Interview - Andy Corcoran, managing director, Glendale Managed Services
By Jez Abbott Friday, 02 March 2012
Andy Corcoran took over as managing director at Glendale Managed Services recently.
He joined parent company Parkwood Group in 2007, is big on managing service operations and as head of the grounds-maintenance firm aims to keep Glendale stable and profitable. But times are hard in parks and green spaces, and that could be tough for a man who insists that he is in for the long term, not a "smash-and-grab merchant" looking for a quick fix and fast buck.
Q: Just how big is your new job at Glendale?
A: Very big. Glendale handles grounds management, arboriculture, golf and horticulture, which is predominantly based at Coblands in Kent. We are a £45m organisation and employ 1,200 people. Regional coverage stretches from Scotland to Cornwall and we have more than 60 contracts, mostly grounds maintenance for local authorities.
Q: Are you ready for the challenge?
A: Totally. Since last summer I've been mentoring with Tony Hewitt before taking over in January and before that I worked for Parkwood Leisure - parks and green spaces are an important part of leisure. I have been on management awaydays to learn about organisational culture and structure and where, incidentally, I found out I was not a baby boomer but part of generation X: parks and people - there are big cultural shifts taking place, many of them forced by budget cuts.
Q: How is Glendale gearing up for what is ahead?
A: The austerity measures are clearly very challenging but we are fortunate in having a diverse portfolio of businesses. We can offer flexibility, economies of scale and an adaptable, highly skilled workforce to help make savings. As well as local authorities, we work for private organisations and individual customers so we are not only in a stable place right now but in a position to expand through growth within the local authority market through successful tendering.
Q: How exactly can you make those savings?
A: Shared services throw open possibilities to squeeze out efficiencies and savings. Many parks departments, for example, are being merged with cleaning services so we can share depots and make the most of staff who can do specifications across both areas. Skills and training in this area are going to be critical in making the most of tricky situations - Glendale won the BALI Employer of the Year Award only a few months ago for our human resources and policies focused on training.
Q: How can you help Liverpool, one of the worst-hit local authorities?
A: We've worked on parks and green spaces in Liverpool as part of a joint venture for a number of years. They are pulling out of Green Flag accreditation and we will help them do that but make sure that parks are as well looked after as they can be. As head of the company I have to find the positives and motivate staff, but we have an extremely good manager at Liverpool in Peter Cosgrove. It is still possible to manage challenges and deliver beautiful open spaces.
Q: Where do you see opportunities, if at all?
A: It won't be easy and the next two years in particular will be difficult, but there are big openings with green-space management with housing associations - we recently re-won work for West Mercia Housing and are on the Yorkshire Housing Framework. But the one area we see that has big opportunity is in vegetation management for utility companies. We already work for Western Power and a firm of our size and skills can support and deliver services for this type of client. We have to be mindful of the times, but it would be great to push turnover to £50m.
Q: What is your biggest professional hobby horse?
A: Right now, it is "deeper green" our strategy, or journey, toward being more technical and scientific in our approach. We want to develop a deeper more sustainable relationship with our clients and the way we work. We are increasing levels of recycling and will reuse wherever possible. We will reduce energy consumption and extend the life of equipment through careful management and toolbox talks with staff. We will also look to buy kit that uses less fuel.
Q: Why is green, sustainable working so important?
A: Because we need to provide for the future and an ethical standpoint is important to ongoing prosperity, especially in these tricky times. Business has to be reliable and trustworthy, to staff, private-sector clients and local authorities. Clients want integrity and robust business because they are seeking consistency as much as high quality. Working with clients to change the delivery of service but maintain good quality is a gradual process that takes years. I'm not a smash-and-grab merchant and will not jeopardise performance or partner relationships by pricing just to win turnover.
1982-86: Law degree, University of Leicester
1988-2003: Various posts in food service and facilities management
2003-06: Director, Lincolnshire Education Business Partnership, and senior lecturer in marketing, University of Lincoln
2006-07: Director, Leicester City FC
2007-12: Operations director, Parkwood Leisure.
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