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Leadership & Strategy


Creating an acronym for our values made them memorable

Rob Cole, founder of Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens, ingrains his values in every area of the business
Rob Cole asks interview candidates which core value is most important to them and why

Name: Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens
Location: Sheffield
Employees: 15
Founded in: 2008
Tip: “Build good, lasting relationships with subcontractors, particularly if they’re on the front line with clients.

The problem

Rob Cole started bespoke kitchen company Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens after becoming frustrated with existing services’ poor quality and attitudes to waste.

“I founded the business on my own strong personal values, but they weren’t written down at the start. They were just things in my head that I felt were important,” said Rob. “When we were a small team we didn’t really need them formalised, but as we got a bit bigger we lost track of them a bit.”

In the past five years, the bespoke kitchen manufacturer has experienced rapid growth, increasing from five to 15 employees. It became clear that the values needed to be better communicated to the team, suppliers and clients.

The solution

Rob and his team spent time together working to get the values right and making sure that they became ingrained throughout the business.

They came up with a set of values to form an acronym: ECO SHEF. This stands for: extra mile; collaboration; originality; sustainability; happy and hardworking; ethics; and friendly. The team enact these in everything they do, from using electric vehicles to banking and purchasing ethically.

But the values go well beyond environmental efforts. They have “employee of the month” where staff can nominate each other based on how they’ve performed in one of the key values.

“The values also run throughout our recruitment process, so anyone who comes to an interview with us is asked about which core value is most important to them and why. We try and make sure that people are engaged from the start,” Rob said.

There are also regular company away days, where staff will volunteer for local charities or invite disadvantaged young people into their workshops to learn about what they do.

The results

The company recently won the Excellence in Corporate, Social and Environmental Responsibility award at the Sheffield Business Awards. Rob is starting to look at how the company can expand into Manchester and is keen to make sure the values remain prominent as they grow. 

“We’ve made a lot of progress in the past 12-18 months. We’ve got a fantastic team which represents the company and our values wonderfully. Staff tell me that they enjoy working for us because it’s a fun and enjoyable place, but more than that – there’s a real value in going to work and doing something you believe in.” 

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