Escape – Team Handbook – 2015

This is our plan for 2015 – created, reviewed and agreed together at a culture design session in January and a Q1 review in March – finally drafted in May, edited by the team, and v1 agreed upon on Tue 19th May.

Welcome to the Escape family! We’re thrilled you’re with us on this ride. This handbook describes what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. It’s a living, breathing document, so please help us shape it as we go.

Next year we will build a completely new reality for ourselves and agree another Team Toolkit for 2016 to reflect our new goals and what the team needs. Welcome to the roller coaster, we’re honoured and excited to have you on board.

Our Business and Direction

Click to expand each section.

[accordion-item title=”>>> Mission, Vision, & Strategy”]

We are on a mission to help 1m people find work they love. 

Why? Because 1,000,000 talented people liberated from unfulfilling mainstream jobs can change the world.
Our vision is to become the world’s best-loved career change brand – delivering amazing outcomes through Tribes.
Why Tribes? Because we know that both mindset and behaviour shift through outcome-focused communities.

Our plan in 2015 is to:

  • design, fill and deliver Tribes in London that can scale consistently to multiple locations.
  • develop our innovative job matching offering so that it both powers Tribes and grows with it.
  • build tech that can unlock exponential value on both the user delivery and the user growth front.
  • position our brand to achieve our goals (The 21st Century Career,, our team & culture).

Culture eats strategy for breakfast…

An absolute necessity this year is building an incredible environment for our team to thrive in. This business will succeed or fail based on the culture we all build together and the strength of our team. We are a startup continuing to feel our way towards sustainability. We are in this together. Our own focus should be aligned to the company’s. If this is true, we know that growth in all areas, down to the individual, will drive us all forward.

Why a culture where Esc’s success should be our focus?

  • We’re a small business where we can have a big impact and easily grow into new positions as the company grows.
  • Our careers, income and happiness are all part of the company’s success. We’re all aiming at the same thing.
  • We are on the rising tide of a real shift in the world of work. Perfect case of right time, right place.
  • Soon we will be able to say we are impacting millions of lives through our work. That looks great on a CV.
  • Per team member, we are each impacting the lives of 16,230 Esc members. Not a bad start!
  • We’re building genuine experiences. Experiences trump a flashy job title any day.

Let’s build a culture of all of us pulling in the same direction. Because the success of this business is directly correlated to the success of us professionally as individuals. Look around you, support each other, guide each other, think long term and remember that you were there at the beginning of something great.


Plan A is to grow the business off revenues, harness demand beyond the UK and expand through Tribe sales.
Plan B is to engage the power of the community in an ambitious growth plan via a crowdfunding campaign.
Plan Z is to head back to the VC boardrooms to pitch the next billion dollar business… let’s do this our way 🙂


[accordion-item title=”>>> 10 Principles for the Build”]

How to catalyse #1millionescapees?

1. have purpose
Keep our mission at the core.

2. focus
Find our 1 focus, say no to everything else.

3. experiment bravely
Well-executed ideas multiply impact.

4. honour the tribe
Behaviour shifts through community.

5. great people DO
Self-empowered action.

6. walk the talk
Be the change we aim to inspire.

7. find big friends
Make real friends with shared goals.

8. be remarkable
Tell a great story with actions.

9. make some noise
Celebrate successes en route.

10. be thought leaders
Teach people about the new world.


[accordion-item title=”>>> Our Voice”]

We have an extremely compelling brand and concept. We have a clear problem in the world that we are trying to solve. We have an amazing platform, incredible team and a community that is prepared to listen. We have an opportunity to spread a remarkable, brave and unconventional message.

We have a voice… what is our voice?

