When you talk to people about working at Woolcool, certain words keep popping into the conversation. First and foremost is ‘family’. It’s true that Woolcool is at its heart a family business, which was born from a ‘eureka’ moment when founder Angela Morris struck upon the idea of using natural wool to insulate packaging. With Angela now the company’s CEO and daughters Josie and Jessica filling the Managing Director’s and Finance Director’s chairs, Woolcool remains family-run.
But that magic word ‘family’ also applies in a boarder sense, to the supportive ethos shared by the team employed at Woolcool.
“It has always about creating a community-based environment, where everyone feels supported and included,” explained Josie. “We try to treat people fairly at all times and be honest with them. We want the team to come here each day and feel like everyone here has their back, and will always listen to them.”
Office administrator Chantelle Tallent joined Woolcool three years ago. This is her first full-time job after leaving school.
“It’s been great working here,” she said. “It’s kind of like a big family, everyone gets along with everyone. The team here is really mixed as well – where they are from, how old they are, gender – but everyone is treated the same.
“I really love working here.”
Another word that is regularly used to describe Woolcool is ‘innovative’. As a ground-breaking packaging firm that has invested millions of pounds in research and development, the firm has won accolades for innovation, including a coveted Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the Innovation category.
That spirit of innovation has seen Angela’s eureka moment grow into an international business which is constantly refining and reinventing its products, and opening up new markets.
But speak to the Woolcool team and you find that the creative spark isn’t just confined to the laboratories and designers – it’s an intrinsic part of the company’s set up, which encourages openness and idea sharing.
“Our approach at Woolcool is to encourage everyone to be accountable for their work, but also to contribute their ideas too,” said Josie. “It’s about having an open door policy that gives everyone the space to be creative, and make suggestions that could make things work better for everyone.
“We think it’s important to recognise people’s skillsets and abilities, and listen to them when they have a suggestion to contribute. We like to encourage a constant conversation between team members, an openness and inclusiveness.
“It may seem different, but our way of working doesn’t feel like an innovation – we just feel like we’re just doing the right thing, for our team and our customers.”
Sales Administrator Luke Woodward has worked at Woolcool for two years, dealing with orders and building close customer relationships.
“I’m a really laid-back person, but everything is so relaxed and friendly here that it’s made me even more laid back,” he joked.
“The people are great and very reasonable. I felt straight away after joining that I would fit in and be happy. We have a good laugh and we’re all like one big unit, whether you’re in the office, the warehouse or wherever.
“You know that they are interested in you and will listen to you. They want to hear your ideas. It’s a great place to work.”
Chantelle added: “Woolcool have helped me learn so much. I joined originally as an Office Administrator – and that’s still my job title – but I now get involved in so many different things, from finance to marketing, that I feel like I’ve grown.”
The word that most often comes up when you talk the Woolcool team is ‘responsibility’. This isn’t surprising. After all, Woolcool’s mission is to promote the use of natural wool in insulated packaging, taking a sustainable, and ecologically responsible approach to business.
At its very heart, the company has a responsible ethos that intends to protect the planet.
Yet this sense of responsibility is a key part of the dynamic of the entire Woolcool operation.
“I think environmental responsibility and social responsibility go hand in hand,” Josie said. “When you are running a business you have a responsibility to create a community-like atmosphere for your team, just as you have a responsibility to serve your customers.”
“But the team as a whole is encouraged to take not only responsibility for themselves and their work, but for the wellbeing of the people they work with as well.
Isabel Bennett works on the packing machine in the warehouse. She began as an agency worker two years ago and joined as a full-time worker in October last year.
“I waited a long-time for a full-time contract!” she said. “I really had my fingers crossed that I could join Woolcool. I worked here on and off for two years and then had the chance to join full-time, and I was desperate to do it. I love it here!
“The thing is, Josie and Jess treat you like a proper person,” Isabel said. If you come here as an agency worker, for instance, they treat you just like everyone else, which is really important and not something you see everywhere. Some of the places I’ve worked before, you’re just a number, but not at Woolcool.”
But most of all, there is a real feeling of camaraderie at Woolcool, a sense that is a fun and friendly place to work.
There are no delineation lines between departments of the business and a flat management structure that means anyone can reach out and speak to senior management.
The firm’s Staffordshire base is light and comfortable, and team also have the opportunity to earn ‘Woolcool Pounds’, which can be exchanged for rewards.
“The thing is,” Josie said, “I’ve never understood the idea that you have to be mean to be a success in business. You have to be direct and at times though, but there are real benefits to taking a more caring and inclusive approach to work – it increases productivity and encourages initiative, but most of all it makes for a happier working environment for everyone.”
Isobel said: “It’s the little things here, everyone saying ‘good morning’ to each other, asking how you are. It’s like little family, and each shift in the warehouse is the same.”
Not surprisingly, working for a firm at the forefront of ecological packaging solutions has opened the eyes of the team to green issues.
“Before I worked here I never really thought about being green,” Chantelle said. “Not because I didn’t care but because I didn’t know a great deal about it. Working at Woolcool you feel like you’re involved in something positive and I like the feeling of that, that as a company we’re trying to do something important.”
Luke agreed. “To be honest, when I first got the job I don’t think I really grasped how different Woolcool’s approach is to the environment,” he said. “But as I’ve progressed in the company I’ve come to realise what an impact we can have.
“It makes you think, when you see programmes like Blue Planet and the problems with some kinds of viagra packaging, and you realise that what we do has an impact on that.
“Working here has massively changed my views on how its is today, making me think more about what I put in the bin and what I recycle.”