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  • Writer's pictureAndy Goram

Commercial Compassionate Leadership

Updated: Nov 28, 2022

Have you ever been asked, "Who's the best leader you've ever worked for?" If you have, what was it that made them special? Was it how they engaged you? Was it their ability to stretch and challenge you, while still making you feel supported? Why were they different from other leaders you've worked for? Why do they stand out in your memory as a great leader?

In episode 54, Andy Goram host of the popular employee engagement podcast, Sticky From The Inside, chats to Barrie Robinson, Operations Director for Parkdean Resorts, the UK's biggest Holiday Park operator about what the ideal leadership qualities he looks for are. Interestingly, it all comes down to a balance between sharp commercial focus and business acumen and the ability to show compassion and act with emotional intelligence.

The pair use their backgrounds and experience as a tableau to dig deeper into what a commercial, compassionate leader looks like and why it is the perfect leadership combination for today's world. Below is a full transcript of the conversation, but you can also listen here.

Two laughing men discussing employee engagement and leadership
Barrie Robinson (left) and Andy Goram (right) discuss commercial, compassionate leadership qualities

00:00:10 Andy Goram

Hello, and welcome to sticky from the inside. The Employee Engagement podcast that looks at how to build stickier competition-smashing, consistently successful organisations from the inside out. I'm your host Andy Goram and I'm on a mission to help more businesses turn their lights on behind the eyes of their employees, light the fires within them and create tons more success for everyone.

This podcast is for all those who believe that's something worth going after and would like a little help and guidance in achieving that. Each episode we dive into the topics that can help create what I call stickier businesses, the sort of businesses where people thrive and love to work and where more customers stay with you and recommend you to others because they love what you do and why you do it.

So, if you want to take the tricky out of being sticky, listen on.

00:01:10 Andy Goram

OK, then. Now I am lucky enough to help individuals and businesses develop their leadership capabilities from time to time. And I'll tell you this, it's something I love and feel extremely privileged to get to do, as I get to see people grow right before my eyes. I mean, you literally do see lightbulbs go on behind people's eyes sometimes, when that one thing clicks. And the transformation I get to witness as the weeks and months go by is something I'm never going to take for granted. And you just know that the people who end up working for these kinds of leaders are really going to benefit hugely from their more rounded developed approach.

Now, many of us have been asked that question, sometimes in interviews, right,

Who's the best boss you ever worked for? And why?

Now, for me, the greatest combination of super leaders I've had the joy, and I do mean joy of working for and with, are those who had an almost seamless link between pushing me to be better than I thought I could be, challenging me, stretching me, making me feel uncomfortable at times, but also supporting me, understanding me and really knowing me as a person. I summarise that as someone who was both, I guess, commercially savvy and also showed genuine compassion. And I still think from what I hear, read and see that this combination is still rarer than we'd like today. It's a combination that still feels paradoxical to some. But as the working generation continues to transition and our expectations, desires and needs continue to change, I think this is the combination that will end up being the winning one.

But theories are fine. What really counts is what happens in reality, and that's why I'm delighted to be joined today by what I would call a “proper operator” for a large organisation, who is passionate about what modern human leadership should look like and is driven to making this combination far more common practice than just common sense.

Barry, or Baz Robinson is the Operations Director, North for Parkdean Resorts. It's the UK's biggest holiday park operator with an operation that stretches from the tippity top of Scotland, down to the furthest point at the bottom of the country. It's a complex multi-million-pound operation, with thousands of support staff touching the lives of millions of customers each year. But it's on a real quest to deliver these commercial, compassionate leaders I speak of, and I'm looking forward with immense pleasure to hearing what's behind all that today.

Welcome to the show Baz!

00:03:54 Baz Robinson

Thanks, Andy. I appreciate your invite and I'm looking forward to getting into what perhaps makes commercially savvy but compassionate leaders. It's a great phrase that. I like that a lot.

00:04:05 Andy Goram

Yeah, I think I genuinely do think this is a winning combination. Before we both get awfully excited and start talking all about that stuff, can you do me a favour Baz, and tell us a little bit more about you? A little bit about Parkdean and particularly where your focus is currently?

