In the latest of our guest-posts, fellow #ORBMember Mike Jennings (of Jennings of Garsington Ltd) explains what prompted him to write a book all about how he has developed a highly valuable manner of business operation that is not just valuable in the sense of financial success but is also valuable in the much highly-important ethical, responsible and sustainability stakes too!
Having built a Responsible Business over many years (see the ORB article on Jennings), many people suggest that I write about it. My story could be an example for others to follow, they said.
As a reader of business books I have found myself attracted more to the autobiographies of business owners such as Danny Meyer (Setting the Table) and Ricardo Semler (Maverick) than to the academic writers such as Frederick Laloux (reinventing Organisations). These are all good books by the way. I have noticed that while the autobiographies convey the emotion of building your own business, they do not set out a methodology, and while the academic books may convey methods used by businesses there is no detail how that can work in another business, and especially the fears associated when doing something away from the norm.
My book, Valuable, is the story of how I developed an ethical culture in a small commercial property business in Oxfordshire. The story evolves into a template which I hope that others could emulate. There are lots of episodes where I had to analyse what was happening and how to deal with it. These episodes give a depth to the narrative and help to embed the culture.
The starting point is an acceptance that business is more about purpose, passion and independence than it is about maximising profits. If you do not agree then this book is not for you. And secondly understanding that trusting relationships, not contractual obligations, are the foundation for good business.
From this basis we established six behavioural values that became the cornerstone for our culture. Values such as Fairness and Honesty. Later I set a Purpose (which if you don’t do then your people will assume that the purpose is to maximise profit, and that impacts on their behaviour). And finally I established a set of Principles which add depth to the values.
Values bind the team and Purpose gives a sense of direction. Both are hugely important. Both take strong but gentle leadership. Servant leadership.
My team of now 15 people have begun to realise that our culture is spreading. Our tenants are starting to behave the same way, and staff who leave are taking our culture to their next employment.
The book is my way of spreading our culture beyond our immediate connections.
If you buy from the website then postage is free and I will include a bookmark. Furthermore for any members of ORB I will be available initially by email to answer any questions you may have about the culture described in the book.
Net revenues from the book are being applied towards our ‘not-for-profit’ venture, Jennings Business Mentors which you can find out about here. This unique voluntary mentoring service has operated for ten years and we have supported 500 business owners in that time.