William Rogers came to his role as Chief Executive through what he calls a series of serendipitous events: “At 24, I set up my own insurance broking business and became involved in politics, heading up the local authority. In 1992, I was asked to help with a bid for a local radio station, which we won and I became Director. In 1994, this station merged with a company looking for radio licenses and UKRD was formed.”
Rogers was Non-executive Director of UKRD until 2001 when he was asked to take on his current role. The company was in difficulty at this point, losing £2 million per year. He says: “In my view, it doesn’t matter what the business is – insurance brokering or radio – performing a leadership role involves the same style of management and set of principles.”
Under Roger’s stewardship, UKRD has turned around from making a loss, to being a company which has doubled in size, from 109 employees to 276, with a turnover of £17 million. From the very beginning he had a definite vision of what he wanted to achieve and wasted no time putting this into action.
“I wanted UKRD to be the best radio business in the sector – not the biggest, the best. To achieve this means being people-focused. The very first thing I did was to introduce a culture, based on six values: Open, Honest, Fair, Fun, Professional and Unconventional.
“If you can deliver values effectively and resolutely commit to them, I believe it can be transformational. Admittedly, it is not a quick fix, it takes time and is never a complete project, but everything we do comes from those values.”
Passionate about people
Rogers is particularly passionate about having the right people on board to live and breathe the culture. He explains: “We make recruitment decisions based on people who fit our culture and our environment, not solely on skill set. Our managers in particular are required to live our values. If you have bad managers, they will destroy the culture of your business, so you have to remove them.”
UKRD makes ongoing investment in to sustaining a positive working environment, with open channels of communication a fundamental part of this. “Every year, we take all of our teams out for a full day to work on our values,” says Rogers. “Also, all UKRD employees complete a 70-question research document looking at each element of our business, including their perception of me. This is then analysed and we adapt our policy and management accordingly.”
Challenging the boss
There is also an ‘Executive Tour’ held each year, where the UKRD senior executives take two weeks to travel around all 16 businesses to share aims and objectives for the coming year and hold Q+As, where employees are actively encouraged to challenge their bosses and put forward ideas.
Has it been difficult to maintain this value-driven culture as the company has expanded? Rogers believes the opposite is true. “We’ve resisted the temptation to centralise control and now delegate more responsibility down through the organisation, empowering our management teams. I firmly believe that in business you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to – we are twice the size we were five years ago, yet now more than ever we are seeing decisions being made at the coalface.”
Winning The Sunday Times ‘Best company to work for’ award three times in a row has been a validation to Rogers that what he set out to do is being achieved. “I am hugely encouraged and very proud of our people,” he says.
“People sometimes say this is all a bit ‘fluffy’ but it is absolutely the opposite. Concentrating on values makes hardnosed commercial sense. If you create an environment where your staff are fully engaged, you will see a massive discretionary dividend that they will invest in your business because they simply love coming to work. Values and engagement go hand in hand. If you don’t have either, you will not be an effective business.”
5 business lessons
- If you make sure you get your culture right, everything else will follow.
- Managers must live and breathe the company culture and be ambassadors for it every single day.
- People are the most important asset a business has. It is crucial that company policy and decisions reflect this.
- As a manager, you should use your mouth and ears in the same proportion as they exist on your head.
- Once you’ve made a decision, get on with implementing it – drifting is the enemy of business.
UKRD is a commercial radio group based in Redruth which runs 16 radio stations across England – from Cornwall in the south to Sunderland in the north.
For more information on UKRD visit: www.ukrd.com
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