In my mission to help organisations resolve stress, I’m always looking for innovative ways of stopping that stress building up in the first place. Recently, I was lucky to interview Andrew Kluge, Chief Executive of Cosatto, suppliers of ‘baby stuff with personality’. Based in an old Lancashire mill, it’s not a location where perhaps you’d expect to find a hive of innovation and fun…
Cosatto’s mission is to save the world from boring baby stuff, and banishing the boring begins as soon as you walk into the astro-turfed reception, with its large, retro phone. Even the loos are a little unconventional, with bright pink paper, and a speaker playing birdsong. The bright colours of their products are splashed throughout the building – I’ve seen organisations try this before, and it hasn’t always worked. But at Cosatto, it goes way deeper than a few licks of paint.
There’s a large break area, and regular social events. And there, right in the middle, is something different from all of the organisations I’ve supported – the thing I’d gone along to see. A slide. A great big one, between floors…. Practical – it’s the quickest way to get to the lower floor. But also a great way to remind people to have fun. As Andrew says, it’s impossible to land at the bottom of a slide without a smile on your face. A reminder not to take yourself too seriously.
But the team take their work very seriously. For staff whose role isn’t tied to the site, there’s complete flexibility. To work whatever hours they want, and from where they want, as long as they meet their targets. Mostly, people still choose to come to work – even as a visitor, you can feel the buzz around the place. They’ve recently been awarded second place in the National Great Place to Work awards, and as we dug deeper, it’s easy to understand why.
None of this has evolved by accident. Seven years ago, the business was teetering on the edge – Banks breathing down its neck, bankruptcy beckoning, and highly stressful. It was a dark time, leaving Andrew with some tough decisions to make – and one of them was to close down part of the business. Determined to make Cosatto the phoenix from those ashes, he sat down to design the business he wanted to run. And so it began to emerge.
Staff took a pay cut in return for a profit-related bonus. But this was no token gesture – it’s backed with complete transparency. Every member of staff receives a monthly copy of the P&L, and attends a briefing to discuss it. Everyone understands how their role impacts the bottom line. Team members are invited to join board meetings, there’s no politics, silos or game playing. And their biggest source of stress? The tendency to take on too much, because they care.
Like any organisation, there’s nothing they can do about the stresses which come from outside work, but that inclusive, supportive culture helps stop them from escalating. I have to admit, I went along wondering whether the slide was just a bit of a gimmick. But I left feeling deeply, genuinely impressed at what it represents. At what can be achieved with some determined leadership, and a focus on the culture you want to create.