I mean, what other industry has its professionals post on social media their whereabouts and invites total strangers to meet them alone in intimate and often rural settings?
There needed to be a solution – and quickly. Remote employees need to feel empowered and have a voice – and with PROtect is an enterprise or B2B platform, organisations white-label or API integrate our app so employee safety feels personal and authentic to their brand and HR efforts.
M.R.: How does PROtect’s functions protect its users?
Merideth: Once an organisation invites employees to download the app – a personalised profile is set up to sync with selected events in their smartphone’s calendar. From there, PROtect users add friends, family and colleagues to be a “PROtector” on their personalized safety network.
When a user feels an appointment needs safeguarding, PROtect will send a notification to the user at the completion of the scheduled event. If everything is fine at the end of the event, users must “ log out” using facial recognition or a fingerprint – indicating all is well.
If users do not log out – an alert is sent to their PROtectors with a link to a virtual communication room. There, it shows your cell phone battery life, a map to find you and any notes/photos you had taken during the event. This communication room also acts as a PROtector chat room, under one cyber roof for PROtectors to communicate about a user’s safety.
If at any point a user feels uneasy they can hit an “SOS” button to alert their contacts right away. In essence, we are creating a report in advance so data can be stored safely if needed. Additionally, if a user’s phone is taken during a PROtected event and the alert is set off, the app will take selfies of whoever is holding their device – adding photographic evidence to your communication room.
Personally, I will often even open the app to the huge “SOS” screen when I walk at night or get into an elevator where I don’t feel safe. It’s an excellent deterrent.
As the working landscape shifts more and more to remote working – PROtect has two primary benefits.
Employee function & safety: Employers have a unique opportunity to offer their employees a benefit that helps keep them safe at work and at play. Something they can take ownership of with their own branding to help set them apart as industry leaders.
Affordable HR benefits: Research has shown that employees with PROtect tend to stay longer at a place of employment if they feel safe and cared for. PROtect is an excellent attraction and retention piece for organisations looking for an affordable, and vital HR benefit.
M.R.: As an enterprise platform with exponential growth, where is PROtect headed?
Merideth: Humbly speaking? While we’ve experienced tremendous success in the real estate sector, I’m not interested in having us stop as a niche platform. We are branching into different industries, like hospitality and retail where statistically there are some of the most dangerous and vulnerable roles in North America. These people need support.
Universities with sororities and fraternities is another place we see PROtect making an impact. We are actively looking at academic and student leadership partnerships who want their students to feel safe, walking through their campuses safely.
PROtect wants to see safety measures improved and become the norm across all industries. Myself, our co-founder, Julie Jones and our teams are passionate about employee safety with a goal to make it affordable and achievable for all organisations to use.