With so many challenges for businesses over the past 18 months it’s been hard to take time to pause and reflect. I’m sure many other COOs and managers may feel similarly. However, the news that tails.com has been recognised in the top ten of the Top 100 Best Large UK Companies to Work For (placing 7th overall) as well as 2nd in the Top Retail Businesses list calls for a moment of reflection. It is also a chance to think about how our growing team has worked through challenges, considering some of the wins we’ve had, and some of the learnings too.
We’re luckier than many: as a direct to consumer (D2C) business delivering nutritionally tailored pet food to your door, demand for our service has remained strong. We’ve grown rapidly over the past year so that we are now feeding over 250,000 dogs and cats in the UK and western Europe every day. We’ve also been able to add over 100 talented and committed individuals to our team, most of whom have joined during lock-downs, taking the tails.com pack to over 300 and counting. And that’s great, but how to keep our culture flourishing, when so many of a large team mostly only see each other on screens, has been a very real issue to face up to.
Every manager has had to raise their game in leading and helping the people in their care through new challenges. Colleagues have made time and found innovative ways to support each other through hard times. We’ve also found that for many, the ‘flexibility’ of working from home in a global pandemic is a false dawn in terms of work-life balance. While there are benefits and we’ve adapted well, for all those who are thriving there are perhaps as many who don't have a great home-working environment or who haven’t enjoyed the isolation.
It’s a real testament to the character of the tails.com pack that team engagement has remained so high. There are many interdependent reasons for this. Perhaps most crucially, the strength, care and dedication of our 70+ team leads and managers across the business who we’ve supported with additional resilience and wellbeing training (which is also available to our full team). Secondly, the creativity and appetite for problem solving in the people we recruit and invest in. Our Hack Days - now virtual - are a great example of this passion and curiosity in action. Hack Days are also a chance for people to connect and we have found more and different ways to do this socially as the months have progressed - ways that people who don’t want to chat over Zoom to a large audience can get involved in. Some of these have been enabled by our wonderful facilities team, but equally many are spontaneously set up by enthusiastic pack members in their spare time.
Then, of course, there is the unifying strength of our shared vision to change the world of pet food for good with every single customer we serve which continues to inspire us to find ways through difficult times.
With the “step 4” of the Covid-19 roadmap hopefully just around the corner, we’re now looking to our new hybrid home/office working model with optimism, whilst recognising that more change might feel daunting for some. There is a chance here not just to revert but to adapt and improve the way we work. We can rethink our office space with more imagination and make it serve us more creatively. We can leave behind ways of working which are outdated and find ways to retain some of the new flexibility that some have found during lockdown. Many of us have built new trust and more open connections with colleagues while we have been physically apart which will help us all work better together.
Any business is as strong as the passion and engagement of its employees. I’m dead chuffed we have been recognised as one of the Best Companies to Work For, especially this year of all years, and it truly reflects a team of very talented, highly committed individuals I’m extremely proud to work with.