Guest Column: The ‘HappINKness’ Principle
At Ink we have grown from just 12 employees some seven years ago to now employing just shy of 300. Our core business is publishing inflight magazines for some of the most well-known and successful airlines in the world. Whilst we have many other elements to our business, including research, targeted advertising and conferences, this continued [print] success is critical to our company's overall future success.
As our business has grown, we have been presented with a number of challenges, none more so than to ensure that our people are enthused, energetic, passionate, knowledgeable and driven in what they are trying to achieve on a day-to-day basis. Our staff attrition had been as high as 92 percent and this was a concern, so I wanted to look more closely at our softer side. Our people are key to the success of our business, selling advertising to maintain the financial success of our publications. And when you work in a pressure environment like sales, it is really important to ensure that they each feel special. So how do you create this consistency across four offices and three continents?
Having spent some time studying some of the best sales and culture businesses on the planet and sharing best practices with industry heads, we uncovered the Happiness discipline. This was not to fix a failing business. The business was successful, and on the surface, this was apparent, but when we looked a bit closer, it should have been a buzzing and happy environment, but wasn't.
It was the height of the economic downturn and a tough advertising market. Things, whilst good, were not going as well as they could have been, and being one of the business owners, I felt the responsibility was on us to look at the issues and change things.
When you have been running a business for 18 years, you develop a habit of questioning everything, including your own happiness. Having been challenged personally with the subject, I set about reading and studying everything from behavior and psychology through to best practice on how it could be best implemented into the workplace.
Once I was clear what "happiness" really meant, I went about sharing the knowledge internally. It became clear to me that if we could develop a truly happy team, our productivity would increase.
Happiness was not to be a saying or a buzz word, but an integral part of our business strategy. This is something that is led from the top, but enjoyed and employed throughout the business. The reason for this is that happiness is contagious!
However, this is not just about having everyone sitting at his desk with a smile on his face. A happy company is a more productive and efficient company. We have therefore built this into our company ethos, basing our culture and the events we do around this.
Commencing on June 1, 2011, we set about the education process. It was a difficult thing to introduce, with much resistance and refusal to accept this as real without some hidden agenda.
However, the penny finally dropped on December 22 when every employee received a copy of "HappINKness," the story of what makes our employees happy. Whilst on the face of it, it was a success, only 121 employees actually contributed to the book; but many of the cynics were suitably impressed by the product and came round to this new way of thinking.
The "HappINKness" book is all about what makes our people happy both in and out of work. The beauty of the book was the impact it had. When you get a group of so many people all coming together under one subject it becomes infectious.
Following on from the delivery of the book, we have begun to implement a dream campaign. We are trying to help each member of the staff realize their dreams, be them going on amazing holidays, running marathons or improving their own business knowledge. We want our people to know that we are happy to invest in them, so that they are happy to invest in the business. This time, over 225 people contributed their dreams, and by the time of publishing this article we have committed to completing the first 30.
So has this had an effect on our commercial performance? The simple answer is, "Yes." In the six months from July 2011 compared to the same period in 2010, our profitability had increased by over 300 percent and, in the process, we delivered record revenues in four of those six months.
What this has uncovered is that we continuously need to work at how we implement and maintain commitment to this initiative. This has made us look at all our business processes. As a result, in the coming weeks we will unveil our own revolution, which will change the way we remunerate our salespeople. This will raise eyebrows, as it will be completely against the industry norm!
Happiness is infectious and contagious, but also needs to be a habit. We believe—in fact we know—it works and are more than happy to celebrate our success and tell the rest of the world about it. PE
Simon Leslie began his career in insurance and finance. In 1994, he and Michael Keating founded Ink to service two small airlines‚ one in the Middle East and the other in Africa. In the past 16 years the company has grown, and today Leslie is responsible for analyzing the commercial viability of each project and executing sales strategy. For more information about HappINKness or Ink, contact Simon Leslie, Inflight Advertising Specialist at Ink @ Simon.Leslie@ink-global.com.