Trusted Executive Foundation Interview with Nick Wells, CEO of Whistl

Nick Wells is the CEO of Whistl which is the second largest private postal business in the UK with a turnover of £600m. The business is a reflection of Nick’s entrepreneurial spirit. It has grown organically and now handles 35% of all mail in the UK and a growing share of the parcels, e-commerce fulfilment and international market. With a workforce of 1,700 people. Whistl has gained a reputation for high quality at low cost in a very competitive market place.

On the importance of trust:

‘t’s pretty fundamental to the way you treat your employees, suppliers and partners, and the way you manage and serve customers, which is the backbone of the business. If you’ve got happy employees they’ll look after your customers. We’re no soft touch but if you treat your suppliers well, you get a little bit more. Our mantra is tough and transparent on negotiation, and soft on relationships.’

‘Our biggest differentiator is our contracts and account management which drives our customer service and solutions. I believe that if you’re open in your dealings with clients and in your communications with them it helps to build trust. The company has a Dutch heritage so communications are quite direct, leaving little room for grey areas. There is integrity and honesty in that directness.’

On building a high trust culture:

‘We recognise the importance of leadership in building a high trust culture. Our leadership development programme helps to instill the qualities we look for in our front line leaders. This helps to build employee loyalty not just to the company but also to individual leaders who need to have a good understanding of what people want from the business.’

‘Being consistent in terms of pay, equality and diversity, people policies etc. is also important in building trust. We try to do the right thing generally speaking, but we’re not perfect.’

‘We’re not hierarchical which I think is important. This means that you can go anywhere in the company to find out what you want. That openness and freedom to say what you think is healthy. We’re also not afraid of facing up to what I call “the brutal facts” to solve issues and recognise where your shortcomings are. This is about being honest within yourself about what you do well and not well.’

On measuring trust:

‘We don’t specifically measure trust. What we do is be open in our style and be consistent. In the depots we share the vision and the business plan which is about explaining what we’re doing and where we’re trying to get to as a business. We talk about the challenges as well as the opportunities. We treat people as smart and this all helps to create trust, but we don’t measure it which is what I’m interested in doing to help us improve our performance.’

The Nine Habits

nine habits model of trust

Throughout the interview Nick emphasised the importance of choosing to be consistent, honest and open in order to build trust. These are Habits No. 3, 4 and 5 in our trust model. This transparency in its relationships is what helps Whistl to keep things clear and simple which is fundamental to its success.

Nick identified the pillar of benevolence, and in particular Habit No. 9 choosing to be kind, as areas for potential improvement. He is keen to use the nine habits trust survey to measure the level of trust in the organisation. The results of the survey will help Nick and his team to develop an action plan for improving Whistl’s “triple bottom line” of results, relationships and reputation.

Our thanks to Nick for his time and for allowing us to share his insights from the interview.

For more information on the Trusted Executive Foundation please refer to this short introductory video


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