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Category: Industry

Three Peakers Ride Again

Six years ago I took part in the UK 3 Peaks 24 hour challenge to raise funds for Greenfingers. We were a group of landscape professionals coming together for a very good cause. Three years later I re-joined the group, this time we decided to go back and climb the 3 highest peaks in Scotland, England and Wales but cycle from the foot of each mountain to the foot of the next in just 5 days. It was a massive challenge for some of us! But the bonus was raising over £26,000 for our industry charity.

This September on Sunday 18th,

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Apprenticeship Levy Are we ready?

There has been lots written in the press about the new apprenticeship levy, that is being introduced in April 2017. I believe it will change how we view and run apprenticeships beyond recognition. There will certainly be an increase of cash in the system. In the Horticultural Industry our new trailblazer standard has been approved and is now ready to be used as the framework for training operatives and supervisors. The whole principle of the trailblazers are to have good quality apprenticeship programmes that are employer led. If the reforms work as expected the whole process should be very straightforward from start to finish and this should have an impact on the skills gap.

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3 Peaks Extreme

At last 3 Peaks Challenge is behind me. Give me a few months and I’ll be able to walk again. Seriously, it wasn’t quite as torturous as I thought it was going to be. Not quite, but close!

I’ve got to admit that last week I was far from certain I’d be saying these three words to you now, but, well – ‘I did it’!

Actually it’s fairer to say we did it, because I know for a fact that I could not have got through the whole thing if it hadn’t been for the support of all the other guys around me and our support team.

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A new ‘parks alliance’ to help our industry speak with one voice

A couple of weeks ago, I got together with 40 other key UK executives from our industry, to discuss building a cross-sector group or ‘Parks Alliance’.

This was hosted by ‘Horticulture Week’ and it was the second round-table discussion prompted by their ‘Make Parks a Priority’ campaign. The main focus of all of this is to raise our industry profile and provide a united voice amid cuts to park budgets.

In light of the new public health role of local authorities, it was generally felt that our timing was good. Maybe now, things could move full circle – after all,

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Breaths of fresh air

In the lead up to Christmas and New Year I had the opportunity to spend time out of the office, visiting many of our contracts and witnessing at first hand the fantastic levels of engagement that our managers are having with clients.

My travels took me across much of Hertfordshire, the Midlands, Sussex, and then down to the Isle of Wight.

Our business success depends very much on customer satisfaction, and my visits around our contracts brought home the many ways that this is happening for us.

In St Albans we’re offering more work placements for disadvantaged people.

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New Electric vehicles. Why?

Bob Dylan had it right in that old song of his – times certainly are a-changing. For a recent example of this, just look at our North Hertfordshire contract, where we’ve just taken delivery of two new electric commercial vehicles.

These newly acquired vehicles, to be used by our teams that look after parks, sports pitches and open spaces, are part of a joint initiative to help reinforce the council’s commitment to reducing the district’s carbon footprint as well as helping to tackle climate change and manage operational costs.

Now it would be fair to say that these vehicles are little different from the norm.

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The pleasure of rewarding our long-servers

It’s always great to be able to reward hardworking staff whose loyalty over long periods of time has served our company so well.

As the company grows we really do want to continue to recognise staff and the value that they add to the business with their support and loyalty. This is why we have developed long service awards for employees who have been with us for 10 or even 20 year periods.

The only caveat we put down is that the reward can’t be in actual cash. This year’s long service vouchers have been for such things as plants,

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What can we do about ‘Ash Dieback’?

‘Ash Dieback’ is such a cause of concern for our country, and its impact is being deeply felt in the UK horticultural industry.

The expression ‘prevention is better than cure’ really is jumping up to bite us now, but rather than get angry or resentful about what did or didn’t happen to stop this known disease from taking hold on these shores, we must look ahead and draw on all our resources collectively to see how much we can mitigate this potential catastrophe.

For those of you perhaps not completely familiar with what I’m talking about, let me give you a bit of brief background.

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O’Conner on board!

Earlier this year Wayne Grills, Chief Operating Officer for BALI (British Association of Landscaping Industries) asked me if I’d consider putting myself up for nomination to become a member of the BALI board.

After some consideration I did make myself available and I’m now pleased to tell you that at the recent BALI AGM held at the SALTEX trade show I was voted onto the board.

Now, I look forward to joining the existing board members and other new recruits. Between us we will represent the many and diverse viewpoints of the landscape industry, from across the whole of BALI’s geographical membership.

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We’re all in this together – thank goodness!

You might think it’s becoming a bit of a pet topic of mine, but I don’t mind. In fact, I’ll say it all again – I feel genuinely lucky and proud to be working in such a great industry as ours. So what’s making me say it all again? It’s because of a few things which were brought home to me really strongly at the BALI 2012 Landscaping Show which was held a few weeks ago.

In a generally challenging economic climate, its great when you see all sorts of players in your industry coming together – large and small – sharing and forging ever closer bonds.

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