Simon Duke

5 Jan 2017, 10:47

The heart of good business

On the whole, we’re pretty good at looking after our team, listening to them, and including their suggestions, however, a phone call I received a few years back caught be off guard and caused me to step back to revaluate how we were going about our business. 

It was on a cold Monday morning, in the middle of March 2014, when he called, and with a quiver in his voice, simply said, that he was tired and that we needed to know that ‘when the elephants fight the grasshoppers get crushed.’

This gentleman had worked for us for many years. He was valued within our organisation and by our client’s facilities management team. He lead a crew of cleaners who cared for a serviced office, where occupancy has been growing, but where our client had been slow in agreeing additional resource to clean the expanding space.

Wanting to please our customer (and hold onto the contract), we’d pushed our team to pick up these extra spaces, without giving them any more time. Initially, we'd come up with some great initiatives that saw us eliminate waste and genuinely get the team working smarter, without them having to simply work harder. Over time, however, it had become apparant that there was only so far we could push. Soon, the cracks would begin to appear, and the cleaning team, who were now working harder than ever, would find themselves also having to fend off cleaning complaints. We were running the the risk of breaking the loyal staff who cared enough not to leave, or who were too honest and hard working to leave a job unfinished. To this day, this is something I come across frequently in the industry, though fortunately, we're getting better at preventing this sort of situation. 

When salespeople are bidding for work, it’s far too easy for them to sharpen their pencils, and to round the numbers down. Whilst we remain committed to genuine productivity improvement, before we squeeze for that last drop, I'd encourage everyone to consider those who are going to feel the pinch the most. A happy team, fairly paid, provided with the right time and tools, will deliver an awesome service; which is ultimately what we all want. 

So as not to leave you hanging, in the case of the gentleman I mentioned above, we provided him with a weeks paid holiday, temporarilly increased our staff headcount, and put forward a new proposal, based on what we felt was actually required. Additionally, we provided an alternative, cost neutral proposal, which was based on a reduced scope of works. The client opted for the latter, which was fine.