Plan.com: Creating a Passionate Working Environment in the Isle of ManLocate.im had the great opportunity to sit down with Kevin Perks and Nicola Patterson of Isle of Man based company plan.com, to discuss their ‘work hard / play hard’ philosophy.
Ranked #1 in the 2018 Sunday Times Hiscox Tech Track 100 awards, plan.com is a rising telecommunications giant offering tailored mobile, hosted voice and broadband services to business customers in the UK. Their bespoke tariffs and online self-service platforms are attractive to businesses of all sizes, as is their unparalleled customer service and technical support.
Nicola Patterson (PA to plan.com CEO): Work hard, play hard – that’s been our approach since day one. People reading this might focus on the ‘play hard’ part but it does have to be emphasised that we ‘work hard’, too.
Plan.com is not your average company to work for. We are evolving so fast that people have to adapt quickly to what we’re doing. That can be quite challenging, sometimes. It means putting in the hours and we really, really, do work hard.
The payoff is that we play hard. And when we say play hard, we like to offer experiences that are unusual. We want to take people to places they would never dream of going.
Kevin Perks (Head of HR): We started doing ‘Summer Parties’ for our people. The first one was at our boss’s garden, which is much grander than it sounds!
Nicola: It was Ibiza themed and it was brilliant! The next year we went to London, and it was absolutely lovely.
Kevin: There were about 25 people back then.
Nicola: We climbed the O2 Arena, got picked up in luxury coaches, and had a rooftop party. The next year, we sailed to Bruges on a P&O cruise liner, which was spectacular. We kept it a surprise – Dan (Craddock, the company’s CEO) and I were the only people who knew where we were going.
Locate: You just told your employees to ‘pack your bag, bring your passport and show up here’?
Nicola: Yes, basically! Everybody was invited. We often have new starters and one or two weeks later, they’re going on a trip! We do everything we can do get everyone involved.
The following year, we weren’t able to do a summer party – we were simply too busy. So, we decided to hold a winter party instead – in Iceland, with 76 employees!
Kevin: Everything was included in the trip – accommodation, meals and activities – everything.
Nicola: Our people didn’t have to worry about a thing. They simply had to turn up at the airport with their passport and warm clothes. For us, Iceland was a real ‘bucket list’ destination combined with all of our favourite people from work. We did everything there was to possibly do in Iceland. We went snow-mobiling across a glacier, saw the waterfall…
Kevin: The Blue Lagoon, a Viking party…
Nicola: Yes, we went to a Viking party in a cave! It was unbelievable. If you went into the office now and said ‘Iceland’ you’d get everybody all talking about it. It was absolutely brilliant.
Locate: It sounds like an incredible way to see the world.
Nicola: We like to see the world but we have a lot of fun in the office, too. We are always pushing the boundaries.
During the summer we held World Cup week. It started off as ‘everybody choose a country and decorate your desk’, which I’m sure a lot of companies do. However, it turned into ‘each bank of desks gets £250 to do what they want’ and it took off! The boss’s office was a desert full of sand. It was Moroccan themed, and totally unrecognisable. He pushed it, so everybody pushed it. We had Spanish cruise liners, an Australian hot tub and palm trees… every inch of the office was covered in something.
Kevin: The point behind it all was ‘no limits’ – think big and act on your ideas. That ethos is set from the very top of the company and it encourages people to step outside of their comfort zones and upset the status quo.
The company’s ambition is to be the biggest and best at everything we do. We’re currently fourteenth in The Sunday Times 100 Best Small Companies to Work For, and our ambition is to ultimately be number one.
Locate: And you were ranked first in The Sunday Times Hiscox Tech Track 100 list?
Kevin: When I first started at the plan.com, there were just 34 people. Two years later, we’re now around 100 people strong. But nobody here is sat around twiddling their thumbs! It is incredibly hard work. To be the best, we need to get the kind of people who are absolutely committed to go above and beyond. We want every seat in this business to be filled with people like that.
Because plan.com works in a relatively young industry and uses the latest technology, it can be hard to get people with relevant experience. Instead, we look for people with passion, commitment and personality. I believe that most things can be trained; as long as you have those three key ingredients.
The travel and social events are a great bonus, but the best indicator of employee satisfaction for me is that when you ask our people about their jobs, they’re excited to tell you what they’re working on and how their contribution contributes to the company overall.
Nicola: We love ideas. If anyone has an idea – the door is always open. People have evolved in their roles and moved across departments under their own steam. They’ve proposed new roles, sold it to the boss and six weeks later, they’re in position.
Kevin: We are 100% committed to giving people training in almost any subject they want. I know that sounds a bit radical, but if an employee is driven to get a qualification or take a course, we try to support it. We love curious, passionate, life-long learners. There may or may not be a position currently available for that particular skill set – but there might be in the future.
One of our employees is passionate about fitness and he wanted to study nutrition. We helped him on that journey because it makes him a better person – and if he can bring some of that to the business and help our health and wellbeing, we are going to encourage it!
Locate: There doesn’t seem to do anything ‘typical’ about plan.com, but could you give us a glimpse into an average day at the office?
Kevin: Everyone does different jobs and it’s very full-on, all of the time. You’re always fighting the clock because there’s so much to do and we want to get there quickly, so there’s always a sense of urgency. If you like working like that, you’ll love it here. The adrenaline flows! And that’s what we want everyone to feel – that passion and commitment to being the best.
Nicola: You never know what’s around the corner. You might be having a typical day and then something will happen that makes you say, ‘I wasn’t expecting that!’, and it all changes.
Kevin: We don’t like ‘ordinary’. We encourage people to think differently and welcome people from different backgrounds. We’re a tech company at heart. Our unique selling point is our portal. It’s what our business partners use to win and support customers, and it’s constantly being developed by our in-house tech team. It’s the engine of our company.
Our coders are from all corners of the globe – we have a diverse team.
Nicola: Relocating can be complicated, so we make sure to look after our people; before they move here and once they’re settled in the Isle of Man.
Kevin: That means looking after their families, as well. If their family hasn’t settled, how are they going to?
Nicola: We moved heaven and earth to bring a cat over from South Africa! We did everything we could and we did it.
We call ourselves a family. It sounds a little clichéd but it is true. Sometimes, when you come in on a Monday morning, it genuinely feels like that. There are always people here that you talk with, go out with, become close friends with. It’s really positive.
Locate: Has the company always been this tight-knit?
Nicola: I’ve been Dan’s PA for 17 years, so I’ve seen this company grow from three people all the way to 100. Being in here every day, it’s hard to see the growth – but when I take a moment to stop and look around, I think to myself, ‘Oh my gosh! Look at what we’ve accomplished!’
There used to be three of us sat around a table doing everything, and now look at us! It’s amazing how far we’ve come but we’ve still got so much more we want to accomplish.
Kevin: The ambition for us is to be the biggest and the absolute best. The world is your oyster at plan.com.
Thank you very much to Kevin and Nicola for taking time to discuss plan.com’s amazing office culture. Click here if you are interested in finding your dream job in the Isle of Man.