Online there's loads of blog posts and articles about web development, marketing, copywriting, and graphic design. As a web-designer things like technical knowledge and design skills are very important - but there's not so much about building a successful team environment and making the most of your team.
Business, management and marketing are things I am really interested in. In my day job I lead the web team at Miniclip.com so, besides designing web pages and developing new functionality, I have to think about things like team management, project management, morale, business focus and company strategy. All things I hadn't considered 7 years ago when I first accepted the job as a designer.
Since I travel a lot, I also read a lot, and I find reading about businesses, how they're founded, and how the companies are run, fascinating. In February this year I read a book about Innocent Drinks and their story.
I knew the company was unusual since I drank their smoothies and had seen the quirky packaging with the funny messages so it was with great interest that I received an invitation to go to their public AGM (A Grown-up Meeting) - a day out that includes a tour of their office, as many smoothies as you can drink, designing your own drinks, taste testing new products, and generally finding out about my favourite smoothie company.
Whilst I was there I could see how cool a place it is to work (almost as cool as Miniclip ). Probably the thing I took away the most was the pervasiveness of their brand and how the entire office was tailored to match the culture and environment they have built around the company and its outlook.
Innocent live through their brand and it shone through in everything they did.
Below are a few of the key things I learnt on my trip to the Innocent office.
The brand is everything. Everything in the office screamed Innocent. From the AstroTurf carpets, through the brand messages, to the decorations and wall artwork and even the name of the corporate HQ (called 'Fruit Towers'). You always know where you are and why you're there.
As an employee I can see it being a positive kind of brain washing. A way to live and breathe the brand. Show you're that immersed in the brand you can't help but sing it's praises.
5 years ago, had you asked me what I thought of mission statements, then I would have said they were a load of pretentious rubbish. However over the last couple of years I have come to understand the importance of them - and Innocents is one of the best I have seen.
A few tips for writing your own statement.
- Make sure it's not just corporate nonsense
- It has to have clear benefits and objectives
- Avoid buzz words
- Keep it short and simple
When hiring employees Innocent have 5 values they want people to work by - and personally I think they're great things to strive for.
- Be natural
- Be entrepreneurial
- Be responsible
- Be commercial
- Be generous
For a full description of the brand values and mission statement/ vision check out the Purpose page on the Innocent website
As a manager I have had to do a lot of hiring, and over the years I have learnt that the people and personality are as important, possibly more important, than technical skills.
Obviously technical skills are required but they are nothing if you can't work with other members of the team and fit into the company culture.
Openness, both inside the company, and out - creates a huge sense of trust and loyalty with your users. If you screw up admit to it, apologise, and explain what you will do to fix it. Don't hide behind excuses and corporate nonsense. With services like Twitter and Facebook it's incredibly hard to brush things under the carpet.
Being a company that is about improving things, everything they do is designed to be ethical, and sustainable. There is always room to improve the world we live in. We need to look after it, as much as we look after ourselves. To this end they try to make everything they create recyclable, Innocent help the people who grow their fruit to make sure they earn a decent wage for the work they do, and they give a percentage of their earnings to charity every year (even when they make a loss)!
I really enjoyed the trip to Innocent - before picking up their book in February I would not have considered looking to a smoothie company for inspiration for a blog post, or thought that I would learn so many business lessons. I now have a whole stacks of ideas for improving the businesses I am involved in.
Is there anything else you would add to this list that people may not have considered when setting up their first company?