00:04:22 Baz Robinson

Yeah, so my name is Barrie Robinson. Lots of people call me Baz, so let's stick with that. Parkdean Resorts is the biggest, and I would say, the best holiday park operator in the UK. With 66 holiday parks you mentioned, right from the very tip of the north of Scotland. So Grannies Heilan Hame, which is just outside Royal Dornoch. A fantastic little village right in the Scottish Highlands. To right the way down to Lizard Point, which is on the Mullion Cove in Cornwall, and then everything in between. So a fantastic operation. 66 holiday parks. They are entirely unique and as different as you and I are, but have the one golden thread that runs through them. That we are there to create the best experience possible. And one of the things that excites me about the role and the industry, is that we create fantastic experiences for our holidaymakers and our owners, but we also create a fantastic experience for individuals to come and work with us. And not only work with us, but to be able to progress and develop their careers and their talents. And I actually think it is probably Britain's best kept secret professionally.

I worked historically before that in pubs, bars and restaurants. I am without a shadow of a doubt, a glass collector who got extremely lucky. I don't have...

00:05:42 Andy Goram

Ha ha!

00:05:43 Baz Robinson

I don't have a degree. I don't have anything like that. What I've done is, I think, spent a lot of time, in lot of roles and tried to take the best and the worst bits and pieces from those experiences. And in each of those steps that you've made forward, and I haven't planned this. This has happened by accident, which is why I'm sure somebody at some point we'll say,

Hang on a minute! This guy is a glass collector who actually needs to go and collect some glasses again.”

But I've taken experiences, I think, through all of that and seen how I can model and learn and give back something to the people that work with me. And I think that's what's exciting now. And Parkdean Resorts to reroute and to come back to where I started the conversation, the holiday park, the leisure sector, the industry that you and I are very passionate about provides a wonderful opportunity for people to come in, learn some technical and tactical skills, but also learn some experiential skills as well. And it's that experience piece, allied to the technical and tactical piece, that I think produces really rounded leaders.

The challenge, I believe, is the technical and tactical piece is dead easy. It's a transactional exchange between you and I. I can teach you how to read a P&L. You can teach me how to work out a gross profit calculation. The real experience piece is a challenge. And that's what I believe the very best leaders that I've worked for, as you said in your introduction, the best leaders I've worked for, have been experience creators and generators, and that's what I've tried to be in the last 20 years that I've been working with people rather than those people working for me. We worked together and that's what we're trying to do.

00:07:42 Andy Goram

Well, I think you are humble in this whole glass collector rubbish. I think that's gonna be fun to unpick and I am looking forward to talking about what makes this commercial, compassionate thing. How do you combine the technical and the personal? I am also interested in a bit of the back story. And we joke about the glass collector that got lucky and someone’s going to find you out one day, but I said in the intro, not everybody kind of considers this the right blend. There's plenty of people still out there operating on a... almost the old kind of leadership control piece, you know, rather than the collaborative, involving, personal, human side and that tougher commercial thing. Something must have happened in your past. We talk about great leaders that we worked for. What's the stimulus, right? What... why do you believe that this is the way forward? What happened to you in your past to formulate that view?

00:08:42 Baz Robinson

I think that's interesting, that. There are some... there's a scale of operator, that I work with. You very kindly referred to me as a proper operator and that's not for me to say, but I've worked with operators and I've looked and observed operators. I think there's a scale of operators. At one end of that scale there is an operator that rolls their sleeves up, puts their welly boots on, goes and gets out in the muck and bullets, is absolutely the coalface. Leads from the front, drives their team on, and delivers some stuff. But those individuals that are with that leader, right at the front, aren't necessarily learning anything other than the transactional piece of, “This is how you do that.” Because my leader is doing that.

And then the other opposite side of that scale, there's an operator who entirely coaches and develops. Doesn't put their wellies on, doesn't roll their sleeves up. Is going to let people fail because they'll fail through their own experience. And I've worked for both of those guys, both of those guises of leadership. And I know fundamentally, that I worked for one guy, Chris Welham, who I worked with when I was a Greene King. Brilliant, brilliant guy. What Chris did brilliantly was to understand the nuances of when you needed to step in and do it. Roll the sleeves up, get stuff done for me, make stuff stick. Because I, for whatever reason couldn't do it. But he also understood when he needed to back off and coach me and allow me the safety net and the space to be able to learn through my own experience. That's not just necessarily mistakes, because mistakes are not mistakes. They’re mistakes if you continually repeat them. But that initial mistake is an experience, and he allowed me the space to get some experience.