  • We genuinely care (we go the extra mile to delight and surprise people)
  • We are open (vulnerable and transparent about our journey)
  • We tell the truth (brave career change / entrepreneurship is hard)
  • We tell stories (ours and those of Escape members)
  • We don’t sell (instead we hunt for people we can truly help)
  • We aren’t a pushover (this isn’t for everyone and that’s OK)
  • We make a ruckus (bravely communicating what we believe in)
  • We challenge the status quo (of education, careers and startups)
  • We are pragmatically idealistic (we don’t sell a dream, we support people practically)
  • We aren’t dogmatic (there is no fixed way to live our life, whatever works for us)
  • We embrace mistakes (we learn through doing & failing)
  • We collaborate, we don’t compete (when others win, everyone wins)


[accordion-item title=”>>> Business Performance”]

Last year’s summary, this year’s financials:

Financial performance since 2012:

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 00.50.19



Our Team and Culture

[accordion-item title=”>>> Our Values”]

We have four key values that as a team we have agreed to live by and hold each other to in 2015…

Respect, Challenge, Quality, and Learning:

Respect – The most important value from the team session in January 2015 was the word “respect” – respect in terms of how we treat each other, ourselves, our customers and our partners. We value honesty and integrity extremely highly. We act with integrity – even when no one is watching. We take responsibility for our own emotions, thoughts and behaviours. We are mindful of the impact we can have – both positive and negative – on other people in the team. We build each other up, we never knock each other down.

Challenge – We regularly question what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. We judge our efforts by results, nothing else matters. We reprioritise a lot. Complexity will kill us. Constantly striving for focus requires being comfortable with uncertainty and being willing to challenge and be challenged. Between us we can create a truly incredible business and achieve our personal ambitions at the same time. This requires challenge, which can feel difficult, but we know this leads to growth. We are honest, open and respectful in our communication.

Quality – We have high standards. Quality means different things in different contexts but we know it when we see it. It means working fast, but also nailing the details. It means knowing what is important and what isn’t. Quality means focus and that comes from caring about the business, its customers, and the standard of our service. Quality means being authentically you yet always striving to be better. Quality means looking after ourselves and deprioritising stuff that doesn’t matter, so that we can excel on things that do.

Learning – We all want to learn – we want to grow, develop, be challenged, take on new responsibilities, fail, pick ourselves up, and improve. We know that if we are feeling comfortable we have probably stopped growing. We are all committed to creating a safe environment where it is OK to make a mistake. Our next breakthroughs all lie in the areas we haven’t yet mastered. We will support each other in learning and growing and we will encourage each other to take on new challenges in pursuit of personal growth and in the service of the mission.


[accordion-item title=”>>> Life in a Startup”]

Startups aren’t small versions of big companies. In over 5 years of operation we haven’t yet broken even in a calendar year – almost every month we spend more than we earn as we try to find the way that works. This is hard but fun.

Some of the structure you get in more established organisations doesn’t exist here. This is no excuse for not looking after people properly but it does mean that we all need to be aware of our stage and what that means for us.

Working in a startup comes with great benefits and some challenges.

For individuals the challenges can include:

  • Adapting to changes of focus, changes of role, and reprioritisations.
  • Experiencing hard decisions that affect the team and the direction of the business.
  • Regularly stepping out of our comfort zones.
  • Working with less structure than you would get in an established company.

What about the benefits?:

  • The ability to do work that matters whilst being in control of our lives.
  • The ability to undergo accelerated learning and growth through doing.
  • A deliberate lack of politics, hierarchy, bullshit and bureaucracy.
  • An environment of transparency on all decisions and strategy.
  • Being part of a small team trying to change the world against the odds.
  • The opportunity to positively impact people on a daily basis.


[accordion-item title=”>>> Our promise to you”]

We want to create a team, a culture and a business that provides you with all of the learning, growth and opportunities you want in your career over the next 5 years and beyond.

We want to make working at Escape so great that you wouldn’t have a reason to leave.

This is an ambitious objective and will only work if you’re a committed and proactive part of us reaching that objective.

So, with that in mind, what are our two promises to you?

1. We will prioritise our growth, happiness and well-being:

Work and happiness shouldn’t be opposites. We are absolutely committed to practicing what we preach. Not only that, but the business benefits when excellent people are happy with their jobs.

