Fruitful Office was founded in 2006. This was of course just before a major economic downturn, and a period which saw a very high rate of business failure. However, 12 years on, the company is not only still here, but is flourishing, making 5,000 deliveries every week to offices in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Holland and Belgium.
So, what are the secrets of the company’s success?
Company founders Vasco de Castro and Daniel Ernst left secure and potentially lucrative careers in investment banking and an accountancy respectively to set up Fruitful Office. One of their principal motivations was their frustration at the poor quality of fruit being delivered to their own offices. They also noted that there was a potential gap in the market, in that at the time there was no UK company that concentrated purely on supplying fruit to offices.
Daniel initially took a six-month career break from his job at PwC, but Fruitful Office became so successful that he never returned. His company still supplies the Big Four accountancy firm with regular deliveries of fruit.
Fruitful Office (www.fruitfuloffice.co.uk) takes a meticulous approach to quality control. The company hand-selects the very best fruit, all at the “breaking point of ripeness”. All of the fruit is quality checked before it is placed in a basket. Whilst in transit, the fruit is handled with meticulous care to protect it from bruising and other damage. By buying from local wholesale markets, the company can be more selective about the fruit they obtain, and deliveries can get to the customers’ offices much faster.
In the early days, the company founders were able to carry out these quality inspections personally. As the company grew, it became impossible for Vasco and Daniel to inspect every single item, so it became vitally important that they recruited people they could trust, and to whom these responsibilities could be delegated.
Providing a high-quality service should mean that business volumes grow simply through word-of-mouth. In its early days, Fruitful Office took the bold step of providing free produce to 25 companies, but many more orders soon followed as word got around about just how good their service was.
Business development director Vasco continually stresses the importance of ‘employee engagement’. He highlights that this is not necessarily the same as employee satisfaction, and that to be truly ‘engaged’, an employee must feel an emotional attachment to their place of work.
Vasco believes that the secrets of employee engagement are:
Recruiting the right staff. Even if a company is growing rapidly and needs to take on a lot of staff in a short space of time, it is vitally important to ensure that new recruits not only have the right skills and experience, but also share the management’s passion and vision. He comments that the people who are recruited early on in a company’s life often end up shaping the company culture.
Empowering the team. Fruitful Office believes that people work best when they are encouraged to be entrepreneurial, and to make their own suggestions and to put them into action. Employees also need to see how their own efforts affect the company as a whole.
Giving employees ownership. Vasco advocates trusting his employees and giving them more responsibility. Staff motivation can be greatly improved when they are given ownership of a project or task.
Other tips Vasco has for effective people management include:
Taking the time to listen to employees. When an employee needs to speak to a manager, the manager must give the employee their full undivided attention.
Acknowledging achievements. Even if there is no monetary reward on offer, when an employee does a good job, the management should acknowledge this and let the person know their efforts have been appreciated.
Being human. Work should be a fun place, where colleagues can on occasions have a laugh. Managers should also take an interest in the personal lives of their staff.
Fruitful Office believes that staff wellbeing is of vital importance. All staff are offered extensive opportunities for development and training, and it probably goes without saying that the company makes sure all of its staff get their ‘five a day’ of fruit and vegetables!