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Think small or risk failing

Author : Martin Reed, managing director at Incentive FM Group

12 October 2016

I read with interest the article in the Sunday Times inevitably entitled ‘How Mitie Has Fallen’ which highlighted the problems the company is facing in terms of its debt, lack of profitability and some of its rather unfortunate strategic decisions.

Coincidently, just 2 days before the paper came out I was addressing some of the issues the article raised at our annual conference.

My presentation “Think Small” addressed the dangers associated with big companies such as arrogance and disengagement of staff. This is particularly relevant for us.

Our business began15 years ago with just a strong team and some good contacts. Today we have a turnover of nearly £100 million and employ over 2,500 staff.

We are one of a very few medium sized businesses in the sector able to offer a fully self-delivered multi-service solution and we often find itself tendering against the big players.

The main thrust of my presentation was that to support our growth it is vital that we keep hold of the values, approach and personality that have got us where we are today.

I quoted an article in the Financial Times that reviewed a McKinsey report that collected detailed performance data stretching back 40 years for 1,000 companies. They found that none of the long-term survivors managed to outperform the market.

Worse, the longer companies had been in the database, the worse they did. I believe that the key to success in the service industry is making your employees feel significant.

In my experience employees who don't feel significant rarely make significant contributions. There is a direct link between your employees feeling valued and their productivity and performance.

One thing is for certain – your customers will never be happier than your staff. If you are part of a small business with 20 staff for example you know that your contribution makes a real difference, but this becomes harder to understand if you are part of a workforce of thousands.

At Incentive FM our ethos is that we want to be a company that our staff love working for and that clients love working with.

We do this by making all parties feel cherished and this is supported by our unique profit sharing approach for any savings made.

As a medium sized business in the sector we play to our strengths, one of which is that we don’t have the kind of bureaucracy which means that everything has to be prescriptive.

Our business culture is ‘freedom within a framework’ meaning that as long as the legal, financial and client stakeholder requirements are met then it is down to the individual teams how they achieve this.

We find this helps people to develop faster and better and enables us to promote from within and reward loyalty and hard work. What stood out for me in the Sunday Times article was that MITIE closed down its benefit scheme in 2006 for all new workers.

Now I’m not sure how many of their 63,000 employees this affected but I do know that this decision would not have made staff feel valued particularly as in 2102 an exception was made for the Finance Director.

According to the article, this was just one of a number of examples of corporate generosity for the top team.

For me the moment a company stops acknowledging the importance of all of its staff in favour of the few at the top is the moment a company loses its way.


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