This is the tenth instalment in a monthly series of articles for the readers of Risk UK where we shine the spotlight on NSI-approved businesses for the benefit of risk and security managers who purchase security guarding as well as systems-focused solutions. Answering our key questions on this occasion is Laurie Barton Wright, brand and development director at the Westgrove Group.
Risk UK: Can you briefly describe your business’ activities and what you consider to be your USP as an organisation?
Laurie Barton Wright: Westgrove Group is a soft services provider specialising in high footfall destinations such as Shopping Centres and public realm spaces. We provide security and cleaning solutions plus customer services ambassadors on over 70 sites across the UK.
We have a ‘people-centric’ approach to our business and we believe that this sets us apart from other providers. We have a number of USPs: we form partnerships with a long-term vision, have a willingness to invest in people through colleague engagement, show flexibility in problem-solving and provide the drive needed to support on-site management teams.
Westgrove is a true retail property service provider. Our portfolio extends to commercial buildings, but we excel in retail locations where we can help to deliver a face-to-face guest experience and add to the customer journey.
Over 90% of our business is within the retail sector and we plan to increase this even further through the introduction of ‘Synergy by Westgrove’ which is our bespoke service provision for Shopping Centres and retail parks.
Westgrove Group’s expertise and culture stems from an independent business which has grown organically over the past 18 years. The company boasts a senior management team offering a wealth of direct retail experience. We have a dynamic DNA within the business that’s common to our whole organisation and affords us a true understanding of our Shopping Centre management teams.
Risk UK: What do your clients value most about the services you deliver?
Laurie Barton Wright: We refer to our clients as partners and our staff as colleagues. This sets us apart from other providers and is something that we feel supports our partnership approach and colleague-centred DNA. That helps to cement long-term working relationships as we truly add value to our partners’ businesses, whether that be through our innovative ideas or by upskilling on-site teams to be a greater value asset.
We prioritise our investment in training and development to ensure that all colleagues are given the same opportunities to enhance their knowledge and skills. This extends even further to customer service training and targeted service excellence-focused initiatives.
Risk UK: How do you feel accreditations have assisted your company?
Laurie Barton Wright: Accreditations are very important to us, and particularly so when tendering for new business. We can show that we have the necessary accreditations in place to afford potential partners confidence.
Accreditations are a benchmark to show that we’re operating at a defined level of excellence within our industry. They also assist us internally by helping to support and develop processes and procedures which add structure and robustness to our business.
Risk UK: Specifically, what value does ACS registration and NSI Guarding Gold approval bring to your business and its clients?
Laurie Barton Wright: Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS) registration and NSI Guarding Gold approval gives us confidence that we’re operating at a level of excellence which is recognised externally. The ACS registration and NSI approval are not always requested by purchasing customers, but are recognised by many partners and help us to demonstrate that we take our business, its performance and integrity very seriously indeed.
It’s important for us to be measured and to think about how we’re operating and how we can make continuous improvements. We’re an independent business, but we offer the same service standards as the major plcs. This is a real USP for us in the marketplace.
Risk UK: In practice, what are the main differences between ACS registration and NSI Guarding Gold approval?
Laurie Barton Wright: The NSI was the first security industry assessing body that offered access to the ACS via the Passport route. The Passport route is open to NSI approved companies providing services for security guarding, CCTV, door supervision, close protection, key holding and Cash-in-Transit.
The Passport route offers qualifying companies an additional option for access to the ACS. NSI approved companies achieving this must meet an NSI Passport Specification, but will not be required to pass through separate ACS assessments.
Risk UK: How do you think technology has changed the industry over the last couple of years and what do you feel will be the direction of travel in the future?
Laurie Barton Wright: We use a good deal of cloud-based technology and this has really helped us to deliver a better service for our partners. There are a number of key systems which we’ve been able to develop and roll out and which show real benefits for our partners.
Accuracy and collection of data is vital both in security and cleaning to demonstrate a number of outcomes and support Key Performance Indicators around productivity of the team on site, Health and Safety, customer feedback and so much more.
All of our systems are cloud-based and accessible to our partners. This promotes a greater sense of trust and transparency. The fact that we’re ‘paperless’ aligns with partners’ Corporate Social Responsibility aspirations.
Going forward, we’re keen to develop our systems further. We know our partners see the benefits and we’re continually trying to develop them further to enhance reporting capabilities and integration with their own systems on site.
Risk UK: When it comes to negotiating contracts and responding to tender requests, what aspects are of most value to customers and how are these changing?
Laurie Barton Wright: Partners are keen to see an innovative approach. Of course, cost is always a factor, but it’s not always the overriding one. Partners are keen to see a new way of thinking and innovative solutions.
There’s always the potential for many contracts to be left to almost ‘stagnate’ which is why we continue to strategically revisit our contracts on a regular basis post-mobilisation.
Budgets are always a consideration and, again, flexibility of approach showing long-term gain for our partners is the desired route.
Risk UK: How has Government legislation (eg the National Minimum Wage, the National Living Wage and holiday pay) affected your business? Do you believe such legislation is a good thing?
Laurie Barton Wright: Being a solutions provider means that we can only recommend pay rates. Having the National Living Wage in place is helpful to ensure a consistent level of approach. It also gives us a better ability to look at costs for our partners going forward so that there are no surprises.
We do try and encourage pay rates to go above the National Living Wage or, in some cases, consider the same pay rate for cleaning and security.
On many of our sites we provide a ‘dual’ service and we often ‘de-badge’ our colleagues from the traditional security/cleaning roles, instead moving towards a customer service ambassador-focused structure.
We firmly believe that our internal reward and recognition scheme and training and development all help to benefit colleagues.
Importantly, we also factor in the Apprenticeship Levy at 0.5% of all labour costs such that partner organisations can take advantage of this funding stream.
Risk UK: What are the most important attributes you look for in your security officers and staff members in general?
Laurie Barton Wright: The answer to this question differs from site to site depending on our partners’ needs. Outside of the normal vetting requirements, we also place a lot of importance on face-to-face interviews.
As stated, our contracts are mainly within the retail/property sector so our colleagues are very ‘front-facing’. This requires them to be open to the idea of customer service and ‘going the extra mile’ to support our partners’ own business objectives.
A willingness to learn and engage is vital. We have training and development for all levels, right up from basic job training through to management training plus developmental instruction for dementia and autism awareness.
Laurie Barton Wright
Brand and Development Director
Time in the security sector
Two years as a contractor and 20 years in property management (client side) working for CBRE, Cushman and Wakefield and Westfield
Location of the business
Areas of expertise
Security, cleaning and customer service ambassadors for property partners including retail (Shopping Centres/retail parks) and mixed use destinations
NSI Guarding Gold, FM Gold, Health and Safety Gold and EMS Gold, SIA ACS, SafeContractor, Contractor Plus, Member of the British Safety Council, Member of the British Council of Shopping Centres, ISO 14001, ISO 9001 and OHSAS 18001
About the National Security Inspectorate
The National Security Inspectorate (NSI) is a wholly-independent, not-for-profit company limited by guarantee and operates as a UKAS-accredited certification body specialising in the security and fire safety sectors.
For over 40 years, the NSI has served to protect businesses, homeowners and the general public alike, raising standards by providing robust and high quality audits of both security and fire safety service providers.