So, what he did effectively was to get right in the middle of that sweet spot of operator scale. Knowing when to step in and get the job done and to make some stuff happen, and to make that stuff stick. But he also understood when to back off and allow that individual to learn. And I think it comes back to that question about understanding and taking bits and pieces. I was a glass collector who worked for a licenced house manager in the days, that did absolutely nothing three days a week. Played golf for four days a week and did about 3 hours a day and made us do all the work. He got a massive bonus. We got paid minimum wage and it was fairly disillusioned. I learned pretty quickly then that that wasn't right.

I worked for somebody else pretty quickly after that. He was an absolute control freak. (He) did absolutely everything and we couldn't learn from that. And then I worked for people who, as I said, gave you that space to be able to find stuff. I got to a point in that first job and I'd moved from glass collector and every single job in the Managed House sector, apart from being the licensed house manager and thought, “I need to put my money where my mouth is and take a risk here.” And I did. I went into leased and tenancies. I took my own pub. Hugely successful. Then I took a second site, which was hugely disastrous because I realised that it was very difficult to repeat stuff when it was a single operator-led. Then I learned from that whilst that fixed the issue for the business in the short term and the pub co. that I worked for, which was the biggest pub co. At the time. It fixed their issue in the short term, but in the long term, knackered it for both of us, because I nearly went bust and they lost a great tenant.

So lots of experience, lots of learning shapes your view, I think, but that's broadly where I think there are two styles of operators. And the operators that come through, and will be in that band of people that we look back on and say, “That was the best guy I worked for. She was the best boss, the best leader I ever had.” Land somewhere in the middle of that sweet spot scale. Because they can, as I said before, we can teach the technical and tactical stuff. That's the transactional base. What we're looking for is to create experience. And if you create experience, that is the compassionate piece that we'll conflate with the technical and tactical stuff. And then you are really into an area, in a space, in which I think you'll start to win.

00:13:14 Andy Goram

Yeah, I mean, and I think it's front and centre with a business like yours, where so much of the result is dependent on the connection, interaction between the thousands of guys you've got running around in the parks, doing so many different things, and all the customers that are there, either owners or holidaymakers. You know it all comes down to those interactions, right? So it's fine for a people business for us to play this commercial and compassionate piece, because we're really, really dealing with a lot of customers face to face and we have to make those Connections. I'm just wondering, sat here listening to you... I still have this thing in my head that Operators in general, and I am a marketer talking about operators. So I can hear the boos and hisses coming down the airwaves, as it were, but there's always... Well, there has always been in my past, a bunch of operators that find it very hard to not just focus on results. And when we think about the commercial aspect and all that results push, and then we think about the compassionate stuff, it tends to be a longer-term focus in order to get your people in a place where they feel challenged and supported at the same time. They feel stretched and nurtured at the same time. You're give them time to develop, you get to know them as an individual. These aren't quick fix things. And you've always got, as an Operator, this tension between short term delivery of result and then this kind of need to develop people. To let them learn, let them grow. That's my marketing view, right? From an operator, who’s in it on a day-to-day basis, am I talking complete guff and it's all about the results? And I don't think it can be from the way that you're talking. How do you balance the short on the long term of it?

00:15:01 Baz Robinson

The results are a consequence of the leadership style that you deploy, aren't they?

00:15:04 Andy Goram

Yeah, that's what I believe.

00:15:06 Baz Robinson

And I, I think you mentioned... What we're fundamentally talking about here is interaction and experience. Now, you and I work and have worked extensively in the leisure sector, retail sector. I think you can apply this thought leadership trait to whatever sector you want to work in, because it is fundamentally interaction which creates experience. If you interact with a customer and that customer has a great experience, they want to come back. If you have an interaction with a team member, when that team member has a great experience with you, then they're building loyalty, and they want to come to you. And I think that principle of leadership is applicable to whatever sector you're working.

