Cath Jules started Criterion Conferences with a desk, phone and computer in the corner of a friend’s office. Ten years on, the company is a bustling hub of 70+ people driving social change and solutions to the biggest challenges facing Australian businesses.
Given the evolution of the company, Criterion saw it fit to re-define the company’s purpose. Following a process involving the various representatives of the company, the Senior Leadership Team and external facilitators Leading Well, Criterion launched the new purpose to the business in late August.
At the purpose launch, Cath spoke openly about the reasons behind her founding the company in 2009 and how these guiding principles still underpin the business today:
- A business that truly cares for its people
“I have this strong belief that if you look after people and if you listen to people, that they will look after you. When we started Criterion, we really did invest a lot in our people and as a result I believe people bring their ‘A game’ to the office every single day.
“We can grow careers, we can grow people personally and it’s of mutual benefit for the business and for the individual.”
- The ability to make decisions fast
“When I started Criterion, I was determined that we could make decisions on a dime.”
Having previously worked for an international conference provider, Cath experienced first-hand the associated painstakingly long decision-making process. This, she reflects, hinders the pace of innovation and agility of a company.
- A business that gives back to community
Cath realised that in the 13 years she had worked in conferencing before Criterion, she had never seen a not-for-profit organisation attend one of her events. She attributed this to the price.
“So when I started Criterion, I made a commitment to myself that I was going to find a way to deliver events to groups that could benefit from conferencing but couldn’t afford the ticket price. Those groups included not-for-profits, Indigenous communities, schools, teachers, nurses and I believed we could collectively inspire them to go out and make significant change in community.
“We’re now 10 years down the road and we’ve had between 5-6,000 groups from the NFP, Indigenous and education sectors attend our events. We’ve done that through a significantly reduced price and, on many occasions, those who can’t afford to pay for the conference attend as our guests. They’re an important part of the conversation so I’m actually incredibly proud of the work we’ve done there.”
Developing the purpose as a succinct and relatable statement was a natural application of these principles with a big reveal through a morning workshop involving all Criterion employees:
Bringing people together to inspire change
Post-it-notes in hand, employees wrote on one how the company embodies its purpose, and on the other how they fulfill it personally. These now hang in colourful pride on the ‘purpose wall’.
Katherine Kingsley, Assistant Head of Production summed up well what the purpose launch meant to many people. “Today was really great because it brought together and put into words a feeling of what we do at Criterion every day. Bringing people together to inspire change is literally what we’re doing every day- it’s not aspirational.”
Reflecting on the company’s progress, Cath is proud of how far they’ve come and awaits the next chapter with eager anticipation.
“I wanted to build a business that cares about its people, a business that could make decisions fast and in an agile manner, and thirdly a business that gave back to society and community.”
“I think we’re doing a great job but it’s still a work in progress.”