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Elmtree Garden Contractors – strategy consulting

Elmtree Garden Contractors - strategy consulting

Elmtree Garden Contractors – strategy consulting

A well-known family firm established in 1969 with a name in the Bristol area for landscaping and grounds maintenance for housebuilding and construction projects.  When I started working with them in early 2010, the founder had taken a step back from the business and his son, Paul Lynch, had assumed the position of Managing Director.  He was keen to put in place a set of properly-structured processes to manage the performance of his then 17 people, and to learn all he could to enable him to feel fully in control.

There has always been a stated commitment to Quality, Service and Reliability, and the firm was already known as one of the better employers in the sector.  What I found when I spoke to everyone who worked there was that :

  • there were very few measures and targets to back up the claims about Quality, Service and Reliability
  • people did not feel they were informed about business performance, strategy and goals
  • Paul and the foremen had had no training in team leadership, meaning they were struggling with the problem of being ‘mates’ with their operatives at times when they needed to keep an objective distance
  • people wanted the occasional chance to have a proper one-to-one chat with the boss

At our strategy consulting sessions, Paul was very positive about moving forward with my suggested improvements, and we worked together on an action plan that had to take account of the seasonal cycle of the trade.

We developed an aims and objectives document, written for the team and using a very simple version of the Balanced Scorecard, that set out what Elmtree was aiming to achieve over the longer and shorter term.  Once this was drafted and discussed with the team, everything else we did could be geared towards achieving the objectives.

I joined team meetings to support the communication of everything that was going on, including how each operative could get personally involved in generating new business leads.  This reduced the pressure on Paul to take responsibility for all sales and marketing operations.  I delivered short in-house skills workshops for foremen on motivation and team building.  I came to see Paul for strategy consulting sessions every six weeks in the winter months to help him keep on track.  I supplied guidance and templates of some 1-page forms so he could get a straightforward system of one-to-one job chats going.

When Elmtree went for Investors in People in March 2012, they achieved the award easily.  The team had spoken in glowing terms about how things had improved and the positive effect these had had on teamwork, communication and customer service.  The resulting benefit to profitability came directly from these.  At a difficult time for the sector :

  • operatives have been kept within the team instead of being laid off during the quiet winter months
  • relationships with main contractors have strengthened
  • new recruits have joined so the team has grown to 28 people
  • valuable contracts have been won and new services launched

Update :  In early 2015 Elmtree underwent their Investors in People reaccreditation.  They gained the award at Silver level, showing how markedly they have moved forward.  The assessor’s feedback highlighted particularly strong practice in :

  • planning – employee participation in the development of company objectives
  • values – regularly involving the team in discussions about what these mean in practice
  • learning and development – the quality of on-site training

Case Studies – successful business

successful business

Working to sustain successful business

I am at the service of any business or organisation that wants to grow and improve, sees the need for expert outside help and is prepared to invest in that help.

I have acted as business counsellor to the full spectrum of organisations.  From small businesses in distress to large national charities seeking to consolidate, I have a record of achievement to ensure your business success.

Looking back while writing these case studies, something struck me.  It was how many medium-sized firms there are which aren’t exactly struggling, they just want to stop firefighting, add some structure and thinking time, and prove to themselves and to the outside world what a successful business they are.

These are very short stories which I hope you will find as inspiring to read as I did to be a part of.

Happiness and Motivation – Managing people

This interactive workshop provides an opportunity for delegates to explore the challenges they face when motivating themselves and their team members. They will share these challenges and learn from each other in a safe, energising and fun environment. They will come away with tips and techniques to practice in the workplace, giving them happiness and fulfilment in their role.

Learning Aims

By the end of the workshop, delegates will be able to :

  • motivate themselves and their team effectively
  • build better relationships with other teams across their business
  • demonstrate a range of personal skills in managing people, to get the best out of their team members

For Whom

This session is designed for anyone who is interested in developing or refreshing their understanding of why it is that they themselves, and other people, usually aim to do a good job. It is a good eye-opener for people looking for greater motivation in their own role.  It is also for team leaders who have been managing people for a while and are looking for new ways of thinking to help them motivate others.

Content – Managing People

  • The philosophy and science of happiness
  • What makes us happy ?
  • Levels of happiness
  • Self awareness exercise : Career motivations
  • Understanding motivation – “intrinsic” and “extrinsic” factors
  • Empathy and sympathy
  • Helping people to feel valued
  • The real meaning of empowerment
  • What this means for managing people in practice

Righting Wrongs – complaint handling training

Turning complaints into business opportunities

However talented they are, sometimes customer service professionals find that things can inevitably go wrong.  They need a chance to stop and think through what they can do differently to provide an even better service to customers.  They need techniques for responding to people who express dissatisfaction in a way that helps both parties feel there has been a more than satisfactory resolution.  Starting with some self-awareness work, delegates will work on self control, enabling them to ease the fevered environment on the team and further improve the quality of the service they provide.  This practical complaint handling training aims to provide a supportive group ambience for agreeing and practising helpful skills.