You need to get great people around you. There are three things that I almost have as non-negotiables, or my guiding compass in my leadership style, which I'll come onto in a couple of minutes. It may or may not be of any interest, but I think if you... If I go and buy a pint from you now, and I get to the bar and you say,

What you want?” And I say, “I’ll have a pint of bitter.” And you say, “It's £2.50.” Actually! £2.50...

00:16:11 Andy Goram

£2.50! Wow! Where are you drinking, Baz?

00:16:13 Baz Robinson

I come from Yorkshire. I live in the deepest, darkest hills of North Yorkshire.

00:16:16 Andy Goram

I'm going there, mate.

00:16:23 Baz Robinson

It’s not £2.50 up here either. If I go into a bar, we buy a pint, it's £5. You give me the beer, we've done the basics there. We've transacted. We've had a service transaction. If I come to you and say, “I want a pint” and you say, “Baz, it's great to see you. How are you?” and I say, “I'm really fine, thanks, Andy. Looking forward to having this pint” and you said, “There you go, it's £5” and I give you the £5. Fantastic! We've had an element of hospitality, I guess. There's a tier above that around experience, isn't there? So, when you start asking about how my wife is, when you start asking about how the kids are, when you start asking about when I'm going around holiday, then we're creating and generating experience.

That same scenario applies exactly the same to leadership. And anybody who comes into work with me, I want to make sure we create... we don't have a transactional exchange, we don't have the base hospitality exchange, we create an experience. Because I think, when we do that, people will then build loyalty. They'll want to work for you, and they'll deliver the results. And the results will come as a by-product of that.

Now you're suggesting that that takes a long time to do. And at the end, you put that at the expense of short-term results. I don't think that does. I think you could create a lot of momentum, very quickly. And there are three things that I ask the guys that work with me to think about. And that is, fundamentally I ask them to look at their teams that they work with, and I think from an experience perspective, “work with” rather than they “work for”, is important. We're all in this together as a team. We all have different job titles, but that doesn't matter. We're all in pursuit of the same goal, which I believe is to look for experience creators and generators. So, we all work together. But I ask the team that work with me, to say, “Can you be better than me, in their approach to people?” So, they look at the team that are working with them, their heads of departments. So, our General Manager might look at his Complex Manager, or our General Manager might look at a Maintenance Manager and say,

Can that Maintenance Manager do a better job than I would be doing, if I was in that world?”

If the answer is yes, then that is absolutely brilliant. Because if they are, the absolute key piece that has to happen then is, that that General Manager needs to put their arm around that Maintenance Manager and say, “I cannot do this without you.” You have all the technical and tactical stuff. You can cut the grass. You can move and site a caravan. You can make sure that we're from a health and safety perspective, totally compliant. You can do all the technical and tactical stuff, but the compassionate stuff is that you now know, I can't do my job without you, so I am absolutely going to have you as my A-player, my banker. I cannot do this without you.

It might be you look at the Complex Manager, and think, actually that Complex Manager isn't doing the job as well as I would be able to do it. But they can do if I do A, B, C & D, and I coach them, and I develop them, and I support them, and I stretch them, and I give them all of that pastoral, all of that edifying care that they need to be better. Which is brilliant. Because those two people then become really important key members of your team that you're going to nurture. You're going to work with, and you're going to make sure they progress. They'll get that. They'll see that. They'll be with you.

Then there’ll be the third person, that fundamentally cannot be better than I would be, if I did that job, regardless of the coaching the training, the development that I gave them. They just can't do it. It's a little bit like... I once worked for a guy who said,

If you ask a fish to climb a tree every single day of that fish’s life, it's going to wake up and think I am useless. “I can't do this. I absolutely can't do it.” So instead of asking the fish to climb the tree, what we should be saying is, “Look Mr Fish. You're never going to do this, so why don't you go and find a pond that you can swim in and be the fastest fish in that pond. Because I'm going to go and get a squirrel that can climb this tree and get the nut at the top of it that I want.”

So, letting somebody go and having a tough conversation, pretty quickly is as important as finding somebody who can be better than I can be doing the job. But if you do that, then what you've got around you, fundamentally in the first instance, are really good people. But really good people that have that technical, tactical, transactional training and transactional gain, but then they've also got that compassionate value that they align to their skill set and then they start to deliver.

