Our latest guest on our Industry Leaders Podcast is CEO of Pennies, Alison Hutchinson.
Pennies is a digital charity box that are on a mission to grow micro-donations and ensure consumers have digital ways to keep donating the small amounts of money that are so vital for charitable causes. This podcast highlights how needed these donations are for charities just to stay afloat right now, especially amidst the challenging UK economy.
Also in this episode, Alison shares more about how Pennies started, what charities have been able to achieve with micro-donations, Pennies big plans for the future and so much more.
Listen to this inspiring interview below...
Or if you prefer, you can read the full transcript below...
Sorcha O’Boyle: Hello and welcome to the Industry Leaders Podcast, where we talk to the leaders of some of the most exciting retail and direct brands and learn the real stories behind their success, their challenges, and their plans for the future. I’m Sorcha O’Boyle and this podcast is brought to you by More2, the marketing science people.
Now I have something a little bit different for you this episode. I’m joined today by Alison Hutchinson CEO of registered charity Pennies. Alison, I think it’s fair to say has business in her blood. She comes from an entrepreneurial family and has led senior teams at IBM, Barclays Bank, and many, many, others. Today though she is CEO of Pennies which is the digital charity box she set up in 2009. In a nutshell, and I’m sure Alison will give us more details, but it is basically a way for consumers to simply and safely donate pennies digitally, in stores, in restaurants, online and also on smart devices. So, it’s essentially, it’s a new channel for an old habit and it’s bringing micro donations into the digital age. So, Alison, listen, it is brilliant to have you here, how are you doing?
Alison Hutchinson: Very well and thank you very much for having me.
Sorcha O’Boyle: No, I’m delighted to have you because we’ve never actually had anything like Pennies on the podcast before so I think and people will be really interested and I’m really interested, you know, kind of to hear why you set it up, what you do and all that kind of thing. But maybe just to give us a little bit of background, what did the early years of your career look like?
Alison Hutchinson: Well that’s an interesting question it depends how early you want to go back to because I guess if I go early, early, you know, my upbringing was very much in a fantastic family but a very much a working class environment where my mum and dad were amazing entrepreneurs and we had lots of local family businesses things like Bed and Breakfasts, Dry Cleaner Shops, Electrical Contractors. And so, from the minute I knew I could walk, talk, contribute we were part of what was called Charlie’s Angels, my dad was called Charlie. So, it was my mum, my sister and I and we did whatever we had to do, and it taught me from a really young age, kind of some really interesting business models. I hold to the day really what my mum and dad taught me which it might seem a bit simplistic, but it was all about make sure the customers are King, attract and look after the best people you can, make more money than you spend and give back to the community you’re serving. And I think for me I look fast forward to my career now and actually that’s what’s held me in good stead. So that’s my really early parts but if you really want my career after that I was fortunate to go to university and then started my career in Newcastle as a systems engineer at IBM and had the very fortunate opportunity to really be part of a graduate recruitment at IBM. It took me everything through developing code, selling, marketing, international activities. I ran a couple of global business units for them for example the global ecommerce business for financial services during the dot-com boom. When I left IBM after about 14, 15 years I joined Barclays where I ran a subsidiary of Barclays which was a joint venture with Accenture which was really my first CEO role. After a couple of years I went on to be Marketing Director at Barclaycard, then spent some time with Kensington Mortgages group which was a PLC that I was put on the board to help turnaround and in fact we delisted that just before the financial crisis and then you fast forward to now where I have the real privilege and probably one of the best opportunities of anybody because I run and I’ve led and founded this amazing charity and I also sit on the board of three other companies as a non-executive director. So that’s me. Probably too much, but that’s me.
Sorcha O’Boyle: No but you know it’s funny what you say like it is a simple way, I think like you were saying about your family business, you know, between your customer being is King, keeping your cash flow going, hiring good people, building good teams, and giving back. I mean that’s the distillation of a good business course. People go to university for four years to learn that. It is a simple rule of thumb and I think sometimes you can kind of overcomplicate things and obviously business is complex. But I think when you keep those kind of core pillars, you’re not going to go too far wrong, as long as you’re doing all of them kind of okay you would be fine.