We have few limitations on how much responsibility we can take on and how much we can accelerate our growth. It is win-win… create value and make ourselves indispensable and we will create so many opportunities for ourselves.

We will support each other all the way – personally and professionally, within this team and beyond it. We are part of the Escape family – we are loyal and aim to be and stay friends with everyone who works here.

We will work to find alignment between our personal objectives, our professional objectives and our work at Escape the City. If our objectives and Escape’s objectives align – this will be a really positive experience for everyone.

It is all of our responsibilities to find and keep this alignment.

2. We will be 100% honest and transparent:

Our leadership will always let us know the plans for the business – either through our monthly one-on-ones, at weekly team meetings, and whenever we want. We will have access to monthly financial reports and all the data on the business and its performance.

NB: Situations can emerge rapidly in a startup (team decisions, product decisions, etc). We will share news with eachother as soon as i) we know what the situation is ourselves and ii) we are comfortable we aren’t sharing confidential information.


[accordion-item title=”>>> Our request from you”]

“GREAT PEOPLE DO” – what does this mean?

1. We communicate.

1.1 We act like entrepreneurs. We take initiative, generate and execute ideas. We don’t wait for a clear work plan from someone else. We figure out what we can and ask for help when we need it. When we spot a problem we fix it.

1.2 We are self-managing. We own our areas. We can be counted on to do a good job with minimal guidance. We figure things out. We aren’t afraid to make a mistake or seek guidance. We are a safe pair of hands.

1.3 We are self-motivating. We take responsibility for our own energy levels and working hours. We manage our own work quality and quantity. Everyone knows they can count on us to get the job done.

1.4 We know that small details matter. Quality matters. Speed matters. Sometimes these things contradict each other. We are perfectionists where it matters. We pull in our teammates to help make our work better.

2. We bring a fun spirit to the team.

2.1 We are easy to work with. We challenge respectfully, we help our team-mates, we contribute in team discussions, we bring energy to the team.

2.2 We manage expectations. Being in charge of our own week and work means we let everyone else know what to expect from us and when without being chased – especially people who we work closely with.

2.3 We challenge well. We express concerns or suggest improvements publicly in the team meeting or privately with one of the directors. We trust the people we work with and know we can confide in them.

2.4 We are thoughtful. We act professionally and avoid gossip. We are sensitive and take care of each other.

3. We have a great attitude.

3.1 We have real fire in the belly for the problem we are solving. We care about peoples’ outcomes. We understand the business. We drive things forwards every day.

3.2 We don’t stand on ceremony. No task is beneath us. We are real team players. We take pride in working hard. We take pride in a job well done.

3.3 We give other people on the team the benefit of the doubt. We know that everyone has pure intentions even if they mess up. We have a generosity of spirit.

3.4 We want to learn. We see setbacks, challenges and mistakes as learning opportunities. We are always striving to improve our skills. We put ourselves out there.


Our Jobs at Escape

[accordion-item title=”>>> Team Structure”]

Who is on point for what?

As the business builds and evolves this year, the roles below will evolve and we will update them accordingly.

Team Structure


What are our current work areas and objectives?

Check out this poster in the office for the live version…



[accordion-item title=”>>> Ways of Working”]

How we operate – structures and tools


Working Hours

Working hours at Escape are up to you. No one will be tracking the number of hours that you spend working – at the office or at home. We’re more interested in outputs than hours worked.


Team Tracker

The Team Tracker can be found here. This is where everyone’s whereabouts are logged (at the office, working from home, on holiday, on ‘weekend’), which helps us plan projects and events, and also tells us on a day to day basis whether to expect someone to be contactable. The tracker also includes events and the venue requirements for these, to prevent double bookings and make sure we’re staffed. Please keep this up to date as much as possible (with your own whereabouts and any events you’re working on) – at least for the upcoming 4-6 weeks.


How we communicate – Slack vs emails

A document which explains how we use Slack (a private team instant messaging platform) vs. how we use emails can be found here. The main thing to say is that most things internal should be put on Slack, with emails being used primarily for external communications. If you’ve not used Slack before, trust us – the inbox unclogging is miraculous.


