In early January I was struck down with a viral chest infection and forced to rest in bed, tucked up with a hottie (just a hot water bottle unfortunately!), lots of liquids, green juices and a restless, fertile imagination. With the green juices flowing round my body, I started thinking about my life, my past and my future, and why Home is doing what we’re doing today…

Starting out

When I first started out, way back in 1981, I owned a typewriter that had a one-line memory and a little bottle of Tippex. I cunningly treated Tony (who was my then boyfriend and is still my business partner today) to typing lessons for his 27th birthday. He was thrilled as he hadn’t clocked-on to my sub-plot. He wanted to learn to touch type as he had appalling handwriting, and I needed a typist. My little bottle of Tippex quickly became his best friend, as although he’s highly articulate, he’s also dyslexic. Our letters and invoices were peppered with his tell-tale white dots of correction.

A few years in and we upgraded to a typewriter with enough memory for a whole A4 page. Fancy. It was wonderful and transformed our marketing effort. We could type something once, store it, top and tail it and hey presto, a marketing campaign was born! All we had to do was make sure the topping and tailing matched the correct envelopes. It nearly always did.

Fax that

We were flying again, but then everything came a bit unstuck in 1988 when there was a postal strike. We couldn’t do any marketing. We couldn’t send out any invoices. It was a nightmare. Looking back, I realise we were in the eye of a mini industrial revolution. People started buying fax machines, and whilst they were horrendously expensive, everyone was able to carry on with their business.

It was a magical, simple and uncomplicated time. I was buzzing with the drive and ambition to succeed. I started using our new fax machine as a marketing tool, sending crazy little teaser campaigns. There was no way I was to going to be thwarted!

Fast forward to June 1992, we bought our first computer – the Apple LCII came with 4MB memory. It cost us a small fortune, around £12,000, which is £22k in today’s money. The funny thing was that we had no idea how to work it. Not a clue. We just used to stare at it. About a month later, in walks a lovely fresh-faced 20 year old redhead called Martin Knight. He was looking for some work experience. We only asked him one question – can you use this computer? He could! He was hired and the rest is history.

Carol Whitworth capturing her ideas in a way she knows best, and a fresh faced Martin Knight from back in the day.

Carol Whitworth capturing her ideas in a way she knows best, and a fresh faced Martin Knight from back in the day.

I did it my way

Our first computer was switched on, but I was not impressed. This “desk top publishing” was really boring in my eyes. I felt it was turning us and our design skills into being glorified typesetters/compositors. It was not for me. I could only afford one machine and there were three or four of us designing at any one time. There was absolutely no way I was remotely interested in queuing up for a go. So, I carried on being creative the way I always had. Coming up with ideas from my imagination, and capturing them on paper with pens, pencils, paint, inks and collages. For inspiration, I eagerly awaited Thursdays when the latest Design Week was delivered. I’d buy every reference book I could afford, both old or new from art shops, and bric-a-brac shops around the country.

During this time, I briefly became the main sponsor of Bristol Central Library. I would borrow books and never get around to returning them. I accrued huge fines, often greater than the value of the books themselves. Oh boy! In the end, we came to a little arrangement. By a typical stroke of Whitworth luck, I befriended the wife of the Chief Librarian, who allowed me to bring them back without repercussions. “Come in late one-night Carol when I’m locking up and just leave them on the counter and I’ll turn a blind eye!” My 18-month library debacle was over. I managed to get off without the £300+ fine, but sadly was given a lifetime ban from Bristol library. To this day, poor Tony doesn’t realise he was banned too, as I’d also managed to max out his tickets (sorry Tony). I mean, who gets banned from a library anyway?

Luckily, the news of my ban didn’t travel far, and I started what became a 6-year stint as a visiting lecturer at Somerset College of Arts. Turned out they had the most amazing design library with a much better selection of books, and a very obliging and understanding Chief Librarian, who instinctively seemed to know it would be best to hold me on a very short lending leash.

Hacking into NASA

Towards the end of 1992, an off-the-wall, off-the-grid friend of one of my team came in to see us. Heath Bunting had just bought a PowerBook, a chunky little portable computer that he carried around with him. He wanted to show us the future, a thing called the World Wide Web. He excitedly said that he could plug his computer into my phone line socket and get into NASA. I was sceptical. After a few tries, lots of beeping and a whole heap of ugly clumps of text everywhere, we were in. I was staring at NASA’s information. I mean, I had absolutely no idea about what I was looking at. Heath tried to explain what this could mean for the future to the office luddite here, I was actually more worried that he was f***ing up my phone line and that we might now be on the MI5 radar, as the world’s first hackers into NASA.

Keep on, keeping on

As I think about my journey over the past 38 years and about the business we’ve created here at Home, innovation, creativity, inquisitiveness and original thought have always been at the heart of all that we do.

We strive to be magnificent. We try to always lead and not follow. We are always delighted and excited when our clients and advocates are willing and keen to step out of their comfort zones to change the world, or at least their part of it.

Our industry is at a really interesting cross-roads. Boards are finally waking up to the power and importance of the employee experience – and how it impacts the bottom line. I see a bright future, full of new ways of working. It feels like we’re marching towards a new paradigm, a new world order – one where an organisation’s greatest asset – its people – come first.

I’m so proud of the Home team. Late last year we launched Roundel 2020 – an original and authentic piece of research exploring employee experience trends and practices. Our hope is that our data, insight and recommendations will spur on practitioners to think differently and innovate unique and ownable employee experiences, transforming their organisations and the world of work in all the right ways.

38 years in business and we’ve achieved another first.

Download your copy of Roundel 2020 here, I hope you find it stimulating and it inspires you to think a little differently about the impact you can have in your part of the world.