The Richard Norman Interview - Ductwork Cleaning Specialist MD speaks out - Part 1

15 Dec 2010

Richard Norman is Managing Director of specialist ventilation hygiene company, Indepth Hygiene Limited. Here, Richard takes a few minutes to discuss his own background, his hopes for the company and his ‘big idea’ for 2011.

Q1 What is your main area of responsibility?

As Managing Director of Indepth Hygiene Services Ltd I am of course ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the company. Although it might sound like a cliché, I wouldn’t fulfil my role without having put a team in place on whom I can rely to make the right decisions without always referring back to me. It is my responsibility to establish clear strategy for the company, and from that springs the target objectives for each member of the management team. One of the advantages of being an SME is that we are able to respond quickly to any notable changes affecting the market for our services and make any adjustments these might call for in our overall strategy and, as a consequence, the objectives for the management team. It is important to have a plan but to be ready to fine tune it if opportunities arise which it would be misguided to ignore. Direction with flexibility is not the same as jumping from one idea to another.

Q2 Detail the expertise that you bring to your role

My background is in Marketing and as a qualified Company Secretary, not technical or engineering. Without doubt that means I am more focussed on the Marketing and strategy of the business rather than, for example, looking at how the essential services we provide might be changed. Its not a question of having a blinkered approach but the management team have considerably more technical expertise than I, and I rely on them to ensure any technical changes or potential improvements which might enhance our service delivery are brought to my attention so they can be fully evaluated.

Q3 Has the Industry changed significantly since you joined it?

When my father passed over the company to me in 1998 it almost exclusively provided specialist hygiene and safety deep cleaning services for catering and food production facilities. Whilst we continue to provide that service, the main driver of the business in recent years has been the demand for specialist deep cleaning of the extract ventilation systems, which are invariably linked to catering facilities and take grease laden cooking fumes to exhaust to atmosphere. The advent of the Fire Safety Order (the Regulatory Reform [Fire Safety] Order 2005) in October 2006 focussed the minds of those responsible for the maintenance of safe workplaces – most obviously facilities and buildings managers – on the need to have extract systems inspected as part of the Fire Risk Assessment discipline and cleaned of grease deposits which might pose a potential fire risk to building occupants. The requirements to carry out fire risk assessments and to take all necessary action to eliminate, or at the very least minimise any identified risks to the safety of building occupants is now a mandatory, legally enforceable responsibility for owners and managers of businesses. With Fire Authorities having identified grease extract systems as “potentially the greatest risk to the safety of occupants in buildings with catering facilities” there has been a steadily increasing demand for our specialist service so that today it accounts for nearly half our turnover.

Q4 What do you see as the main barriers to Indepth’s progression in the next 12 months?

As our services have a clear raison d’être i.e. to provide compliance with legally required standards there is no intrinsic barrier to the development of our business. If there are barriers, and I would describe them more as hurdles which are there to be overcome, they arise from the current general business background of financial constraints and the continued unawareness of many in building and facilities management of their legal responsibilities. To help clients overcome the financial constraints, we review all our quotations and tenders very carefully to see where there might be potential price savings and at the same time undertake not to increase our contractual prices for a minimum period of three years. To tackle the lack of awareness problem we undertake, on a continuous basis, promotions by way of ‘hard’ and ‘e’ mailings to our target market sectors, and at the same time have tried to make our website very informative within the context of promoting our services.

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