I’m about to turn into a female version of David Brent aren’t I? And we’ve got guitars in the house. Oh god.
This is a working environment like no other. Myself, our live-in cleaner Anna, the dog Chloe and the two cats Linus and Comet are the only permanent fixtures here. The rest of our residents are volunteers, workawayers, who will be passing through for a week, a few weeks or maybe a month at a time contributing their time and skills to the Co-Creative House.
It’s going to be a fascinating social experiment and a huge learning curve for me. To start penning some thoughts down I reflected on my own experiences of work culture Heaven and Hell.
I know I bang on about it, but it’s true – L’Oréal was career heaven.
I expected a Devil Wears Prada type of environment where I’d feel like a Scouse Ugly Betty but what I got was completely the opposite, in fact, it is the least bitchiest place I’ve ever worked. It no doubt has something to do with the fact that I had an incredible team to work with, but actually, I felt like I had friends on every one of our seven floors in that Hammersmith high-rise.
It was mostly female, but more and more men were being recruited and I’d heard a rumour that the average age was 27. It was a youthful, exciting environment that encouraged healthy competition. Most of the Directors were approachable and networking was a big focus, because at the end of the day, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. And we had a constant flow of interesting education opportunities at our fingertips to keep our brains in gear.
I learned so much in those four years about business psychology and how to run a business successfully.
People would work long hours and always go above and beyond in their roles, not because they felt like they had to, but because they genuinely wanted to. Why? Because they believed in the company and the company believed in them.
The rewards were one thing – we had a free bar event every month which our brands would take it in turn to host and once a year we’d be taken on a three-day conference somewhere abroad. Then there was the exciting, glamorous events we’d attend and our over the top Christmas parties with special appearances from celebrities like Frieda Pinto, Cheryl Cole and, er, Rylan Clark. Then to accompany the grand gestures, there were the little weekly ‘presents’ on our desks. Whether it was a Maybelline mascara, a cookie in the shape of Lancôme’s La Vie Est Belle bottle, or a Garnier suncream, these little gestures would start everybody’s day off feeling appreciated for what they do.
But that was nothing compared to how the place was run.
We were empowered to take initiative and make decisions, and giving us this responsibility made us want to prove our worth. Youth, culture and learnings from the outside world were all embraced and hierarchy was disassembled. People could really be themselves; wear what they want and speak up. There was no such thing as a bad idea; sometimes they worked, sometimes they didn’t, but no matter what happened, valuable lessons were learned by all.
Give your employees the opportunity and encouragement to grow and the business will grow too.
The Bad & The Ugly
Again no secret to anybody who knows me, Princes Ltd. taught me everything I need to know about how not to run a business.
The mood in that building was akin to a morgue and it didn’t take a genius to work out why. After doing an entire thirty minute presentation of my PESTLE analysis on the fruit market for my interview, I eagerly awaited feedback from the recruitment agency. It had taken me a whole two-weeks of non-stop research to prepare for, so I was looking for something a little bit more constructive than what I got….
You didn’t wear a blazer and you had your nose stud in, but you’ve got the job.
The dress code in that place was to be suited and booted in nothing but blue, black or grey. Men weren’t allowed to wear brown belts and they either started working there with a beard, or were clean-shaven because stubble was not permitted. In fact I think I remember somebody getting sent home for having stubble, I kid you not.
The hierarchy there was unbelievable, these white middle-aged men would prance around the fifth floor in their suits getting paid no doubt treble figures for running a sinking ship that refused to change with the times. It took them seven years to get a plastic pot through the new product development process for god’s sake, although no wonder considering it involved a man marching around the sixth floor with a piece of paper for various people to sign with their approval.
Praise was unheard of but disciplines were often, if you showed even a tiny bit of imagination and you’d be slammed back down to their drab reality with a firm don’t even go there, we’ve tried it before. The office was silent and the misery in every mind was palpable. Directors and managers sat on their high horses patronising staff as if they’d just climbed out of their mother’s vagina and had no clue about how the world worked.
It was hell, total and utter hell.
You will never work in a place like this again. It’s brilliant. Fact.
And you’ll never have another boss like me, someone who’s basically a chilled-out entertainer
When personalities come together it’s like a chemical reaction and especially when we’re working and living under one roof together, it’s critical we get the balance right.
The importance of a CV full of qualifications pales in comparison to a bucket load of passion and a positive attitude – for me that’s where real success lies. So while we may be looking for specialist skills in the future for Global Groove Life, we’ll be looking for people who share the same ethos and will put the effort in to learn, laugh and love.
It’s also really important to note that, as I am for now, these people are volunteers and so while they’ve agreed to donate their time and efforts to the brand, they also want to get something out of it for them and see the city. That means flexibility and understanding. It’ll need one-to-one attention to make sure your aligning their needs with that of the business, then everybody is happy.
And of course for me personally, it’s going to acquire a deliberate effort to balance my various facets which is going to be a challenge at times.
I’ll no longer be activating work mode, delving into the serious facet and distancing myself from colleagues with a protective layer of film suffocating my personality in the hope of gaining their respect. I’ll also have to concentrate on dimming down the undomesticated moron facet – it won’t look very good if the boss puts glass bowls in the oven, loses the dog or always locks herself out.
But whatever it will be and no matter how testing at times, I’m very excited to Brent up.