I realized a while ago, that on my blog I have done only sporadic updates on how things are evolving with my own startup, GenieBelt. Too bad, because things have been more than normally exciting especially the last one and a half year, and the journey so far is a good story of persistence and ambition, which I think startup interested people can learn from. (more…)
One and a half year ago we/JUST EAT decided to move forward more ambitiously with the JUST EAT Academy. The objective is to supplement the valuable on-the-job training with more structured learning and development. In practice, the set-up has been running for less than a year, and there is plenty more to do, but from my perspective we can already see some really good results, e.g.
- Most of the managers in JUST EAT have now been through our Management Assessment Centre (“MAC”). This means that as a supplement to their line manager’s view on their performance and development needs, then we have a structured, 360 degree view on the person from many of the traditional management/leader dimensions, e.g. communication skills, presentation skills, collaboration skills, analytical skills, etc. The MAC is definitely not the final truth, and the line managers qualitative view is still key, but it all adds up to a better understanding of what the manager need to do to develop her- or himself. It is challenging to be a manager in a fast growing company, so if JUST EAT can support with a few tools then great.
- Together with an external agency, we have developed a really good sales module called “Sweet & Sour”. A lot of sales reps and managers have already been through this program, and it is getting very good reviews. The important thing now of course, is to make sure the learning’s are actually been put into use when the participants come back home, so that is a key focus area for the sales managers.
- We have a lot of people in JUST EAT, who have their first management job, or which have the biggest management challenge they have ever had, so a course in basic management skills can come in handy. We have therefore put together a course ("JUST about people"), where the participants goes through a catalogue of the fundamental management tools, and we have run this course for the first time some weeks ago.
Once in a while the JUST EAT Exec Team (aka "ET") goes off-site a couple of days to have enough peace and trancquility to reflect on where we are as a company. This week we met up in a summerhouse North of Copenhagen. Before we went to the summer house we had time to stop by at Rasmus' house so the UK based guys could see how we live over here in Welfare Denmark - the picture documents it is all nice and relaxing. Afterwards we did a bit of slot racing, since we always need some competition to keep the team building going. As usual we were all accusing each other of cheating, but victory in the end was just and fair -;) Many things were on the agenda, but that is obviously a bit difficult to publish here, so instead you get a picture of the view form the summerhouse.
The biggest event of the year in JUST EAT is without any comparison our annual World Party. The event was first tested some years ago and has since changed a lot as our company has changed, but one thing has always been at the centre of the concept: fun and socialising. And for sure, that was also at the centre stage of the World Party we had last week at a venue outside of London. There is no need to spend a lot of words on the event, I will instead try to capture part of the atmosphere with a series of pictures, enjoy - we did. But if you only have 8 minutes available, then go straight to this heavily cut down video of traditional JUST EAT Got Talent Show, it was a lot more fun than what you can see here, but it might give some feeling for the evening: JUST EAT 2012 Got Talent Show (NB: there are also hundreds of pictures on facebook page following the event if you can access the FB group). Nearly 400 people from all over the World came to Berkshire, UK, ready to get started all dressed in fashionable JUST EAT t-shirts: First a presentation on what is going on overall with the company, people came to have fun, so we spend less than an hour on that, here I am showing some creative sizzle the marketing guys has dreamed up: We quickly moved on to the team events, we like to do competitions, so everybody were send out with their teams to solve all kinds of missions, here some of the teams: Some people (the Celts) took it all more relaxed: And others put in an effort and won: Then we "nearly all" did Little Fish, Big Fish, that was pretty hilarious, but we didn't get the World Record for most people dancing in sync because 100 people decided it was better to sit outside and enjoy the 25c with a cold beer (grrrr ...): But then our very own Mr Beat Box got the Jam back: We also tried to see if we could get some other official Guinness Books of World Records, and we succeeded (not sure how long those very important records will last, but we made it!). One record was in keeping as many balloons as possible flying for 1 minute: And one in undressing 10 t-shirts as quickly as possible, another very important and high profile sport: Last couple of years we have given each country a cottage, where they could serve delicacies from their home countries of both solid and liquid nature, this year we gave each country a tent, and combined with fantastic weather (25c in the UK in May is not that common!) people's mood quickly went from great to stellar, some examples: And then the highlight of the evening, the JUST EAT 2012 Got Talent Show (check link for video). First the intro with Ras on Sax and some big pretender: UK marketing doing Bollywood dancing: Brazilian samba: Who says Finance can't dance: UK Sales doing the Haka: And several others, but the winners were - the Danes singing about how they are treated as cash cows, hmm think about that for a second: We also had the traditional JUST EAT Awards for best of this and that (congrats to Spain, Norway, UK, Switzerland and Sebastien), and Mr. Buttress got a kiss and a piggy bank: And after that no more team building or award ceremonies, JUST PARTY: Thanks to all JUST EAT'ers for a great World Party - see you all plus a lot more again next year. NB: special thanks to Leah, Mike and Anne for getting everything organised so briliantly, especially the weather really impressed me.
