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Our version of brilliance

Our Version of Excellence thought leadership article

It’s always an energising environment when there’s a room packed full of emerging leaders.

So, it’s no surprise that we really enjoyed attending the St Julian Scholars’ (SJS) autumn meeting last week – there were great speakers, as always, and much to take away from the day.

We’ve supported the SJS for many years because we feel there’s alignment with what the organisation stands for and seeks to achieve, and how we like to operate as a business: continual development, the importance of connections, relationships, partnerships, and the support of the hospitality industry.

It’s hard to leave any business for a day, but we believe a meeting like this is a commitment to all for personal growth by learning new things from both the speakers and by connecting with industry peers.

The meetings are always a push to be better.

Last week’s event was based around the theme of “Beyond Brilliance”, and among the things we learned were:

That starting as a KP can take you anywhere. Simon McGuire proved this in his career: he started as KP, worked within hospitality businesses such as Hotel du Vin, Firmdale, Harbour Hotels… and has now become a motivational speaker.

Simon spoke about goalsetting, and how important “tribe” is. It is essential to surround yourself with positive people who support you in achieving your goals. And it’s important to bear in mind at this time of year – new year’s resolutions are only achieved by approximately 6% of those who set them.

We learned how crucial collaboration is from Dr Jutta Tobias Mortlock – that a great leader doesn’t pretend to know everything. Instead, they listen, they draw on the strengths of the team around them, they create connections that, in turn, build trust and confidence and enables the open sharing of ideas.

We also learned that leaders need to look after themselves – not only so that they can be strong for themselves, but, importantly, to be strong for their team… They are very often therapists in their roles. Again, listening is important, and allowing the space to be open.

And, finally, we learned that Einstein famously said: “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious”.

The day inspired us to think about what “beyond brilliance” looks like for Act-Clean. We think it’s important because, as a business, we try to be better – for our people and our clients.

We’ve been on a new journey of discovery with our people for a while now having conducted an environment and social governance (ESG) review last year, which led to some important developments on how we can be better for our people and planet.

The most powerful of these has been the creation of a forum so that we can hear directly from our people. We’re keen to listen. Like Einstein, we’re curious to know how our team feel, and how we can improve.

From our first meetings, we’ve started to implement improvements raised at the forums, which includes producing a regular newsletter for our team members and providing direct contact details for the management team.

Listening to their feedback also led us to install an automated attendance system, which meant we could computerise payroll – so there is less opportunity for human error. Pay is important, and we need it to be right.

Another area for brilliance is problem solving, because in our line of business, things do go wrong, and we do have to fix them.

Any business that claims it can guarantee that no-one will ever make a mistake or make a bad choice is simply not being truthful.

We’re upfront about the fact that things happen. We deal with a big and changing workforce and people make choices, mistakes or choose not to follow certain procedures no matter how well developed systems and processes are. However, what we’ve found is that if we resolve issues well, we can strengthen the relationship with the client.

So, something that starts out as negative can become something incredibly positive in the end. For us, that is going beyond “cleaning” – it’s about listening, thinking, understanding, taking responsibility, collaborating, and resolving.

It’s a comfort for us to know that our way of dealing with these situations is recognised by our wonderful clients. As Christie Jones, Senior Executive Director of Tao Group, which owns Hakkasan and Yauatcha, told us recently:

“Our business has such diverse and busy operations, issues are inevitable. But Act-Clean run a tight ship, which means if there is a problem that arises, it is dealt with efficiently.”

On a brighter note, we want to make our team aware that while we’re not always visible, we’re always here for them, there’s a supportive and collaborative culture. We’re all one team, regardless of what our role is, where we do it, and at what time we do it.

When everybody is working in their various patches, we’re not physically together, so we want to create a feeling of being part of a team, part of something, and so getting our operations team together helps with that, and recently we arranged a team breakfast at The Wolseley on Piccadilly.

In this way we’re building our strong tribe, connecting with each other, ensuring we’re all signed up to meet our goals together, in confidence and positivity. And, also strengthening our leaders, ensuring we’re best placed to lead our teams.

It’s a chance for us to thank them too, because, let’s face it, working across London at night is a tough gig – especially in the cold, wind, and rain – and we recognise that, and we want to celebrate their efforts.

We always do this at one of our clients’ properties so that the team can fully enjoy the surroundings that they and their teams help to make fabulous. We don’t want to be hiding in the café at our Vauxhall office having a bacon roll!

Our team are our stars and the experience of sitting in the private dining room at The Wolseley is utterly deserved.

We’re so proud of our brilliant clients, and so it’s important that our team know how it feels to be a guest in their businesses. And with that inner knowledge, we can understand expectations and have the confidence to go beyond brilliant.

Find out more about our team here

Gillian Thomson was speaking with Amanda Afiya