Growth firms are keeping IP in the business through shared vision, values and mentoring, writes Alex Evans, Programme Director of the National Business Awards

One of the greatest challenges facing entrepreneurs as the business grows is sustaining a creative culture without inspiring entrepreneurial employees to take good ideas out of the business. The example set by the founder in many cases is to do just that so how can that ambition and creativity be harnessed?

Speaking at a recent Venture Day organised by Cranfield School of Management, Richard Anson, founder of social commerce specialist Reevoo , said that it’s important to engage people in the values of an organisation to instil loyalty. “CEOs often incorporate values into announcements about the business to make them more meaningful,” he observed.

Buying in to values

Many fast-growing businesses have realised the need for valued people to buy into the company’s values and founding principles. Sustainability and CSR principles are being embedded into SME’s growth plans and innovative employees are being engaged by contributing to them. Waste management firm Alex Smiles, for example, was selected as a finalist for last year’s ICAEW Sustainability Award for how it recognises those helping to increase commercial success through sustainability initiatives – from its own Champagne Awards to press publicity.

Unruly Media, winner of the BlackBerry Growth Strategy of the Year in 2011, engages staff in local community projects, such as volunteering at schools – part of a company culture that helped it to rank 27th in the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies to Work For. But it’s investment in talent is what will drive sustainable growth, according to its Co-founder and COO, Sarah Wood.

“Unruly is a strident meritocracy, where anyone with great ideas, a positive attitude and the determination to get things done can influence decision making and have an impact on the business and its future growth,” she explains. “It has helped us to recruit an extremely talented workforce, which unsurprisingly delivers awesome results for clients.”

A broader vision beyond profitable growth is helping Ella’s Kitchen to recruit and retain talent according to founder Paul Lindley – named Entrepreneur of the Year in 2011. “Our team are enthused by the sense of purpose that we have, which is not about making as much money as quickly as possible but is set out in our vision to improve the relationship children have with their food so that they develop healthy habits that will last their lifetime,” he explains. “Our mission and 5 year plan feed off this, with goals of achieving 1 billion of our Tiny Tummy touch Points by November 2017. Every member of the team has a role to play in achieving this goal.”


Shortlist Media, Santander SME of the Year in 2011, nurtured what it calls ‘insurgent innovation’ to launch its hugely successful second title - Stylist magazine. The foundations for its growth are also investing in talent – whether it’s turning a graduate trainee into an award-winning Associate Editor or offering a company share scheme.

Award-winning data centre firm TelecityGroup also offers a Sharesave Scheme, and a monthly award scheme to recognising those that have demonstrated outstanding levels of service, innovation or teamwork. Mike Tobin, CEO of TelecityGroup and a finalist for Entrepreneur of the Year in 2011, encourages an entrepreneurial approach by devolving responsibility to all of his country managers.

“The US writer Ralph Nadar said that ‘The job of a leader today is not to create followers, it is to create more leaders’ and that enshrines my own leadership vision,” says Mike. “To instil loyalty I encourage an entrepreneurial approach by challenging my team – for example holding innovative management meetings from polar bear tracking in the Arctic to shark diving in Scotland – to remove the fear of failure.”

Shared leadership

Entrepreneurial owners seeing the greatest success are those that value the individual and involve them in the strategic direction of the business. “We are honest with colleagues on the good and the bad that happens in the business, and we share the vision of where we are going and what we are trying to achieve at every level,” says Richard North, CEO of industry-leading toy design and marketing firm Wow! Stuff.

Having won numerous accolades – including the Orange Innovation Award in 2010 – Richard believes that recognition helps to engage talent in the business. “We are recognized for Innovation above all else,” he says. “This by its very nature garners much PR and allows the teams to feel proud of what we are achieving or about to achieve.”

Corporate pride, not just in being part of a winning team but one recognised as industry-leading, ties talent to a business while inspiring people to achieve greater success - together.

Shortlisting has begun for the National Business Awards 2012, with finalists due to be announced for categories including Entrepreneur of the Year on 14th August. Visit www.nationalbusinessawards.co.uk for information about last year’s winners and finalists. To find out more about the Ceremony, and how to reserve places, call the NBA Award Team on 0207 234 8755