I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.
13th February 2014 marked 155 years since the formation of Corps Security and not only are we one of very few companies of this age still operating, we are just as relevant today as we were back then. While my blogs usually focus on the wider issues that affect our industry, I wanted to take this opportunity to outline some of the conclusions I reached from pondering our longevity and continued success.
When I was appointed chief executive of Corps Security in 2010 I already knew that I was joining a challenging and exciting industry. What I didn’t realise, however, was how unlike the vast majority of its peers this company is and how it occupies a unique position within its sector. I will admit that it took a good couple of months before the relevance of our history and motto of ‘loyalty, integrity, service’ made their mark on my thinking and plans for the company.
Much of what defines Corps Security can be traced back to the circumstances of its formation. Captain Sir Edward Walter, a retired officer of the 8th Hussars, created the company in 1859 as a way to provide gainful employment for ex-servicemen on return from the Crimean War. In marked contrast to today, life was extremely tough for those who had loyally served their country. As well as coping with physical injuries, their employment opportunities were limited and this meant incredible hardship for them and their families.
Walter was convinced that these people could perform, through their military related knowledge and qualities, a vital role in protecting the financial houses of the City of London. Not only could they earn a proper wage, it would also allow them to regain their dignity. He organised them as a body of uniformed men and termed them the Corps of Commissionaires. His first resettlement project was possibly one of the most challenging and involved finding jobs for the eight men pictured below.
Included in the ‘original eight’ employees was Thomas Hancock, one of the first recipients of the Victoria Cross (VC). Hancock was a corporal in the 9th (Queens Royal) Lancers and in 1857 he fought in the Indian Mutiny, where he saved the life of Brigadier J H Grant C.B when his horse was shot from under him and he became surrounded by mutineers. Hancock was also shot and subsequently lost an arm, but for his bravery was awarded the VC.
These stories have an enduring fascination and our heritage has even been written about in a book on the history of the Corps of Commissionaires called ‘Our Sergeant’. However, while it is undoubtedly of great historical interest, one of the issues that I had to wrestle with during the first few months of my tenure at the company was how use the experience of the past to meet the ever changing needs of the present.
After giving the issue some considerable thought and analysis, and seeing how the company operated, it became clear that the DNA of the business was about our people and the way that we treat them. It’s why our customers stay with us and our employees are proud to work for us – the latter point is borne out by our industry leading staff retention rates.
This loyalty can be attributed, in no small part, to our ‘circle of care’, which can be summed up as follows – we look after our colleagues, who will then look after our clients, who, in turn, look after our company by retaining our services long-term. We also have our Colleague Charter, which is based around the acronym PRIDE – promise, respect and recognition, information, development and envoys. It details how employees should treat each other, promise to do what they say they will do, keep each other informed, take responsibility for offering and taking up training opportunities, and present themselves and the company in a positive light.
We are immensely proud of our background and the motives behind the company’s formation, however, we have to tread a fine line to counter any misconceptions that we are an old-fashioned company with one foot in the past. This is a real challenge and one that I, and the rest of the team here, have had to work very hard to address.
I firmly believe that our use of IT related technology makes us one of the most forward thinking companies in our sector, without compromising our central values. For instance, we listen to the views and needs of our employees, via a number of communication channels, to ensure they are fully informed and engaged with the business at all levels. Each year our ‘Your View Matters’ online survey gauges our performance in areas such as training and careers development and our ‘open door’ policy is highlighted by Talk2Peter, where my email address is available to all employees and via which, they are encouraged to feed back ideas, opinions and suggestions.
The conclusion that I drew in 2010 and still believe in today is that ‘loyalty, integrity, service’ are values that have just as much relevance in today’s cut-throat corporate world as they did in 1859. While the way that business’ go about their activities might have changed, it will always be the quality of the people representing a company and the way they are treated, that makes the difference between success and failure.