Alison Hutchinson: Exactly, exactly and it’s even interesting things like risk management which is obviously so important to business and I’m sure this was just my memory and totally wrong but I remember when I was of an age, you know like my dad would take all the electrical contracting and you’d have a socket that was priced at say 25p in the day, I can’t remember, and cable it was priced and I used to have to do the arithmetic and then add it all up. And I remember, I’m sure it’s not true, dad saying, “Well, you better get it right because if it’s wrong that will cost us”. So, my understanding of risk management make sure all my arithmetic was right was from a very young age. Of course, I’m sure he did check it but it’s things like that that I feel my parents gifted me with, just the practical reality of running businesses.
Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, yeah, absolutely I mean I think, my dad is self-employed as well and he was running corporate events up until the financial crash which obviously when you’re living in Ireland in 2008 and your main clients are the banks that’s not a good place to be. You know, so as quite at a young age you kind of, you understand, oh gosh actually cash flow is really important. You know and it, it’s kind of that fundamental thing and I think it’s helpful if you have kids and you’re running a business to be really open with them about whether it’s just, you know, “Okay the next couple of months are quite lean and we don’t have this kind of money, but you know we will get through it, and this is what we’re going to do”. I think it’s really healthy for kids, I think, and also it really teaches you very important lessons very young, very young.
Alison Hutchinson: I think that’s right, and I hope, I’m sure your dad has found a new path going forward that’s the thing.
Sorcha O’Boyle: Oh God, yeah.
Alison Hutchinson: [Talk Over 00:05:27] well you don’t really because they just keep reinventing themselves so fantastic. But I think you’re right and one of my personal passions is I’m just not sure we spend enough time helping people understand money. You know, what debt is, what a mortgage is, where you invest, how you save. It’s such an important skill and particularly going into the current really challenging economic times where people are finding it much tighter on their wallets, it’s so important that people know and understand money. I just don’t think it’s in our education enough, I don’t think people talk about it enough and then it becomes, “Oh well maybe I should know”, when actually if you’ve never taught or had the experience, how can you?
Sorcha O’Boyle: Yes.
Alison Hutchinson: So, there’s so much more I think we need to do to help people on that journey.
Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah absolutely, absolutely. Could you tell me a little bit about Pennies, what, you know, in more detail than I was able to give? What is the charity, what do you do and who do you work with?
Alison Hutchinson: Thank you. I thought you did do a very good job actually so don’t, don’t put yourself down. I mean listen, it’s right, the most popular way of giving is dropping coins in a charity box because it’s easy, it’s affordable, nobody asks you and you just do it if you want to do it because you feel good. You’ve just bought something, you’ve got a few coins, you think, “Ah, they’d be better off actually going to charity”. And way back when we founded Pennies, we just spotted the trend that we were starting to go cashless, contactless was in its early stages, e-commerce was in a boom and so our vision was how do we protect and grow those little microdonations by making it easy and affordable for everybody to give regardless of the channel? So that’s where kind of Pennies came from, and our vision is that these pennies really add up to making a huge difference and we can talk about that later, but that’s what we’re trying to do is really democratize giving so that everybody that wants to can, but they do it if it’s their choice and it just makes people feel good. So, in order to do Pennies, we’ve created - sounds like a grand word - but a little eco-system because we can’t do this ourselves. So, we work with the payment and technology industry to embed pennies as a standard feature so it’s available to retailers and they’re usually retailers with a small ‘r’ because that can be football clubs, it can be hospitality, you know, it’s completely that broad spectrum of people that are buying and selling to consumers is really what I mean. But by embedding the technology and having lots of API’s and plug-ins it makes it relatively easy for retailers to join in. And we work with retailers to help them unlock Pennies, they nominate the charity or charities they want to support whether that be a tiny local one or regional or one of our national favourites and then the rest is quite simple and as soon as we enable Pennies, we’ve just found there’s never been a retailer switch on where there’s not an immediate consumer response. You know I go right back to our first partner in Dominos Pizza who were really keen to help trial it with us for three months and this was 12 years ago. We knew it was going to be enabled in the platform at the quietest time at ten o’clock in the morning and I was sitting there, and I remember wondering who ordered pizzas at ten o’clock but now I have got 20 something year old children I know exactly who orders. But we were ready with our order and literally we knew it was coming and we clicked to be first to donate and I think we were the fourth donation and that kind of meant we knew from an early, early stage we were onto something. Where intuitively having never been seen in the UK you’ve got consumers saying, “Why wouldn’t I click and round up my order when I’m ordering Dominos and give it to charity?” I guess the other thing I would say is we work very closely with the charities because storytelling is so, so, important and I’m sure we will come back to a few examples there. But these charities do amazing work in the UK and yes, we’re a charity but we’re here to be really delivering for all of the front-line charities in the UK and that’s a very humbling place to be really.
Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah of course and you must come across some very inspiring stories with the people that you talk to. Can you maybe tell us if they’re a couple that stay with you or stand out to you?
Alison Hutchinson: Oh, there are so many inspiring stories. It’s quite often heart breaking, and I can feel myself, you know, when you’re involved. I’m not sure I could pick out one or two I mean you see kids with severe disability that just can’t get out of bed themselves that maybe don’t have the support they need and yet they get some resources that might just be an hour of help that goes in helping them and it transforms their families life, their life. You sit and talk to families who have kids having a traumatic time say at Great Ormond Street who couldn’t afford to stay next to their own child. I can’t imagine having my child in that and having to be remote. Whereas some of the funds mean that they can stay next door to their kid, they can be there for them. You know these stories seem kind of ordinary, “Oh you’re putting somebody up in a room”, but you’re giving them the gift of being close to their loved ones. And every story you hear, parents who find their children having real mental health issues. If you’ve ever been close to someone that’s lost somebody that’s decided to get to that dark space of having to take their life because they feel there’s no other way through, and you just speak to the trauma that’s left behind with their families and their ifs and so’s and buts and whatever’s. The work these charities do across a spectrum of activity, and I haven’t even mentioned the word cancer and heart and all those kind of health issues it genuinely reminds you why you’re so lucky in life and why every morning, however challenging, get up and put a smile on your face and just remember how lucky you are to be able to crack on and do something and for me that’s the inspiration I get every single day.
Sorcha O’Boyle: Could you tell me where do you want to bring Pennies? In your kind of best-case scenario, what would you like to see Pennies doing in the next couple of years?
Alison Hutchinson: Oh, my dream is what you’re asking.
Sorcha O’Boyle: Yes.
Alison Hutchinson: Well, let me dream for a bit and put some context. If every UK adult that was banked in the UK could give equivalent of a chocolate truffle or do you remember those old chocolate Freddo bars?
Sorcha O’Boyle: Yes.
Alison Hutchinson: Yes, well if we all gave equivalent of a chocolate Freddo bar just once a week that would be a billion pounds of additional money for the UK charity centre. And so, for me, people question, is that little bit helpful? Yes, it is, every penny helps and together they could be incredibly meaningful. So that’s why for me yes, we’ve smashed through 40 million pounds at the end of this year from 160 million consumer donations but we’re on it with quick heels of what we can possibly do to help the UK charity sector and I’ll do everything I can and get the support, hopefully from as many people to really march towards that amazing amount. But yeah, the charity sector needs huge support and I think together we can make a big difference.
Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, absolutely for sure. Well, I am very excited to see the next months and [TBC 00:12:16] because I think there’s just, there’s so much potential and people really do want to give they just want a channel that’s available to them and that’s what you’re giving so it’s wonderful.
Alison Hutchinson: Thank you.
Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, absolutely and can you tell me maybe with Pennies what happens is if you have a transaction and then it’s let’s say £17.27 you round up to the nearest pound, is that how it works?
