“I like to develop people, play to everyone’s strengths, and share success.”
Q&A with Jonathan
Problem solving has always been a big part of my work. I started my career as a trainee draughtsman in a design company that offered contract resource to both the public and private sector.
After four years I moved into a manufacturing and engineering environment with Heatrae Sadia. I received significant investment in training and development and was given the opportunity to transfer into aftersales and servicing, and then quickly moved into management with responsibility for various functions including quality.
I spent over 10 years at a senior director level, which has included responsibility for R&D, operations and general management leadership. But what I’m really passionate about is people. I like to develop people, play to everyone’s strengths, and share success through aligned teamwork.
I had aspirations to run my own business, so following masters level study in organisation direction and strategic marketing, the time was right to apply my experience into practice, and share my knowledge and energy with other organisations.
It’s about understanding where they are, where they would like to go and how they can get there. And I wanted to be able to help with that journey.
I’ll go in and carry out a quick scan, which would generally take two days to evaluate the current state of the business. It’s about identifying culture and people’s behaviour, which is very important.
So, there will be a series of formal interviews with employees as well as the management team. I do use practised tools and techniques, but it’s also about listening to people, talking to people. And for me it’s about equality as all employees should be supported and valued to optimise their potential.
On your website you talk about the ‘lean philosophy’ you use to help businesses. Can you explain what that means?
Lean philosophy focuses on reducing waste and adding value. Reducing waste can be tangible – as in physical waste – but it can also be processes. So, for example, it can improve efficiency by preventing duplication, which takes you into other areas too, like structure and role responsibility – ensuring people know what they should be doing and having the right people in the right place at the right time.
Lean thinking and systems integration deliver real return on investment, but it shouldn’t be confused with mean thinking.
Yes, there’s a company locally in Norwich who manufacture high value, high quality, high speed slicing machines, and in 2015 were acquired by an American corporation. They called me in to review and improve their aftersales spares delivery performance, as they were receiving too many complaints following acquisition and a complex carve out from the previous owners – mostly to do with the availability and the speed of delivery.
I’ve been working with that company now on a part-time basis for a couple of years and I’m pleased to report that there was an improvement in year one alone of 49% on spares delivery performance in the USA and for the rest of the world, a 40% improvement over last year.
Over the previous year I helped achieve these results through the introduction of key performance measures, improved communication and aligned teamwork focused on both strategic and operational objectives. When we hit the targets I bring in cakes and fruit for all employees to celebrate, which is something I do monthly to reward everyone in the achievement of targets – it is important to value employees and share success!
When you come across problems like this, is it because people have a lack of training or experience, is it personality clashes, or a mixture of issues?
It can be a few things. You always have to look at the management team’s experience, and identify the talent of the people who are able to lead. Generally, it’s about bringing some fresh blood and new ideas to mix with the existing experience and knowledge. In recent years, headcount has been reduced in many businesses so resource limitations often prevent a ‘can-do’ innovative culture. Businesses need to avoid being complacent and this is where lean over mean thinking pays dividends.
Firstly, I would say it’s great that they’re talking to me because it shows they have a willingness to change, and that’s the first obstacle to overcome. There’s often a fear of change. But I’m not into change for change’s sake. However, nowadays standing still is not an option and most business owners recognise the prize that is on offer if they’re courageous, whilst mitigating risk.
PRINCE2 (projects in a controlled environment) has seven principles with the golden rule to remember; there must be a continued business justification with return on investment.
Job satisfaction for me is when I see people achieve more than yesterday and we share that success. It doesn’t have to be a big change overnight. People may think the vision is daunting, but when broken down into bite size chunks, we are able to achieve our goals through realistic objectives. It’s really important to keep it simple.
It’s also important to have a formal plan as opposed to something that’s in someone’s head. We will hit some obstacles and we will work around them, but it makes it all the more rewarding when we get the results that we wanted.
I’m currently working with a number of clients and I have to wear a different hat each time I go to a client. I spend time preparing the night before I visit the client, so I’m clear on where we were at my last visit, to make sure we get the best out of the time that I’m about to spend with them. So, I would say that’s the most challenging part of my job, to keep swapping hats.
I’ve worked with Jason on HR recruitment in the past and his expertise and service is of great value. He delivers his promise. And I’ve worked with Mary who’s a real people person, so we have a real common ground. She’s sincere and genuine which is important to me.
It’s a fantastic initiative. We really can offer something unique and we have trust throughout the team. I think any organisations that choose to use us will benefit. It’s a winning formula!
Next year I’ll be clocking up 28 years of marriage so that’s a significant milestone that I look forward to celebrating with my wife, Helen. I’m especially proud of my son Alex, who’s now 21 and as a child represented Great Britain in alpine ski racing. For myself I was also proud to complete my first 100 mile cycle ride last year for the NNAB charity.
Learn more about what Jonathan does...
Timing is key to business success and I was fortunate to be in collaboration with both Mary and Jason at the inception. Mary came up with the excellent concept and it was evident after an initial meeting with a few other founding members, that we had something rather unique. Special thanks must go to Zoe Dunnett, who unfortunately has since moved away from Norfolk, but came up with The People Kit’s original branding, which the team thought was fantastic.
On a personal note, I am hoping that The People Kit will help me share my travel experience and passion for continuous improvement with local organisations in the future.
i) The true spirit of The People Kit is knowing that you can introduce a fellow kit colleague to your client, knowing that they are in safe hands and that the professional expertise will add value to that individual, business or organisation.
ii) The kit also helps our own businesses, by way of offering a one-stop solution. Now that we are in our third year, the ever changing and improving team mix, truly understand that we represent both our own brand and that of The People Kit, which consequently leads to a positive growth in reputation.
iii) Another key benefit of being part of The People Kit is that, together, we have been able to support local charities with significant fundraising events and success.
Jason Smith has probably benefitted the most from my introductions and my clients have witnessed his excellent performance delivery. I always work closely with Mary and particularly enjoy supporting Pippa with events, as I enjoy her passion and commitment to customer excellence. All three colleagues are 100% reliable which is one of The People Kit’s core values, so we have excellent respect for each other. I was introduced to Jonathan Briggs and in consequence moved my business to his company, which demonstrate my support and commitment to the team. More recently, I introduced David Field to a contact and he is now providing health and safety support, so this is proof and further evidence that The People Kit does work and helps local businesses in Norfolk.