13 November 2011

By the time I got the call, she was already in the Sea King helicopter.

Some girls will do anything to meet Prince William.

According to the eye-witness reports, it was an impressive full summersault, with a “Ben the Chef” style face plant, which are painful enough from a diving board into the sea but on Snowdon… This is one place I like to keep my feet firmly on the mountain side.

“The good news is she’s smiling. She’s a real tough character,” Jonathan reassured me.

I clearly don’t have exclusivity on being accident prone.

Our trips to Snowdon down at the Lake House (Castell Cidwm) are special. It is tough and in windy conditions you have to keep your wits about you. And that’s what team building is all about. Whatever the elements throw at you, we pull together.

It sounds like the group this week had a real experience and thank God Liz, you are OK! It’s not every week you get airlifted to hospital by the future King Of England.

So, my quick catch up with my long term buddy and latest recruit tonight was an interesting one.

Joe joins the team to run the team building events at Castell Cidwm and to offer another dimension to the team with his experience running 15 gyms amd his own personal training business. He is an experienced first aider and, as loyal friend of mine, he already understands our culture.

Earlier in the week he’d said, “I have seen many businesses, Loz, but I have never seen anything like this. I am not sure how UKFast actually works, it just does.”

His feedback tonight was great to hear.

“Now I get it. The team are amazing. They just never stop.”

And that’s Snowdon. By bringing the new ones into the fold and introducing them to the passion and energy, the new recruits are out in the elements and they either sink or swim.

There is no place to hide. The rests are short and as intense as the mountaineering and raft-building.

They are either “in” or “out”.

I have no regrets for the ones we lose. I don’t think any less of them. They will find a great home and business that suits them better. It’s just that at UKFast, it is a little different. Attention to detail is everything. We have to be very careful who we let on the team.

In truth, we don’t lose many at this stage. The recruitment process does a good job at finding like-minded people. The ones that stay remember Snowdon and the stories for ever. We are able to link real personal memories with colleagues and friends. It’s a great first taste of life at UKFast.

Accountants put a cost on Team Building and, sadly, the inland revenue don’t help with the fact its not tax-deductible, but once you swallow the cost and commit yourself to the journey of real investment into your team and their wellbeing, the rewards won’t be too far behind. There has to be a link with business success and profitability. However, it’s almost unquantifiable in statistical terms. The result: it falls low down on the agenda for most businesses.

I am a firm believer in the saying,

“If you have something of great quality and you take good care of it, you will have it forever.”

We apply this principal to UKFast. It’s competitive out there these days and, with uncertainty in the economy, there is less and less margin for error. It’s important to give your business the best shot. It’s a simple philosophy and it’s one that is working very well for us. I am sure most businesses are incredibly thorough about their recruitment process but what then? It’s the next steps, once people are on board, that help people and businesses blossom.

I remember getting a lot of stick from a business woman once for explaining that we regularly have staff over to our home for dinner parties and events. She’d made it clear that this was a real flaw in my master plan and, either way, she couldn’t do it as the class of people they employed were not the sort of people they’d mix with! She and her husband have a very successful chain of pubs so I was naturally interested in her opinion.

A few years on from first hearing that, I realise that my plan is not flawed, it’s just different. I totally respect other people’s ways. However, I firmly believe that if you take the time to get to know your team, they’ll be more likely to fight harder for you when you need it most. That being said, I don’t know all my team members well enough… Yet!

It’s also important to point out at that following this method doesn’t guarantee success. But it certainly helps during the tough times and those moments when you can’t be everywhere.

Even with the best strategies in place, there are always those anomalies that appear when you least expect it.

I popped over to a friend’s business this week in London and the man on the intercom didn’t want to let us in. We had an appointment. We were a little late but we just wanted to view some furniture. I calmly said, “it doesn’t matter.” The man came to the door and in spite of us mentioning the appointment was organised by his director in name, he just didn’t want to budge.

I got a text shortly after this from my friend apologising and saying about his colleague, “He learns from his mistakes and now can repeat them perfectly.”

What a great line!

Will it stop me buying from my friend’s business? Definitely not. However, if this had been my first encounter with his brand, then definitely YES. I think you can often predict the standard of after-sales service on the customer service you get when you first engage with a business.

Ironically, in this case, with spare time before my train home, I popped into the showroom next door and saw a great alternative, so it just goes to show you how easy it is to inadvertently damage your business.

I am not saying a team building event would have guaranteed a better result. However, there is a great deal we never see about our businesses. If you leave it to chance, you are bound to have more hicups. The natural reaction I often get when I recommend team building is, “We can’t afford it.”

But the best and most worthwhile events are often the cheapest. A sponsored run to help raise money for a charity does more to raise morale along the way. A pub lunch or just a face-to-face ‘thank you’ and a cup of tea can work a treat.

The philosophy is one of sharing. If you don’t already subscribe to these methods of running your business or department then why not try dipping your toe in the water by taking your team out to lunch and see if the next few days are more productive. Justify it with a work group and have some thinking time outside the office.

If nothing else, it will give you time to find out about your team and what’s really going on in their lives. A different viewpoint from the one your managers might prefer to keep close to their chest. By showing interest, I find it automatically lifts the team.

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