Rambutan’s culture of wellbeing and work-life balance is so critical that we decided to define it before we decided what we would actually do as a business. Eleven years on, our culture still defines what it’s like to work here and David believes this is a key driver of our success.
Years ago, whilst a regional executive for a food retailer, I stayed in numerous Marriot Hotels during my travels around the country. In the UK (and I don’t know why this was and still is in some cases) it was quite normal to see a copy of a Christian bible in your hotel room.The Marriott chain was no exception but they also provided a copy of a book called ‘The Marriott Way’. I suspected it was some kind of self-serving marketing material so left it alone for my first few stays. However, one evening when I had finished my emails and discovered that there was nothing on the TV, I picked up the book. I discovered that it wasn’t what I was expecting but was, in fact, a brilliant business book. Checking out of my hotel the next morning, I asked if I could buy the book so that I could finish it. The person on reception had to call a manager to check as “No one has ever asked before.” When the manager arrived and I explained my purchase request she said, “Take the book as a gift. You’re this first person to ask; as most people just take a copy without mentioning it!” This blog isn’t about that book but what the book taught me that would later become key to how we started Rambutan.
Memory-fade means I can’t quote exactly what was in the book but it was about deciding ‘how you wanted to be’ before deciding ‘what you wanted to do’. It reasoned that ‘The Marriott Way’ was a set of values that focused on looking after their employees and these values would be the same whatever business Marriott was to become. Even if they ended up selling bicycles, cheese or space travel, the book said they would do it ‘The Marriott Way’.
Fast forward ten years from my non-theological, hotel epiphany and you come to the time when Gemma, Sarah and I founded Rambutan. After renting a small office to work in, setting up a bank account and registering the business, we sat down and worked up the values and behaviours of Rambutan as our first big task. It would have been very easy not to do this and instead think about sales, marketing and clients because the day after we started the business in 2008, the sub-prime lending crisis hit, stock markets crashed, banks went bust and the business world went a bit mad!
However, we stuck to what ‘The Marriott Way’ had taught me and the values we created exist to this day (although we refresh them as a team from time to time) and still guide ‘how we want to be’.
They describe and define in detail what it’s truly like to work at Rambutan and what behaviour is expected from everyone. They’re used in recruitment and induction. They inform meeting agendas and decisions. They’re used to set objectives and to appraise performance. Our values are ‘The Rambutan Way’. They’re about trust and empowerment, caring deeply for each other, being daring, delivering for our clients and each other, being accountable and holding each other to account, and respecting each other’s time and lives outside work. Our values make it a great place to work where everyone feels emotionally ‘safe’ and that their wellbeing is ‘mission-critical’. Here are some practical examples.
• last week our newest consultant produced a brilliant piece of writing. He sent it to Gemma, our Director, to gain her views and her response the next day was typical, “It’s a great piece of work but I’m more concerned about why you were still working at 7:30pm last night!”
• all the bunch manage their own diaries and holiday entitlements. They don’t ask permission for such things as going home early, visiting the dentist during work time or booking a two-week holiday. They ‘inform’ their colleagues of their intentions instead
• there are, of course, times when people have to stay late to finish something off. When this happens, you can hear everyone else say something like, “I’m leaving now but is there anything I can do to help you before I go?”
• if people do have to work late, or on a non-working day, they’re expected to take the time back as and when they want to (again without asking permission), or speak to their boss if they need help to reduce their workload to allow this
• if (and this has sadly happened a couple of times recently) any of the bunch have a personal challenge or, even worse, tragic event then our general approach is to see how we can help and to tell the person to ‘take as much time as they feel they need and it will be OK with us!’
• we’ve guaranteed mortgages, rented flats, coached each other’s friends and children, and said yes to pretty much all personal development and qualification requests. We’ve had wellbeing days and brought in experts on diet, exercise and mindfulness. We’ve stopped work when the weather is nice and played netball outside or simply gone to the pub
• we don’t have a formal hierarchy but everyone has a nominated ‘boss’ with who they have a monthly face-to-face catch-up
• every group meeting starts with a conversation about how people are feeling about all aspects of their life and where/how/if/when anyone else can help and support them if they’re not feeling 100%
In short, our leadership looks after the culture which, in turn, looks after the bunch, who all look after the business and each other. #WorkLifeWeek