Learning Aims

By the end of the workshop, delegates will be able to :

  • describe what needs to happen to manage personal confidence and impact successfully
  • demonstrate  relevant skills to enable them to deal with difficult situations and reduce stress for themselves and fellow team members while doing so
  • agree consistent standards for dealing with difficult people and situations
  • respond to customer complaints in a professional way that promotes a positive image of the business consistent with its brand

For Whom

This workshop provides complaint handling training for anyone who deals with customers as part of their job and has to cope with a commercial environment in which rising (and sometimes unreasonable) customer expectations are becoming the norm.  It has been created either to act as a standalone for people who find that meeting these customer expectations is becoming more stressful, or to complement any previous or existing customer care training.

Content – complaint handling training

  • Review of past experiences :  what happened, what was the result, how did we feel
  • Self awareness exercise :  boosting our own confidence
  • Managing our emotions and staying in control in stressful situations
  • Difficult situations :  defence mechanisms and barriers to a positive resolution
  • Taking the HEAT
  • Directing the conversation
  • Strategies for responding to difficult individuals and conflict
  • Providing mutual support within the team
  • Managing expectations and making it easier to keep promises
  • Practical exercise based on real scenarios
  • Strategies for responding to unreasonable requests
  • Following up in writing

The Secrets of Successful Teams – Team Skills

This interactive session allows delegates to further explore some key aspects of their role within a team. It provides an opportunity for some deeper reflection on how human beings interact with each other.  This enables delegates to decide on any changes they want to make based on real insight. In a facilitated environment, most of the learning is done by increasing self-awareness and developing empathy for others.

Learning Aims

By the end of the session, delegates will be able to :

  • explain their preferred working style and their understanding of the preferred working style of other people
  • describe the reasons why certain people within a team may get on well or not so well together
  • demonstrate some additional techniques to get the best out of themselves and every team member

For Whom

This session is designed for anyone who wishes to develop or refine the skills needed for either performing well within a team or for managing a high-performing team. It is a refreshing thought-provoker both for people who have been part of a settled team for a while and for those who have recently joined a new team.

Content – Team Skills

    • Pre-session work : Team skills self awareness questionnaire
    • Characteristics of successful and unsuccessful teams
    • Individual working styles
    • How different working styles interact
    • The success trap
    • Tactics for overcoming conflict within teams
    • Harnessing the power of team skills – strength in diversity
    • The power of positive thinking, an inspirational vision and goals
    • The real meaning of assertiveness

Developing Your Team Leadership Skills

This interactive session allows team leaders and line managers to further explore aspects of their role as a leader and role model. It builds on the basics covered in any previous management training to add some deeper reflection on developing people, managing change and improving personal impact. In a facilitated environment, most of the learning is done by sharing real experience in the workplace and learning as much from the group about team leadership as from the trainer.

Learning Aims

By the end of the session, delegates will be able to :

  • explain some techniques to manage and motivate themselves effectively
  • describe the influence which further improving personal impact and communication skills has on projecting a professional image to team members and customers
  • demonstrate a range of team leadership skills to get the best out of every team member

For Whom

This workshop is designed for anyone who is in charge of a team and wishes to develop or refine the team leadership skills needed for the people management side of their role. It is a refreshing thought-provoker for those who have been managing people for a while.

Content – Team Leadership Skills

  • Self-awareness exercise : learning styles
  • Applying knowledge of learning styles to the people you manage
  • Sources of power and authority
  • Inspiring your team through the power of positive thinking
  • Showing trust and respect as steps to successful delegation
  • Personal presentation – your image at work
  • Controlling your voice, body and brain under pressure
  • Understanding the impact of change on individuals and helping them to cope
  • Improving personal impact and effectiveness
  • Developing toughness : staying in control and making decisions in fast-moving situations

Isn’t it just common sense? – the Investors in People Standard

investors in people standard

This fast-paced intensive but fun and practical workshop demonstrates the principles and practice that underpin the Investors in People Standard.  It explains how it can be applied to any business at any time to help drive and deliver success.  The workshop uses the specific issues and challenges brought by participants or their organisations as a basis.  In doing so it aims to provide a clear and useable action plan for each participant whilst simultaneously demonstrating the key principles that underline successful business practice.

Don’t Just Survive, Thrive!

The workshop aims to be inspirational as well as to provide a rare and welcome chance to get some peace and do some straightfoward thinking about how to move your organisation forward.  It does this by adopting a fresh approach to the subject.  Rather than describing the elements of the Standard itself, it uses the principles to generate valuable insights and create practical solutions to real business issues.  There is always a lot of laughter in the group as they share experience and realise they are not alone in seeking common sense answers to business problems.

Learning Aims

To explain the principles that underpin the Investors in People standard and explore how they can be applied to real life situations to help deliver business success.  To come away with a simple action plan to be implemented back in the workplace.

For Whom

This workshop is designed for business owner managers looking to gain a greater understanding of the Investors in People Standard.  Anyone would gain who wishes to learn about the benefits and the process, without necessarily having to commit to the financial and time burdens that formal accreditation imposes.

Content – The Investors in People Standard

  • The Power of Goals
  • The Importance Of Setting SMART objectives
  • Keeping On Track
  • Developing Staff For Measurable Business Payback
  • Creating A Happy Team
  • Action Planning For Business Improvement