I started UrbanLeaf in 2003 with my business partner and now one of my best friends Tom. We had been colleagues at a previous company and believed we could run a fundraising agency better than our then boss. Little did we know how hard it would be. It took a year to find a client who would trust us with their budget, thanks to Martin Field for giving us that chance. Fast forward to 2005 and we were working with a number of charities in a growing market and ticking along okay. Actually it was more like organised chaos and we weren’t much different to the company we had worked with previously.
Having shared my frustrations with a friend of mine he introduced me to a guy who ran a group of bars in London who was really interested in business management. Before long we had a business mentor and probably our greatest ever teacher in Paul Brown, who worked alongside us for a couple of years. Thanks to him too.
Paul loved to read and pick out things that resonated with him. The most significant book he introduced us to is called ‘Good to Great’ by Jim Collins. In so many ways this was and still is the blueprint for running UrbanLeaf.
Today, when I meet people and they ask me what I do they tend to congratulate me on my achievements. In truth, I tell them how lucky I am to be working with a great team of people throughout UrbanLeaf. This is true, without a doubt our success every day is driven by the people we have selected. But actually, it’s not really luck that’s achieved this. It was Paul who introduced us to to Jim’s work and it was Jim who said that “having the right people on the bus, having the right people in the right seats, then working together to find a route and a destination provides the potential for greatness.”
Tom worked closely with Paul and came up with a framework that we use today to do this. It’s based on selecting people with the character attributes everyone needs in every role in the company, it’s based on understanding what 2 or 3 talents each role in the company needs to be great, that’s different for each role. Finally it’s based on what skills each person needs to be taught to do their specific role.
None of this is based on fact, it’s all subjective. But instead of having organised chaos we now have a clear language that over time has been refined. Is it any coincidence then that today we have the strongest team in our history? Thank you to all of them.