People in Treehouses
Based in Wrexham, Moneypenny is the brainchild of brother and sister team Ed Reeves and Rachel Clacher. Recognised as one of the best employers in the UK, Louisa Castle speaks to the duo about launching the business, trying new things and employing people who are better than them
First impressions count. I had been informed by the trusted PR that Rachel and Ed ‘are lovely’ and that ‘you know we only work with lovely people’. And I had no reason not to believe them.
As I pulled into the car park outside the purpose-built, widely awarded Moneypenny offices just outside Wrexham the building was smart, with expanses of glass and landscaping and a cute wooden sign denoting where, as a visitor, I should park.
Step inside and the red cow displaying all the company’s awards gave away the fact that Moneypenny is a little bit different. Oh, and did I mention the treehouse office space growing out of the centre of reception? Warmly welcomed, I signed myself in as Rachel appeared to show me around.
Instantly put at ease by Rachel, I was taken on a tour of the facility and our rather informal interview began. For those of you who aren’t aware, Moneypenny offers outsourced switchboard facilities, telephone answering and live chat to companies from 2 to 2,000 employees. The company was born in 2,000 and the age of the fax machine.
Windsurfer, Ed (who I caught up with on the phone later) was away in the Canaries, “A client of mine called up the office and wanted to place an order with us. We missed out on it as there was no paper in the fax machine and no one of the right calibre to answer the phone so I had to phone Rachel to go and load up the fax but it was too late,” explains Ed.
“It was bonkers. There was no reason not to be accountable and so we began to play around with the idea of a professional, reliable telephone answering service.
“As siblings we are a perfect blend. Rachel is all about people and I am the technical bod. We are absolutely frank with each other and it works.”
The company is now the UK’s largest call-answering service, employing over 600 people and also has offices in Charleston, USA. It is also one of the most highly sought-after employers in the area. You can understand why. If a client sends positive feedback a bunch of flowers appears on your desk, or a ‘wow’ card and prosecco. And this management style comes from the top.
“People want to know that managers are genuine in their concern, not just interested in productivity,” continues Rachel. “When we built this new building in 2016, we sat down with the entire staff and asked what they wanted from their office-home. This all fed into the design of the building and environmental friendliness too.”
There is oodles of natural light and ventilation. The latter was explained to me but forgive me the lack of details – there are special silent pipes and windows which react to the light. The hub is the lobby atrium where visitors, like myself and employees gather to meet and socialise – there is even a pub.
Ed continues, “Yes, a technologically advanced building appealed to my techie heart but at the core of the building was a place where people would love to work – a place for individuality and ideas.”
There are classes, clubs and childcare support and flexibility. This begs the question of leadership and management style. Rachel is passionate on the subject. “We have learned a lot along the way, believe me. But one thing, more than anything is to trust your gut when it comes to recruitment. You could have the most amazing CV that blows you away but they are just not the right person for the job. Our PAs are part of the clients’ team, they trust them and we trust them. We are, most definitely, not what you would call a typical call centre.”
And this is at the core of what the familial pairing list as their secret to success – surround yourself with lots of brilliant people who are better at aspects of the business than you are. Ed has some other words of advice. “Do something you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy it then you will never excel at it. I came to this business from the perspective of the client and that has shaped our business goals here. Finding the need and satisfying it is far simpler than creating that need in the first place.
“Also, I have learned a lot from making a lot of mistakes. I am not afraid to break things or try new things. No experience is a bad one. It is simply one that you learn from.”
The plan is that Rachel and Ed manage themselves out of the business by creating a situation and environment for those who are best or better at the business excel. In 2014, Rachel stepped back from the business slightly and began a foundation taking young people from less fortunate backgrounds and providing them with proper work experiences to enable them to stand on their own two feet. We Mind the Gap has offices in Wrexham, Liverpool, Wales and very soon in Manchester.
I have been very honoured to meet some graduates of the charity and marvelled at how some kindness and mentoring can make such a difference to a young person’s life. I know that I, like others, am guilty of living in my bubble and taking certain things for granted. Directed by Rachel’s commitment and passion to people, We Mind the Gap offers under-served young women new opportunities bridging the gap between the public and private sector through all-encompassing, paid six-month traineeships.
Whether it is looking at the business or charity angle, Rachel and Ed are, no doubt ones for the inspirational people board. And when the world is full of Musk-esque alpha leaders grabbing the headlines, it is a refreshing and happy sight to see a company with people and technology effortlessly working together truly at its core.