Early last year I decided I wanted to have greater influence on the training I was delivering and the clients I was working with, so I launched my learning and development consultancy, Phenomenal People. In order to meet new clients I carefully researched where I wanted to network; this research lead me to discover Duncan Cheatle’s Speaker Boutique sessions, which were being held every month, or so. For those of you who haven’t come across Duncan Cheatle, he is a champion for entrepreneurial Britain. He has started a number of companies, all with the aim of supporting fledgling and established entrepreneurs and was one of the founding team involved in Startup Britain, a support network created by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs. His Prelude company, which runs Speaker Boutique, displays the strap line, “Making Britain the most enterprising nation in the world.” The Speaker Boutique sounded intriguing, so, on a sunny day in August, I took myself along to my first event.
Company culture is key: look after your tribe, better than you look after your clients. You’ll have the happiest clients on the planet, because they will have such an outstanding experience dealing with your company.
I was immediately impressed by the relaxed, friendly environment. People were networking before the speakers took the stage but it was done in an calm, interested fashion, unlike many of the desperate-for-business-what-can-you-do-for-me events I’d been tortured at in the past. As the first of the three speakers began to share their experiences, I understood why the atmosphere at the event was so civilised. Each speaker was down to earth and displayed a genuine desire to share their experiences. I had become used to corporate environments where people are constantly competing, worried that they are going to be displaced if they make one wrong move and deeply embedded in Emperor’s New Clothes Syndrome – everything is fabulous and don’t you dare tell us the CEO is butt naked! This was a very refreshing change.
During the session I wrote copious notes, eager to absorb every little detail of what the speakers were saying. As I did so, the same important theme kept resurfacing as each speaker took the stage. Company culture is key: look after your tribe, better than you look after your clients. You’ll have the happiest clients on the planet, because they will have such an outstanding experience dealing with your company.
Some sub themes also started to emerge:
- Hire slowly, fire quickly – and support the person to move into a role that is better suited for them.
- Make sure a candidate holds the same values as the company at interview; if a team member doesn’t have those values, they are unlikely to learn them in the workplace – George Karibian, Director of PaymentSense.
- Make sure each team member knows what an important role they play in the company: make it our company, not my company.
- Pay people what they deserve, not what you can get away with – Syd Nadim, Chairman and Founder of Clock said that his top sales person is paid more than him – because the sales guy is the one bringing in the clients.
- Get rid of your weakest clients – if you don’t, you won’t be able to cope with the company’s growth as they drain a disproportionate amount of time and energy- and it has a great effect on team moral.
- Make sure your team have a good work-life balance – if their home life is taking the toll of long hours, it will eventually effect productivity and attitude at work.
- Appreciate your team – give verbal recognition as well as rewards that increase loyalty to the company. Incentives don’t have to be expensive; the perceived value is greater than the monetary value. Siobhan Dillon, Owner and MD of Skyline Events said they give team members anniversary presents to coincide with their date of joining, not their birthday.
- Keep your team hungry for growth and expansion, personally and for the company, it will keep them engaged.
These are only some of the gems that were shared at my initial Speaker Boutique. The three hours that morning confirmed what I had believed for a long time, despite what was evident more often in the corporate world. It is possible to create a great company culture which looks after its team and clients, is an enjoyable place to work and makes LOTS of money. The next two sessions I attended, though on different subjects, still reaffirmed an underlying theme: company culture is key. I’m not saying this is easy to maintain but it is essential, if you want ongoing success and enjoyment in your work. Natalie Douglas, former CEO of Idis, who took the company from nothing to over $200M, said the key to the lasting success was remembering it was all about looking after her tribe. Vernon W. Hill, founder of Metro Bank, who is currently revolutionising the way banking is done across London, says it is virtually impossible to undo the ingrained culture, in big companies, even though it’s not serving the customers and/or the employees. It’s like trying to turn a juggernaut on a penny (my metaphor). I’m sure you will agree, most high street banks demonstrate this very effectively. So, nurture your culture while it’s little, create great values and practices and make sure it’s exposed to good influences.
What else to say about Speaker Boutique?
I have been consistently impressed by the high level of expertise and support, over the last few months. It is exceptional value for money when you consider what you would pay for an hours’ session with a business coach and I stand by that even on the occasion that I missed the early bird discount and had to pay (ouch) full price. The only thing that has disappointed me regarding Speaker Boutique is the shocking lack of female attendees. On one occasion there were only three of us at the event. But you are going to change that, aren’t you ladies? It’s time more women stepped up to that level of entrepreneurship.
For more information visit: www.preludegroup.co.uk/about-us/speaker-boutique/
I look forward to seeing you there.