I’m not sure I can remember as much as I should do about Junior School. I can remember quite a lot of football on the playground and matches against other schools, marbles, conkers, decimalisation (!), injections etc, but not too many lessons! One that did stick though was about what we wanted to be when we grew up. I wanted to be an astronaut. I can still remember virtually every page of a book I had on space, and the thought of flying a rocket (fast), to boldly go where no man had gone before, was rather more exciting than teaching like my mum or even being a fireman like my Dad.
Of course, I wouldn’t have thought of the years of dedicated academic training, personal sacrifice, physical training, and likelihood of being killed. No, I think I pretty much wanted to rock up and drive.
It’s the same with a lot of other things I wanted for myself when I was bigger. Hair for instance! I don’t suppose I thought about how much ‘product’ a modern young man would have to choose from or worry about, which style to stay in fashion, going to the barbers, factoring in the time in your day for washing, conditioning, drying, brushing and gelling. I cut my own, if there’s anything there to wash it only needs a bit of shower gel, and I’m ready to go – brilliant.
As we get older, I think we get better at aspiring! When I was 50 I wanted to run my first marathon. I achieved it because I knew how to prepare and I put the work in. When I was twenty-something I probably wanted to run it in a space suit and set some sort of record.
We think about things like this for our business too. Wouldn’t it be great if our little Company in Newport and Shrewsbury grew to be a big company listed on the stock exchange! Well, actually no, it wouldn’t. Big companies lose sight of customer service, and almost inevitably seem to focus on finances. Even then, it is not their own aspirations they worry about, it is their shareholders aspirations that seem to matter. If a company makes £100m profit one year, then £95m the next, it is almost certainly going to be deemed a failure to the stock market. Why?! They’ve made a profit of £95m! Is that a good enough reason to put hundreds of people out of a job and reduce customer service just to ‘balance the books’ and show a bigger profit next year? No, it isn’t. Is that a good enough reason to have customer service pages on your website that deliberately make it hard to find a phone number but rather try to guide you to ‘FAQ’s? No. Am I old-fashioned expecting to speak to someone within a minute or two when I do manage to find a phone number, or are we all shrugging our shoulders and expecting to be on hold for 20 minutes or more?
Size does matter, it gives more leverage with suppliers, in our case insurance companies, so our achievable aspiration is and always will be this. We and our staff aim to invest in maintaining and improving an accessible, personal service for our clients, which in itself enables us to grow, to keep a small company service in a bigger company.