Alison Hutchinson: Basically yes. The retailer actually has a number of choices. The consumer doesn’t see this, so I’ll explain the consumer in a minute, but the retailer can choose do they want to round up to the nearest 10 pence, 50 pence, a pound? It might be more of a standard top up of five pence or 25 pence. So, the retailer has an ability to also say if it’s below £10 maybe don’t prompt anything. So there’s so many opportunities but from an consumer point of view at checkout whether that be online or in-store or in an app they just see, would you like to donate 12p to support Macmillan Cancer and they see it’s powered by Pennies and if you want to donate you click, you tap. If you do nothing it disappears. So, it’s always, always, customer choice to opt in if that’s what they want to do.
Sorcha O’Boyle: Okay, yeah. Brillant. And you know it’s something I really noticed in the past I suppose maybe six or seven months on this podcast talking to business leaders, you know, as they’re kind of coming out of the shock of Covid and the shock of the war in Ukraine and supply chain and you know, the kind of, obviously we’re going into challenging economic situation but as those kind of big global shocks are kind of, people are getting to grips with or kind of settling with, really social purpose is really something that people are thinking so much about and it’s something that’s, you know, was always there but I think has kind of come to the forefront and brands are really trying to think how they can act meaningfully and think meaningfully. So why do you think it is that Pennies in particular resonates with brands and with consumers so much?
Alison Hutchinson: It’s a really good question and I totally agree with your observation. I think social purpose has always been there. Everybody knows someone that’s needed help from a charity. So, everybody that’s basically good in their heart wants to give back to help and I think the reason Pennies resonates and particularly at the moment is because it’s such a small amount of money. So you’re not asking for a big long term commitment, you’re actually giving people the choice, so they feel in control, to give just a little bit but that adds up to making a huge difference and when we speak to consumers they’ll say, “If I knew who the charity was I’d give”, “If I knew what it meant I’d give”. Well Pennies does all of that. It transparently tells you really simply who the charity is and working with the retailer and the charity we package up the stories and people just are blown away at how quickly pennies add up. At Dominos, who I mentioned earlier, every ten minutes their customers pennies funds an hour of care for a teenager fighting cancer. That’s every ten minutes.
Sorcha O’Boyle: That’s incredible.
Alison Hutchinson: So why does Pennies resonate? Well, if I could afford to buy a pizza, I can afford a few pence to round up and from Dominos point of view they’re part of creating a community of customers with a sense of loyalty that together they’ve got a much bigger role in life. And so, I think it really works for the consumer, but it really works for the brand, and we’ve never had a major retailer that’s ever switched off that’s joined the Pennies movement which over 12 years and it’s not just customers. I can’t tell you how much colleagues love being part of Pennies because they don’t ask the customer, it’s all automated, so it’s not that they have to be doing the ask, but they get a sense of pride that the brands they’re working for give a chance to give back. And we bring scale to the giving they could do themselves whether volunteer their time or do their own bit but actually joining in with customers it brings huge scale. And so, I think it’s just one of those things that some people say, “Well what’s the catch?” Well, I genuinely don’t believe there is a catch because it’s all about choice, it’s all about making it easy for people and I think with busy lives and busy people and busy businesses trying to fight all the real challenging times we have, if you give them a relatively easy thing to do that actually just resonates and makes sense. Most people just want to do it, why wouldn’t you?
Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, yeah, absolutely, absolutely and I think you’re so right in making it a choice. There’s no obligation or there’s no, you know, because there’s sometimes you see some businesses restaurants or cafes and they kind of, they ask you for a tip or they kind of automatically assume a 10% tip and you, like people, consumers kind of kick back against that and they don’t like it. But when it is completely choice based it really is, it really is brilliant. And how do you see ESG strategies like Pennies, how do you see that developing the next five or ten years? Because it is somewhere that’s kind of really changed hugely digitally especially in the past couple of years. So, I’m interested to see where you think it may go in the future.
