An Interview with Email Mum creators, Jim and Wendy Woolfe
As the majority of our adult lives are spent working, it’s no wonder that finding – and keeping – the right job is so important to us. Studies have repeatedly shown that not only is work-related stress one of the highest reasons for absence, but that long-term stress and anxiety can have a detrimental effect on our physical and mental wellbeing.
Some years ago, Email Mum’s directors Jim and Wendy Woolfe set out to create a company that would provide people with an environment that eliminated as much work-related stress as possible.
Today, we look more closely at the vision behind the successful housekeeping company, and why Jim and Wendy believe that their more staff-orientated approach works so well in a modern commercially-driven world.
- To start with, can you introduce yourself and your company?
We are Jim and Wendy Woolfe; we’ve been married and living in Royston, Hertfordshire for 38 years. Our company, Email Mum, is a privately owned family business that provides a bespoke, professional cleaning and housekeeping service to properties throughout the local area.
- What prompted you to create Email Mum, and what essentially makes it different to other companies?
Wendy – I had been made redundant from HSBC Bank and was working shifts at the local supermarket. What struck me was how many people like me there were, having to work unsociable hours, as there were so few job opportunities that allowed them to fit their work around their lifestyle and the demands of running a home. I felt that there was a need to create a company that could offer people, particularly busy mums, a friendly working environment and hours to better suit them personally.
Jim – I believe that this is in essence what makes Email Mum different to many other companies. The business was created to satisfy the needs of the employee wherever possible. This helped us to shape our overall culture.
- You talk about vision and ethos a lot in your dealings with clients and employees. Can you explain what these two terms mean in relation to Email Mum, and why you set them at the core of your company?
When we talk about our vision, we are referring to our mission statement; this is a statement which is used as a way of communicating the purpose of any organisation. Our ethos is a core set of values or operating principles that are used to set the tone for the company’s overall operations. In general, the ethos expresses the way that a company chooses to behave. Some companies include concepts like environmental awareness or a democratic structure of communication in their overall ethos. We have put the values of honesty, trust and fairness at the heart of Email Mum, as we believe that these values should be practised by every socially responsible organisation. It is the personal responsibility of the leaders within an organisation to set the tone. You achieve this through leading by example, practising these values yourself and creating a culture where all of your team can follow your lead. We only invite new members to join the Email Mum team if we believe that they will share these values and fit into our culture.
Wendy – The people, and ensuring that you have the right mix in your team, who are all well-trained and who understand their responsibilities. That those people feel valued and respected, and motivated to do a great job. We believe that the best way to achieve this is a simple thank you and praise for a job well done, as well as strong support and training from us.
Jim – I completely agree. I would also add that identifying what makes your service unique (your USPs), marketing this clearly and delivering a great customer experience are a must. If at any time your customer service falls down, make sure that you put it right. Then learn from the experience so that you don’t make the same mistake again. Lastly, understand the financial requirements of your business and ensure these are correctly managed.
- Describe to us your ideal Email Mum employee. And please explain why you’ve picked these points.
They must be honest and an open communicator with a strong work ethic. Just as important, they can work with the minimum of supervision and be completely trustworthy in doing this.
Email Mum is unique in that we do not have a traditional management/supervisor structure. All of our employees are empowered to deliver the service to their clients in a way that they feel will result in the best service provision. The training that we provide our staff gives them the guidelines and good tools to achieve this i.e. how to best manage their time within a visit to achieve the finest results. We want our “Mums” to express themselves and encourage them to bring their own unique talents to the job.
6. What would you advise prospective employees to be looking for when seeking new or better employment?
Wendy – Try to understand what the most important values are for you as an individual and then list these in order of importance. When applying for a job and at the interview stage, try to find out if the position will satisfy these values.
Jim – Very good advice, Wendy! When I was a young man, work for me was all about the money, status and achievement of targets. As I matured and began to understand that, in fact, the most important thing to me was to be able to act with complete honestly and integrity in my work, that was a huge change in my outlook. This ultimately led me to becoming involved in the creation and running of Email Mum and a much more happy and fulfilling working life as a result.
7. You’ve been running Email Mum for over ten years now. What do you believe a) works and b) doesn’t work so well in such a set-up as you’ve created?
We love that we have been able to build a business with our ethos and values at the heart of everything we do. Email Mum feels like a warm and supportive place; we have a truly outstanding team and we work well together, which results in a successful company we can all be proud of. We’re happy, too, that our clients really seem to understand our values. They look after and respect their Email Mum housekeepers and that makes our job so much easier.
What doesn’t work so well? Definitely recruitment! The demand for our tailor-made, exclusive service continues to grow, and we are always having to turn new clients away as we do not have an Email Mum elite housekeeper to place with them. As you can imagine, that can be very frustrating. We need to improve our system of recruitment, and find better ways of reaching the people who are looking to be part of a company like ours, with our values and way of working. We know they’re out there!
- And finally, do you think you’ve achieved your vision?
Yes, overall. However, we would never get complacent about our success and are always searching for new ways to strengthen the Email Mum family and service.