I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
– Rudyard Kipling
If you haven’t been keeping a watchful eye on our various social media channels, it might have passed you by that our Chief Exec. Craig Dean picked up an award at the Oldham Business Awards 2017.
On behalf of the Oldham Business Community, Chair of the OET Dave Benstead paid tribute to Craig’s work in the local area before presenting him with the Lifetime Achievement Award. A humbled, and somewhat surprised, Craig took to the stage and gave an off the cuff speech, touching on his motivation and admiration for our town of Oldham.
Though I was physically present, (you can spot me in the above video if you look hard enough) I was busy deleting things en masse from my phone so I could continue filming, and I missed a lot of the actual content of Craig’s speech the first time around.
Watching back now, the speech gives an excellent insight into Craig’s personal ethos as a businessman. I work closely with Craig, and we spend a lot of our time talking about ethos, and crucially, why it is that we do what we do.
In mid-2015, I hurriedly threw a couple of sentences together in my notebook before a marketing meeting, having forgotten that Craig asked me to think of some copy ideas for a new mission statement based around our company ethos, which we had discussed at length in the past. The pre-existence of this ethos is an important point.
As so often is the case in copywriting, the thing that was written last minute when I was late for a meeting turned out to be one of those things that just happens to pretty much get it perfect first time. If I remember correctly, after a minor change – dropping some repetition to aid readability – we came up with this:
Once we had this in place, my take began as one of scepticism. After all, it was just a short sentence that explains a little about the company culture, what difference could it realistically have? Ultimately, probably not something that will massively impact the business, but a nice thing to have.
But as time went by, I began to realise that for the first time, we had something that would always be a conclusive answer to that elusive question, ‘why?’
When we were struggling to find a motive for a decision, from choosing the breakfast cereal we stock in the kitchen, to key solutioning decisions and strategic direction, we began to point at the mission statement (which is physically written on the wall in an upstairs office) and say ‘that’s why’. Suddenly, we not only found a way to resolve our decision making process, but we gained a new confidence in the decisions that we were making.
To understand the impact of the ethos on me, you have to understand what motivates me.
Back in mid-2015 I started to oversee coordination of our work experience programme, recognising an opportunity for us to get more out of it, and an opportunity for myself to step out of my comfort zone, learn something new and grow. I’ve heard Craig say ‘innovate yourself’ – making these sorts of decisions is how you can achieve that.
We interviewed a young guy named Josh who wanted to get some experience working in a marketing department – we don’t just write software here you know.
Josh impressed hugely, eventually working on some live projects. So much so that we offered him a paid internship, and he came back later that summer and added some valuable experience to his CV. You can read about his experience here.
For me, being able to find ways to reach out and have a positive impact on individuals is hugely important. It’s so fulfilling to just sit down and teach somebody something, or even just watch somebody progressively get better at their job. It’s no surprise then that I find myself working at a company with an ethos that demands the same.
Everyone at Web Apps shares a similar mind-set, and a commitment to improving themselves and those around them. Craig explained the need for this unity of purpose in a lecture he gave at Salford University, entitled The Company You Keep.
Companies, Craig explains, are selective groups. You normally go through interview stages to ensure you have the right skills and personality to match. Often, the culture of a company can inadvertently trend towards hiring people with the same sorts of personalities and interests; not to a weird Attack of the Clones extent, but more at a basic level where their values are aligned.
People tend to hire themselves. In larger companies, this approach is unreliable at best. As the ‘corporate DNA‘ is replicated, its fidelity continues to decrease on each iteration. At Web Apps, codifying our ethos and making it a focal point of our recruitment process has ensured that we continue to collect around our shared goals. You could say we only make copies from our master template.
As part of a collective that all have a similar ethos and approach, we can be afforded a high level of autonomy, and that autonomy is what makes it a great place to work (Craig’s lecture goes into this in much more depth, but I don’t want to digress too wildly, so go check it out for yourself).
In Craig’s speech, he explains that he never wanted to be a Chief Exec., and was quite happy just being a missionary. In the end, though, it isn’t what Craig does that matters, it’s why he does it – it’s why we all do it – surely there’s no higher goal than to help each other grow?
Keeping company with the people who share your ethos – your ‘why’ – is the best thing you can do to make yourself more successful at what you do, and ultimately, make it worthwhile turning up to work each day.