To Create A Piece Of Art, You Need Good Paint: Company Culture

This post was adapted from a presentation given by Gideon Galloway, CEO of King Price Insurance, at Nation Builder’s annual In Good Company conference on 15 August 2019.

Setting aside purpose, vision and other factors, company culture today has to suit millennials. Gideon says he reminds his teams that their next client and staff member are currently in Matric, so the company culture needs to be geared to the times. With this ideology, King Price dominates the insurance landscape today. Hilton College annually brings a class of pupils to experience the King Price Office Culture. Galloway showed a video of the eye-catching office décor and Hilton College pupils interacting with employees. This, his company culture, is what he shared with the audience.
The office layout includes large Lego pieces, games and toys, yet fun is not all they do. They do a lot of hard work too. “At the end of the day it is about results as well,” explained Galloway.
They have proved that engagement is vital. The more engaged the employees, the more productive they are. Therefore all the ‘fun equipment’ is there to encourage engagement. It is essential that the employee participates fully and willingly, for this is something which cannot be forced. They must be passionate about spending time at work. This higher engagement level translates into a 24.5% higher share-price growth. Similarly, to be successful in sales, it is necessary to believe in the product. A higher product belief translates into a 33% share-price growth. Combined, they add up to 51% increase in share-price growth thus giving rise to greater product movement.
Using Microsoft as an example, Galloway described how each successive CEO introduced a different company culture, culminating currently with Satya Nadella. Nadella stated that on taking up the position of CEO, the most enduring pillars of his early tenure have been to first fix the company culture and then to entrench a sense of purpose to the mission. He also claimed that the two things he looked for in new employees were that they be able to create clarity and energy. Nadella considered himself to be an “insider”, not an “outsider”. Insiders speak of ‘we’ and ‘us’ while outsiders refer to ‘they’ and ‘them’. He believed that if you employ insiders you will generate more insiders and vice versa.
To ensure insiders, King Price’s recruitment program requires the submission of a CV followed by some on-line tests. Next, the applicant comes for an interview. If successful, they are required to spend an entire day at the office working with the team. They may make coffee or do physical work, depending on what the team decides. The team has the ultimate say in whether that person gets the job or not. But new employees become aware of the company culture and can decide whether or not they fit the team. A day before starting the job they will receive a welcome pack and are greeted by the team on arrival at the office. Unlike many other firms where no-one welcomes the newbie, there is no desk or laptop ready and he or she does not know where to go, this new member knows everyone; he or she is already an insider.
King Price offers a quitting bonus of R50,000 in the first month, though only one person has taken it in the past three years. The company reckons it would cost a lot more than that to keep a person who does not want to be there. They break all the rules of office culture, but employees are happy and customer orientated. The company has borrowed ideas from other businesses; for instance, they have unlimited leave. The work is performance-based, so if the work is up to date, then why not take leave? Certainly call centres and such are different and require more structure, but the rest of the company does not necessarily work from 8.00am to 5.00pm anymore. With today’s technology, working from home is possible, if that is what a staff member needs to do.
Galloway has no grand, over-detailed and over-complicated blueprint. When asking employees if they knew the company vision statement, few got it right, but that is not important. It is all about how they engage, change and challenge. However, they do have a culture evangelist, Marno Boshoff. He is an ex-pastor who has the same passion for people as does Galloway. He does leadership coaching, counselling as well as several other functions, but you cannot put a Rand value on the many marriages he has saved within the company.
King Price bought a culture bus so they can fetch groups for their free Office Culture Tours. Marno runs programmes for Church groups, schools, universities and others, with games, prizes and entertainment. Visitors may later become customers but free advertising on social media is a certainty; after all, marketing is important. King Price’s company culture may be unconventional, surprising, even challenging to some folk, but it certainly is Good Paint for them.
Gideon is an experienced entrepreneur and CEO of King Price – the insurer that successfully disrupted the South African industry when they implemented car premiums that decrease monthly in line with the cars’ depreciating values. After seven years in business, King Price employs about 850 staff, looks after 165 000 personal lines clients as well as a valuable book of business and specialised insurance clients, and has saved its clients over R150 million in decreasing premiums. 

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