There were a number of things that struck me as I read this article about CEO, Anthony Fletcher’s time with leading snack brand Graze. I’ve been trying to find one word that sums up his and Grazes journey from a 7 man start-up to international brand and I have to confess, I’ve failed.
At first, I thought the word was brave. The fact that Anthony, having not come from an academic FMCG/ food background, felt ‘blown away’ enough by the product and the company’s approach to proactively act and get a job within Graze. Perhaps bravery too from the Graze team in appointing a Head of Marketing based on behaviours (get-up and go and enthusiasm) rather than set competencies. That initial bravery is still obviously evident today with Graze’s willingness to trying different ideas and allowing this ‘way of doing things’ to embed itself within the culture of the business. It definitely takes guts to launch the business across a continent rather than dip a toe, as the company did in the US.
Then I thought the company and Anthony’s success was perhaps down to luck. Setting out without a set vision. The timing of Grazes move into supermarkets came at a time when the government was applying pressure to remove the sweet treats from points of sale and the fact that the only snack that wasn’t palatable to the US when launched was mango chutney based, is indeed lucky.
As the saying goes ‘the harder you work the luckier you get’ and I think that it is this more than luck that has influenced the company’s achievements, particularly as Anthony states in the article, there have been some mistakes along the way. In truth, it’s the way the company has learnt from and responded to these mistakes which led to their amazing success - their ability to listen.
Listening is an easy thing to say you do, but to take what you hear, understand it, translate it and act upon it, can prove more difficult, particularly if a company’s structure and culture doesn’t act on what it hears.
Listening is a core value here at Collingwood and although we are a very different business to Graze this article made me think about our success, or more the success of the clients that work with us. More often than not a positive and successful client experience comes down to all parties’ ability to listen. Whether that is our ability to listen and demonstrate an understanding of client’s needs through the candidates we find or our ability to interpret what’s being said to unearth the issues that lie at the heart of a client’s change programme. In addition to this, a client’ willingness to listen to our feedback and take onboard the advice and guidance we provide is essential for success.
Actively listening is a skill and something that we, and businesses, can all benefit from improving. Being a better listener, improves productivity, the ability to influence and what's more, avoids conflict and misunderstandings. All of which are necessary for organisation’s success.
There is no doubt Graze’s success is incredibly impressive. Their ability to grow at the rate they have, diversifying into new markets and territories yet still being able to retain the agility and culture of a small business is to be admired. As is the reviving power of their fruity flapjacks at around 11:30 am!
The focus on data and its quick response to customer feedback meant it would be able to produce a range of snack products that appealed to US tastes, even if at first some items were not successful. Thankfully for Graze this approached worked.