Abel & Cole

Hidden mission statement
http://www.abel-cole.co.uk

Officially a Very Good
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Officially a Very Good
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Officially an Outstanding
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Officially an Outstanding
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Officially a World Class
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Officially a World Class
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Officially a Good
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Officially a Good
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Officially a Global*
Good Company
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Officially a Good
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Globally*

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95
Best Company to work for in the UK
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Best Company
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AFTER FAILING HIS bar exam, Keith Abel fell back on a trade he first tried his hand at while studying history and economics at Leeds University — selling spuds door-to-door. The resulting business, which began in a Catford basement in 1988 with just Abel, his mum Sally, a friend and Paul Cole (who has since left) has grown to eight sites, about 400 staff, and delivers groceries to more than 30,000 homes a week. In the early days, Abel and his co-founders would start work at two o'clock each morning in order to get the best potatoes from New Covent Garden market, and the concept of selling organic produce only arose after a meeting with Devon farmer Bernard Gauvier, who told them about the chemicals sprayed on crops. Once they began giving customers the choice between ordinary and organic, Abel & Cole never looked back. Abel, 48, who describes his leadership style as "informal" and "inclusive", says one of the company's strengths is that he and other bosses listen to and act on ideas from anyone in the workforce. He says: "People on the coalface know much more than the people on the management as to how the business is going and how it's running, so you'd better bloody listen to them." At least once every six months, Abel and Ted Bell, the finance director, speak to all staff in small groups. To ensure they see delivery drivers, this can mean arriving at depots at 3am, where the two leaders make them a bacon sandwich for breakfast. Examples of action taken following such feedback include an upgrade to computers, new rain jackets for drivers and new printers and carpets. Staff say their leaders run things based on sound moral principles (76% positive). Like Abel, Cambridge classics graduate Bell at first seems an odd fit for a firm specialising in organic fruit and veg. The 40-year-old, who qualified as a management accountant at Unilever before a career in venture capital and private equity, relishes no longer having to don a "corporate mask". He says: "It's a business that's got some real life to it. It's fun." Abel & Cole, based in London, minimises food waste and packaging and promotes biodiversity and animal welfare, alongside fair trade and organic farming. Staff say their company makes it easy to be environmentally friendly (85%, bettered by just two others) and genuinely cares about the environment (85%, in sixth place). It gives away about 15 free boxes of food each month to small charities for fundraising activities and since 2010 has collected hundreds of unwanted bicycles from customers that are then repaired and shipped to Ghana. Abel & Cole makes a positive difference to the world we live in, say its employees (77%, ranking 16th). Dave Gibson, 29, who is in charge of a small team of drivers, worked for two supermarket chains before coming to Abel & Cole. He was happy to exchange better pay for a friendlier atmosphere where profit is not the priority. The company no longer has a human resources department, as Abel believes a well-run firm does not need one. He says: "I personally feel that a HR department is an excuse for poor management. If you run a business well you'll get less HR issues." Every employee receives a bag of free organic fruit and vegetables to take home each week and all sites have unlimited supplies of organic fruit available to enjoy during office hours. www.abelandcole.co.uk

Featured Workplace Factors

My Team

86% of staff agreed

My team is fun to work with

Keith Abel and Ted Bell, the leaders of the organisation, make regular ‘pilgrimages' to every sight in the company and meet with every single employee either as an individual or in small groups for a Q&A session. Managers are not present at the employees' meetings. This sometimes involves visits to the drivers' depots at 3.00 am and a lot of travelling around. These meetings have a huge impact on employee engagement as they cut out the middle-man and allow employees from all levels to sit down with those at the top of the company. Employees are invited to ask questions and give feedback and often the sessions can be quite intense and challenging from the directors. Afterwards, lists of actions are produced for each department and all employees are regularly updated on the progress of these actions.

My Manager

83% of staff agreed

I feel that my manager talks openly and honestly with me

Giving back to the wider community is very important to Abel & Cole. Every week they give food to local hospices and charities. Every week, through their Farmer's Choice not-for-profit scheme, they sell wholesale organic fruit and veg to schools, so they can sell them to parents and teachers, keeping the profit for school equipment and other fundraising projects. Every month Abel & Cole donate approximately 15 free boxes of fruit and vegetable to small charities, for auctions, raffles and other fundraising activities. Since June 2010 they have collected hundreds of unwanted bicycles from their customers, repaired them and shipped them to community projects in Ghana.

My Company

82% of staff agreed

I feel proud to work for this organisation

Keith Abel and Ted Bell, the leaders of the organisation, make regular ‘pilgrimages' to every sight in the company and meet with every single employee either as an individual or in small groups for a Q&A session. Managers are not present at the employees' meetings. This sometimes involves visits to the drivers' depots at 3.00 am and a lot of travelling around. These meetings have a huge impact on employee engagement as they cut out the middle-man and allow employees from all levels to sit down with those at the top of the company. Employees are invited to ask questions and give feedback and often the sessions can be quite intense and challenging from the directors. Afterwards, lists of actions are produced for each department and all employees are regularly updated on the progress of these actions.

Quick Facts

Organisation established in
Total number of employees
Number of UK locations
Employee average age
Male : Female employee ratio
Employees earning £35k+
Employee turnover (voluntary)

Benefits

Private Healthcare

Companies offering private health insurance to all employees.

Women in Senior Management

At least 40% of senior managers are women.

List Positions

National Ranking
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95
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95
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95
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95
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95
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95
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