Lizzie Penny, Co-Founder and Joint CEO of Huckleberry Partners talks to us about her business, and how they work differently.
“Huckleberry Partners is a virtual community. We do marketing, finance, HR, and administration and we’re looking to outsource legal support as well. We’re a global group of talented individuals working where and when they want. The working world is still adopting out-dated principles, such as sitting in an office and being at your desk for nine to five or longer – it’s the culture of presenteeism. We’ve got more than 100 associates working across twelve countries - including New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia and Brazil. People are judged on their output rather than the time they are sitting at a desk in an office. This is highly effective for our clients because all the Huckleberries are exceptionally talented, highly motivated as they’re working on their own terms, and highly productive when they are working. A recent study by economists at the University of Warwick found that happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity, while unhappy workers proved 11% less productive.
We curate a team for each project according to the skills and passions of those within our community – and as the project moves on we change the team to make sure clients always have the perfect people for the job at hand. We have access to such a broad pool of talent compared to a traditional agency. By offering complete flexibility to the Huckleberries, we can provide access to work like no other organisation; It’s obviously ideal for working parents, but also people who are semi-retired or are a bit older and have started to have portfolio careers, or simply those who don’t like the early start that comes with a traditional working day.One of our Huckleberries is starting his own fashion brand and he wants to work three days a week. Some people can’t commute to an office because of geography - ex-pats who might have moved abroad and one of our Huckleberries who lives in rural Devon still wants access to the brilliant projects that she used to get in London.
We work with Vrumi as our first-choice space providers for our Huckleberry Home events. Even though we’re completely virtual community, we’re all humans and we do like to have human interaction. So once a month we rent a house, order food and drink so that the Huckleberries come together; whether it’s to work for the day from that location or just to drop in for lunch or a cup of tea - and then we go for drinks in the evening. We host Huckleberry Home in any city where we have more than ten Associates.
We like to host somewhere different every month. Firstly we don’t want to always be convenient for one person and inconvenient for someone else. We also think that people are inspired by taking a different route to work every day and taking inspiration from different things they see. We don’t want Huckleberry to align ourselves with just one property, one place or even area of a city.
My favourite property is an upside down house that used to be a pub in Peckham, although we also went to a lovely one for a Partners’ Meeting (we’re 25% owned by the ‘Partners’ within the business) in Notting Hill. It was the kind of place that you would never normally be able to see unless you had enough money to live there. But this is about access-ship rather than ownership… exactly what we need, but only when we need it.
The benefits of having a neutral meeting space are significant too. We move it around because then it doesn’t matter if you’ve never been to a Huckleberry Home before. Some people might come for the first time and they should feel as welcome as regulars. A lot of what we try and do within the Huckleberry community is to make everyone feel equal. There’s also a real sense of camaraderie in doing something or being somewhere for the first time. Whenever any of our Associates arrive at Huckleberry Home there’s always a wonderful sense of excitement and curiosity over what the space might be like and how our Community Event Coordinators have made it really special for the day. You’re discovering a new work place every time you come to a Huckleberry Home, and that is naturally something that really unites the team.
Taking a different route to work every day is a powerful thought, whatever discipline you work in. The psychology of always going to the same office and same desk every day and yet needing to come up with different ideas and think creatively is so incongruous to me. Every day is different and yet we live in a world where working practices are typically so static. It’s such an outdated way of working. The nine to five working day was originally conceived of 199 years ago...that’s long before electricity let alone computers and the internet. It’s high time people, and particularly companies, realised things have changed and started working more like Huckleberry Partners and taking advantage of the great service Vrumi offers.”
*Post published before Huckleberry Partners became The Hoxby Collective.