Building and maintaining relationships with clients is the lifeline of any business. Yet when scaling a business this responsibility is often assigned to employees. Relying on employees for such a critical part of business can be a nerve-wracking move for business owners.
As a business owner you know that clients like continuity in the people they’re dealing with. If your employees form great relationships with your clients, then how will it affect your business when those key people resign? Worse still, what will happen if your ex-employee takes up a position with one of your competitors? Will your clients stick with your business or will they follow the individual they’ve formed a close working relationship with?
Sure, you can rule with a stick and set all sorts of legal clauses into their contracts about restraints of trade, gardening leave etc, but at the end of the day how far are you willing to go to enforce that if the client really wants to leave? If you’re thinking there’s got to be a better way, there is.
The answer is that peoples’ personalities are their commodity so as a business owner you need to a build a company culture that creates an environment that fosters and embraces them.
This is True. True is one of New Zealand’s leading independent creative companies based in Auckland. They have taken this approach and they’re proud of it.
Matt Dickinson, CEO and one of the company’s four Directors, says that when the company started nearly 9 years ago, they designed it around their people.
“People define us. The people who work here, the people we work with and the people we’re trying to connect with on behalf of the brands in our care.” Says Matt.
Steve Kane, Managing Director, likens the client relationship to a marriage, where personality matters.
“We have built an environment where our people feel safe, accepted and comfortable to bring their whole selves to work. We even have 11 office dogs and they’re all part of our culture,” says Steve.
The initiatives at True come from their people rather than being prescribed from the top down. They have a ‘Wellbeing Team’ who develop initiatives in consultation with the rest of the Truebies.
Here’s a flavour of life at True across their four key areas:
Over the summer months the office operates on Summer Hours which means it closes at 3pm every Friday. What’s more they also have Park Fridays so every second Friday when they clock off at 3pm they all go the local park for a picnic.
They kick-start their week with Mindfulness Mondays. Each Monday morning after the team meeting there is an option to stay back for 3 minutes of guided awareness. They also have a Duvet Day, a Hydration Station (including Soda Stream for sustainability) and next year they will be introducing subsidised health insurance.
They support We Can and have a clothing bin at reception to make giving back part of their everyday living.
Trubies get to enjoy their Birthday as a day off work and they get a bottle of champagne their workversary anniversary. But the best initiative of all would have to be DFWL (Don’t Fu*k with lunch). That means no meetings between 12 – 1pm and no work talk at the office dining table.
The moral of the story is that in business your people are your product. Make personality part of what you offer. Clients don’t like dealing with new employees on a regular basis so invest in your people and keep them on board.
At True the culture is fluid and adaptable to suit individuals and their needs as those change. They believe there isn’t a problem that can’t be solved with creativity.
Their advice to others who are considering new ways of working: “Just give things a go!”
If you need a hand with workplace culture contact the team at Freerange Works on 0800 04 FLEX or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation.