In this weeks Leading the Way blog, Bryan Wall, Enforcement Agent Manager, shares his experience of climbing the career ladder at Bristow & Sutor and explains why starting as an EA benefits those with future managerial aspirations.
Over to Bryan…
As Enforcement Agent Manager, I am responsible for the performance and welfare of all Bristow & Sutor EAs and EA related office staff, such as those working in administration, routing and fleet management. I ensure the department KPI’s remain on track, work on the development of new projects and take accountability for the implementation of evolving safe working procedures. At Bristow & Sutor, we have been on a company-wide journey to become more data-driven in recent years and continuing this process is one of my primary aims.
What are the key differences from your previous roles?
My years spent as a Supervisor began to give me a taste for how my career could progress if I was interested in management in future (which I quickly began to realise I was!). I became involved in identifying and rolling out training requirements, including recognising where this could potentially boost morale and performance. The mindset I had to adopt and the skills I gained undertaking these activities made transitioning into managerial roles later a much more natural progression than if I had immediately arrived in that capacity.
However, when I was promoted to the role of Assistant Enforcement Agent Manager, this represented the largest shift in the way I approached my working life. I went from balancing roughly three weeks on the road and one week in the office to being predominantly office-based every month. This is the biggest change that most EAs will encounter if they follow a similar career path. There are undoubtedly pros and cons to being out on the road vs being in the office but it is still a performance-driven environment, even if this is applied in different ways. Beyond location adjustments, I found I was looking in greater detail at the way our team was performing and considering the factors that contributed to both shortfalls and successes. This is still a very important part of what I do now, but it was more 1-2-1 orientated and still relied heavily on direct management. A large part of my time as an Assistant Enforcement Manager was still spent on conducting catch-up conversations, whereas now my tasks are more focused on departmental insight and analysis.
I recently achieved my Level 3 certification in additional safeguarding and I have become more of an escalation point from day-to-day conversations, tending to adopt problem-solving to wider needs as opposed to individual circumstances, which are passed on to me for review by other members of the team when required. As Enforcement Manger, my ambitions are to provide development for the entire department and introduce new and exciting projects into the business. I may have only begun this role this year, but I am already very excited to see advanced technology being installed that will help us adopt an even more calculated approach to our decision making in future.
Does your experience as an EA help you now?
I would not be able to achieve any of my recent successes if it was not for my original experience as an EA. This keeps me grounded and realistic to the motivations, wants and needs of our staff who are out on the road, knocking on doors, supporting vulnerable people and collecting much-needed funds on behalf of our clients. Being an EA takes unique determination and resolve, especially since the coronavirus pandemic and all of the changes this caused from PPE to social distancing. They deserve to be supported and managed by people who truly understand the challenges and obstacles they face and appreciate the great work they do daily. I feel extremely fortunate that I have been able to draw upon my own experience as an EA and the shared experiences of others during my time as a Supervisor, to ensure that the EA always remains at the centre of every efficiency idea or optimised process that we consider.
Enforcement firms quite rightly focus heavily on ensuring support is available for the people EAs come into contact with, but at Bristow & Sutor we also recognise the importance of providing that same level of support to EAs themselves. We have substantially increased our welfare offering internally over the past several months and our direct management structure ensures we are there for each other as well as the customers we engage with. We have increased the amount of Mental Health First Aid personnel in our business and intend to recruit more as time progresses.
I have also learned incredible amounts from those who have come before me and I aspire to support others in the same way I have been supported. Every handover I have experienced as I have progressed through each of my roles has left me feeling extremely confident and well supported. I have never felt on my own or out of my depth. The more my career develops, the more I understand the effort it takes to create an environment where transitioning from one job to another internally feels like a smooth and natural process. The commitment and care of my fellow employees at Bristow & Sutor has made this possible I endeavour to give back to the company by replicating this in the support I provide.
So, what comes next?
In many ways, it has been a ‘back to normal’ approach ever since enforcement visits resumed, but there have also been important changes made to the way we operate which will continue even once restrictions lift entirely. The world has changed dramatically over the past year or so and the way people go about everyday life is different now. Bristow & Sutor is a very forward-thinking business and we will continue to adapt to reflect this and ensure our communication and engagement with clients and customers remains suitable and successful in the post-pandemic landscape.
The entire management team continues working hard to ensure enforcement services and our own office conduct is safe. As per Government policy, agents are still not currently permitted to enter properties, but they have already been trained comprehensively on contactless visits, methods of communication remain the same and our high-quality standards remain. I am very proud to work for a company where we already take extreme care and attention towards vulnerable people. Our EAs continue identifying these situations and immediately withdraw from doorsteps, passing these cases back onto the welfare team so people get the correct support they need.
I am excited to be involved with increases to our staff numbers further, securing even more new contract wins and expanding our company in-line with the impressive growth we have already seen and maintained in recent times.
To read Bryan’s previous blog on a typical day in the life of a Bristow & Sutor EA, click here.