Creating a great place to work is the best business investment decision you could ever make – Interview with Henry Stewart


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Intelius volunteers pose for a photo at Hopelink Food Bank

Creative Commons License photo credit: InteliusGal

Following on from my interview last month, What makes first direct so successful: Interview with their new CEO Mark Mullen, today I am excited to introduce you to Henry Stewart, the CEO of Happy Ltd, the umbrella training organisation that delivers IT, Management, and Personal Development Training. They’ve won lots of awards, which you can check out here. Their biggest award was when The Financial Times rated Happy as one of the top 2 places to work in the entire UK economy. This was the result of their annual Best Workplaces award, organised with the Great Place to Work Institute.

This interview makes up number sixteen in the series of interviews with business leaders in the ‘customer’ space, leading authors, thought leaders and general all round good guys and gals, that I think that you will find interesting and helpful in growing your businesses.

The rationale for the interview is that Henry has just published a new book: The Happy Manifesto that you can get on Amazon here.

The Happy Manifesto

Below are some highlights from our interview:

  • The book cover was chosen by popular vote of the 600 people that downloaded it from the Happy website
  • They were also able to crowdsource the funding of its publishing via advanced buying from those people too. Take note all you budding authors!
  • The book is about changing the world by creating better places to work
  • Why we should move away from a command and control way of working to a more personal and engaged approach
  • A recent opinion poll showed that only 2% of people come to work to just pay the bills and that over 90% of people come to work to feel good about themselves
  • Over a 25 year period, research has shown that investing in companies that create great places to work can generate a 2 1/2 times better return than if you invested in the general market.
  • That’s why creating a great place to work is a sound financial investment decision
  • Why Maverick by Ricardo Semler is one of the best business books ever written and a must read
  • The Happy Manifesto is a 10-point manifesto (see below)
  • It’s not easy to implement but it’s easier to run a business this way than any other.
  • One of the things that it does is take away a lot of the normal stress of running a business
  • Not everyone that manages should be managing
  • We should choose managers based on their ability to manage not their tenure or level of core or technical skill
  • Creating a better place to work doesn’t always have to start from the top. It can start at a department, location, unit or, even, small team level
  • Implementing this approach has positive effects on customer service, retention and innovation in business
  • You know when someone works in a great place when you talk to them on the phone. You can hear it in their voice
  • Even in economically uncertain times, creating a great place to work could be your best and most cost effective route to success, growth and better service

Here’s a brief summary of the 10 points of The Happy Manifesto

  1. Trust your people – Step out of approval. Instead, pre-approve and focus on supporting your people.
  2. Make your people feel good – Make this the focus of management.
  3. Give freedom within clear guidelines – People want to know what is expected of them. But they want freedom to find the best way to achieve their goals.
  4. Be open and transparent – More information means more people can take responsibility.
  5. Recruit for attitude, train for skill – Instead of qualifications and experience, recruit on attitude and potential ability.
  6. Celebrate mistakes – Create a truly no-blame culture.
  7. Community: create mutual benefit – Have a positive impact on the world and build your organisation too.
  8. Love work, get a life – The world, and your job, needs you well rested, well nourished and well supported.
  9. Select managers who are good at managing – Make sure your people are supported by somebody who is good at doing that, and find other routes for those whose strengths lie elsewhere. Even better, allow people to choose their own managers.
  10. Play to your strengths – Make sure your people spend most of their time doing what they are best at.

We talked about a lot more in the interview so do take the time to listen to it and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

henry stewart happy

In early 1987, Henry Stewart was finance officer for The News on Sunday, a left-wing tabloid newspaper that successfully raised £6.5m from trade unions and Labour local authority pension funds. Six weeks after launch, the publication was bankrupt.

“The problem was not the talent or dedication of the people,” Henry says. “It was the working environment. We weren’t trusted, there was a strong ‘blame’ culture and we weren’t given the freedom to do our jobs. As a result, is was nearly impossible to get anything done”.

Determined to learn from this, he set up Happy Computers in his back room a year later. From a combination of experience, revaluation counselling and a few helpful tips from Richard Semler’s ‘Maverick’ book, he drew together the key principles of training and work that continue to form the backbone of Happy today.

As Happy Computers continued to grow it gained respect and recognition by the industry. Henry realised that in creating a great place to work, there was a new opportunity to tell other organisations how they also could create a similar working environment. Happy became a brand, to encompass not just IT training, but management, customer service and personal development.

In 2009, Henry was listed as one of the top 50 most influential business thinkers in the world by the Guru Radar of thinkers.

Outside of Happy, he lives in Stoke Newington, is Chair of Governors of his local comprehensive school and enjoys Saturday mornings sipping hot chocolate in Clissold Park cafe.

A keen cyclist, in July 2008 and 2010 he cycled the Etape, the public stage of the Tour de France – consisting of 105 miles through the highest mountains of the Pyrenees. Read the full story

If you want to to talk to Henry on anything you’ve read, contact him. You can also follow Henry on Twitter @happyhenry.

Henry has just launched a new venture called Learnfizz, that all about helping find, share and organise the best free learning on the web.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


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