Rob has been in the asbestos survey industry for many years, so we thought we’d have a chat with him to find out a little bit more about his experience.
Allium: How long have you been in the asbestos industry?
Rob: I have been in the industry for approximately 20 years. In that time I have been able to gain experience in all fields of the asbestos remit. Having worked my way through the BOHS syllabus, I naturally moved from social housing projects through to more involved/complex sites within commercial and industrial settings. I have been lucky to have gained experience in Egypt, Azerbaijan, and the Channel Islands, specifically within the Petro-chemical environment, but have also worked within other arenas: Prisons; Military sites; schools; government; local authority to name a few.
Allium: What was it that got you interested in the field of asbestos?
Rob: I had left the military and was approached by a friend who owned a removal company. I was able to understand the process and need for a high quality of work, and quickly progressed to become an asbestos surveying assistant. During my Tenure at Swift, I had gained a good rapport with an analytical company (Envirochem) whom provided services for our company, and I was asked whether I would consider being a trainee analyst. I took the opportunity and quickly gained BOHS P401,P402,P403,P404 and was able to spend over a decade practising those there. The experience I gained here was extremely useful and has enabled me to understand many aspects of the industry. Moving to become part of a management team was the next natural step, and by studying business at University on a part time basis I was able to perform that function. This led to my eventual position of operations Director at ASI Environmental.
Allium: Is there much life left in the asbestos survey and removal business?
Rob: At current removal rates, the industry will survive my natural lifetime. However, we need to adapt ahead of the market to remain within it. We are only one major decision of compliance of becoming fragile and should consider other opportunities and services. It is my opinion that the industry will eventually be led by companies that offer the full remit of occupational hygiene rather than those specialising in one arena. Asbestos will continue to be a hazard to the workforce for many years, as many buildings still contain materials that will only have the material removed at the time of demolition, as well as other variables including access, cost and feasibility.
Allium: You must have your favourite clients.Why do you think they appreciate what you do so much that they keep coming back?
Rob: Over the years I have formed close professional relationships with many clients, and many have become friends. This said, I try not to lose track of the duty of service I have to the client, and remain dedicated to ensuring that their expectancy is met.
My aim is to be a problem solver for them; trying to be open and transparent about any issues they may have with our service, as well as helping them problem solve their own work-based issues.
I have found that by being client focussed and striving to surpass expectancies, measured by SLA’s and KPI’s, it is not difficult to retain work streams and continue to provide services for clients.
I have also found it very beneficial to respond immediately to issues, and provide a resolution in a time frame accepted by the client. This builds trust between companies and looks to uphold the working relationship of all parties involved in project work.
Allium: Has technology improved the way that our industry can do business over the years?
Rob: Whilst the method we use to analyse materials and identify asbestos products has remained fairly stagnant in the last half century, technological advances in the way we collect our data, review it and build reports has indeed made the transition from paper based surveying much more efficient. This has also improved the way our clients store, and retrieve the data for their own compliance necessity.
There is much to gain from being able to immediately send the latest version of the quality manuals to the technical staff, who may review the changes, query it/or indeed sign to say that they accept the changes in a very small timeframe. Traditionally this would have taken an inordinate amount of time to complete.
CRM programs like ‘Pipedrive’ enable us to keep track of quotes and follow them up, and act as a way of streamlining the customer journey to ensure that our success rate is as high as it can be. Ensuring we pay attention to our SEO also ensures that we remain visible in an already busy marketplace, and analytics ensure that we stay competitive.
These things noted, there are still many ways in which we can use technology to become efficient for our own benefit, and indeed our customers. With progress needed constantly to continue to serve as a market leader within our industry.
Allium: You’re fairly new to the Allium team. What different qualities do they bring to the table?
Rob: I have now worked for 4 consultancies in 20 years. Each of them has been very different, with a variation of cultures and practices. I have been at Allium for a relatively short amount of time, but already find myself very much part of a team. There is a clear and concise structure to the company, and the system that is in place works very well. It is evident that the hierarchy have employed well, with a great spirit within the workforce. The technical staff are motivated and therefore staff retention is high. The same is evident of the support staff, with trickier areas of the business (scheduling) looked at with detail to make it easier for the member of staff servicing that role.
The difference for me, to other companies that I have worked for, is the afore-mentioned team spirit. It cannot be stressed highly enough how important this is to the success of Allium, who as a newer consultancy, have already surpassed the operations of many of the longer standing entities. I am happy that I chose to work for Allium, and that they saw fit to offer me the opportunity to become part of this team.
Allium: Allium don’t just deal with asbestos, but also manage other contaminants. How does this fit-in with the company mission?
Rob: Although Allium offer many services, it is clear that asbestos is by far the most used by our client base. The company mission is a statement that shows us to be the purveyors of the idea that we are helping our customers achieve ‘safer spaces’ and I think this is absolutely the right message to represent the ethos that we have.
I do think that we should drive forward the other services, and become the market leaders we are in asbestos in those fields too.
I follow the thought process that a ‘one stop shop’ for many individual sectors of the occupational hygiene spectrum, is a very attractive proposition for larger authorities and facilities management companies, and we should look to find opportunities to build the brand in that manner.
Allium: You are regional manager for quite a large territory. How do you ensure that everyone and everything is in the right place?
Rob: The Regional Managers of Allium simply cannot function without the great support they receive from the administration team. It takes massive team effort to achieve the workload that we do, whilst maintaining the expectancies of our customers, and indeed the accreditors (UKAS and others) whom allow us to provide services in the arena we do.
I have had lots help already in my brief time at the company, and I too will help any colleague who needs help in turn.
As managers we keep a track of workloads, and projects, and look to ensure that we utilise the skills matrix to ensure the right person is sent to the right job. There will always be a quality v quantity question that needs to be addressed, but I truly think the balance is reviewed appropriately at Allium.
Thanks very much for your responses, Rob, and we look forward to working with you for many years to come.