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The culture of James

Rhiannon Simcocks | CEO

Culture isn’t what you tell someone it is. It’s the sum of the actions of your team… when no one is watching.

A recent experience reminded me of this. An interaction with another company where the Manager of the team I was working with would often tell me that their culture was one of collaboration. It took me a while to put my finger on why, every time he said it, something in me jarred.

Then it clicked.

The culture of your company is not the words you thoughtfully curate to describe it. It’s not what you tell yourself it is.

The culture of your company is the sum of your teams’ actions.

And this teams’ actions were anything but collaborative.

So, if that’s the case… then the culture of James is best demonstrated rather than stated.

The following is just a mere handful of my favourite examples of our culture. These are real. None of them have been forced or are the result of the team being asked to do these things. These, are our demonstration of the culture of James.

1. We’ve been on a four-year transformation of our company. Our Head Office team have been through more change in the last few years, than most employees would in their careers. There was a point, two years ago, as we headed into six months of intensive change, where at a meeting of the team, I spoke about what lay ahead, and the need to take care of each other and ourselves; our mental health, emotional wellbeing and physical health during this period… because it would be tough. Every single member of our small but mighty team contacted me privately afterwards to tell me they wanted to do more. They could take on more. They could share the load. They could fit more work into their days. They would pull out all the stops to help our company achieve its goals. I never asked the team to give us any more than they already were; but they offered without hesitation.

2. In the four years since the current owners purchased James Home Services we haven’t had a single member of the head office team quit. Not even close. Companies often measure their ‘churn’ rate; how often are they replacing staff. We don’t measure it. Because it’s 0. People who are unhappy and hate their job, don’t stay. People who hate their leadership, don’t stay. We’re clearly getting something right to have not lost anyone in four very tough and challenging years of company transformation.

3. One of our team, heck, I’ll just name her… she deserves accolades… Jo. One of Jo’s many facets to her role is to monitor the service requests that come to us, and ensure the right customer enquiries are sent to the right business owner. Jo works the hours of 9-3, Monday to Friday. But Jo sends these ‘leads’ to our business owners pretty much anytime between 6am and 8pm, every single day of the week! Even weekends. If a lead comes in, and she knows she has a business owner who can do it… she makes sure it’s sent to them as soon as

humanly possible. This is not in her position description. This is not an expectation we have of her. In fact, I often check in with her to make sure she’s allocating enough time in her time report to us, so we are adequately paying her for all this extra work! Her passion and commitment for supporting our business owners is enduring, and because of her, so many of them benefit from more customers to their businesses!

4. Our entire team work remote, from our homes. COVID forced us into this situation originally, but honestly, the freedom it gives us means we just don’t want to go back to an office environment. For most companies, staff working from home is a recipe for concerns about productivity. But I have never once, had a single concern, not even the slightest of ‘feelings’ that the team weren’t delivering in their roles. It’s not a thought that has ever crossed my mind. In fact, I’m at the opposite end of the spectrum, wondering how on earth they get through the sheer volume of work that they do!

5. Each month, we start 4 or 5 new businesses in our network. But sometimes, what we find after the first few months is that business ownership just wasn’t meant for someone. They just aren’t finding their feet and it’s not working out. Sometimes the person has given it everything they’ve got, but sometimes, the person has not followed our guidance, not followed our system, is not engaging with their Business Coach or the resources we provide and is essentially, walking themselves toward failure… even though we give them every chance at success. When a failure happens in our network… my team take it personally. They feel responsible. They always ask me… what more could I have done. And when it does happen, especially in the latter of the scenarios I gave… there’s often, very little additional we could have done. The person made their own choices. We can’t control that. But the ownership my team feel over the outcomes of the business owners in their care inspires me. I don’t have ‘show genuine care and compassion for the business owners in your care’ written into their position descriptions… but it’s as if we do. They do it naturally.

