We used to go on regular walks around the BHS and I would get feedback. One day, we stopped and noticed what was probably about six inches of compressed fluff and dust on one of the structures. The frustrated customer said something like: “We’ve spent millions pounds and that’s what we get.” In other words, poor standards.

About a week later, a jar full of this stuff appeared on my desk, along with a note that said: “Please help me make this go away!” I roared with laughter, because I knew what it was and who it was from. When I phoned him, he said that this was a “message in bottle”, ie T3IB needed Vanderlande’s high maintenance standards.

It may be an amusing tale, but has a serious undertone, and links to our current topics of: “back to basics” and the “customer is leading”. The jar made me realise that we don’t need to build amazing multi-million-pound systems to develop strong relationships. Doing a basic task correctly – and with care – was the important issue for our Heathrow partner.

Vanderlande did win back the maintenance contract, and we would go for walks like we did before. And he would still wipe his finger to check if everything was clean! I have kept that jar, minus its contents. It’s a reminder that we built a solid partnership from a small pile of dust, because of our standards and caring attitudes.

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