At The Coaching Institute (TCI), women were recently treated to a “we love women day”. The male staff dressed up, gave out chocolates, made coffee and basically spent the day pampering their female colleagues.
For many of us, the ‘we love women day’ may seem utterly foreign. But for staff at TCI it was another way to promote a culture that keeps employees and clients motivated, excited and pursuing what founder and CEO Sharon Pearson believes should be “a dream” rather than just a job.
Pearson and her staff regularly deliver random and sporadic acts of kindness to each other — what they refer to as a ‘WOW’. These WOWs can be both small and significant — everything from leaving a couple of chocolate bars on a desk to sending in an interior designer to completely revamp an office overnight. They do random group hugs, stop in the foyer to sit together on a ‘throne’, and like to ‘bomb’ each other with sudden applause and gifts of appreciation. Pearson runs a weekly WOW meeting on a Monday morning and even has a ‘Department of WOW’ to ensure the acts of kindness keep coming.
She also encourages everyone to bring their ‘freak’ to the office and has banned the colour beige. Indeed, Pearson makes it her personal duty to keep the ‘corporate factor’ well and truly out of the business she founded 11 years ago. One of most negative comments she says a staff member can make is to declare something’s, ‘a little beige.’
“It takes us two weeks to de-corporatise someone in our company,” Pearson proudly told She Business’ Fearless event in Sydney last week. “We might call it the ‘get the pole out of your arse’ training … We’ve been corporatised to death. We are done being told how to corporatise.”
The result is retaining great staff — with a quit rate of just 2%, compared with the industry average of 25-30%. It also creates a remarkably diverse team. As Pearson told me after her speech, she doesn’t have to intentionally hire for diversity, it happens organically through the culture they have created.
“We’re after the ‘give a crap market’. We run our business really caring about our culture. And our market is based on our culture.”
And while it may be fun at the office, she says it’s still productive.
“It looks rock and roll, but behind the scenes there are mechanisms in place to make us accountable,” Pearson said.
That includes 90-day performance reviews where clear goals are established for the next time period. Nobody is surprised during such a review; if they are, then Pearson says the business has failed them.
Pearson founded TCI as a means to make a difference through personal development. Since then, the business has gone on to train more than 4000 people on business coaching across the world.
Her speech at Fearless — in front of a roomful of female business owners — received a standing ovation, and offered some valuable insights to those growing a business and building a team.
She said her business is generating significant revenue on Facebook and notes that with technology “anyone can now open a business”. However, not everyone can earn great clients. Meanwhile, she said the aim to ‘do things differently’ — both for employees and for clients — has been key to the growth of the business.
“We’re big on the ‘disruption’ not the ‘better than’,” she said. “We don’t aim to be ‘better than’ our competitors. We spend a whole lot of time going to a different market … The moment you’re in a crowded market, people will shop for you on price. We look to disrupt, wherever the crowds are, we go somewhere else.”
Pearson advised business owners to create their own market space and to start measuring all the different ways that cause revenue. She said the best way to think about a business is through phrases like, ‘we’re different’, ‘we’re the only’, and ‘we’re the most’.
“Persist with your vision,” she said. “If this business isn’t your dream then go and do something else because it’s just too fucking hard.”
This article first appeared on Women’s Agenda.