Stuart Calvert and Sophie Austin from People Puzzles helped an ambitious online financial comparison company to define its overall strategy and build its leadership team so that it could successfully function independently of its Managing Director.
Founded in 2008 by entrepreneur Chris Morling, Money.co.uk is a leading financial comparison website, based in award-winning offices in a castle in Cirencester. The company was ranked as the UK’s second-fastest growing business in 2015 by the Sunday Times. In 2017 Chris made the shortlist for Entrepreneur of the Year and in September Money.co.uk was bought by ZPG Plc.
Having grown from 20 staff to more than 60 in the last five years, the company needed to ensure its leadership team was autonomous when it came to the day-to-day running of the business. ‘When I first got involved in Money, all of the decision-making went through Chris, as the figurehead of the company,’ says Stuart Calvert, People Puzzles HR Director who was brought in by Chris Morling to help with his people strategy. ‘Chris was conscious that being involved in the majority of operational and strategic decisions wasn’t healthy for the agility of the business and he wanted the leadership team to learn how to run the business in his absence.’
When a start-up company grows fast, there is a tendency to acquire staff as and when needed without paying too much attention to the overall structure of the business. The senior team at Money needed a better balance of skills and the organisation as a whole needed a more effective reporting structure. ‘They wanted to make sure people understood what their role and responsibility was, and what they would subsequently be measured against,’ says Stuart.
When Stuart started work with money.co.uk in February 2017, he conducted a ‘fact find’ – interviewing staff and conducting a workshop with the senior team to find out where the business was heading. Then he drew up a plan of action.
The first major piece of work was to carry out a much-needed restructure. ‘We looked closely at individual job descriptions, what the roles and responsibilities were, how people should be held accountable, what the key performance indicators (KPIs) were, both in the organisation and for individuals,’ Stuart explains. ‘Part of the organisational redesign was to ensure the management team were a) being delegated to in order to make functional decisions and b),that they also realised that it was within their control to do that.’
Empowering the staff, in particular the leadership team, was a key part of this intervention. Stuart brought in People Puzzles colleague, Sophie Austin, to provide executive coaching for the senior team (read more about the positive impact of executive coaching in this separate article). Stuart also looked at where staff needed extra support in terms of training. ‘We undertook a series of interactive workshops focusing on functional skills training, particularly around soft skills, leadership and management training for anybody with supervisory responsibilities,’ he says.
The next piece of work was to put in place an effective appraisal and feedback process. ‘The existing appraisal and feedback process was cumbersome and needed streamlining,’ Stuart continues. ‘We implemented a workable appraisal and 360º feedback process.’
As well as training and restructuring, Stuart also looked at the company’s policies and procedures. ‘Due diligence on policies and procedures might sound like an unnecessary exercise, however we need to ensure they are fit for purpose and legally compliant,’ he adds.
When Money.co.uk was acquired in September, Stuart’s work was done and ZPG, the acquiring company, took over the HR function (although Sophie continues to coach the senior team). Stuart is pleased to have been able to assist with the shaping of the business prior to its purchase. ‘Part of the attractiveness of buying a business is, “will it continue to operate without the figurehead there?” I think we were able to demonstrate through some of our interventions that there is a capable and experienced leadership team,’ he says. ‘As a buyer, that would be something you’d be keen to ensure, and we certainly had a hand in shaping that.’
Chris Morling, CEO of money.co.uk said; ‘People Puzzles really helped me to understand the value of a coaching culture within our team, as well as helping to make it a reality.’
‘It’s been brilliant to have such knowledgeable consultants help us to empower our people. Stuart and Sophie were incredibly flexible, adapting their services to our business and existing culture. I’d highly recommend People Puzzles to businesses seeking to nurture their people and help develop their leaders.’