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Making Finance Fun: The Motley Fool's Errand

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You don’t often hear “fun” and “financial institution” in the same sentence. Throw the word “Fool” into that mix, however, and you’ll find that it’s actually a perfect fit. That’s because The Motley Fool, an innovative investment company with flair, is dead serious about keeping the fun in finance.

It sounds unconventional, but these Fools seem like they might be onto something. In fact, The Motley Fool has been recognized by Glassdoor as the Best Small Business to work for in the US for two years running. Laurie Street, a member of their People Team, shared some insight into how The Motley Fool is enriching their unique and fun company culture.

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The Motley Fool's CEO Tom Gardner (3rd from left) has fun with employees at a corporate retreat. 

The Motley Fool’s mission is to empower the individual investor, which sometimes means bucking the establishment in order to set themselves apart. In speaking with a Motley Fool employee, you will never hear them refer to one of their colleagues as “co-workers.” They are all simply Fools (with a capital F). The name itself is derived from Shakespeare, whose motley characters were depicted as “wise fools,” and whose aim was to be both informative and funny.

Their core values consist of collaboration, innovation, honesty, competition, fun, and, of course, Motley. And these core values certainly don’t exist in name only. Working at The Motley Fool is the complete antithesis of what comes to mind for a typical investment firm culture.

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Team members playing cornhole at The Motley Fool HQ. 

For example, a monthly company wide drawing takes place to find the employee selected to run a Fool’s Errand. Essentially, if their name is drawn, that person is forced to take two weeks off and cut off all contact from the office. They are given money and told to go anywhere in the world and do whatever they want, with the request that one personal finance task is completed during their time away. Employee trips have ranged from European travel to entering ping pong tournaments, and Fools have used these Errands to create budgets, organize bill payments, and identify their credit scores.

While it’s a fun perk, The Motley Fool’s ultimate goal is to make sure each team can operate while any member is out. Remaining colleagues are asked to analyze what didn’t go as smoothly as it could have whilst the selected Fool is away on their Errand.

“It helps us see where the pain points are in your team if there are any,” explains Laurie. “We want to make sure that everyone can do a job and cover for Fools if they’re not in the office.”

Internally the People Team also organizes a speaker series to educate and inspire other Fools. This initiative is organized with a CRM style Trello board, with lists like “Speaker Ideas,” “Contacted,” “In Progress,” “Scheduled,” and “Past Speakers.”

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This is a sample Trello board based on The Motley Fool's flow, does not depict actual planning.

This is helpful from a collaboration standpoint because Laurie isn’t the person on her team booking the speakers, but she is the one in charge of creating promotional material and getting related content out on the Motley Fool Culture Blog. The Motley Fool People Team is fully integrated with various Trello boards, from onboarding to internal project planning.

Trello’s collaborative nature is an easy fit for a company as fun and forward thinking as The Motley Fool. In fact, these Fools believe in cultivating an open format environment with the hopes that it sparks the next great idea.

“Collaboration inspires innovation—and it can happen in the most unlikely places,” Laurie says. “Whether it’s during a happy hour, a pickup basketball game, or while playing with office puppies, we want new Foolish collaborations to spark the next great idea that can drive the business.”

The Motley Fool demonstrates the core belief system that taking care of employees means they will produce better work. And it’s working. At nearly 350 Fools and growing, The Motley Fool continues to innovate from within so that it can further disrupt the financial sector from without.

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