Alison Hutchinson: That’s a really interesting question and if I had the answer to that I’d make a lot of money for charity not [Inaudible 00:17:10] but no I think it is evolving. Look you’ve got to split E, S and G I think because E in terms of environment and climate change and there’s no doubt I think we’re going to see technology and governments having to intervene if we’re really going to try and get to a proper position on net zero over time because it’s not going to be a choice we have to. We can’t keep letting the temperature of the world keep going up we’re going to have and that’s not, we can all do our bit but there’s some big step changes that need to happen. For example, a lot of these big, large delivery trucks there’s no technology yet that enables you to deliver big items to peoples homes and so we’re going to have to get science and business and technology working together to address that. Equally I think, not many people know, but right now there’s a COP going on in Montreal to do with biodiversity. That’s a topic which is also really, really important for our nature and for our livelihood but it doesn’t get the same level of focus maybe as carbon footprint does and I think over the next ten years you’ll see that increase where a lot more people will be aware of that biodiversity, what it means to them. So, I think on that side it’s here. On the S side where you’re looking at colleagues, customers, communities I just think we could do a lot more technology and volunteering. I know there’s some schemes out there and some technologies that make it easy but actually it’s quite hard to volunteer.
Sorcha O’Boyle: It actually is. Do you know what, yeah. My mum has kind on gone on this thing of volunteering past few years, it’s really hard.
Alison Hutchinson: It is, actually these people that want to give time and yes you need DBS checks for certain activities and that’s all important, but I have this image if it’s easy and affordable to give pennies how can we make it easy and affordable for people to give their time? I think that’s a really untapped opportunity at the moment where more and more people, “Yeah I’ve got an hour here what could I go and do?” If you could go and go “Right okay, what could I do? Right, okay I can go and help with that food bank, or I could” and it’s not quite as accessible as it needs to be. So I think there’s a big step change and money’s one thing, but energy of human beings is another and when you see some of the volunteering work and some of the people that work in the front end of charities it’s remarkable how inspirational they can all be. So that again is where I think technology has a bigger role to play and there’s more we need to do there. But at Pennies we haven’t scratched the surface so I’m, I think we’re at the beginning of our journey and we need to do a lot more to get the word out, to make the technology easier and easier and easier and to help give consumers the chance to play their part.
Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s really interesting we’re recording this at the start of December, mid-December, and there’s so much conversation around Black Friday whether it’s moral to do it and how customers respond to it and obviously it’s very important for retailers and everything but what is less known about I think is Giving Tuesday. Have you seen any kind of uptake in Giving Tuesday over the past couple of years or do people know about it or how are they responding to it?
Alison Hutchinson: It’s a really good question and I don’t think it is well known. I mean I think you get Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday and actually Giving Tuesday was launched in the states ten years ago so it’s still relatively new and I think it’s beginning to get a bit of traction. Certainly we’ve found I think it was about 11 of our merchants all looked to promote what they were doing with Pennies as far as Giving Tuesday, quite a few of them matched the donations for the day or the week to try and bring a level of sense. There was a lot of storytelling to remind people how quickly pennies add up and the impact and when I look at the stats from last week, I think all of our merchants were up on Tuesday relative to the Tuesday before and I could say that’s part of the festive season and we can’t quite tell at this stage yet how much of it is from the festive season and increased buying. But there’s definitely been an increase and we know from the research we do if you’re match giving, if you story tell about the impact you are going to get people increasing but I think the important thing for me is that we just start to get far broader awareness so the more companies get involved like we’ve done with Pennies and like we do outside with loads of things that people do I think the more people will feel good about the importance of giving back. And I know I keep saying feel good, but there’s so many things to not feel good about at the moment.
Sorcha O’Boyle: Absolutely. Yeah.
Alison Hutchinson: We need to remember it. Yes, as I said get up in the morning and smile if you’ve got the ability to go out and do whatever you do or to talk to whoever you need to talk to but actually if we can give a little time or a little money and feel part of that community, I think it’s really good.
Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, I think you’re right and it is sometimes hard to feel that you could, can actually do anything or effect any change, you know, when it’s kind of big stories that you kind of feel you’ve no control over. I heard a lady speak a few weeks ago talking about you don’t have to make everything a big gesture, you don’t have to do everything perfectly, you just do little things little and often and that will add up over time and that’s doable and that’s achievable and it’s not going to break the bank, you know, but little things, that’s obviously the whole basis of Pennies but I think you’re spot on in making things a habit and making things easy for people, it’s really, really, effective.
