HL BaSE sat down for a chat with Paul Lindley, award-winning British entrepreneur and children's welfare campaigner. Paul founded organic baby and children's food brand Ella's Kitchen in 2006 and is a key speaker at our HL BaSE training programme.
"Social entrepreneurs are the prototype for what all business will be, should be."
Paul's belief in business as a force for good aligns completely with the HL BaSE ethos so who better to illustrate to our junior lawyers that purpose-led business can be the way to commercial success? He shared with them some key messages from his book 'Little Wins: The Huge Power of Thinking Like a Toddler'.
Paul spoke about the importance of enabling honesty in his business, or as we might say at Hogan Lovells "straight talk". I don’t think anyone needs to be persuaded of the benefit of honest and open communication between colleagues but the question is how to create an environment which encourages that behaviour? At Ella's Kitchen staff who want to tackle a potentially tricky conversation or voice a crazy new idea can take advantage of the 'brave card'; a physical card that empowers the holder to be brave, be bold and say what's on their mind.
They also benefit from the Open Blend Method; a coaching tool that focuses on an individual's wellbeing, key drivers and performance. Its approach is based on the fact that the work life balance is outdated and in fact it should be possible to achieve a work life blend where each allows for the other. It also accepts the fact that different people have different goals and ambitions and that allowing for these differences can help an employer to get the best out of its employees.
Why is the sky blue? What is skin? Anyone?! Anyone who has hung out with a toddler will be familiar with the constant stream of questions and may have experienced the moment of pause when you realise that the most obvious of questions can be the hardest to answer. The toddler doesn’t take anything for granted and it turns out that this attitude - asking the obvious - can be a real asset in a business environment. By continuing to ask questions, by continuing to question the status quo business founder and employee alike can help a business to respond to change in a positive way.
For Paul this approach extends beyond the commercial to the systemic; why does capitalism only work for the few, why has the economy grown but wages have fallen, why is there not more regulation and legislation to take the short termism out of business and to support those businesses that are having a positive impact?
HL BaSE asked Paul what he is most proud of, and the answer is Ella's Kitchen's certification as a B Corp. If you are not familiar with the B Corp, B Corp is to business what fair trade is to coffee; a set of standards around social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. Certification alone is a reason to be proud but Paul is particularly so in this case because Ella's Kitchen was certified following his sale of the company. The fact that the company was keen to go through the certification process and moreover was successful in that process was a sign that the values and ethos that Paul was determined to bring to the company had survived the sale. Those values were so woven into the fabric of the business that he was able to step back without a concern that the company's mission would drift. Paul argues that this determination pays off from a commercial perspective because a values based business leads to consistency and simplicity of approach; attractive qualities for any brand.
For Paul, a stand out lawyer is one that understands and considers the context in which their client is operating. Paul gave the example of where something goes wrong for a business and the human instinct is to apologise but the legal advice only considers the legal liability. In an environment where transparency and authenticity are key to the consumer, there is a real balance to be struck between living those values and making sensible legal decisions. A lawyer who is able to understand the different advice that the client will be receiving and the lens that the consumer will be applying is far better placed to outline the various options and their consequences.
Although an initially terrifying thought (HL BaSE has some experience of the threenager), the honest, proactive and straightforward approach of a toddler is something that we can all learn from. Paul said that the best advice he has ever been given was from Sir Ken Morrison, the former chairman of Morrisons when he said "See those? (pointing to Paul's feet), 'Keep them on the ground' and 'See that? (pointing to Paul's head) 'Keep it in the clouds'. No one could argue that Paul didn't listen, I wonder if he has any tips on how to make my toddler do the same.