- Security TWENTY
- Women in Security
We went to Bury St Edmunds, to talk to Michael Lamoureaux, Managing Director Security at the contract services company Servest.
It is fair to say that Michael Lamoureaux is the first company Managing Director (MD) that Professional Security has met wearing a red Santa hat – Michael that is, not Professional Security. There was good reason, it was the last working week before Christmas; and he was not the only one so dressed in the head offices of Servest, a South Africa-based facilities management company. That explained the two coffee table-style books about South Africa in the reception. While it’s always hard to judge the working culture of a place, let alone in the run-up to Christmas, Servest came across as a relaxed company that however does not mistake casual (as in casual wear) for casual attitude. Yes, white tinsel was around the base of potted plants in reception, but the receptionists (always a barometer of a business) were answering calls professionally and promptly.
“I have a passion for this industry,” were some of his first words to Professional Security. Michael has risen through the ranks – starting as a security officer, now MD. While not wanting to put words into his mouth about him being a ‘rags to riches’ story, it’s certainly given him an understanding – in business and emotional terms – of the ‘colleagues on the ground.’. He can talk from experience – and does. He was for instance, one of the panel of Security Business leaders at IFSEC 2014, one of the best attended seminars at the show for years. One of Michael’s aims is to change perceptions of guarding, so that it is an industry where you can have career progression.
He started at 17 as a security officer and has performed a number of roles he reflects, pretty much every role, ranging from Site Supervisor and Site Manager to Operations and Sales in both privately owned organisations to large PLCs. Not quite two years ago he joined Servest, the outsourced services company which self-delivers every facilities service that you can think of – catering and cleaning to pest control. “I just really brought into the culture, and what the vision of the group was, and how integral they felt that security was to develop the overarching vision. I was given quite an open remit, to deliver a sustainable solution that could add significant value to our customers.” He speaks of developing a ‘total security platform’ with the business self-delivering any aspect of security within the buying chain. And as Michael says that required investment, for instance in Servest Security’s Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) as pictured.
To deliver its operating model whilst adding significant value to its customers, Servest are looking to support its customers to become a real intrinsic strategic partner as Michael puts it. He says, “we are trying to re-educate the customer base, around removing talk of margin and rather talking about price”. As he puts it, a customer with £100,000 to spend might look to save one to two percent – not a great amount in the overall scheme of things. He suggests instead that Servest look at a full risk profile of each customer whilst also understanding what the needs of the customer are. Once that is established we can then craft and develop a solution which mitigates the risk and adds true value to their brand. Over the past 12 months we have demonstrated significant commercial savings of between 10 to 15 percent or have developed a solution which is woven into the DNA of the customer by a service solution fully aligned to their values as a business and brand. Not a novel idea, “but the difference with us is that we absolutely self-deliver 100 percent. In that way there’s no business barrier, no red tape, there isn’t margin and margin.” The efficiencies, Michael adds, are passed to the customer. The self-delivery extends from manned guarding, a professional front of house and reception management provision, mobile patrols – installing and maintaining security systems and fire safety, a wireless intrusion system, and a recently launched polycarbon, battery supported CCTV tower, remotely monitoring from the company ARC. The company is installing security into domestic and commercial property that the ARC can monitor. He speaks of innovation which, as he admits, is an easily used term, “but innovation has to breed productivity, whether operational or commercial efficiency… ultimately it’s got to add significant value back to our customers.”
Should the largest UK security contractors be looking over their shoulders at Servest? Michael speaks of wanting ‘progressive growth’ and points to a retention of contracts well above industry average. As for the operational model, there are ‘sector-based champions’. Professional Security interrupted Michael to confirm that by sectors he meant corporate and commercial, retail, food and distribution and infrastructure and so on. Which brings us on to something that he says is close to his heart, talent management, “I still feel that there is a significant lack of young talent coming through the industry. Like many, I fell into the industry as a security officer some 20 years ago. I realised fairly quickly that I was hugely passionate about the industry, and quickly set about harassing my then area manager to allow me to attend every possible training programme. I asked questions at every opportunity. At Servest Security, we have developed clearly defined career paths, including apprenticeship programs, with developing talent as a top priority. This has several benefits for the business. Not only do we retain those talented individuals who are already in the business, but we also see other talented individuals flock to the company. If our industry is truly serious about attracting, retaining, and developing the managers of tomorrow we need to get serious about offering clearly defined career paths. People need to have the opportunity to quickly progress through the ranks, just as they can do in other industries. This, in turn, can create a self-reinforcing cycle, as talented individuals create more opportunities for business growth.”
“Many people assume that developing talent is solely about having training. While training programmes are a good way of helping people develop a specific skill or knowledge set, we recognise that the industry is constantly evolving and can become increasingly difficult to predict what skills our managers of tomorrow will need. So it’s also about finding ways to help people learn fast in their everyday work environments. In this way, they can learn from each key stakeholder within the business operation.”
“Servest allows our apprentices to work on projects that stretch their abilities. The potential risk of this is tempered by assigning them a mentor who ensures that they are doing the job well and are on track. By providing the relevant infrastructure or career path with ample room for experimentation and growth, Servest not only successfully develops our talent but we have seen significant progress in engagement, innovation, and customer satisfaction.”
Which is why, Michael says, his business has to look at intelligent ways of how it delivers a service. Because for all the talk of ‘green shoots’ of economic recovery, it’s not going to go back to the margins we had seen some 10 years previous. Michael suggests, “we have to look at intelligent models that add value, give them confidence in our delivery, whilst also providing an agreed profit return which gives us the opportunity to reinvest back into not only talent programmes, but also in sourcing innovative technologies and practices to give us that competitive advantage.
The security division holds ‘quite specific and vigorous’ engagement surveys of site teams at a minimum of every four months, “It’s just key because our retention rate of existing officers and our engagement scores have been just fantastic.” The officers, Michael goes on, are the front-line ambassadors, and, “if they aren’t engaged and feel part of the organisation, then this will impact service”. Servest Security’s managers are based on geography rather than revenue because as he says you could have £1m of revenue and 25 sites but it’s not practical for a manager to spend quality time with its customers and colleagues on site. Michael does believe that the company is different in the way it engages with staff “and on the back of that the way we deliver our services to our customers”. He points also to growth of the division, “but it’s progressive and sustainable growth for us, ensuring at every stage we sense-check our infrastructure to deliver our services”. Professional Security asked about an open-collar culture, metaphorically and literally, because even in the last few years business and Britain generally has seen a change towards more informality at work. Well within living memory it would be noteworthy to see a (male!?) prime minister in public without a tie. And Michael is speaking to Professional Security wearing a shirt, top button undone, without a tie. That is not to confuse informality with being anything less than professional at work. As Michael puts it, an engaged and happy workforce doesn’t have to necessarily be in a suit and tie. Michael and his team will always arrive on site in a shirt and suit and tie. He recalls that in the afternoon after speaking to Professional Security he’s going to visit a customer where officers are in uniform, as expected, “because that’s the requirement of the customer”.
Michael says, “We really want to become a security partner of choice for our customers in any security-related matters, whether that be in enhancing the guest experience, safeguarding their assets, innovative systems, to lone worker protection; we really can challenge the status quo.”
About the company
The UK head office is in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk which manages in excess of 16,000 employees across 6,000 client sites in the UK. Servest’s range of sectors include corporate, central and local government, universities, hotels, manufacturing, transport, logistics, construction and infrastructure. Servest self-deliver a range of services from mechanical and electrical maintenance, to catering, security, cleaning, concierge, landscaping, and waste management.