“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.”
This month marks the 17th anniversary of the creation of my company, SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL Ltd. The SERVICEBRAND journey started with a classic, corporate, defining moment or series of moments. By way of background and context, in 2002, a major global facilities management company were looking for a senior leader to develop the account for a Big Four bank and their UK office portfolio.
A key criterion for the appointment was a five-star hotel industry background. And since I had successfully turned around a five-star hotel and country club, uniquely delivering three consecutive all-green balanced scorecards and receiving recognition within the company and industry wide. I was excited to be offered the opportunity to transfer my skills across sectors from hotels to the workplace environment.
The assignment was an all-round success, founded on implementing a hotel style service delivery model for the collection of service partner companies involved and their combined total of 5,000 employees.
Commercially, the account grew from an £8m turnover catering contract to a £150m turnover multi-services contract. Industry recognition was received by way of a CoreNet Global Innovation Award and a service partner Customer Experience award from the bank.
Both the facilities management company and the bank were keen to explore a co-owned joint venture arrangement to scale the business proposition and take it to the open market, targeting major global contracts. The small management team were set to become shareholders and the business plan revenue numbers were in the billions of pounds.
First, there was a change of the facilities management company UK CEO. The incoming CEO, who had arrived from the international division of the organization sent a lengthy introduction open email to all employees explaining how he was going to create a successful future for the company. Within a week, he had left the business over an alleged historic scandal and the company chose to ‘batten down the hatches’ to focus on the core catering business. The embryonic new business concept was shut down before its first breath and my role was made redundant.
“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” Epictetus
It was August 2005, and the above experience was the encouragement to set up, for want of a better term, a management consultancy business. The decision was based more on intuition than on a considered business plan and was informed by the following:
• a personal passion for customer service, the importance of front-line people and creation of admired brands.
• success in several senior leadership roles, both with large corporate organizations and smaller entrepreneurial companies.
• experience at Managing Director/General Manager level with a deep understanding of operational delivery and several specialist support functions, particularly Marketing and HR as well as Sales, Finance, Health & Safety, Property Management, Revenue Management, and others.
• a wide network of business connections.
• a realization that frustration with the way in which decisions were made in large corporate organizations kept being repeated.
• a desire to work with progressive service organizations who wanted to be leaders in their market or sector.
The business name came easily. It needed to indicate a focus on people delivering great customer service and the strength of an organization’s brand identity. It needed to have potential to scale internationally and, ideally, would be a name with a unique quality. SERVICE BRAND GLOBAL was born, and quickly became SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL, and the invented word ‘SERVICEBRAND’ was registered as a trademark.
Initially, it seemed like a good idea to offer support and advice to senior leaders of service sector organizations in a wide range of areas to improve their businesses, but it soon became clear that this ‘jack of all trades’ approach was not compelling when people were usually seeking a solution to a specific challenge or problem.
A three-month contract to lead a cultural transformation for the corporate real estate division of an investment bank for their London office provided some thinking space to develop a more coherent, packaged, or productised service offering, rather than basing the proposition on personal expertise, knowledge, and service.
The creative thinking process to develop and articulate the offer was a replay of the approach used in various leadership roles over the previous twenty years. Significant business impact and success had been achieved repeatedly so the task was to draw out the common threads of how this had been achieved.
One strong core theme was a combination of theory and practice: understanding the theory which helped to underpin successful practical outcomes, applying theory in practice and, finally, understanding the relationship between the two.
Personal experience of working with various business models or frameworks (e.g., EFQM Excellence model, Hospitality Assured, IiP, and the Service Profit chain) had also been beneficial. The key insight was the value of having an overarching organization framework to support general management of the business instead of allowing an approach more reliant on individual functions and the organization structure.
These frameworks helped to join up the functions of business horizontally and vertically i.e., actively involving all members of the team and keeping them focussed on the priorities for the business as a whole. Other areas which had helped to create improved business performance were putting in place various common operating systems and processes including communication channels and employing methods to capture measurement and insight.
The concept development process helped to identify that the first time the SERVICEBRAND approach had been used in its (almost) full form was at the City of London’s leading conference venue in 1996 (yet without knowing it) and then at a five-star hotel and country club. There was more conscious application with the facilities management company operating one of the Big Four bank’s UK offices portfolio.
In the seventeen years since the ‘beginning’, the SERVICEBRAND approach has been refined and developed alongside the use of a set of associated tools, some proprietary and others in collaboration with partners. Various projects have been delivered at different levels across industry sectors.
At one end of the scale, the framework has been applied in its entirety in large corporate organizations on a global or regional basis with a variety of workstreams over a two to three-year period. At the other end of the scale, much smaller, sometimes single location organizations have chosen to focus on one ‘Element’ of the SERVICEBRAND approach and perhaps even one specific tool e.g. 31Practices.
What all of the clients in these organizations have in common, is a progressive mindset and a recognition that a values-driven approach to a team of brand ambassadors delivering a memorable customer experience can be an immensely powerful way to achieve sustained performance. Both larger and smaller projects have received industry awards.
In 2018, the word SERVICEBRAND became trademarked in US and in EU.
It has been quite a journey so far, time flies when you are having fun. And there are still more adventures to be had with a retreat concept, a customer experience training program partnership and a global visual arts initiative all forming!