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
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.”