In follow up to our July Oystercatchers Club Event, Suki has been asked to share her thoughts on the shared values economy, its ability to build profit and the values she holds dear…
My view? For senior business leaders there is no dichotomy between doing good and running a successful operation. Some of the world’s most successful companies and brands, e.g. M&S (Plan A), Unilever and Dove have baked corporate social responsibility into their company DNA to drive benefits.
Here are three values which I use in building my own business:
I come from a long line of entrepreneurs and firmly instilled in me is that, to misquote Donne, no-one is an island. It’s common sense: treat people well and you are repaid in buckets. It’s the same in business.
At Oystercatchers, we have a team of bright, inspiring talent. I believe as CEO it’s my responsibility to equip these wonderful people with confidence, courage and inspire their curious minds. The senior management and I make sure they have the knowledge and skills they need to do their jobs well, then we get out of their way and let them get on with their role. The caveat: I am always there if things crash. My role is to be ‘chief storyteller and chief cheerleader’, a phrase I have taken from Ronan Dunne CEO, Telefonica/O2. I try and achieve this across all aspects of my business.
I encourage everyone to be entrepreneurs and have passion and interests in and out of work. Oystercatchers raise a significant amount for Macmillan Cancer Support, through an annual industry ‘bake off’/coffee morning and Burns Night Supper, everyone takes part. I encourage my partners to become charity trustees to use skills we’ve learnt to help others. I believe that business can learn a lot from charities – we can always do more with less than we think we need. Richard Robinson sits on the Board of the Ideas Foundation (helping disadvantaged inner city children skill up for jobs in the creative industry), while I’m trustee for Macmillan Cancer Support and Touraid (tackling child poverty in developing countries).
The result: we have a thriving seven year old business with annual turnover growing threefold, expanding into the US, Asia/Pacific and some of the most iconic clients in the world.
Put people’s wishes first
A focus on “good” is essential if we want to attract the best of the millennial generation into industry. Millennials are proactively choosing companies that do good for society and shunning those that don’t. At our debate, Unilever’s Karen Hamilton, VP Sustainable Business, said, “Millennials are twice as interested as Generation X in products that offer sustainability benefits. If we’re looking at our future markets we’re seeing a move away from cynicism.”
My own children, Jaz 17 and Sam 16, are passionately involved in raising funds for young children in Kenya. Over the past five years they have both raised money, sent bikes, spent time teaching at a school and supported the inspiring work of an orphanage in Nakuru. Each time they come home humbled by how little it takes to make a difference and buzzing with energy to change the world.
Gender equality isn’t just good for women – it’s good for business and business is getting wise. The CBI has appointed its first-ever female Director-General. The Institute of Directors has its first-ever female Chairman. Both men and women can work flexible hours. We can work from home, the office, a café and we have a hot-desking environment so we can learn and share.
I was lucky enough to attend the 2015 International Festival of Creativity at Cannes (Adland’s equivalent to the Oscars) where women, as a focus, carried a hard hitting agenda through the week. A gamete of subjects were addressed from Grand Prix campaign winners P&G and theirAlways #LikeaGirl campaign encouraging girls everywhere to always keep their confidence. The Glass Lion recognised gender inequality and prejudice was handsomely tackled by P&G for its remarkable Touch the Pickle campaign designed to address the taboo subject of menstruation in India. P&G is of course, the world’s biggest advertiser.
I encourage people to be fearless and think beyond the traditional, “norm” for commercial success. I am filled with pride that we can support Oystercatchers fulfil their passions. This year we have seen the launch of a new bakery business, a comedienne, not to mention an English wine and a new tea business.
I honestly believe that embracing “Force for Good” is very much in all our best interests. We’ve got to get behind it, live it and mean it. I try to. Do you?