00:20:53 Andy Goram

No, I completely agree with that. But I mean if I look back to my own career, I would like to think I was surrounded by really brilliant people. I mean far, far better than I could do. My job was to set a direction, create the environment where they could just kill it, right? That’s how I saw my role.

And just to come back and what you said about my view about the people thing taking a long time. And you can do it quickly. All I would say is yeah, I reckon you can make real impact immediately by focusing on it. I think the genuine connection, the long-term sustainable change that you want to get out of people, takes a longer time. And I guess, I would ask you, we're talking here, I think very enthusiastically, around the need for the balance of the two. But why is that compassionate thing still not as overt in many, many leaders today, do you think? What is putting them off? Is it not important? Is it not their skillset? Why?

00:22:00 Baz Robinson

Oh, I think the answer is pretty simple. I think people think... probably one of two issues. They either undervalue it; don't appreciate the importance of getting the right people, in the right place and then looking after them, engaging them. But they also... this is not an easy thing to do.

00:22:17 Andy Goram

No, it's not.

00:22:18 Baz Robinson

This is a very challenging, hard concept to do. It's hard for two reasons. One, it's difficult to embrace people and have people working for you, or with you, that are better than you. And you’ve got to be brave in your own scenario to be able to bring somebody in to work with you that will absolutely aspire to be better than you and to have a better career than you.

I actually think that's great. I have great... and this has happened a couple of times. I have great pride in people that have worked with me, that have been promoted above me, or into a role that is at my level, or into a different role in a different business, that I look at and think, “Well, Crickey! I could have done that.” That's fantastic. You should embrace that.

00:23:02 Andy Goram

Do you think sometimes then, Baz? That's where the impostor syndrome thing comes from? You know, for some. Because you know what I mean? If you think, “I've got people who are far better than me. Bugger! Someone’s going to see through me.” You go back to almost lizard manager brain of,

Oh! I need to be in control and better than everybody. I'm at the top of the tree

, right? Maybe that's where some of the impostor syndrome thing comes from. Maybe that’s why people shy away from it. I don't know. It’s interesting.

00:23:26 Baz Robinson

I mean we could do an entirely different podcast, and I’d engage massively on the impostor syndrome, 'cause I don’t think anybody has it more than I have. But I think one of the things that I've learned from that, Andy, I guess it it conflates fairly well to the next point I'm going to talk about, you can be nervous about having talent and really talented, super talented, more talented people around you than you are. And I have, that now. I work with 9 Regional Directors. I look at all of those nine and they are either doing the job better than I did as a Regional Director, or will be doing the job better than I could do as a Regional Director in a period of time. But that's alright, because the payoff of that is that I get a slightly easier rub of the green, a little bit.

00:24:09 Andy Goram

That’s a great position to be in.

00:24:10 Baz Robinson

I can back off a bit, it's OK. I can ask a question and get all these great answers and think. “I would never have thought of that. But I'm gonna share it.” And how you get that is by the positive ownership, or positive embracing of ownership and accountability. And being brave enough to delegate ownership and accountability and to embrace the delegation of ownership and accountability. And by that I mean, being brave enough when somebody is working with you and they succeed, to recognise it and call it out and make sure that success is shared and is talked about and is seen across as many aspects of the business as possible.

But also on the other hand, is to be brave enough to call it out. And not call it out in a challenging, authoritarian, dictatorial manner. But to call it out with a corrective measure intent to put in place. And I think if you do that, then you are, I said befor,e stretching, engaging, compassionately, showing the commerciality and building that commerciality across those teams. So having the power to say,

I'm the leader here, but I don't know the answer. I don't know all of the answers.

And in fact, what's perverse is the conundrum that runs on my desk, and I am challenged to find, the person who’ll have best answer is the person who's right at the coalface dealing with it. But that individual at the coalface, either doesn't have the confidence to be able to put forward the solution or has the solution but doesn't have the tools to see the solution through to reality. And through positive embracing of ownership and accountability and delegating to people at the coalface and empowering them to come forward with solutions, invariably we'll find solutions much more quickly. And we'll be able to move further forward. And that then starts to deliver that commerciality and that compassionate development. And that's why I think that these are long burners. But they're long burners that can create positive momentum quickly.