How we store documents – Google Drive

All of our documents are stored and shared on Google Drive. Take a look at the guide here, and once you’re set up, take a look around the structure to familiarise yourself.


How we work in the office

Some broad rules of engagement for how we use the office (vs. working from home), can be found here.


How we use and manage the venue

Janette is in charge of everything venue-related. She’s written a detailed guide to everything you need to know about the day-to-day running of the venue here. Even if you’re not directly working on events, this document is still important to have a look over.


How we take care of all things accounting

To make work-related purchases, use the Escape bank cards (usually held by Dom, Rob or Mikey). To save headaches, it’s essential that everyone in the team takes care of logging ALL purchases made using the Escape card. First, make sure that you have an account set up for you on Xero – Dom can help you with this. Information on how to register a receipt (in the ‘Bills’ section) can be found here. The fields are fairly self-explanatory, but any of the team will be happy to run through it with you.

The document above also explains how to log expenses made using your own money, and how to arrange for refunds to be made to clients.


Meetings and planning

Weekly Meetings – Every Tuesday the full team will meet at 9.30am for one hour. The objective of this meeting is to bring everyone up to date on what’s happening on every work area, and for any blockers to be highlighted. This is the one time each week where everyone is expected to be in the office. Come prepared to talk about your work area, and make sure that you take the opportunity to mention anything you’re blocked on.

1/4ly sprint planning – At the beginning of each quarter, the whole team will get together to review the previous quarter and set objectives for the coming three months. These meetings are essential touchpoints for us, and where we interrogate what’s working, what’s not, what our direction should be, and what the strategy for the coming months will look like. We’ll do this at a full team level as well as going into more detail as individual teams (Recruitment, Marketing, Tribe Delivery, etc). Facilitation will come from Escape’s founders, but the sessions are 100% collaborative – bring your ideas, thoughts, opinions, and learnings.


Happy Team

Dinner on Escape – If you work at the office into dinner time – whether on build or delivery – Escape will cover the cost of dinner. Order takeaway or grab something from nearby food places (there are a good few nearby on Cheapside).

Lunch – Twice a week (on Mondays and Wednesday), those who want to can take part in team lunches – buying and preparing lunch for others on a rota. If you’d like to be part of this, enter your name on the lunch rota. Each person will cook 2-3 times per quarter.

Once a week (on Tuesdays) lunch is on Esc. The people looking after ‘Team Fun’ for the month will take care of getting lunch in.

Team fun – Each month, two people will be in charge of team fun – and be known as Team Fun Captains. There is a budget available for this which can be spent however that month’s Captains see fit. We’ll aim for six ‘bigger’ team fun events each year, falling across the year. If you have an idea for a fun event when you’re Captain, but the event isn’t possible during your month, pass it on to the relevant Team Fun Captains.

In addition to this, Rob, Dom and Mikey will also arrange one huge, super-fun team event each year.

Birthdays – It goes without saying that we make a point of celebrating everyone’s birthdays :). Cards, cakes, presents, balloons, the whole shebang. Please make sure that Tessa is aware of your birthday!

Growth and development – An absolutely central part of a happy team is one that is growing, learning, and evolving – individually and collectively. More details on this below.



[accordion-item title=”>>> Your Development”]

We know that great teams are made up of great people. The business will only grow if we’re all able to grow from within. We’re still a young company and there is a lot to learn, but we know that our people come first. This year more than ever, we’re focusing on our development both as a team and as individuals. Together we’re building a culture based on communication, feedback, collaboration, transparency, and support.

We aim to set clear objectives and assess ourselves, our team, and our company regularly. We want the team to feel able to deliver and receive feedback in a safe way  that can be internalized and actioned, linked to clear development goals. We will assess each other throughout the year at various touch points to make sure we’re happy and that we’re growing in the ways that make sense for us and the business.

Ultimately if our objectives are aligned with the business, we will all get to where we want to be faster.


Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)

At the beginning of the year and quarterly throughout the year, we will set Objectives to help guide our work throughout the year. These objectives will be at the company level, team level, managerial level and at a personal level. The Objectives should feel ambitious and a bit uncomfortable. Beneath each Objective there will be practical Key Results that will be set. These are measurable actions that can clearly be connected with the Objective we are looking to achieve.

Annual OKRs – Depending on when you’ve joined, at the beginning of the year you will work with your team leader to decide on what your personal Objectives are for the year. These are big high level Objectives that can change throughout the year.

Quarterly OKRs – Every quarter we will work together to set 4 – 6 Objectives. These should feel like stretch goals. Each Objective will have a set of Key Results. At the end of each quarter we can look at the work we’ve done and quantify how well we worked towards those goals.


Monthly Checkins

Every month you will have an informal check in with a leader in your team. The aim of the checkin is to assess the below areas:

  • Overall happiness levels;
  • What’s working well;
  • What isn’t working well, blockers;
  • Learning and development;
  • Assessing quarterly / annual OKRs.


Team Groups

Each of the team leaders will form a group. Each group will checkin every quarter to discuss eachother’s objectives, reflect on the previous quarter’s work, and discuss improvements for how we all work together in the next quarter. After each group has met, we will have a full team meeting where we can all share our findings.



When you first start in the team we will arrange for you to have a chat with an Enneagram Coach called Clarence, to understand what personality type you have. The Enneagram is a model of 9 different personality types. As a team we’ve found this is a really useful exercise. Its an opportunity for you to understand yourself more and for you to have an informal way of sharing how you work with the team. Knowing about each other’s personality types helps us work better and understand each other on a deeper level.

These are the 9 Personality Types:

  1. The Reformer – is principled, purposeful, self-controlled, and perfectionistic.
  2. The Helper – is generous, demonstrative, people-pleasing, and possessive.
  3. The Achiever – is adaptable, excelling, driven, and image-conscious.
  4. The Individualist – is expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed, and temperamental.
  5. The Investigator – is perceptive, innovative, secretive, and isolated.
  6. The Loyalist – is engaging, responsible, anxious, and suspicious.
  7. The Enthusiast – is spontaneous, versatile, acquisitive, and scattered.
  8. The Challenger – is self-confident, decisive, willful, and confrontational.
  9. The Peacemaker – is receptive, reassuring, complacent, and resigned.


We know that a great team culture is the responsibility of everyone in the team. At the individual basis, this starts from the first day a new team member steps into the office. The on-boarding for each member of the team will be slightly different, but lets work together to get the basics right. A tight onboarding will lead to a tight culture.

  • The whole team is in on a new joiners first day
  • We know about the new joiner before they set foot in the building
  • We set up and communicate in advance: desk, e-mails, various logins / docs
  • We go out of our way to make new people feel welcome
  • We regularly ask new members if we can help
  • We always improve our welcoming process



[accordion-item title=”>>> The Nitty Gritty”]

Holidays – We do not have a specific holiday scheme, however we urge you to take around 25 days off a year. We will keep track of the holiday that you take, but only to make sure you’re taking enough of it! Its important that you regularly take holiday to rest and recuperate.

Weekends & Overtime – Due to the nature of our business, you may be required to work evenings or weekends as part of your normal work week. Should this happen, you’ll be entitled to time off in lieu. As a team its important for us to plan our work-time in advance wherever possible.

Flexible Working – Due to family or other commitments, it may be that you need to regularly work from home on certain days of the week. If you feel this is something that would improve your work life balance, please let us know and we can discuss it with you. However, we do urge everyone to work from the office where possible to keep the team in sync.

Sickness Absence – When you’re unwell we expect you to take care of yourself and let us know if there is anything we can do to help. Please make sure you communicate wherever possible so we know when we might expect you back and what we might need to do to cover your absence.

Emergency Family Leave – The team has the right to time off in the event of family emergencies. You can take a reasonable amount of time off to support your family and make any necessary long-term arrangements. Communicate with us wherever possible so that we can support you and provide cover where needed.



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