Alison Hutchinson: And I always say it’s one step at a time. I always think let’s remember little children that are, little babies that turn into toddlers what do they do? They take one step and then they take two and they’re suddenly off walking and then they’re jogging and then they’re running and then. Do you know let’s break it down and make it easy-able and digestible rather than scaring people with too big an issue.
Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, spot on. And you touched briefly on volunteering a little while ago and I’d kind of love to hear your approach to leadership because I know that’s something that you’ve spoken out about before. I read a really interesting quote that you said a couple years. It said, “Effective leadership means being visible and ruthless in decision making but compassionate in the execution”. I’d love for you to explain a little bit about that, how you came to that kind of philosophy and how you live it.
Alison Hutchinson: Oh, very good question, it’s amazing when you say things and then you think [Talk Over 00:22:57] did I say that. Well, I think I probably would because first of all I think it’s so important that leaders are visible and by visible I mean physically, digitally, out speaking with colleagues you don’t hide behind a desk. If you’re leading any business or any team, there’s no excuse to not be hugely visible and that means important when you’re going through tough times and less when you’re going through good times. So, it’s don’t just be the leader that’s out when you can go, “Isn’t it wonderful? Great. Yes”. Be there when people are going, “I’m worried about”, “Have you seen this?”, “We’ve got this issue”. And also, visibility is transparency. You can’t always share everything as a leader, but I think sharing is really, really important, and there for that visibility of having some difficult conversations sometimes. And I just think sometimes it’s easy to kind of go, “Oh people won’t understand, I’m not ready to talk”. But the more when leaders are ready to engage in conversations, the more people will understand, the more businesses are successful. And I think one of the big things you do as a leader, yes, it’s set strategy, inspire your colleagues but you’ve got to make the decisions because the buck stops with you. And so, for me one of the things I’ve learnt is you’ve got to surround yourself by amazing people, take on board their feedback and ultimately, you’ve got to make the shouts and if you put off making the shouts that’s not a good thing. If you do it too quickly without having done the homework, that’s not a good thing. So you’ve got to make the shouts but don’t make a shout and then not do the full thing. So maybe you’ve decided right, okay, unfortunately we’ve got to shut some shops because they’re not performing, I think we can get away with two. If you actually think it should be ten, make it ten. You’ll be bold, be ruthless in that decision but then the way you execute it, the way you tell people has got to be full of compassion. Because if you’ve then got to say, “Right, we’re shutting ten shops”, it’s like “What?” Whereas if you say to them, “Here’s the challenges, this is where we’re going, we’re going to speak to our-.” If you’re really compassionate and think if it was you, how do you best want to make sure you show emotion, you show humility and you really communicate and engage in a very compassionate way then I think if leaders can balance that ruthlessness in decision making, taking on board the feedback you need from the people around you and then execute with compassion. Normally, if people understand the outcome, they might not like it for themselves, but they’re going to go and follow that journey. So that was my background to why I kind of found that little phrase.
Sorcha O’Boyle: I think Elon Musk could learn a few things from you Alison.
Alison Hutchinson: I’m not sure he’d pick up my call.
Sorcha O’Boyle: Oh, I don’t know, you never know, he might be listening to this podcast.
Alison Hutchinson: You never know.
Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, and there’s a lot of wisdom there, there is a lot of wisdom there and I think that is something that will be useful to people kind of in the next couple of months or the next few years. I wonder if you had one or two pieces of advice to give to a brand or a retailer whether it’s a CEO, a Director, Investor, what would you say to people as they’re kind of looking at maybe needing to batten down the hatches a little bit for the next couple of months?
