Article by Mike Jennings:

I have been running my family business now for nearly 20 years. We own and rent commercial premises to small businesses in Oxfordshire.

It is profitable, and people consider me a success. But I don’t feel that building a financially successful business makes me a success in my life. These people stoke my ego, which I dislike, but it does not fill me with pride. Success to me comes from what I can do for others, and in particular my team.

So a few years ago I began to consider what I could do to help the 12 members of my team.

I believe that building relationships is the foundation of any good service business, and so I had always employed people who were friendly, and specifically I have never employed anyone who has experience in the property business.

“My team are all lovely people. I only take on lovely people. I don’t take on people that have experience in the property industry as they’ve been tainted by the belief that the property is the value in the business and actually the value is the people.”

Then I established a series of values, my values, which would determine how we behave towards others. These are: courtesy, fairness, openness & honesty, being accommodating, commitment to service, and trust.

Establishing values is not enough on its own. You have to embed them in your heart. You have to live them. Values establish a broad set of ideas around which staff can make decisions, and when staff feel empowered to make decisions, then they start to grow in confidence and self-belief, and that is the prize.

My view is that it must be possible for every member of my team (even the cleaners and maintenance guys) to be able to show a prospective tenant around an empty property and do the deal to let that property. This has not yet happened, but I am ever hopeful.

We have monthly team meetings where we talk about our values, explore them, how we feel when customers or suppliers trample over them. We recognise that like-minded people are attracted to us. We notice that when we trust a supplier then they need less managing.  In some of the team meetings we address emotional issues such as fear, in others we talk about how to challenge others, or about relationships. I always start from my own vulnerability, and that creates an atmosphere where we can all be open.

I also have a 1-2-1 with each team member twice a year. These are not appraisals. These meetings are to explain that as a business we have a responsibility to our team to help them become a better person. We explore what they want to do with their lives beyond their current role, and beyond working for my company. Tears are common as I uncover fears and anxieties, and show how much we care. Hugs are essential and have become a normal part of working as a team.

Mike Jennings: Chairman of Jennings

So I would take issue that to be responsible to our employees we must train them and motivate them. No, what we must do is show them that we care about them, create an environment where they can be open and honest with each other, and challenge them to break through their fears. The outcome is a motivated and engaged workforce with zero absenteeism, zero staff turnover, and incredible productivity and innovation.

In my business I serve my team by helping them to become independent in what they think and do. In turn they serve the business in how they behave. This is all done on trust. I think I have the best team in Oxfordshire. I am proud of them all, and this is what I consider a success.

By Mike Jennings

Chairman of Jennings of Garsington

Read Mike’s musings on ethics, values and cultural change in his lively blog:

Follow the link for a Case Study on Jennings of Garsington on the ORB website: