15 August 2019 | Martin Read
Paul Crilly, managing director of NJC Cleaning, recently received the Chair's Award for Excellence in Director and Board Practice as well as Director of the Year, Family Business, at the Institute of Directors' South East Awards.
We asked the winner what he thinks IoD recognition tells us about the external perception of the cleaning service sector generally.
"The Institute of Directors can rightly be considered the authoritative voice in good governance, and these awards are partly about governance and its application in some very challenging circumstances, not least from the publicity generated by Capita, Carillion, Interserve and Serco et al," said Crilly.
"Cleaning and support services have a historic perception of low transparency in process, product and mistreatment of colleagues, so for NJC to grow at the rate we have, but still meet the governance and pastoral standards of the IoD speaks volumes about how we are structured and the approaches we take.
"Treating staff well and meeting good governance are not processes; they have to be embedded behaviours and for those organisations that may have, or continue to have lost their way, any initiative such as NJC's IoD recognition is helping to change the perception of our industry."
Could IoD recognition change the general perception of facilities service providers?
"The perception has been significantly affected by recent company challenges and failures. In a sector historically not well understood by the public, and where communication is often an opportunity for improvement, this has added to the challenges of recruiting and retaining high-quality people, positioning FM as a sector to be proud of and securing necessary business investment.
"Cleaning and business support services is a very difficult sector. It has historically attracted a less than complimentary reputation, with a lack of openness compounded by low margins and high levels of regulation.
"The sector historically has a poor track record in supporting staff and treating them well. We made a clear statement that NJC would purposefully build on our investment in staff and that our pastoral approach to our colleagues would be a material differentiator. We are proud supporters of the Citizens UK Living Wage Foundation's principles; over 90 per cent of our employees are paid at these levels."
Tell us a bit more about how you think NJC is set apart from others.
"The culture of the business was one of the incredible success stories I inherited when I joined NJC. Our founder, Connie Heppelthwaite, set out the company standards by ensuring our colleagues would be perpetually appraised as being as important as our customers. They were 'Not Just Cleaners' and their service was 'Not Just Cleaning'.
"Connie knew that well-trained, motivated and rewarded staff within a high-quality service would deliver a highly consistent, competitive product. At commencement, Connie personally trained all staff and as well as technical skill attainment, they were encouraged to consistently demonstrate an insatiable desire to go the extra mile. We call this the NJC DNA and it is the heart of our culture - a culture we have purposefully scaled up. It is evidenced every day, from our email syntax to our web address to our team meetings.
"Our vision was to significantly grow the small family business while retaining our values and pastoral approach to our colleagues. We wish to see NJC at the forefront of safe, technology-enabled, high-quality cleaning and business support services for organisations with brand, image or service quality preferences. Our strategy to achieve this has required refresh and renewal of every area of the business, including people, processes and procedures. We had to do so while maintaining those familial values that are at the heart of customer service excellence, in a manner that would allow scaling, without dilution of standards or commitment to quality.
"Further external verification of our achievements, and our leadership in managing workplace risk and wellbeing, has come from the London Stock Exchange Group - which recognised NJC as a 'Company to Inspire Britain' - our RoSPA Gold accreditation and our IRATA (Industrial Rope Access Trade Association) membership."