How to build, sustain and take forward your competitive advantage - and resist the siren voices of the race to the bottom.
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13 March 2019 | MCFT
The phrase 'brand values' is much-used, but what does it mean? Put simply, it's the beliefs and behaviours that inform decisions and direction; behaviours so real that they're not only lived, but scaleable and transferable.
So when we set up MCFT in the Gulf a few years ago, "the way we do things in the UK" became "the way we do things in the Gulf". Without mission statements on the walls because it's all abouthow we behave.
For us it's all about transparency: open communication; ownership and accountability; internal meetings in which the whole team gets the opportunity to input into our vision, direction and standards.
It's also about being market-aware and customer-obsessive. How can you hope to align your offer and apply those brand values if you've not strategically reviewed the opportunity, the requirement and the competition? Of course, commercial value is defined by the customer - although sometimes, they may need help in understanding a niche provision.
Incidentally - and, we think, interestingly - actual branding evolves over time. McFarlane Telfer became too cumbersome and difficult to pronounce in, say, Arabic or Dutch - so we have progressed it to an abbreviation: MCFT. Graphics also develop over time and need to be evaluated in a global context. It's a constant case of review and adjust.
Aesthetics and communication evolve, but our core beliefs and values remain constant.
George Roberts-Smith - Regional director MCFT Middle East
A business typically starts in one place and with one specialist. An expert baker, perhaps, or a skilled designer, maybe a car mechanic. And if it's successful, one day that business realises that it now comprises many facets, and that its ongoing success will be a matter of mastering all of them. Cripes!
So then, as a matter of course, you're obliged to follow best practice in all that you do. But where do you find out about quality management? Environmental policy? Health & safety? Fleet management? You soon realise you have a choice: view the pursuit of best practice as simply a series of box-ticking exercises (quality management is notoriously prone to them) or see it for the rigorous yet beneficial ongoing exercise in professional development needed to sustain your commercial advantage. Then suddenly you're undergoing an external ISO audit, having become one of the first organisations to achieve ISO45001 Health & Safety Management.
But still you're wondering how you measure up against others. Not necessarily firms in your own sector, but instead the established role models for customer service or tech development. Where do you sit in relation to those? So you put yourself forward for Chamber of Commerce, International Export and other awards.
Might this portfolio of accreditations bring customers? Perhaps. But it definitely sends messages about the standards you aspire to - thus helping you recruit the right, continuously developing teammates.
Lee Williams - Operations director
Sustaining the delivery of services to industry standards is dependent on an organisation's embedded values and best practice being lived and delivered by its people. It's as simple as that.
But given that it's your people delivering the service, what do you need to do to make sure that such a high level of service delivery is sustainable in the long term? In short, you need to attract, develop and engage the best people.
Doing so in practice may not be so easy - and we agree, it isn't. In our case we operate in a field with no recognised training programmes or qualifications. Nevertheless, ensuring that your focus is kept on your people really is simple. You just haveto work at it. Relentlessly.
We at MCFT have found that, with effort, it is in fact eminently doable: from the City-&-Guilds-approved technician programmes through to our ILM-approved, junior-leadership programme (for higher grade apprentices, interns and grads), to the widest possible range of CPD for seniors - we provide a solid career progression path.
When you have case studies of smiling faces mixed with a social conscience (sports, social and community activities) - and the genuine challenge and opportunity of a growing business in the UK and abroad, you have an attractive message for potential recruits to complement your recruitment team's efforts with local schools, colleges - and even foreign universities.
Karen McDonagh - Development director
Eyes on the future
OK, so you're really happy with your current set-up, and all the pieces of the jigsaw are in place. So is it time to relax? Sorry, the world is simply moving too fast. And while the key to quality is your people, the key to enabling and facilitating their performance is your IT - connected IT, linking your systems to both your customer and supply chain.
Whether these are linked bought-ledger systems, compliance portals, web shops or online tenders, the future is digital and data-rich. Access to it is instant, and at the click of a button.
When MCFT started, it was because we couldn't find the right enterprise resourcing (ERP) solution for our niche industry. Today, solutions allow instant updating of planned maintenance tasks so field teams can know what needs checking when on site.
As we look to an ever more digitally enabled age, how do we give customers (and our manufacturer partners) sufficient visibility of incident trends and asset-life predictions? Can we use artificial intelligence (AI) to harvest customer interactions but also facilitate our technicians' diagnostics and field resolution? Could artificial reality make remedial work safer and more efficient?
The only way to find out is for us to invest, continuously strive for excellence via great, engaged people - and keep our eyes on the horizon.
Terence Horsman - Business improvement manager