00:26:30 Andy Goram

Oh look! I totally agree with that. I would also add on to that. I think whether we or not, we use the word the term coalface, but often these guys aren't even... they're not listened to. They're not encouraged to feedback, and so therefore they don't. And I think genuinely having the mechanisms and belief in the organisation that everybody has a voice is incredibly important and incredibly powerful. And that comes with a whole different bunch of responsibilities, because the minute you ask the question you've got to listen, obviously. But you got to respond. And that's not just responding to the good stuff that meets with your approval. It's also going back and having a conversation about why perhaps someone’s thoughts or ideas aren't going to make it. Because if you don't do that bit, it's just like having a conversation with someone in the street. If I ask you a question and you just blank me

Oh! Wow! Brilliant. I shan't talk to you again.”

And that's exactly what happens in organisations all the time.

00:27:30 Baz Robinson

But it's winding back to that service creation, hospitality creation, experience creation, isn't it? We could be as transactional as we want. We can get the job done all day long. You can say to me, “Baz, go and deliver £15 million EBITDA” and I'll go and deliver it. And if you tell me to deliver it, I'll just deliver it.

If you challenge me and you don't engage me, and you don't show me any compassion, I might in fact miss that £15 million EBITDA target and deliver you £13.5 million and we'll talk about the million and a half quid miss. You will get annoyed with me, or whatever, and I'll be disappointed.

If you engage me though, and we transact and we go through those service, hospitality, engagement piece, that £15 million, because I'm engaged and I'm using my commercial awareness and I'm using my entrepreneurial flair, and I really enjoy working for you, and I feel valued, that £15 million suddenly turned into a 17 or 18 million quid delivery. And suddenly it's a million quid over. And that's how it's... these two conduits for commerciality and compassion far too often, sit separately. Which is why we end up chasing one or the other. And what are you going to chase? You’re going to chase the commerciality one 'cause that's what we all think we get paid out on. And fundamentally, we do. I have no... I understand... I don't want this to sound or my approach to sound woolly, or soft in any way. It absolutely isn't, because I know I still have to deliver my financial commitment to the business. But what I believe in is it is far more sustainable, far more rewarding and far stronger to deliver my commercial commitment to this business with some compassion and some experience having been created behind it. And I think there's one, I guess perhaps one final point in the triangle, if you like, that I try and adhere to and that is to do all of that through what I call, executing VIP standards. And I don't mean that in a very important person, 'cause I'm not a very important person.

00:29:42 Andy Goram

You're a glass collector. We've established that.

00:29:44 Baz Robinson

I am a glass collector who is on the trajectory to get found out. It's not far away when you listen to this, they'll find out a bit quicker I suspect. But that VIP stands for three things, Andy, which I think is important and concludes it fairly well. In every experience I create, with the people that I encounter, and this is this comes back to what we said three or 4 minutes ago. If you work in pubs, bars and restaurants, holiday parks, or you work right at the heart of local government, in a civil service role or whatever, you're gifted the opportunity. We're all gifted, the opportunity every single day to be an experience creator or an experience generator in whatever we do. We do this... we do this at home, you know, personally. I think I try and apply three things in that regard.

The first one is in every experience I create, what I'm involved in, is to add some value to that experience. That's the human connection between the individuals that we encounter. So, I want to create some value. I want to be able to look back at that interaction, that experience, that exchange that's occurred and think that I've had an impact in that. And that impact might be to, as I said before, recognise somebody’s great success, or to talk to somebody around an issue that they're struggling with and see whether we can find some pointers to see how we can help them move forward. It might be then we want to look at how we can help get some coaching, or development into an individual that will make them better. I want to have an impact in all of the conversations, interactions, experiences that we create. And then the third thing which I think is really important, is I want to be able to take a bit of pride in the value that we've created, the impact that we've had, and the experience that we've shared. And I want to be proud about those interactions and take pride in that.

I think what I work by is the old management saying is,

What you walk by defines you.”

