It was a grey October day in 2016 and my heels clicked along a carpeted corridor of the Scottish Parliament. There were already rumours that a general election would be called in the new year and I knew that was my cue to leave politics for the foreseeable future. Trump, Brexit, and the rise of anti-immigrant populism across Europe had left me seeking a new purpose and so I made the call to Callum Murray, CEO of Amiqus, on the stairs by a fire exit, to see if his team might consider me for their first communications role.
During a video conference interview I was asked where I saw myself in a few years time? I opted to tell the truth, I had no idea, I only knew that I wanted to be surrounded by people working towards an aspirational goal — rather than trapped within a perpetual cycle of blame, misinformation and fear mongering — and I had my suspicions that profit for purpose companies were going to prove what we all know instinctively, that treating people well is good for a company’s bottom line, not a risk to it. Still, I had never worked in the private sector, I knew exactly jot about marketing and I wasn’t entirely clear what Amiqus was selling so, when I did get the job, I knew the onus was on me to prove my value.
In the years since, I’ve realised that there is a lot a purposeful business can learn from politics. Lessons such as: consider who is in the audience and what their needs are before you write a business pitch; lose the fluff and the jargon, and tell people the good, the bad and the ugly of your story, because doing the right thing is hard, but it’s also the best long-term strategy for sustainability and profitability.
Likewise, working with an exceptional mission-led team has just about spoiled me for any other workplace. At Amiqus, I’ve been given the green light to try out new ideas, invent new roles for myself and contribute to projects outside my remit. At Amiqus, I’ve been encouraged to celebrate life’s milestones, whether they be having a child or starting a business, and I’ve never been made to feel like my life or my thoughts are an inconvenience. At Amiqus, I’ve never been judged by how long I sit at a desk, but rather by the impact of my work and whether that work makes me happy.
Most importantly, whenever I have failed at Amiqus, I have never been met with hostility or accusation. It turns out that I’m a bit rubbish when it comes to spotting talent in an interview or working out formulas in a spreadsheet and that’s ok. One of the biggest joys of the last three years has been watching the team grow to include all kinds of people who love what they do and are therefore excellent at doing it.
Providing a workplace where everyone is encouraged to pitch in and support each other is an all too rare thing, because it means management have to genuinely believe in swapping ego trips for the virtues of trust, patience and compassion. If you want your employees to cower before you, don’t model yourself on Amiqus, but if you want your colleagues to be your greatest ambassadors, no matter where they end up, then invest in your people; create a clear set of values and then actually stick to them and base every decision on them.
Where will I be in a few years time? Hopefully still at Amiqus trying something new, bringing my whole self to work and encouraging more than a few new recruits to do the same.
Laura Westring now leads Public Affairs at Amiqus after joining the founding team in 2016.