Yesterday, I was in Holland where I did a Q&A session with the Dutch team. Every once in a while I like to meet my colleagues locally the countries, where the local teams has the opportunity to ask all kinds of questions, and I have the opportunity to hear how they view the world and explain what direction Just-Eat is going. It is interesting for me to see what aspects are being brought up, and even though there always are some classics then there are some surprises here and there. One of the issues we spend some time on yesterday was "professionalism". Several people asked questions that were related to getting more structure & planning, more defined roles & responsibilities, better coaching & training, etc., i.e. all the stuff you would expect from a professional company. Any successful, high-growth company goes through the different phases from idea/concept, early start-up, early growth, etc., and the trick is to get it right in each of the phases which are often very different from previous phases. And if a company doesn't adjust quickly enough to a new phase (often pro-actively pushing into the next phase), then coming to the next level is only more difficult, if not impossible. The challenge is that people also need to change. Some people are brilliant in one phase, but out of their depth (or just not motivated) in the other phases. A few can actually master many phases, extremely few work well in all phases. Nothing new here, this has been part of the technology and management literature for many decades, but the interesting thing is that it is still so difficult to get right, and the key reason for this is that "people" don't get it. Or rather; they might understand to some extent, but they are not actually taking the full consequence. In Just-Eat, one of the challenges we have is that we want our culture to represent both professionalism as well as entrepreneurialism. Entrepreneurialism I believe is about energy, willingness to take risks and mental flexibility. Key elements of professionalism is for me about applying the necessary levels of intelligence and structure. Some people believe the two things are not compatible. That is absolutely not true! It gets harder as a company grows, absolutely, but if you roll over and surrender to one view then it only gets worse. Of course sometimes the two will clash, but at a closer look it happens less often than what we normally would think. Sometimes people that are out of their depths will complain about things no longer being entrepreneurial enough, and things are now "corporate and bureaucratic". Likewise, sometimes some would say it is difficult because a situation is not handled professionally enough, "more time/analysis/structure/money" is needed, but maybe the problem is difficulty in getting on with fixing the problem, and taking a bit of calculated risks ("sometimes" is the key word here ...). In many cases where I hear one of the two sides it is more excuses than real problems. Yes, it is tough sometimes to get it right, and I don't always have the ultimate silver bullet either, but I am certain that the two sides can live together in healthy competition. When building high growth companies it is the right thing to balance the two. The right mix will change over time, but they both need to be there. Those that believe professionalism is equal to bureaucracy lose out on major opportunities. At the personal level, I think it is important for all who loves to participate in building and growing businesses, that you do as was stated across the Apollo Temple in Delphi: "know thyself". Understand what part of company building you are good at, and motivated by. Don't fool your self into believing you are great in all phases. And be happy to leave the organisation the day you can see things are no longer good for you - and move on without moaning about how the company will now be destroyed and everything was better in the old days. You could of course be right, but the future progress of the company (or lack of) will typically tell the story. Get the balance right in your culture for each phase, and I promise you have one of the most important things in place when building and growing a company. Very banal in theory, very difficult in practice.
A couple of weeks ago we spend some days in a summerhouse in Denmark working on adjusting and fine tuning our long term plan and vision. As always spirits were high, and witty/wacky banter took over many discussions - especially when Rasmus and I served the foreigners a bit of Danish breakfast.