And I think it's right. And I want to make sure that the pride that I have, and the pride that I want to instilll with the people that work with me, the pride that I want to have around Parkdean Resorts, I said right in the very beginning, it's the biggest, I also think it's the best, but that pride has to start with me. And anybody who's going to interact with me or work with me up and down the business, across the business, whatever, the pride that I have in the business and I want them to have in the business, has to start with me.

So, I think those three things are probably the most important things that I have taken. And this extremely fortunate, very lucky journey from glass collector to Ops Director. Getting great people around you or getting great potential around you and helping them realise that potential, is massively important. A real positive embracement of ownership and accountability with the people that work with you and allowing them the space to trust themselves to find the right answer. Because invariably they will do. And then to deliver on those VIP standards, I think is pretty important. And I have to say having had those three key points, as a consequence I've delivered where almost everywhere I’ve been. Commercial improvement and the hard pound note performance at the end of it. But I haven't prioritised my commercial delivery. I've made sure that I've hit the numbers, but I firmly believe that by engaging people properly, by showing compassionate thought leadership, by giving them the platform to be able to develop themselves, and to create experiences, out of that is an intended consequence that my business is, on whatever level, whether it was a single... whether I was the most efficient glass collector when I was a glass collector, whether I was a successful single site operator when I had a tenancy, whether I had a regional 60 odd pubs that performed, whether I now help run 66 holiday parks, they all perform. They always have fairly well consistently performed. And I think it's because there is the alignment of that commercial awareness. That commitment to the commerciality of the business and the delivery of that, but also a commitment to the compassionate improvement, development, and support of a team. And I think that's really important.

00:34:50 Andy Goram

I would wager in today's current landscape of financial pressure and all these other things, whether you are a customer or whether you are an employee, these things, this combination this red thread of compassion and connection is probably more important than ever.

Customers; you will be seeing this, are going to be more choosy with their quid. If they're not getting an experience, they will vote with their feet. You will see that in your business. Any business will see that with employees too, though. Whatever’s happened over the last two to three years, whether people have woken up or not yet, they will also be more choosy, right? If they're not getting that support. They don't feel like they matter in an organisation. If they don't feel like they've got any level of significance in that business. If they're not seen and valued and shown how they're valued, they will vote with their feet and they'll go elsewhere. Any old sod, I think, can luck a single year performance. You can fluke a result. This is all about sustainability, you know? You keeping the right people growing, learning, getting better and better, really owning their craft. Making brilliant connections with customers and the people around them, that means that the next year you're not spending 30-40% of your time recruiting for more people and retraining more people. You can concentrate on getting the job done. And I think this combination of commercial compassion is all about sustainability. I think that is what really sets great businesses apart, and it still befuddles me as to why more people don't get it, or at least make a thing of it, you know?

00:36:34 Baz Robinson

And it comes back to what we said before, doesn't it? We saw this. I was at Greene King, for instance, when the recession hit the last time and their value for money, the value that people put in their tenner when they go to Hungry Horse, becomes ever more apparent. The value that somebody spends £350 for a weekend away with Parkdean Resorts, right now, that value to what we're going through now is just enhanced and tightened. And what we have to do in my current business, is to ensure that we stay in a place where we provide value for money as competitively and commercially as we can, and that provides great experience. Because now that the value perception has heightened and there’s an increase on that exchange, where they put their money, we absolutely need to make certain that the experience is worth what they're paying for.

That's from a customer's perspective. But it's also from a team perspective as well. When you're in the recruitment marketplace and it's so competitive now. We're in a scenario, it's probably coming to an end, where we've probably got more jobs than we have people who are willing to take those jobs. I think looking at the headwinds that we're facing into, that's probably going to change into 2023. The same principles of service hospitality experience that we would apply to a customer should be applied, without failure, to the teams that come and work with us.

00:38:11 Andy Goram


00:38:12 Baz Robinson

If the experience is rubbish, then they're going to go. And if you have high levels of churn in your team, what's going to happen? You're going to be resetting all the time and not being able to go forward.

I’m a big football fan and you look at the most successful teams, those teams that... there's a couple of exceptions, but those teams that actually back their guys and say, “This is it. We're going to stick with you over a period of time and see what happens” results in far more success than...

00:38:40 Andy Goram

Long-term success. Sustainable success.

