Ashridge Group offers SME security companies new model for enhanced customer experience

When an emerging company in the security sector changed its business model to read ‘People First, Security Second’, a good many ‘traditionalists’ were somewhat taken aback. Now, with a growing international portfolio of clients across sectors as diverse as corporates, heritage sites, theatre, live entertainment venues, rail and Critical National Infrastructure organisations, the Ashridge Group has proven its point – even to the sceptics.

Run by co-directors Emma Walker and Mark Walker, the Security Industry Authority Approved Contractor and approved Safe Contractor now has a five-year track record of growth and increased its turnover in 2017 by 98% year-on-year. The Group has embraced technology and expanded its range of services across three distinct, but inter-related companies: Ashridge Security Management, Ashridge Facilities Management and consultancy firm Cognitious Ltd.

However, according to managing director Emma Walker, it’s the customer experience delivery that makes the difference. “Adopting ‘People First, Security Second’ was a bold move, but it soon became clear that, if you get the first one right, you create the basis for success,” said Walker. “What customers need in their security provision is absolute mutual trust. Nothing establishes that better than the quality of your people.”

Four-point plan for success

For other SME security businesses looking to penetrate a B2B market dominated by much bigger organisations, Ashridge Group – which boasts ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 accreditations – has a four-point plan for its sector that it offers as a template:

*Active re-investment in training and soft skills, particularly for front line employees. They’ll actively promote your business through their actions, often as representatives of the client in reception or Front of House roles

*Changing the business model to ‘People First’ means that employees feel trusted, responsible, more engaged and, therefore, more aware. It’s about supporting and enabling teams and not dictating policy and suppressing broader thinking, in tandem with decision-making through empowerment

*Account management practices that are communicative, responsive and agile and not slow (as can be the case with larger organisations)

*Added value solutions to benefit the client through cost-saving, delivered by using knowledge, skills and resources to provide a creative or equally effective proposition that avoids or reduces costs. For example, energy efficiency strategies, the recording of building fabric or lighting maintenance issues

Customer referrals

Ultimately, it’s outcomes that prove or disprove a business model and the Ashridge Group, which hasn’t lost a single account in five years, obtains 90% of all its new business from customer referrals.

Gavin McGuiness, business improvement management at Engie, the French-owned global energy giant, is a typical customer. “Ashridge Group sets the benchmark in service excellence that’s delivered by professionals through synergy and understanding of their client’s needs, ever-improving and constantly pushing the boundaries.”

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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