I am curious to learn about the "people factor" in successful companies in Ireland and having heard Fred Karlsson (co-founder of DoneDeal) speak at an event in Cork, I reckoned that there was something very special happening in DoneDeal. And believe me, I was not wrong.
The first thing that struck me when I contacted DoneDeal was the positive response that came immediately from Emer, their Office/HR and Culture Manager at DoneDeal. Very few organisations that I know of have a "culture manager" – so already this was telling me something was different about this place.
The DoneDeal Culture
At the heart of the DoneDeal culture is a deep care and respect for people. Everyone I spoke to had their own individual stories of how they felt important, listened to, cared about and trusted in DoneDeal. Words like "family" were used frequently to describe the growing team of 24 staff. As a result, every single one of them was passionate (and I am not using that word lightly here) about contributing to and maintaining the success of the DoneDeal business. DoneDeal's success was their success.
This culture of care and respect is extended out to the DoneDeal customers. The staff really care about the customer's experience and believe that everybody should be heard – meaning that exceptional customer support is what is expected all of the time. This poster from their office sums up nicely how their culture infuses everything they do.
The Right People
Fred Karlsson and his wife, Geraldine, started DoneDeal in 2005. They took on Donna, their first employee in 2009. At that time, Donna was a single mother, working to put herself through college by cleaning houses. She was cleaning Fred and Geraldine's house and it was her desire to always want to do better and her attention to detail like folding in the corners of the toilet paper that impressed Fred and Geraldine so much. They decided this is the type of person they wanted looking after their customers. Donna has gone on to become DoneDeal's social media guru – a critically important role in a business like DoneDeal's.
Developing the PeopleSome pics from the DoneDeal training area!
Because of the open, relaxed and encouraging culture that exists in DoneDeal, people feel safe to ask questions and to put forward ideas, no matter what their role is. They are given every support they need to develop and learn. As the business has grown, individuals have grown with it. A classic example of this is Melrona, who looks after customer support. It is obvious from listening to her that she infuses that role with passion and pride. One of Melrona's proudest moments is giving a talk last year on fraud to criminal intelligence officers at the Garda Training College in Templemore. This September she is travelling to America to give a presentation at a fraud summit. Ask her what her qualifications are for doing this and she'll say "none, people are my qualifications"! But four years ago, Melrona could never have seen herself delivering talks to criminal intelligence officers. She credits her development to the belief that Fred and Ger had in her. As she said herself, because she feels they are interested in her as a person, she performs better.
The DoneDeal Vision
1. It has to energise you
2. It has to give you focus
Fred and Geraldine started out with the vision to make DoneDeal the biggest classified website in Ireland. And what did that mean? It meant having the most customers posting up the most ads of all the websites in Ireland. They put this up on the wall of their office and it motivated them every time they read it. But here is how it focused them…
Fred is a techie at heart and was full of ideas about how to bring all sorts of flash technology and cool features into their website. But, the chances were that many of their customers would not be able to use these features on their PCs. So would these flash features bring them more customers and closer to their vision? Probably not.
So, to keep them focused on achieving their vision, DoneDeal have introduced the "mother-in-law test", which is quite simply "could my mother-in-law use this?". This has contributed to DoneDeal's website being extremely accessible and easy to use for everyone.
The first is that every staff member gets to have a "job chat" with their manager every six months where they talk about their progress, their goals and the support they need for further development. Each staff member has KPIs and what was refreshing was that the KPIs were ones that made perfect sense to them. They could see how they contributed to the success of DoneDeal and could buy into them completely.
The second is the process used for developing new features on the website (the bread and butter of DoneDeal's success and growth). For this they use an agile development process called the Scrum Methodology. There is plenty of information available on the internet for anyone interested in checking out more about this.
The Cherry on the Cake - Helping Others!
Meeting with the staff at DoneDeal has opened my eyes and has confirmed my belief that great people and great people practices can lead to outstanding, sustainable success. My heartfelt thanks goes to Emer, Donna, Renata, Melrona, Philip, Peter, Cathal and Fred for so generously sharing their thoughts and their experiences with me.
Have you any thoughts and experiences to share on the People Factor in your organisation?