00:38:41 Baz Robinson

It is entirely around, and this is what our industry holiday parks are terrific for, but it's a hidden secret. Getting the right people in the right roles and then allowing them to grow, results in organic, internal succession. And we have a target of 70% of our appointments to come internally, and we're not far away from hitting that. And that's brilliant because we've got lots of Academies, our Leading The Way Academy is providing people, the right people, with the opportunity to experience both the technical and tactical transactional training that they need to learn, allied with some experiential exposure and some compassionate thought leadership. And it results in people joining our business now and it gives me no greater pleasure than to have people who joined as glass collectors now, becoming Complex Managers, or Complex Managers, becoming General Managers or General Managers moving into Regional Director roles. And somebody ages ago must have seen something in me, that I couldn't see in myself, and I mentioned Chris Welham right at the very start. Chris was the first guy that I realised and he gave me the confidence to realise, that I wasn't as weak as I thought I was. Now, we still have that impostor syndrome every single day, that says, “You're going to get caught out one day, Baz” but leaders that deliver on the commerciality, but can spot potential and are then brave enough to provide a platform for that potential to thrive, as Chris did with me, will undoubtedly be the very best leaders that we’ll ever work with. And it's because they have this ability to conflate commercial awareness and commercial delivery with compassionate and care for their team and allow their team to flourish.

00:40:47 Andy Goram

Which I am a 100% aligned to. And we've got to the bit in the show, Baz, that I call Sticky Notes, right?

And I think this is the perfect juncture, where I'm looking for you to kind of try and summarise what we need to build this commercial compassionate leadership in people.

What would you leave on 3 little Sticky Notes that our listeners could take away and have as a sort of aide memoire, as to creating this combination which we’ve talked about today?

00:41:16 Baz Robinson

I think I'd go back to those 3 triangles. It's dead easy, isn't it?

I would say you gotta surround yourself with the very best people that you can. And if they are better than you, then brilliant. Make sure they absolutely know how important they are to you. If they're not quite there yet, then support them, lend your experience, lend your advice, coach them, develop them to get them to that point. And if they ain’t going to make it, then let's have a conversation that they'll l be relieved to have. Because they can stop trying to be the fish that climbs the tree, and they can go and swim in a pond and we’ll get a squirrel.

The second piece that would be, is to have a really clear plan. Understand what you are doing, why you are doing it, how that individual impacts and plays the part in that plan, and then positively embrace ownership and accountability of that plan. You'll still stay as a responsible individual who... our General Managers are responsible for their holiday parks, they are ultimately responsible. But they don't own how short the grass is cut. They're not accountable for making sure that our complex is open at 11:00 o'clock. So positively embrace the delegation of ownership and accountability.

And then the last one, which I think you can apply, as I said before, professionally and personally is to try and in every experience you encounter, experience that with VIP standards. So add some value. Really add a value. Look back on that and think I've moved that forward because of that. Have an impact on that individual experience, so they sit there and think,

Bloody Hell! I really enjoyed that. I understand why I've had that conversation or that interaction. There's been an impact that I'll take away and will last.

And then in everything, be able to be proud of what you've done and look back on it with pride. So they would be the three things, I guess.

00:43:03 Andy Goram

Fabulous! Love that. Great summary to the conversation. Thanks so much for coming on. I know we'll see each other again, but really appreciate your time today, Baz.

00:43:12 Baz Robinson

Andy, thank you, appreciate it.

00:43:13 Andy Goram

No problem my friend. You take care.

OK everyone, well that was Baz Robinson. And if you'd like to find out a bit more about him, or any of the topics that we've covered today, please check out the show notes.

So that concludes today's episode. I hope you've enjoyed it, found it interesting and heard something, maybe that will help you become a stickier, more successful business from the inside going forwards.

If you have, please like comment and subscribe, it really helps. I'm Andy Goram and you've been listening to the Sticky From The Inside podcast. until next time, thanks for listening.

Andy Goram is the owner of Bizjuicer, an employee engagement and workplace culture consultancy that's on a mission to help people have more fulfilling work lives. He's also the host of the Sticky From The Inside Podcast, which talks to experts on these topics from around the world.

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