The Big Interview – Carl Palmer – Executive Chairman – CIS Security – Part Two

Carl Palmer – Executive Chairman, CIS Security
Carl Palmer – Executive Chairman, CIS Security

Part Two of the Carl Palmer Big Interview examines CIS’ communication objectives, their senior management team and the differences CIS have found between clients.

It’s up to us as individual companies to make our own individual decisions…
Carl went on to discuss the senior management team at CIS. “Neill Catton, the current Managing Director here, initially joined as a Senior Contracts Manager. He rose fairly quickly to Operations Director before I made him Managing Director five years ago. Neill does a fantastic job. This business runs without me. He also has great connections and really innovative ideas for how to progress the industry. Something that really incenses me is other companies saying things like “We’re not represented” and “Our voice is not heard”. It’s up to us, as individual companies, to make our own individual decisions and to make them heard. Neill is regularly putting across his thought leadership in industry publications, making us heard.

“Most of my management team have been with me a long time. As I built the team up, I sent them on carefully selected development courses. One of these was an intensive course detailing how we communicate with each other, how we respect each other and how different people with different traits within the senior management team can make a contribution. We are all individuals, but that is what makes it work.

“The next stage of the company and growth is happening right now. This progress is really being driven by Neill and his team. When you make an appointment like that, you have to allow someone to do the job.

“I was just thinking this morning about how much we’ve achieved, and we’re going to achieve an awful lot more. The team that I’ve built up is absolutely fantastic. I believe in reaping what you sow and I am convinced that the strength in our team has everything to do with the way we look after our people. My Finance Director said to me this morning that at her previous company the Managing Director never said hello. I think its sad that some don’t do this as I love going around to check in on my “work family”. It strengthens your sense of purpose in an organisation. It is important to engage with your working community. We’ve got that ethos here at head office, but that’s also what’s happening on site with our clients”.

We are about to launch our Front of House Services…
We discussed with Carl the services that CIS offer, and their client base. “We have just launched our brand new Front of House Service, called CIS Front of House, which is very exciting. We went around the houses with names but we have a great reputation and we just want people to understand what we offer so we kept it simple and clear. The website is now live and I’m really pleased with it. We’ve been working diligently behind the scenes for about a year. We’ve employed Sheena Pemberton, who has a strong background in hospitality and Front of House, so that it can be clearly recognised that there is a difference. You can’t mix and match, it’s got to be run by someone separately, Sheena has her finger on the pulse of this industry and she is excellent. She has already done a lot of work with our reception staff here at Head Office.

“At CIS Security we are experts in security, and that’s what we focus on. We don’t do gardening, we are security specialists. Ten years ago, there was a lot of talk about bundled services. There is now a big move away from that. People want to go to specialist boutique companies who concentrate on doing what they do well. If you want cleaning, you go to a cleaning company. I’m pleased that that has happened because it has created a lot of opportunities for us.

We asked Carl about the main differences between commercial security and educational security. “I think the main difference is the clientele. It’s the students that you are dealing with who are the single biggest factor. You’re looking after 19-24 year olds, mature academics and professors. This group needs extra special support, as they are the ones who will shape our future and need peace of mind as well as freedom of movement to develop their thoughts and ideas. For the last 3 or 4 years we have also been gaining more ground in the corporate sector, which is quite exciting. We now have some landmark corporate sites in the City. We just started at a new build building which is especially exciting for us because there was a blank canvas. I received a letter from the managing agents recently detailing how pleased they were with the security when they opened the building up. It was a very pleasant and complimentary letter. That’s the sort of things that makes me buzz. We are doing a good job and we are making people feel happy and safe. To have an opportunity to start afresh is fantastic. It’s completely new and you can bring in a team of your choice and calibre. I think clients are now recognising that you’ve got to pay people fairly to get good staff.

I’ve always been a big advocate of licensing and training…
Carl believes that training and licensing is very important within the industry. “I’ve always been a big advocate of licensing and training. One of the things we are achieving is getting everybody first aid trained. We are Security Officers on the front line and everyone should be first aid trained. I think about 80% of all of our officers are now first aid trained. Licensing is a good thing but it hasn’t evolved, it’s just stood still. I think we’ve missed an opportunity to use it with the training, because it becomes more meaningful as a licence. At the moment it’s just a pre-requisite, you need that to work”.

We’re achieving good communication…
We asked Carl how CIS communicate their high standards with their clients. “I think we’re achieving good communication or we wouldn’t be as successful as we are. We have invested a lot in marketing, and our sales department works collaboratively with operations to make sure we “walk the walk” as well as “talking the talk”. A significant decision I made was getting someone like Cathy Deegan supporting my Sales & Marketing Director, Amanda McCloskey in delivering her communication strategy. We now have a bigger voice to tell our stories and wider brand recognition. People wanted to change our colour and logo but it has taken years to get that established. Modifications are acceptable but ultimately that is our core branding and we have to stick with it. Cathy has done a good job. We use communication to demonstrate best practice and highlight what we’re good at, what we do and how we engage with our staff and clients. I get clients saying to me that our communication on everything is excellent”.

Technology is vast…
Carl believes that the capability of technology within the industry is endless. “Technology is vast; however, I’m not an expert on it. The most important consideration is how our staff on site engages with technology. There has previously been discussion and ideas about cameras replacing Security Officers. In certain areas that does happen. There was quite a reduction previously and whilst the numbers have reduced, I don’t necessarily see them reducing dramatically again. What it does allow is for better investment in people. The increase in technology use needs to be offset by up-skilling the operators and developing them into a new workforce of smart, proactive security professionals”.

CIS Security Website

All views expressed in Part One and Part Two of the interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views of the interviewer, nor

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