Meet the team: An interview with Hazel Whiteside
Whether it’s managing a 450-branch rollout for a high street bank, manufacturing tens of thousands of signs for a new airport terminal or installing 25 metre high steel gantries across the motorway network, Merson is widely recognised for its ability to deliver large-scale projects on a national level.
But, not all jobs are big. In fact if you work in Property, Marketing or Procurement for a large UK business you’ll know that a lot of the time your most pressing jobs can be ‘annoyingly’ small! Maybe you need to make a minor compliance or branding update across your branch network or complete maintenance of a sign at just one location.
That’s where our Small Works team comes in. The team, headed up by Hazel Whiteside, works with our key customers to take care of managing your everyday signage requirements. It means you get the same professionally project-managed service and attention-to-detail as you get for large projects and it means you have one central resource to manage these small jobs across your full UK network.
Today we talk to Hazel to find out more about the MSM team and how it benefits our blue-chip customers:
Q. Tell us about your role in MSM at Merson Group
A. Every day is different and never a dull moment within my diverse role. My main responsibility is guiding and coaching the team of 5 project managers (3 in the North and 2 in the South) who deliver various signage packages across our client suite. This includes acting as chief problem solver providing solutions which are in the client’s interests as well as in line with Merson Group values. Allocating work appropriately is key in this role to ensure an even distribution and that it is assigned to the most appropriate team member each offering individual strengths. Once assigned I continue to tap into the job details to ensure the business is appropriately engaged and the client’s expectations are being managed. The role also sees me acting in a sales capacity, meeting with clients to co-ordinate new work streams for the team and subsequently mobilising within the business to suit our operational functions combined with the client’s needs.
Q. What kind of jobs does the Small Works team complete?
A. Our works are often referred to as “BAU” Business as Usual which as it suggests are signage updates required under the normal conduct of current business circumstances. Some examples of these are; changes to office layouts that require functional sign updates; wayfinding routes being altered that the public need to be visually informed of via signage; retail spaces in need of a spruce up where existing signs are tired and need changed to promote a strong brand and better customer experience. Generally all of our works require quick turnaround and that is what MSM are primed for.
Q. Why do you separate these jobs from the clients’ bigger projects?
A. The main aim of the division is to better service our clients. We recognise there will always be a need for BAU style works and by creating our specialist team offering a full project management service, dedicated to these business demands ultimately drives efficiency whilst building on more professional and premium looking environments. Not only do we benefit the clients coming to us directly, we also drive up productivity within the remaining core signage project teams who are responsible for larger works. By carving off their smaller requests to us means that they are better positioned to provide optimum service ultimately making for a more formidable business.
Q. What is the most challenging part of your job?
A. The volume of works our team manages at times can be intense and all the plates we can have spinning at the one time can be overwhelming however the commitment of the team to go above and beyond and pull together to ensure our clients are well serviced provides me with great job satisfaction.
Q. Which is the most interesting project you have worked on this year?
A. The most interesting project I have worked on this year is integrating our new key client Deloitte into the division. I have enjoyed taking this contract from the beginning and being party to the design of new and premium product witnessing some signage styles and fabrication methods that I haven’t come across before. I have enjoyed building new relationships with this client and becoming an extension of their team as well as working closer with internal colleagues whom I have been further educated by. This has brought in to greater focus the calibre of the wider team at our disposal whom I encourage the remainder of the team to reach out to in appropriate situations which will ultimately enhance their development within the industry.
Q. You have been working in the sign industry for over 10 years, what has changed the most in that time?
A. The entire business has evolved and grown considerably since I walked through the doors as a graduate in 2007 to take up the position as Trainee Project Manager in MSM. I was daunted by the fast-paced environment and signage terminology that made no sense at the time but now I know by heart. Not only have I had to grow and adapt to keep up, the business has had to move with the times to ensure our offering is in modern taste and aligned with technological advances. We have also had to set ourselves apart from the competition which with the constant endeavour to drive down spend can be challenging.
Q. How has technology changed how we deliver these services for our customers?
A. The technological advances have brought many changes to the way we deliver our services to the client and these are demonstrated with our internal management system known as Topic. This has been a very welcome addition to the MSM team as it drives up productivity ultimately condensing the time spent on internal tasks which in turn can be used to communicate better with the client and provide an all-round better management service. Other key systems for MSM involve the setting up of dedicated mailboxes and generic order forms for client’s perusal. These allow for the dissemination of clear and concise information ultimately minimising the risk for error. My personal favourite is Skype, it is a key tool in my internal communications with my southern team members as well as strengthening our client relationships.