Rosie Brown is the Co-CEO of Cook, an independent, family-owned company making and selling homemade frozen food. Rosie was the company’s first Head of People, which remains at the core of her work today. In 2013 Cook became one of the UK’s first certified B Corps, working to reinvent business as a force for good.
What does purpose mean to you?
To me, it means very simply being useful. I’m a great believer that every single one of us has gifts and skills to offer. And for me, purpose is about using those gifts and skills to serve others.
When do you feel most purposeful?
When I’m around people. I personally feel most purposeful when I see other people thrive and I know that I’ve been a small part of helping create that environment: creating space for reflection, for learning, for connection. I always find that deeply fulfilling.
I care deeply about creating good relationships and relational ways of thinking and doing business. I think we’re all interconnected and the stronger the relationships between us are, the better off we all are.
“I’m a great believer that every single one of us has gifts and skills to offer.”
Why are strong, trusting relationships so important for a thriving workplace?
There’s a quote from John Ruskin that says, “quality is never an accident. It’s always the result of intelligent effort.” I believe that applies to everything, and never more so than relationships.
You get high quality relationships when you put in intentional effort. And so we spend a lot of time as a company investing in having good relationships and being intentional about it. If an organisation is a machine with lots of different cogs and moving parts, relationships are the oil that makes everything run smoothly. You can have the best machine in the world, but without the oil, it’s clunky. Relationships make things flow beautifully.
What is your idea of professional fulfilment?
The honest truth is I’m quite restless, so I’m not sure I ever will feel like I have reached professional fulfilment, because I can always see the need to change. I’m unapologetic about that.
So for me it still feels like a goal, which is made up of three things. Feeling proud at the end of every working day, being connected to my values and moving something forward or achieving something. If I can do those three things, I’m probably feeling pretty good.
What do you think is the hardest thing about being purpose-driven?
I’m naturally idealistic, so I think the hardest thing has been accepting that I can’t change the entire world – but I can change my corner of it. When you’re very purpose-driven, there are always trade-offs – especially when you’re running a company that has endless demands for money and investment. There are always decisions to be made about where we can make the biggest impact with the resources or money that we have available to us.
For me, that’s the most difficult thing about being purpose-driven, but it’s also the most rewarding. It starts with an acceptance that you can’t be a perfect person, you can’t do everything, and that there is no such thing as the perfect business. Once you accept that, that’s where the learning begins.
Which leaders have inspired you?
Anita Rodick from the Body Shop for her dedication to calling something out that wasn’t right and then doing it differently; Mary Portas for her energy, passion and speaking truth to power; Jane Shepherdson for what she achieved at Topshop with her single minded-vision and incredible team building skills; and Angela Merkel for her straightforward pragmatism and no-nonsense approach.
What’s your hope for the future of business?
My hope for business in the future is that it honours people and place, and is willingly accountable for their social and environmental performance. I’d like business to see itself as part of an ecosystem, rather than something that just extracts profit from people and place.
“I always come back to the big picture on tough days. I step back and go right down to the roots: Why am I here? What am I trying to achieve?”
When did you feel like giving up?
I’ve had days where I thought, “this is a really bad day”, but the honest answer is that I haven’t ever felt like completely giving up. I’ve had moments, especially in the past two years, where there has been crisis after crisis and I’ve thought: “I’ve got nothing left in the tank.”
But there is always something in the tank. I’ve always taken time out, reflected on my purpose and believed in what we’re trying to achieve.
What keeps you motivated on tough days?
I always come back to the big picture on tough days. I need time to myself – I need solitude, but I also need to step back and go right down to the roots: Why am I here? What am I trying to achieve?
What would you like to be remembered for?
I honestly have no desire to be remembered for anything. I’m not interested in legacy. I’m interested in the people that I work with every day, making a positive impact on the present, and being a good CEO to the people I have a responsibility to.