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Opinion: MCFT’s Chris Craggs assesses state of the industry

Chris Craggs – CEO MCFT crop
MCFT CEO Chris Craggs advised the industry to continue to communicate with each other.

Chris Craggs, CEO of servicing specialist MCFT, discusses salient issues such as new ways of working, payment terms and changing behaviours:

We could bang on about the support we’ve rendered essential services, the build-up for Nightingale hospitals or the joyous way our teams, office and field, have continue to operate in these trying times – but frankly, isn’t everyone getting sick of relentless and misleading spin? Lying politicians, complicit media – the truth has been devalued – and people are craving honest insights.

Change is the new and perpetual constant. We’ve had an interesting couple of months including looking at all aspects of our cost base and financials. The hardest part has been a winding-back of dreams and aspirations for the business and our people – clear goals 3 months ago – now on hold or curtailed, to be brought back out when times allow.

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The government has intervened to a much-valued extent, despite the undoubted holes in the system, the schemes have got business through these early stages. The difficulty is seeing when, how and to what extent, the climb-out will look like.

Right now what counts is adapting and excelling in the new reality – and, in particular, new ways of working. A major part of our office team have been operating from home; the field team has been learning new working practices including distancing, masks, gloves and sanitising wipes after every intervention. Remote working sees us relying on technology, good seating and self-managed work routines, plus we have undertaken display screen assessments.

One unforeseen benefit is a levelling of the ‘remote’ playing field – our Northern or Welsh team are as close as our office team or Canary Wharf.

We are working with customers to follow their guidelines – sometimes to provide insights – whether on safe practice or the proper care of furloughed equipment.

Our colleagues in the Middle East have found times just as taxing, from operating in UAE with permit systems to area lockdowns in Qatar, and the UK business support systems have not been replicated in the region – although payment issues certainly have.

Over the last decades, arguably since the launch of Barclaycard in 1966, consumer-to-business payments have become instant, seamless and unquestioning. How is it that in 2020, B2B is just the mess that it is? Can we as an industry find the cohesion to work with all elements of the foodservice equipment industry to separate the financials from the commercials? It’s a mountain, but all journeys start with the first steps, by people resolved to accomplish the challenge. We’re looking to work with the FEA, who’ve been first class in terms of industry support over this last period, to see if we can bring lasting change to the way we do business.

In a similar vein, a number of the MCFT team are privileged to be involved in the development of ISO and British Standards, including BS8210 Facilities Management Maintenance, and our business improvement manager has been part of an International Facilities Management Association (IFMA) working group on new ways of working, which will have long term implications for all of us.

A focus on attracting and then developing the very best people has been the MCFT mantra for 15 years. We have picked up along the way, in addition to significant accolades, insights into behaviours, emotions and, pertinent to all in the current situation, responses to adversity and tragedy. On which point, Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross propounded the change curve – or five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, over 50 years ago.

As long as it’s profound and not superficial, the faster you can work through these, the faster you are on your way to a positive way out of adversity: accept, evaluate, respond.

And over all of this would advise you to communicate: look after your team, your customers and your supply chain – early, transparent, regular communication. And then be prepared to look around, to work and to adapt.

Tags : Industry Expertmcfarlane telfermcftopinionservicing
Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

3 Comments

  1. I totally agree, getting stuck in a loop at the angry stage doesn’t help anyone!
    Andrew at Ifse

  2. Change, change, change.
    After 42 years buying and selling equipment at the highest (and occasionally, the lowest) of levels, I’ve witnessed many changes. We used to measure without a laser and que outside a public phone box to ‘check in’. We used to hand write own cost-sheets on the kitchen table (woe betide anyone who forgot to include the taps and extra feet) It felt like everything we did was memory and experience.
    Now, my memory drifts, the early years working for companies with solid names that are now just shabby business cards tucked in a top drawer and the marketing pizzazz behind ‘game changer’ equipment that was marched into exhibition halls in a blaze of glory then slow waltzed out of hard backed catalogues sold as ‘B grade’ display from the sellotaped addendum. All of this proves to me that our fantastic industry doesn’t just manage change, we thrive on change.
    Yes, the memory drifts but the experience is still there!
    Now, companies whose turnover collapsed overnight have moved into markets with little or no knowledge of what they’re supplying, ramping up prices and in part, helping to create the many shortages we are all experiencing. Many causing damage to customers who may have difficulty trusting their supply chains ever again.
    Many suppliers promising stock availability to get pro-forma payments or deposits and not keeping to promised delivery’s and suppliers (understandably) turning to payment up front before anything leaves the door.
    Many of these companies are now dipping their toes back into their own markets. The dumping of their survival stock can be heard loud and clear.
    The days when a sales rep could just “pop in” without an appointment were gone long before Covid forced us all to work from our spare bedroom / cupboard. In fact, I would go as far to say that the sales rep has had his/her day pretty much all together!
    A few things I’ve learned is that I only need to travel to 20% of my meetings, the rest I do on Zoom, WhatsApp, Teams etc. I don’t need to be in the office to work hard. My drawings are just as presentable emailed from home.
    My crystal ball has been polished, here’s what I see.
    A sad fact maybe, sales teams will be smaller and shared between companies. The return of the independent agent? This means fewer overheads, less office back up and an improvement to incredibly tight margins.
    30-35% of commercial kitchens will not open again (or for a few years). That’s fewer customers for all of us from the mop and bucket supplier to the ventilation provider.
    Independents will need help to purchase new equipment, the temptation to buy secondhand will be huge!
    More outside and ‘to your door’ catering will produce greater sales of outdoor kitchens and furniture. Let’s hope Global Warming does its bit to extend the summer!
    Standards will improve and prices (surprise) will rise. Customers tight on cash will go out less often and expect more for their money. Eating out will once again become a once-in-a-while experience rather than a twice a week necessity.
    More holidays in the UK will boost our hospitality market
    We will see diversity as more great people grab this opportunity to prove they can serve better food than many of the high street chains have pretended to do for years.
    The opportunities for all of us will be there. Look harder, react quicker. Be better!
    Good luck to all
    Derek Smith

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