Alison Hutchinson: I’d guess I’d say ruthless in decision making [TBC 00:25:53] execution because I think that is what people going to have to do. But I think more broadly resilience is really important and people have got to be resilient, and leaders have got to be resilient to help their companies be resilient and that’s not an easy thing to be when you’ve had months and months it feels at the moment of one thing after another and that overused word but very necessary word of unprecedented, you know, it’s really tough. And so, I think my real guidance is, people have got to work out what will it take for them to be resilient because that’s not just always about working every minute of every day. There’s a phrase I used to use, and it was actually when I was a working mum about it’s about energy management not time management. So, although I worked full time when my children were growing up if I was on the side of a hockey pitch, I wasn’t on my phone I was on the side of the hockey pitch. And as a leader there’s so many people that need you to show up for them but if you’re tired at the end of the day and you don’t show up for that meeting at five o’clock like you would at nine o’clock that’s not okay. That’s really not okay because that’s your problem. Because the person that’s coming to see you at five is as important as the person that was coming to see you at nine. So if you’re trying to be resilient you’ve got to work out for you as a human being how do you be the best form of yourself and how do you be really thoughtful about your energy management and if you’re not ready to show up be really, really [TBC 00:27:12] as well to when you can. And that’s as much at home as it is at work because at the end of the day it’s our loved ones that help us fly. And so, that energy management for me that you need to pace yourself, you know, it’s easy to say but life’s a marathon not a sprint but at the moment it feels like we’re doing sprint runs all the time and we just can’t keep going unless you’re one of these brilliant sprinters. But in general, you’ve got to manage that pace and rhythm and I think when it comes to businesses and to people more than ever you’ve just got to really be that visible individual because communicate, communicate, communicate, communicate it’s easily said, and people think they have communicated. And you’ve got to work out communicating what people need not necessarily what they want. Because that again is really important if you put yourself in somebody else’s shoes and hear and see what they are feeling and thinking then you work out what they need, your job is to help fulfil it because at the end of the day as a leader you’re there to serve everybody that works for you, they’re not there to serve you. And so, I think remembering the reversing of that triangle and having a bit of humility when you do that is so important and you’ll get it back in rewards because people love working with and for people that they respect and feel that care. So, I just think hearing is, we must never forget we are all human.
Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, absolutely, and actually what you said there at the end really, really resonates with me because remembering that people aren’t there to serve you but you’re there to help them to succeed. I think of all the places I’ve worked it’s for people where their leaders were really, really, open and really kind of looking for feedback and input from even like the entry level people. Those are the businesses that are the nicest to work for and generally tend to be the most successful as well so yeah, I completely agree. I would also like to hear a little bit about your approach to building teams as well. That, you know, how you build, how you manage your teams, how you identify skill, gaps that you need to fill. Can you talk to me a little bit about that?
Alison Hutchinson: Yes, well I mean I’m sure there’s many better leaders than me in terms of building and managing teams, but it comes back to really kind of where I started in life as a kid. I think you’ve got to be really clear in your strategy and where you’re trying to get to and then work really hard to say, if that’s your end goal what are the capabilities you’ll need, not now, but to deliver that? And sometimes in people management it’s easy to always keep the people that you know that helps you rather than the people you really need going forward. And I think it’s easy to get a bit too comfortable with the same and we’re all guilty of that and that’s brilliant, but you also need to keep iterating and sometimes, you know, I was with a forum recently of senior leaders actually and they were talking about the difficulty of tech companies at the moment that are having to make some big tech changes and redundancies that a lot of these tech firms just haven’t had to do before. There was a big debate about how difficult that is and how you manage it and actually one of the, you know, I kind of said, “But actually why don’t we make the changes when it’s going well rather than when it’s not?” As a leader it is easy to make team changes, well it’s not easy it’s hard, very hard to make changes, but it’s driven when things aren’t working as well rather than when things are working really well. Right where next? What’s the skill gap? Where do I go? So I think in building teams you need that balance of where are you going? Try and be really clear, try and be really articulate. Then you look at getting a real breadth and diversity of talent around you and that’s skills, backgrounds, interests. And that’s not just because we’re all talking about inclusivity and diversity it’s because that’s how you form great teams and that’s how you get differences of opinion and there’s different ways of looking at whether you’re a yellow, or a green, or a red or a blue or what. There’s so many different tools out there that genuinely seeking for that diversity is so important and then being able to inspire. Because if you’re not passionate about what you do if you don’t believe in what you’re doing it's only ever going to be a job and I don't know how you build teams if you’re just doing a job. I mean you maybe be able to do that but from my perspective you’ve got to believe in the brands that you’re working for and with. You’ve got to believe in that strategy, and you’ve got to believe in the people that you’ve been successful to attract, to deliver on that mission. And you’ve got to listen as my dad would say, with two ears and one mouth or you’re never, ever, going to survive. And so that, really listening, not hearing but listening I think people respond to and being clear with people if they’re not performing you have to tell them and if they are, tell them too. It’s that balance. So, I don’t know but that’s kind of how I go about thinking about building a team and continually thanking them for the little things. It’s not just the big bits it’s the little things that happen every day that you try and spot and just make sure you get a little bit of awareness to it because I think it helps.
