When Jonathan James offered me the position of community liaison manager for James Graven, it was seriously late in the evening at a chorister fundraising event. My day had begun at 5am; I had finally paused, when Jonathan came over for a chat. I don’t remember a huge amount about that conversation (sorry Jonathan) but I do remember being told that the job would really suit me and that no two days would be the same. Oh how those words ring in my ears!
So what does a community liaison manager do? Well, my theoretical model is that I deal with non-operational issues on three levels: the internal staff community; the customer (both current and potential); community and the outer community which would encompass outside agencies and other organisations. I try to balance all three of these areas and most days would encompass a little of each.
Typically the day would start at 5ish when I make a pot of vanilla tea and work through my emails I try to clear all messages before the day begins. I spend some time reviewing our new company website, which I am working on with a web designer. I have enough time to write an article for the local press about the charity work which we do. In the last six months, the company has raised in excess of £10,000 by taking part in events, or having collections in store.
Once the children are off to school, the day can properly begin.
Today, I am working with Innocent at our supermarket in Soham. We have been working with them on a sector growth project and as a thank you we have been offered a day with the Innocent folk and their amazing grassy vans to do some sampling with the two local primary schools. East Cambridgeshire District Council is working with us to provide a dodge ball activity and an outside company has agreed to provide a third activity. All is set and good to go for the 10am start...then my phone goes...the third company has decided not to come. There’s no time to panic I just need a solution. So when the 30 pupils and their grandparents (it is Bring Your Grandparent to School Day too) arrive, I split the group into three sets and take the final group for circuit training myself. As I jog on the spot calling instructions to the group...I could hear in my mind ’something different every day’ ringing out. I am not sure that my pink high-heeled wedges will ever be the same again!
After collecting my children and whizzing them home, I go back out again. This time for a customer liaison panel. En route to the store, I take a few phone calls including one from the late night shopping committee. They are desperate to have somewhere to put a trailer for a band and some belly dancers to perform on the original shop has let the committee down at the last minute. We are able to host this part of the event and the support that we get from these local organisations is great. Next year they plan to make our site the centre of more of the activities because "we play nicely with the local community".
All of our sites host customer panels quarterly. The panel is made up of customers who volunteer or who are perhaps nominated by staff. Apart from refreshments, our big thank you to the panel is to let them allocate the Community Chest funds to local charities or organisations. Each site will have a pot of money to allocate and this will usually feature in the press several times.
Tonight is a regular customer panel. I break the feedback into four areas: store appearance/layout; product range; staffing; and community involvement. Afterwards, I return home to write up the notes.
Last job for the evening is to review the staff survey forms. We have circulated a survey to our staff for feedback on what they think about working for us.
The results will be fed back at our inaugural company conference later this month.
I wonder what my ’something different’ will be tomorrow?
Company: James Graven
Job title: Community liaison manager
Career history: Graduate recruitment and management development officer for British Steel; human resources facilitator for Anglian Water; governor services; adult education tutor for family learning
Greatest achievement: For the females out there, I am going to say returning to work after having three children to a job which I love that is infinitely flexible
Tips for business success: Network, network, network. It really is contacts that help all businesses often in ways that may not be obvious
Most like to say: "Is this my ’something different’ for today?"
Least likely to say: "We can’t do that"
Other interests: At the moment I’m making jams and pickles