The strongest corporate cultures are those that encourage individuality. If this seems like a contradiction, Mako’s vibrant, engaging, supportive environment and the commercial success it generates is proof that a company’s ability to recognise the individual benefits all parties.
There are countless advantages to an organisation that empowers individuals to bring their skills and perspectives to bear on the everyday challenges and opportunities of commercial life. At Mako, an options market making company at the leading edge of technology in trading, the full engagement of every team member is essential to success. Our world is too complex, too fast-paced merely to go through the motions.
Creativity is arguably the most powerful aspect of an individual’s contribution. While it’s possible to build a structure that supports innovation, it’s difficult to write a process to light the spark of inspiration. Brilliant breakthroughs, new perspectives, ideal solutions…typically, all are the domain of the individual. Eureka moments are rarely achieved by committee. The power of the collective is best applied to refining, rather than generating an idea.
A company whose culture celebrates the innate creativity of its employees has a keen advantage over its competitors. David Segel, Mako’s Founder, believes passionately that financial services is a creative industry. Creativity is not exclusive to the arts and indeed is an essential component of a business like Mako, powered by the twin engines of entrepreneurship and technology.
Recognising an individual’s contribution can spark a chain reaction. People who feel valued typically value the contribution of others. An open exchange of views is essential to developing good ideas. Friction is often a necessary ingredient in any recipe for change, but where support and transparency are also part of the mix, it is possible to create the type of ‘safe environment’ that allows opinions to be challenged without fear of offence.
Far from undermining a collective purpose, individuals empowered to improve processes enjoy greater buy-in to the corporate whole. A person who feels they can make a difference is typically one inspired, and a workforce of inspired employees should be a goal of any business. The flat organisational structure that has been the central tenet of Mako’s culture since day one ensures that every voice is heard. Trystan Morgan Schauer, our CEO, makes the point that he is as interested in the ideas of a new joiner as someone who has worked at Mako for 20 years.
Chris Welsh, our former CEO and now the company’s Chairman, describes Mako as “an ideas meritocracy”. Our leadership team judges ideas on value, rather than source. “Those with the good ideas get the air time,” he says. Talent, creativity, dedication and, yes, personality are the only characteristics that matter.
Mako’s focus on talent and a culture that allows personalities to flourish provides a head start in the race to bring about a gender balance in financial services. We have a fantastic opportunity to break down those barriers that make financial services seem like a staid and arcane industry and to show why it would be an exciting prospect for any intelligent candidate.
Solving problems lies at the core of our business. Our traders are entrepreneurs by instinct and hardwired to seek new ways to succeed. Overcoming technical challenges is in the DNA of our developers. Colleagues responsible for the corporate infrastructure that enables them to thrive are empowered to augment and enhance essential back office procedures. All are free to bring ideas to the table. Personality is celebrated at Mako, rather than left at the door at the start of the working day.
The language that surrounds empowered individuals is universally positive. Those who find a home within an organisation are able to flourish, develop and grow. They enhance the business, inspire their colleagues and help the existing culture evolve. A company like Mako that celebrates individuality can expect to reap the rewards of an engaged workforce. A level of trust is implicit, of course, but selecting individuals with characteristics to enhance rather than damage the culture is a function of skilled recruitment.
Identifying characters who will help the business to grow is the primary function of our HR team and part of my responsibilities, too. Our hiring goal is to recognise personalities that will augment the Mako culture, rather than merely fit in with who we are now. Spotting personality traits that will enhance our operation is no easy task but is essential to helping our culture to evolve. Many of my colleagues describe Mako as a family. Introducing new members is a great responsibility.
Creating a culture in which personalities can flourish is a significant achievement. I’m sure that we’ve all had jobs where the environment served to block rather than inspire our creativity. Before joining Mako more than seven years ago, I worked in the civil service. While the organisation was of similar scale, I found the environment anonymous and uninspiring.
Mako could not be more different. Ideas are as freely exchanged around our pool and snooker tables as in meetings. Engaged individuals are empowered to contribute to a success story that benefits every member of the Mako family. A flat organisational structure, intelligent hiring strategy and an open culture that welcomes ideas from every quarter are all responsible for such a positive outcome. A personality allowed to flourish – encouraged, rather than denuded -is a company’s most powerful asset. Mako is filled with them.