The Idea : a certain idea of management

     The Idea is a young marketing agency. Young because of its creation in 2014 but also because of the age of its employees, 75% of the country is less than 35 years old. Mr. G (Galeno Chua),  the CEO of this company that employs about 25 people welcomes us. As we are presenting the aim of our visit, he grabs a marker and takes notes directly on the table: « so that I do not forget anything”. Pragmatism, dynamism, and directness, it did not take us a long time to discover some of the qualities of our host. Our presentation was barely finished when Mr. G started answering our questions. Naturally, he explains the company’s approach through the « 7 P’s of marketing ». Product, People, Price, Process, Place, Promotion, Physical Evidence. But, for Mr. G, one of those P’s is decisive and influences the 6 others: this is People.5

     Well, concretely what does it mean? First and foremost, by a singular principle: 40% of working time  is  dedicated  to  CSR  ­‐Corporate  Social  Responsibility‐  actions.  Volunteering,  free  consulting, solidarity events, these are examples of actions that The Idea conducts in favor  of education,  health or environment as part of their triple bottom line. For the company and its employees, it is  essential  that  this  CSR  policy translates into concrete positive benefits for Cambodian people. However, The Idea is not a social enterprise.

     So, why do they dedicate 2 out of 5 days of work working for free? The answer is clear: meaningful work. Mr. G announces to us: «  I  want  my  employees hungry. If they are hungry, they’ll eat everybody’s lunch. » This hunger for change and progress that Mr. G wants to generate among its employees translates into actions in favor of Cambodians and into working for the company’s customers. Only motivation is not enough for the success of a company, it must be put at the service of an efficient team. To do so, The Idea has more   than an idea.

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    First, having a diversified team because “if we are all the same and we do the same thing, we are nothing competitive”. Then, to ensure that the different profiles recruited will fit into the team, the candidate takes 3 interviews with 3 different interviewers. He meets one superior, one co‐worker and one subordinate. Of course, the candidate doesn’t know who occupies which position. He is hired only if all three agree. Thus, if the subordinate  considers that the  candidate  would  not have a good ‘fit’ as a manager, he can prevent future inefficiencies from happening. Once this step is passed, the candidate will have a paid ‘pre-probation’ week prior to probation to be sure that the company corresponds with what they are looking for. Otherwise, he can leave at any time. Once the team is constituted and motivated, it remains to make sure that it is effective.   To do so, team-­‐building and team-­‐bonding are welcomed. The first learn to the employees how to work together thanks to training and coaching. The second one  creates  social  link  between  co-­‐workers  through  different  kind  of  activities  and  outings.  During 1 jpegthese activities, Mr. G likes to push its employees outside their comfort zone to see how they react. Various competitions and escape  games are commonplaces. Mr. G is a climbing enthusiast, he reveals  to us that his next project is to make his managers suspend several meters high to improve their stress management. More seriously, in the manner of universities offering academic exchanges abroad to its students, the company offers its employees the opportunity to participate to a « talent exchange » with another company in New‐Zealand.   Several employees can go abroad during 3 to 6 months to learn and improve their skills in a  partner company, while  they  are  still paid. These  various practices  are part of continuous progress of employees aimed at countering the  “Peter’s Principle”.  This  concept was developed by Laurence Peter, on the findings that a competent  employee  will  be  promoted successively until he reaches his level of incompetence from  which he will no longer move.  You will have understood, the direct corollary of this principle is that in the end, all positions will be occupied by «incompetents». If Peter’s work is intended to be satirical, it is not empty of lessons.

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     From then on, the company strives to make its employees follow the leitmotiv of its CEO: “be the best at what you do.”

     In addition to these practices, employees are given a great deal of freedom regarding the power to take initiatives and the way they want to work. Mr. G explains to us the reason quoting a precept of Charlie Munger who is a faithful friend of Warren Buffet: “remain in your circle of competence, invest [your money] only in what you know.” Finance and Economics teache us that it is better to leave to others the domains they master better than we do. Humility and pragmatism explain why the entrepreneur pushes the employees to take initiatives when they are more competent that others. Thus, if during one of the daily meeting, an employee proposes an idea, the answer is almost always: « of course, go for it, try it and if it works you’ll implement it.” Moreover, tolerance and gratitude are fundamental pillars of collaboration within the agency. All this makes The Idea a good example of a committed and engaging company.

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