So my series of active interviews continues, which is great news as it means I managed to recover from the cross country running with Aston Martin's Dominic Hall!
This week I was really excited about spending some time cycling with James Davenport, COO at Innocent Drinks.
James and I have known each other for a while and I always look forward to catching up with him. Not only he is a great person to bounce ideas off, but his views on life, business and people are really refreshing.
I was keen to get James’ take on lots of things but I particularly wanted to know how Innocent Drinks has maintained its great culture as the business has grown. I remember when I first visited their HQ in London, Fruit Towers. I was taken back by the warm welcome that I received – you could really feel the energy, and I wanted to know more about it.
Here’s what happened…
How has lockdown been for you?
At innocent we have a great vibe in the office that leads to strong collaboration, innovation, and a sense of togetherness that has helped to build the business over many years. There is no doubt that working from home and missing that connection with friends and colleagues when in the office has meant it is considerably harder to get stuff done. It feels like we have all relied too much on longstanding personal relationships over the past 18 months and there is going to need a lot of focus to rebuild relationships when we get back together again
On the other hand, I have two small children and being able to have breakfast and dinner with them, rather than being stuck on the commute, has been brilliant. It feels like I have been able to be a dad during the week, not just at the weekend. Trying to find some way to maintain this to a certain extent will be important to me when return to the office.
What was your favourite lockdown box-set binge?
We really enjoyed watching ‘Life in Pieces’. Great cast, very funny, and quite short episodes so it’s easy to dip in and out of.
Innocent is renowned for having a world class company culture, what do you put that down to?
We have a strong sense of purpose about how we can help people live a better life (in our own small way), which, together with our values, motivates the people who join us. Our people can directly influence and impact the way we go about our business and I think that having that sense of meaning in work creates the right kind of conditions for a good culture to develop and grow.
Culture is the responsibility of everyone who works for innocent and it needs to evolve to remain relevant to us all. To support this, we have a great team who facilitate some fantastic events and activities – whether that’s a mid-year party or mental health training.
What exciting things are on the agenda for the next 12 months? How has the pandemic changed your strategic focus areas?
The landscape has changed, but our aspirations have not – so our strategic focus remains broadly unchanged. Our aspiration by 2023 is to try to prove that we can be ‘good all round’. We are a member of B-Corp; a group of companies that balances profit with purpose for the benefit of all stakeholders, to demonstrate that business can be a force for good, but there is always more to do.
To achieve this goal, we need to grow our business across Western Europe with strong brand marketing, innovation, and commercial execution all rooted in understanding how we can best meet the needs of our drinkers. Making healthy natural drinks is a good place to be as people evaluate how they want to live their lives in the post-covid environment
At the same time, we are building the most sustainable juice factory in the world which will help us achieve our goal of being carbon neutral by 2030. We are also replacing most of our systems and processes with new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software due to go live later this year.
What do you look for when hiring talent into the business?
Clearly having the right sort of capability to do the role is important, however we are increasingly focusing on whether candidate’s values align with our own.
An area that we are trying to get better at is recruiting a more diverse set of folk into the business. We have found that the traditional channels we have used are great at identifying people with certain characteristics, but they do not reach the whole spectrum of people who could be available to help us build a better business. To counter this, we have recently removed the need to have a degree from job specs.
What’s your favourite innocent product and why?
I really like our berry-based smoothies, but quite frankly I will grab any drink we have available in the fridge at work as they are all tasty. If our drinks were not tasty, people wouldn’t buy them more than once…
And finally, who is the best recruiter you have exercised with this year?
You’re the only recruiter I have done some exercise with this year. Living in Guildford, I am right on the North Downs which has some amazing off-road cycling routes.