By | Published On: October 1, 2020 |

Ian Surtees is Group Chief Executive of Vertas, a facilities management company based in Ipswich, Suffolk. In this, the 2nd episode of The Executive Edge, Ian talks about his team and how tough it’s been for them during Covid and in latter months.

The virus has affected Vertas because they are primary suppliers of a variety of services, including catering and waste management for schools. The business is owned by Suffolk County Council, and they employ approx. 3000 people.

How have they managed?

Managing change, though difficult currently, includes a very personal touch with the team he believes. Ian mentored people at what he calls ‘pinch points’ when they have needed help. A highly structured business in the past, now he’s needed a more flexible working approach.  Especially with childcare issues, working from home, and staff who need understanding and support.

Some people in business I’ve come across have found curious silver linings to the last few months. This has included feeling less fatigued because they haven’t had to commute to work and around the country. Ian’s approach has been to utilise technology now that this is improving and becoming more reliable.  He can contact his team, and disseminate information to the wider business and his clients that way. His experience of business, and running Vertas, have stood him in very good stead.

What strengths has he developed?

He’s trusted his gut and his wealth of experience both in the moment, and strategically.  The lack of information to hand because he’s been working from home, has sometimes been frustrating. This has meant he’s trusted his instincts more than anything. He’s maintained the core values and processes within Vertas as much as he could, and wants to hold on to the flexible working practices they’ve adopted more recently.

My Observations:

As a Psychologist I’ve noticed that productivity is something we’ve always assumed comes through monitoring the physical presence of staff. Seeing them in an office helps us believe they are working. Equally, peer pressure plays a part as we see others staying late or going above and beyond. People copy it to ‘fit’ in the culture. Now though, we’ve all had to take a risk when running business because we cannot always ‘see’ people anymore. Trusting them seems vital to me and Ian has found this too as “he’s always believed in output” he says, rather than being physically present. “If you can finish early on a Friday as long as the outputs are met, that’s treating people as adults, and professionals” he says.

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