6. If you’re a franchisee in our network, then you’ll know that you can pretty much call your Business Coach or anyone else in our Head Office team any time of day, any day of the week – and we’ll answer. My team aren’t expected to be ‘on call’… but they develop such great relationships with the business owners in our network there’s not much we won’t do for someone if they need us.

7. When a business owner in our network experiences hardship, we roll op our sleeves and get practical and pragmatic with how we help. We don’t just continue to help them with their business… but we also jump in and help with encouraging them to get medical assistance, or we help them with budgeting, or with strategies to preserve cash, we help them prioritise what gets their attention, we make sure their family is taken care of and we provide leniency on the operation of their business and the payment of their fees until they have gotten back on their feet. If you work with us, and do the right thing by us, we will do anything to help you though a rough patch in life. And I mean anything!

8. We once had a business owner go MIA on us for a few days, which was very out of character. We tried every avenue we possibly had available to us, to contact him. We were so genuinely concerned for his safety that we rang every hospital around looking for him, we contacted family, and two of our team drove a 3 hour round trip to visit his house to see if they could find him there. Eventually, we found and contacted internationally based family via Facebook and were able to confirm he was ok. But yikes, we were worried. You’re not a number in our network – you’re one of us! And we care more than you might think!

9. New business owners in our network undergo intensive business and practical training. We recently had a franchisee who breezed through the business training, but struggled to find his groove in the practical training. His Business Coach became so concerned that he wouldn’t pass, that he travelled to the location of the practical training and spent an entire afternoon working one-on-one with this new business owner, helping him to hone his skills and confidence in the area he was struggling. Our Business Coaches are not responsible for delivery of the practical training. But this Business Coach happened to have previously been one of our top performing business owners in this service – and all he wanted was to see this new business owner find confidence and succeed. The thought of ‘it’s not my job’ just isn’t really a thing at James. Our Business Coaches truly go above and beyond.

10. Our Business Coaches are seriously skilled. I pinch myself at the calibre of coach we are afforded the opportunity to offer to our business owners. One of our Coaches, Alan, has more than 35 years of experience in franchising and in working with franchisees to assist them in developing their businesses. Alan started working with us three years ago. His skills, expertise and experience eclipsed my own at least 10 times over. But we found quickly that the needs of our business owners were very different to the needs of the business owners he was so experienced in working with. Most people with such a depth of experience find it difficult to adjust their ways… but over the past three years Alan has completely transformed his techniques, his approach and his support and coaching to meet fully the needs of our business owners. That willingness to adapt to the needs of our teams requires the removal of one’s ego from the situation, and a simple question in its place… what do I need to do to best support the people in my care. We leave our egos at the door in James. And we genuinely place the interests and needs of our business owners at the heart of what we do.

I don’t really need to tell you that our culture is one of teamwork and support, dedication, hard work, commitment to our business owners, compassion and care, going above and beyond and embracing change. Because actually, each of the points above demonstrates these traits.

I could continue indefinitely to provide these kinds of examples to you. But if I’m honest, just the activity of recording these 10, has me feeling an immense amount of gratitude for our team at James and their incredible actions, every day.

So, Justin, Alan, Sonya, Ian, Jo, Sam and Lara – if I haven’t told you recently, just how incredible I think you are… this blog post is dedicated to you! I just couldn’t possibly think of a better team to lead this company alongside. Your commitment to each other, to the company, to our business owners and to Justin and I… it’s nothing short of superhuman!

Our culture is not idealistic words that Justin, Darren and I dream up in a Strategic Planning session… our culture is you! Our culture is the sum of your actions. And nothing we could dream up would ever match what you are already doing!

If you’ve made it this far in this blog post, then thank you! Taking time to read a long post these days is a choice, and I hope you’ve been rewarded for your time with some valuable insights into our culture, our people and the way we work and support our business owners.


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James Home Services Lawn & Garden Atherton South
About JHS

The culture of James

Culture isn’t what you tell someone it is. It’s the sum of the actions of your team… when no one is watching.

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