We live in a competitive culture, which often manifests itself in workplace environments. For a healthy business to thrive, however, people need to work together towards a common goal and communicate with one another. This requires breaking down the barriers between various people to ensure that everyone is healthy, happy, and on the same page. People need to understand the goal they’re working towards and how they can best support one another. That will lead to a workforce better equipped to serve their customers, with the proper attitude and optimistic outlook.
Max Webber, Co-host of The Interview, spoke to Peter Sadler, Managing Director (MD) at Countryside Partnerships, about how collaboration is the key to building a strong business with employees driven to deliver the best results.
At first, I didn’t do very well in school. I left it at sixteen and then found Quantity Surveying, purely by accident. I went onto an apprenticeship and started enjoying it, and once that happened, I wanted to be educated in it. I got a degree, which I’m proud of as I’m the only person in my family to have done that. Afterwards, I spent a number of years working in construction in the UK, and then went abroad to the Cayman Islands and America for a period of time working for various other construction companies. Afterwards, I got into housing and took on a leadership role in 2003 when I looked after the Southwest division, mainly Cornwall. I gradually progressed through the layers of management and was eventually appointed as a director, then MD of Kier Living and more recently MD of Countryside. I’ve been with the company two years now, and I’m really enjoying making a difference. That’s what you always want to do.
For us at Countryside, that’s about creating a place people love. Creating a common goal that people can get behind is the first thing. That way, they can actually see and understand how what they do feeds into that overall vision. For us at Countryside, that’s about creating place people love. Then you break that down into how the design team and the construction team can create that place, and then the customer support can facilitate people living there afterwards.
Building that team is the one thing that I’m absolutely focused on. Yes, there will always be challenges, pinch points, and frustrations, but if you’ve got that respect for each other, that sense of working towards that one vision, it creates a sense of energy within the business. It’s important to allow people to speak. Encourage those quiet ones to come out and put forward ideas. We do lots of team-building events and charity work. You can’t always do one thing because that won’t necessarily suit everyone, so you need a broad spectrum of opportunities to hopefully allow everyone to feel included and that they belong.
Collaboration and communication are absolutely key, as well as respect for everyone’s department. We all face challenges, but knowing that we’re all in together is vital. Doing the right thing is also crucial. Put yourself in the customers’ shoes, treat them how you would like to be treated yourself, and do what you say you will.
One of the things we’re trying to do is encourage more people into the industry, so we’re working with a company called Train4All, setting up training apprenticeships on various sites throughout the Southwest. Meanwhile, in Plymouth we’ve designed a program to help combat the skill shortage we face in construction and to date have put through about 60 learners. Of them, sixteen have completed apprenticeships and eight have got full-time jobs. Where I’d like to go with that now is getting even more people on board, and help take the focus away from everyone being encouraged to go and do A-levels and a degree. It’s about finding what works best for each individual and having more variety of courses and opportunities. And I think we’ll get there because the construction and housing industries encompass such a broad spectrum. We’ve got marketers, sales people, graphic designers, show home designers, masons, roofers, electricians, plumbers... You may come into it doing one thing and eventually find you’re suited somewhere else. And you have the opportunity to do that.
Lots of people talk about looking after customers. I’m a great believer in looking after your people first. If you take good care of your employees, they will deliver for your customers. An unhappy staff won’t provide good service, and you’ll have unhappy customers as a result. So there’s a direct link. You need to create a safe environment so people feel comfortable sharing their best ideas and speaking their minds and not feel they’re going to get shut down. Challenge is good in a business. If everyone says yes, there’s a danger of going down the wrong path.
Well-being part is also key. Lots of organisations are brilliant at supporting people when things have gone wrong but are less good at providing initiatives and promoting good health and well-being to prevent things from going wrong. Over the next twelve months, we’re going to be focusing on sleep, mental health, physical psychology, and active fitness ideas for our employees. We’ll hopefully have a challenge to raise money and support charities to help further foster that sense of belonging and camaraderie amongst the team. Creating that sort of culture leads to commercial success.
Be yourself. Don’t try to be someone else that you think someone else wants you to be. Focus on what you can do and try not to worry about what you can’t control. Treat people as you’d like to be treated. Be honest. Challenge yourself.