Collaborating For Growth

David James - October 31st, 2017

White wall with writing and drawings on it

Growing up as a company isn’t easy. For any young business, making the transition from nimble start-up to established, high-functioning company can be challenging. And we’ve definitely had this challenge at The Floow.

When we started the company five years ago, it was hard. We had no money and no customers, just a promise from Direct Line and a very early prototype app which required a lot of effort (and prayers) to get working properly.

And even though we only had a handful of people in those early days, collaboration was still tricky. Everything was new and when you’re starting up you’re dragged in so many directions that sometimes it’s hard to focus on what it takes to work well together. The best thing to get around this was remembering that when we wanted to get something done we could easily sit the few people we had around a table and talk things through.

As we’ve grown, our challenges have changed and today we’re conscious of the need to retain the unique culture we built as a much smaller company. Just 12 months ago we only had 50 people, whereas today we’ve doubled in size to 100.

When this sort of rapid expansion happens, you do get growing pains. All of a sudden, you’ve got scores of people working on adjacent projects. It becomes hard to keep track of everything and to encourage teams to keep talking to each other and working together effectively, not operating in silos.

This is the reason why one of the four company values we aspire to at The Floow is Collaboration. And we value it deeply; it’s critical to our success now and in the future, and we never take it for granted because embedding a culture of collaboration in a company is incredibly hard to do. We have to keep working at it and exercising those muscles, because if we don’t, we’ll slow down and lose our edge.

Here are the ways that we’re embedding collaboration into our daily work:

  1. We talk about it a lot. Not only do we have collaboration emblazoned all over our ‘values wall’ in the office, but we make active steps to discuss it as a value. Our weekly team ‘huddles’ now total more than 100 people and we’re using them to focus on collaboration by ensuring that it’s not just a one-way broadcast of messages from leaders to the team, but a proper opportunity to ask questions and have a discussion. Spending this time getting to know each other is also exemplified in our regular beer and pizza Friday nights, social events like our hotly contested ping pong tournament, and even the way we introduce new starters to the team with highly personalised messages to help people really get to know one another. And we also talk about it in ongoing performance discussions, reminding our people that how they work is often as important as what they do.
  2. We support people to collaborate, in a structured way. As a leadership team, we try to set the tone for encouraging collaboration across teams. For example, we are currently actively taking nominations on cross-functional innovation projects to champion in the coming months, as well as inviting everyone to contribute to our product roadmaps. The whole company has the opportunity to take part in this, whatever role they’re in, and can pick teams and individuals to work with on successful ideas. It’s critical that we free up the time and space to allow our people to keep innovating the business in this way, alongside the table stakes of running the business extremely well.
  3. We collaborate with customers. In a fast-developing, emerging industry like telematics it’s important to know that you won’t always originate all the good ideas. Innovation very often comes from outside and we need to be alert to listen for it, and be prepared to collaborate to achieve it. Very often these opportunities to collaborate and innovate come from our customers and it’s exciting to see what can be achieved when we combine the best of The Floow’s expertise with the ingenuity and experience of our customers. In the last couple of weeks I’ve met with customers in the UK, South Africa and Portugal and I was struck by the high regard in which our organisation is held, not just for our excellent technical work but for the way we conduct ourselves. The quality of our innovative thinking and project management were areas our clients complimented us on. Like all relationships there are things we can do better and we’re never complacent about these. However, the foundation of collaboration we’ve established with our customers provides a terrific basis for future work.

We’ve made a lot of progress with establishing the right environment for constant and committed collaboration, but our work is not yet done here. Our next big challenge is creating a formula for enabling amazing cross-functional collaboration amongst our various functional teams. Over the past few months we have discussed entirely changing our organisational approach. Starting to mobilise people in project teams rather than functional teams is something we plan to start trialling in the very near future.

What’s clear is that we’re prepared to experiment in almost any way to remain nimble, responsive and flexible as we keep growing, and will remain fully focused on collaborating for success.

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