This is my last column for The Grocer, so I’m reflecting on how much I’ve enjoyed it and how much I’ve learned in this chapter of Rude Health’s journey.
When I wrote the first column four-and-a-half years ago, Nick and I were enjoying Rude Health’s explosive growth because of the early success of our alt-milks. As we transitioned from a tiny 10 person startup to a slightly bigger next-stage business, we wondered about our ability to lead it, and take it to the next stage. Neither of us is from a traditional business background, nor has any business or management training. And we could see the need for more structured communication to hold it together. We were both clear that communication is at the heart of everything we do, from customer feedback to quick decision making.
Our solution was to take on a managing director, with the aim of introducing the “right” structure and hierarchy that would enable us to manage the inevitable phases of business growth.
Four years on, we are in a good place, with clear communication throughout the team. We are more organised but not bogged down in meetings, and we are still growing.
The surprise is that we no longer have an MD.
In the end the role added another layer of management, and with it a hierarchy, which in hindsight was a step too far, and tended to block the communication we were trying to improve. I lost count of the number of times that someone was surprised by a leaflet, event or meeting that they should have been involved in and only found out about after it happened.
Now we have a simple, two-tier structure: a management team, and the team. Everybody reports to a member of the management team, and the management team meets every week, so everything is aired, shared and actioned weekly. There are (almost) no surprises and everybody works together.
I don’t know if we weren’t ready for this structure four years ago or that we didn’t know it was an option. Perhaps we needed to go through a different phase in order to get here. And will this structure work another four years from now? I don’t know, but Nick and I don’t worry about our lack of management skills and experience now that we are working alongside a highly skilled and experienced team - who seem to be putting up with us too. That’s the ultimate skill.