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How Harris & Hoole sustains its company culture during rapid expansion

Posted by Brad Palmer | 4 min read

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This is a transcript of a live Leadership Conversation between Brad Palmer, CEO and cofounder of Jostle Corporation and Nick Tolley, CEO and founder of Harris + Hoole. This is part 3 of a 3-part series.

Brad: You talked a bit about the definition and process around culture, but once that is all done it still has to become something that is alive and genuine.

Nick: Yeah, and I think there is a magic ingredient there that I am not quite entirely sure what it is. But over and above this is myself, and my team, trying to live those values and lead by example. It is really amazing how much an organization sucks up the behaviors of the leader.

I didn’t quite appreciate this until I started this business. You can very easily see this when you are having a bit of a crap day, and you are a little bit downbeat. It is infectious. Very, very infectious. It not only affects your team, it also affects the customer experience. Similarly, if you come in positively inclined, or happily optimistic, for whatever the reason, that is also very infectious and obviously beneficial to the business. And I think that contributes directly to how you impact values and behaviors.

Brad: I totally agree. I think the energy and the spirit of the senior leaders and particularly the CEO is clearly really important. To me the other thing that is really a big part of is the sharing, the exampling, the recognition of the little examples of that culture being lived, right? The reinforcement part.

Nick: Yes, yes of course.

Brad: Spotting the really genuine places where ‘our culture just happened, that is cool’ and putting a little frame around it in simple genuine ways that people can see it, and recognize it, and build on it.

Nick: Yes.

Brad: That’s got to be really important if you start building out store after store and they are all disconnected from each other.

Nick: Well that is very true. We seek to sort of tackle that disconnection in a couple of ways. Firstly, we are growing the business in geographic clusters. So if you are working in an individual shop, you don’t feel like one of many, but part of a group of about ten. These shops feel connected and close to each other. They help each other out when people go on holidays, or are sick, or whatever. This creates a real camaraderie within the cluster, which is something we are very keen to build.

Brad: That’s brilliant.

Nick: That close connection between colleagues it is something that we are really committed to retaining. So that geographic cluster is one way we are looking to do that. But the other way, which I had been thinking about before the business even started, which is this whole idea of using technology to try and bring everyone as close together as possible, which is obviously where and how and why we found ourselves talking to you.

The whole idea that you could actually use something like an intranet of sorts, but with strong social networking type features added – how important that was for bringing people together.

Those are the two prongs to our overall approach to avoiding disconnection as we grow bigger.

Brad: Yeah, you set finding a digital platform to connect yourselves as a priority remarkably early in your business, and not only that but as a serious priority, right?

Nick: Absolutely, because we knew we were going to have a business that was spread out geographically over some distance, but we sort of wanted people to feel like they were connected in a very real way. So it was an obvious thing to find something very early on to overcome that barrier.

Brad: For sure. And I think we bring you a blend of things that hopefully can really do that. To me the NEWS view, and ability to get small local stories of success, and of your values happening – that’s got to be so powerful for growing the organization together.

Nick: Oh, for sure. You know the sort of stuff we might throw up in a Shout-Out, or in a NEWS article – all of those things- they just represent such profound opportunities for us to be living and celebrating our values. It is an obvious thing for us to be doing.

Brad: Nice. As you exercise our platform in that way, if you see things that are deficient, or missing, or that can be improved, do speak up. Actually Danielle has been super great to interact with in that regard. Those are the sorts of user interactions that make our platform great, for sure.

Nick: Yeah I know. Danielle is really on the money there and I know that she sees it very much as a partnership, as a relationship. As we take things forward, I don’t think she will ever hesitate dropping you guys a line, for sure.

Brad: Wonderful. One thing that is so delightful about our business, is that we attract companies like yours. Our work is so fun because we are always interacting with these culturally intensive, vibrant companies.

Nick: That is very cool, very cool.

About Nick Tolley:

Nick Tolley is an entrepreneur and cofounder of the Harris+Hoole and Taylor St Baristas coffee shops, which he started with his siblings Andrew and Laura to bring the high-quality coffee they were used to at home in Sydney to the UK.

About Harris + Hoole:

Harris + Hoole is an artisan coffee shop venture founded by siblings Nick, Andrew, and Laura Tolley (the founders of Taylor St Baristas) in 2012. It aims to set a new standard in high street coffee, using some of the latest artisanal barista techniques and technology to ensure maximum flavour and quality. We've captured the Harris + Hoole Jostle journey in a case study.

About Leadership Conversations:

Our day job at Jostle is creating a platform that helps leaders engage employees, drive culture, and catalyze collaboration. Through this Leadership Conversations series we seek out top people-oriented leaders to explore these topics with us. If you know someone we should include in this series, please contact us at leaders@jostle.me.

 


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