Abel & Cole – Getting the Right People in the Job

In: BlogDate: Jun 28, 2013By: Henry Stewart

The Managing Director for Abel & Cole details how she shifted her recruitment system from scouting for experience into scouting for attitude and the effects it had on her company.

Ella Heeks tells the story of how, as Managing Director of Abel & Cole, she recruited the key managers for the buying department. Initially she turned to those experienced in buying groceries, generally people from the big supermarkets. This is a tough business, with companies like Tesco and Asda working to cut prices paid to suppliers at every turn.

Her first two buyers, Dave and Mike, were experienced and driven and appeared to be doing a great job… until they abruptly left, taking some key suppliers with them, to set up a rival organic box delivery company.

Then she employed Steve, who came with an impressive record of years negotiating for Tesco. She realised something was wrong when, working late one night, she overheard angry shouting coming from another office. Ella found Steve bellowing down the phone at one of their key suppliers, over what turned out to be a relatively minor matter.

‘I’m sorry. I can’t do it,’ confessed Steve. ‘I can’t get out of the way of working of over a decade in the business.’ He decided to leave.

Finally Ella turned to Julie. Julie had not been recruited as a buyer, and had no experience in that area. In fact Ella had never been absolutely clear what job she had recruited Julie to. But her values and commitment fitted so well with the Abel & Cole approach that she went ahead and took her on.

So Julie was a little surprised when Ella asked if she wanted to take over the buying department. She had a lot to learn (and, fortunately, Steve stayed around for a little and taught her some of the tricks of the trade). But, as Ella had realised, she embodied the values of Abel & Cole, and that ensured she was a success.

Recruit for Attitude, Train for Skill is one of the Happy Manifesto Core Principles. Read more about the Happy Manifesto’s Core Principles.

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Henry Stewart, Founder and Chief Happiness Officer

Henry is founder and Chief Happiness Officer of Happy Ltd. Following a fairly disastrous job early on in his career, Henry was determined to discover what enabled a productive and happy workplace. In 1987 Henry set up what was originally called Happy Computers. Inspired by Ricardo Semler’s book Maverick, he built a company with a reputation for some of the best customer service in the country and one of the UK’s best places to work, winning multiple awards for its culture and philosophy. His book, the Happy Manifesto, was published by in 2013.

Outside of work he is a father of three, Chair of Governors at his local comprehensive in Hackney and a keen cyclist.

You can find Henry on LinkedIn and follow @happyhenry on Twitter.

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