Sorcha O’Boyle: Yeah, and everyone is human at the end of the day. Everyone wants to be seen and heard and feel like they’re contributing. So yeah, all of those things are very, very, human. Just before we wrap up Alison if a brand or retailer or a restaurant or however it is wants to partner with Pennies how do they go about it?
Alison Hutchinson: Well first of all look us up and contact us online. Obviously, we’re at pennies.org.uk but there’s really just four simple things. One is we help them qualify their technology, you know, if they’re an Ecom, are they on Shopify or Magento or Salesforce or, you know, what’s your platform because we’ve probably got an easy plug and play API that helps do it. So, one is let’s qualify the technology and the ease to deploy. Secondly tell us who the charity is that you want to support so that we can make sure we do the due diligence and speak and onboard the charity. We’ve got a few agreements in place that make it easy for them because they’re collecting the funds on behalf of the charity sector and then we work on communications, our colleagues, our customers, make sure it’s clear at point of sale, make sure we have the storytelling I was talking about and it’s really as easy as that. So yeah, get in touch, we’ll look at the tech, we’ll understand your charity, we’ll get a few agreements in place and then we’ll get a comms plan that makes everybody feel good about this little humble penny that goes to work with all its friends in the charity sector. Because right now just to bring a bit of reality and clarity there was some research recently that says already one in four people have reduced what they’re giving to charity. And we’ve got a charity sector that’s has got demands that outstrip supply and all these charities have the same challenge that businesses have and even just to stand still if you take the rate of inflation this year the average charity will have to raise an additional £75,000 just to stand still, just in their reserves. So you’ve got a fantastically, talented sector there that is really wanting to help but really needs all the help it can get. So genuinely and [Inaudible 00:33:50] on Pennies there’s loads of ways you can give. Time, money, energy, passion but if an organisation wants to get involved, I can tell you the sector really will say a huge thank you and you and your leadership team and your colleagues and your shareholders will feel so much better about what you’re doing. So I’d love you to get in touch and I’d love to help them.
Sorcha O’Boyle: Brilliant. Well, that was inspiring Alison thank you so much. I’ve no doubt about people will be getting in touch because like you said everyone has something to give and you’re channelling it and you’re sending it out into the world into the places that need it and the people who need it most. So, thank you so much.
Alison Hutchinson: Well, thank you so much for having me. One of my advisors said the biggest problem is you’re one of the best kept secrets.
Sorcha O’Boyle: True.
Alison Hutchinson: So, thank you very much for helping me share our secret because it shouldn’t be a secret and if there’s anybody that’s got any ideas or thoughts get in touch. We’re always open to listening and learning so yeah, feel free to let me know if you think there’s more we can do and thank you very much for talking to me today.
Sorcha O’Boyle: It was my absolute pleasure, my real pleasure. Thank you so much Alison and take care.
Alison Hutchinson: Take care.
Sorcha O’Boyle: That was Alison Hutchinson CEO of the charity Pennies and if you want to partner with Pennies, you want to learn more about them do just check them out at pennies.org.uk. That’s it for this week so from me Sorcha O’Boyle and all of us at More2 take care and bye.