Nothing ventured….

It’s the New Year, so I’m thinking of starting a new business. I thought I would set out a little of my understanding of the intended industry and its needs to help be start thinking about what kind of person I need to recruit to run the organisation.

I thought it would be useful first of all to look at the non-core aspects of the business to get a feel to the type of person I would need to recruit.

I’ve found a building to run the business from, but it’s a bit old and dilapidated, rain coming through the roof in some places. It has a lot of old windows meaning it is hot in the summer and cold in the winter. This shouldn’t be a problem though as I’m told many of the existing businesses in the industry operate out of such premises. Many of them have been added to and altered over the years to make them unrecognisable from their origins. Of course, this can be a problem when it comes to future projects, as quite often the building plans are so out of date as to be useless to architects. This doesn’t usually matter, as funds for new building are quite hard to get hold of. We probably need someone on the staff who has project management expertise and some knowledge of the building industry.

There are many statutory regulations that we will have to keep pace with, as with most other industries, but we also have other security issues above and beyond the usual. This can be quite costly in terms of both money and time. If we get it wrong and it’s noticed then it will often lead to someone losing his or her job. I have established that the industry can be quite political and that they way it is organised can often seem to be at the whim of whatever ideas who-ever is in government has that year. I understand that recently a quite significant training need has been imposed on the industry with hardly any form of support from the government department who mandated the changes. Another issue we’ll have to live with. We probably need someone on board who is familiar with change management.

As well as the buildings we also have to ensure that the grounds are keep in shape for sports and other recreation. These will have to be available most of the year and often ‘til quite late at night. They can be a good way of creating extra income. So it might be useful to have a number of people around who are prepared to work anti-social hours.

We will have up to 150 employees in the organisation, which is not just a fairly hefty wage bill, but there is a need to ensure we have a sufficiently developed personnel capability, or HR as I’m forced to call it these days. Also, we won’t have a huge level of control over the overall wage bill. For example, this year the National Insurance bill is going up, along with the pension payments for many of the employees. This alone will add up to £150,000 extra on the wages. This is quite an increase given that our income is fairly fixed. To be honest, that change alone may make the financial viability of the whole enterprise marginal. We probably need to make sure that our finance team are well qualified.

To keep this estate and these employees working effectively we are of course going to have a whole load of other professional support. I’ve already mentioned the HR, and a finance staff, and a maintenance team to keep everything working, we need grounds men and an admin team to support those who will be running the core business.

In addition to the staff we will have around another 1,200 people on site daily. We have to ensure that they can move around safely and also we have to feed a substantial number of them. We’ve worked out that there are around 1,200 distinct sessions in the year to arrange things for, which if you multiply that up by the number of individuals who will attend each one then we have to put on around 40,000 separate events in different rooms in the building during the year. That’s going to take some organisation! We’ll probably need some sort of specialist for that role.

I’ve not even started on the technological infrastructure. To make the core business as efficient as possible there will be a lot of technology. Almost every room in the building will have significant technology needs. Many of the exiting operators in the industry tell me that the mistake they made in the past was to under-invest, try to get by with the cheapest that would do the job. Which meant they could buy more. Hopefully, we won’t make those mistakes, we’ll invest in the best we can afford and have less, but make it do more. The stories I have heard of people taking 5 or 10 minutes to log on won’t happen here. The likelihood is though that we will end up with the largest IT installation in the locality so we will need appropriately qualified staff to run the system and to keep up to date with changes. And training for staff to use the systems. And all those additional people on site will expect to be able to use their own devices so it makes sense financially to cater for that. It will be a security nightmare so we will need the very best staff in this area and the business leader will need a secure understanding of the issues.

Of course, for lots of these tasks, we could outsource to other suppliers. This can be beneficial but we need to ensure that the eventual provider fits in with the aims of our core business. We will inevitably end up with a mix of internal and external provision. Managing the procurement processes to ensure we get best value for money is another job to add to the list of people to recruit to.

Then of course, we can at any time have external inspection teams come to visit. They don’t even have to give any notice if they don’t want to. The result of the visit could be very negative for the organisation so we try to ensure we are always ready for it. This will create quite a stressful environment for everyone so it would be nice if we could pamper our staff a bit. However, this seems to be frowned upon in the industry. Some even suggest that providing tea and coffee for staff is a no-no. We need to make a note to ensure that the HR department realise their role isn’t just about appraisal and job description, but looking after our costliest resource.

I was going to look at the core business and the specifics of what we would need to manage that. But thinking about all this I’m not sure that this business is a good idea after all. I mean, when you think about it, who would be crazy enough to want to lead such an organisation?

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