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Better staff engagement, harmony and business results

Oppo Brothers is a UK based SME in a highly competitive industry sector. They have successfully grown from a start-up to their healthy ice-cream brand now being stocked in some 6,000 stores across 13 countries within just 12 years.

They have used Belbin for a number of years to build their team, aid understanding of which Team Roles to bring in and when, and how to manage them. They have also seen a measurable improvement in staff engagement. 

Harry Thuillier, Director and Co-founder of Oppo Brothers, explains what they attribute their success to, lessons learned along the way, and how they have used Belbin Team Roles to make a difference to their business.

Read on, or download a copy of the case study pdf here.


"Our experience of Belbin has been enlightening – it continues to build confidence in ourselves and our fellow team and has helped to bring the team together with more awareness of themselves and their peers.

On a practical application level, the Belbin on-line Interplace platform requires very little support as it is very intuitive and easy to navigate, but there is also loads of support and knowledge there when needed."

- Harry Thuillier

What have been the main challenges and learning points during your journey?

There have been so many challenges – convincing supermarkets and their customers to buy us is the perennial challenge, as it is for all small premium food brands.

There have also been a lot of learnings around the team – what roles to bring on and when, and how to manage them.

I’ve learned to hire for attitude not just skills. Provided they have a growth mindset and are willing to get their hands dirty, we’ve found that one person with twice as much experience is almost always more useful than two people with half as much. A few years ago, we were 21 people. Now we’re 13 and we’re getting more done with less.

Why did you start using Belbin Team Roles with your teams?

There were a couple of factors. First, we were looking for something that would give the team greater self-awareness of their strengths (beyond their functional abilities) and awareness of others so that we could continually improve our culture.

The second motivation was to have an entertaining and useful workshop that would bring the team together – people always love learning about themselves.

We chose Belbin as it examines actual behaviour traits rather than your base personality.  It seems more accurate as it takes into account other people’s view of you rather than assuming that everyone is going to be self-aware enough to generate accurate assessments of themselves. We also liked the idea of team exercises to learn about each other, and there’s nothing else out there that can do what Belbin does.

How have you used Belbin?

We use Belbin most years in our offsite team day. It is both useful and interesting to see how as each team member develops in their job role, how their Team Roles also develop.

We revisit the Belbin Team Role Circle and use the Team Role Alignment Exercise to reinforce Belbin team language, check team balance and identify if there are any Team Role gaps and what solutions we can explore.

Like any initiative it’s important to have an internal champion for Belbin, and I’ve enjoyed performing that role, ensuring that the Belbin Team Role language is used, ensuring that we are drawing on the right roles in making and executing decisions.

Belbin has helped bring to our attention when some Team Roles have not been very well covered, and that will shape and influence some of our future recruitment decisions.

Our yearly refresher as well as on-boarding new hires who might not know about Belbin helps keep it at the front of people’s minds.

What impact have you seen from using Belbin?

I have seen greater self-awareness from each person, and awareness of the strengths and allowable weaknesses of others in the team which has created more harmony and more results.

There have also been ‘lightbulb moments’ amongst our employees.

One of our team said they realised there is as much, if not more, benefit in working to improve upon your strengths as opposed to always focusing on trying to develop areas which don't come as naturally to you.

I think this helped them see that within a well-balanced team you should know when it's best to lean on others or when everyone will benefit from you bringing own skillset to the forefront.

Another area of insight has been that some team roles weren’t very well covered, and that will shape and influence some of our future recruitment decisions.

Any specific business benefits you have realised since embedding Belbin team language in your company?

Our engagement has increased since we first started using Belbin some five years ago. This has been measured using a platform called engagement multiplier, and we are now in the ‘very engaged’ category of companies.

And I am sure that it’s not just our hiring and management that has helped this.

Using Belbin has made us realise what the strengths and weaknesses are in the team so that we can best develop people, and in turn I think this has increased people’s sense of autonomy, mastery and purpose as part of Oppo.

From a senior management perspective, how has Belbin helped you?

I’ve enjoyed my Coordinator and Teamworker roles and the awareness that I’m good at bringing people together, creating consensus and delegating work to the right people. And trusting and empowering them to do a great job.

It has made me realise what I knew already at the back of my mind, that I’m not a Shaper or a Resource Investigator, and I need these roles around me to ‘crack the whip’ sometimes in scenarios where I might be too ‘nice’ and not realise that the boat can go a little faster. Luckily, we have some strong Shapers and Resource Investigators in the management team!

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