How brand values helped me build a £20m business
Having scaled rapidly, Loaf founder Charlie Marshall details the initiatives he uses to keep his furniture firm on track including Dickiepedia and Mobbles
Name: Charlie Marshall
Started in: December 2008 ( re-branded from The Sleep Room in 2012)
Company description: Laid-back furniture and squishy stuff
Describe your start-up barrier?
We’ve recently made the transition from a small-sized business to a medium one. The challenge has been to work out how to remain true to our brand values and define our company culture.
Our shared ethos is very clear now and impacts all facets of the business including the happiness of our team, how we design our products and how we relate to our customers.
What steps did you take to maintain your brand values through fast-growth?
- Involved everyone. The first thing we did was to get as many people as possible in the company involved. We sat all of our heads of departments around the table to create what we call our Loafers Guide. It’s our company tome that outlines our approach to absolutely everything to do with employment.
- Invested in training. We invested in training and employed a Head of Schooling especially for the job. We developed our Degree in Loafing that all employees have to take – it’s a training tool that gets everyone up to speed on how the business works, what our brand values are, what’s special about our products and how we treat our customers.
- Communicated regularly. With over 65 employees it’s important that we’re all communicating with each other regularly. To make this easier we set up an intranet called Dickiepedia (Dickie is the name of the little yellow bird on our logo and mascot). We share important stuff that’s happening, who’s saying what on social media and talk about lots of other things going on in the company.
- Met up bi-monthly. We decided to hold a bi-monthly get-together called a ‘Mobble’. It’s held after office hours and gives the opportunity for us to come together to share and celebrate our successes and hear what everyone’s up to – and we have a good time doing it. I feel proud to see all of these amazing people under one roof, with a team double the size of what it was a year ago. The great atmosphere at the Mobbles is a marker that everything within the company is synching well and that our whole loafing ethos is running throughout the business.
- Defined core values. We defined our Cor! Values aka core values. Number one on the list is that we do anything to make our customers go “Cor”! We started with 40 values and whittled the final list down to nine – keeping it short, memorable and manageable. They are our bedrock which we follow and use to help make all our decisions. They also help us to hire the right kinds of people.
What was the outcome?
Our staff are happier, have a clearer idea of where the business is going and understand how they fit into that vision. And we also hire better as a result of having a very clear ethos.
Having already experienced and found solutions to these growing pains we’ve created a solid foundation for our next phase of growth. We’re launching our first physical retail space this autumn in London and the launch will be much, much easier now that we have a clear structure for recruiting people to pass on the ‘magic' to our precious customers.
What three questions should other businesses ask themselves when dealing with “growing pains”?
1. What is it you’re trying to achieve as a business? Defining your overall mission statement is the hard part. It’s very helpful to write it down in one single sentence and in the long run it will enable you to focus.
2. What are your brand’s core values? Once they’re in place, live by them and there should be no compromise in any shape or form.
3. What are the actual problems that you think you’re facing as a small or medium- sized business? Once you have a clear idea of what these are you can then tackle them using your codified set of guidelines.
What one piece of advice should entrepreneurs take on board?
Once you’ve done all of the above it’s only worthwhile if you are 110% committed. There’s absolutely no point in having a core value if you don’t uphold it.
Is there anything you would do differently?
I’ve made lots of mistakes but at the time I thought I was doing the right thing. I tried to push the business forward when we didn’t have the right people on board yet. I’ve learnt to invest in people before we’ve needed them and also to hire people better than myself.