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Case Study: sliding to success

Cosatto is a company that is on a mission to save the world from boring baby stuff, producing a distinctive range of prams, pushchairs and car seats with an instantly-recognisable style, bright colours and bold patterns.

Andrew Kluge, a member of Peter Hills’ Academy group 18, bought the Cosatto brand in 2003 and relocated the business from Basildon to Bolton. In its most recent financial year Cosatto had its best-ever sale figures. And, as Andrew explains the high level of motivation and engagement of everyone working for the business has been central to this success.

How did you get to where you are now?

In 2009 we pivoted the business because it had turned into something that was neither enjoyable, profitable or fulfilling. This was a seminal moment for me as I realised I only wanted to sell our own products under our own name rather than making things for other brands.

cosatto-01The early days of the turnaround were quite a challenge as everyone had to take a salary cut whilst we got the new business up and running. But people bought into this as everyone was treated equally. This was the beginning of our focus on transparency and equality. As business picked, up we continued the same principal by introducing a company-wide monthly profit scheme where everyone could share the profit. Our monthly bonus last year averaged 18%. It’s very simple: if the company does well, you do well.

We had been through such a tough time during the restructuring that I had also learned that it was important to enjoy both work and home life, to have a balance between the two and to make sure that the people I was working with could also do the same.

The Academy was a great sounding board as with the support of my Group I was able to say “Okay, if I was designing this business from scratch, what would I want it to look like and how would I want to run it?”

Tell us a bit about the Cosatto values.

Revision: Living and breathing our values is how we run the business. We’ve articulated  12 values – things like  ‘look after the pennies’, ‘dot the eyes and cross the Ts’ and ‘say what you mean and mean what you say’.  We also have a reward scheme so that people can put forward colleagues who have really been living the values. Often it’s an opportunity for unsung heroes to be recognised. There will be a nice little something for the people who are nominated, like a bottle of wine, and it’s a good opportunity for us to reward and acknowledge a job well done.

How does your emphasis on transparency play out within the business?

Transparency is the bedrock of what we do. Every month we get everybody together for an hour. I stand up and talk about what’s going on in the company, including the financial side of things. It’s an open session where anybody can ask questions. I always tell them how we are doing even if it’s a less good month because it’s important to remember that people can worry about these things.

I hear that you have some innovative motivational schemes

Yes, we have a scheme called Once in a Lifetime, which is once a year. There’s a pot of £10,000 for somebody to do something they’ve always wanted to do. People submit their applications and then the rest of the workforce vote on who should get the money. We have one lady who climbed up to Everest based camp and someone last year went extreme mountain biking through the Alps.

We run a smaller-scale version of this every quarter. We’ve got somebody going hot-air ballooning shortly, and another who went on a macaroon-making course in Paris, stuff like that. It’s a bit of fun. And there’s a charity scheme whereby each month we give 50p for each invoice that we raise to a charity that’s nominated by the staff.

We also operate a system we call 3Rs – Responsibility, Results and Relaxation. The concept of it is that everybody has very clear goals and objectives and measures that align with the company’s and they have complete and utter flexibility as to how, where and when they do their jobs. In my opinion there’s no reason why someone shouldn’t be able to choose to work from home or from Starbucks or to work at 2.00am in the morning or from their holiday home in Spain. They’re adults. They shouldn’t have to ask for permission for this sort of thing. Nobody clocks in, nobody clocks out. Nor is there any talk of “How many hours you’ve done this week?” It’s all about getting the job done – how and where is less important.

Is it true that you have a slide in your building?

We’re in a big old Lancashire mill and the slide connects what we call the Chill Out room, where people can mix and relax and chat, with the floor below. It gets used all the time. I use it if I’m having a bit of a tough day – you go down the slide and you’re instantly cheered up – you suddenly become a child again. It can’t help but put a smile on your face. We do have stairs, too, though – you don’t have to climb back up it!

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