Phil Seaton, Operations Director, Maintenance and Testing divisions on positivity, leaving the comfort zone and how walking the dog clears his head before a busy working day at NSS.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your career to date.
Apart from a few bar jobs and sales roles in Australia, my role at NSS has spanned the length of my career. 13 years hard time as of this September! I started straight from university on a sandwich course, which meant on my third year I did a work placement at High Access before going back and finishing my degree. I met Niel and started supporting him with the operation he had at the time. It was a relatively small team so I got exposure to all elements of operations. Raising jobs, invoicing, understanding maintenance services, sourcing materials, contacting clients and crafting post works reports. We didn’t have a fraction of the processes or software we have now so the landscape and environment was certainly different.
As I became more involved with the workforce, I started taking on additional responsibility and worked my way into a trainee management role. From there I started managing the engineers and becoming familiar with the technical aspects of our services. Over time I became a contract manager, then moved into my Director role in 2014, where I’ve had the freedom to build my own team and expand our services nationwide. Since then it’s been a manic mix of acquisitions, mergers, new depots and helpdesks. Quite an incredible journey!
What does your current role with the business involve?
I oversee the maintenance and testing division at NSS. As operations director this generally means making sure all my departments are motivated, focused and have the resources required to achieve our long term business targets. On the maintenance side I manage four sub-departments– Scotland, North, South and Projects and I make sure I touch base with all the senior department leaders each day. I ensure I get over to all the depots each month to touch base with the guys face to face. Working in the other depots can often feel isolated so it’s important for me and the supporting management to maintain regular contact with these teams.
I spend a lot of time working with the operations manager and the helpdesk to improve the service levels on jobwatch. Having a forward thinking helpdesk is a large part of our success. Effectively it’s the easiest and most impactful way to add value to our service. As all our client requests are centralised in Hale, it’s easy to access all the information at the drop of a hat.
Describe your own style of management.
It’s exactly like the culture at NSS, you get the autonomy and belief to manage your own team. With support and guidance, you’ll have clear objectives and the freedom to achieve them. One thing I picked up on a long time ago was that the majority of what we’re involved with is reactive and unpredictable, meaning things don’t always go to plan. I realised when these instances occur you can’t get angry or frustrated with people and that the only way to maximise your relationships is to expect the good with the bad, then deal with them both calmly. Everyone makes mistakes and as long as they take something from the experience and come into work with a positive attitude the next day then I’m easy to work with. What I can’t stand is negativity, it spreads like wild fire! If you can’t serve up anything positive or constructive with your negativity then your limited to how far you’ll go in life.
What has been your proudest achievement to date?
It has to be at 28 when I became a director. I’ve always known I was relatively young to have that title but I know it was earned with hard work and passion. The opportunity and knowledge Niel shared with me early on, coupled with my commitment and enthusiasm lead me to that point. There’s been a series of major milestones since then, which have all been huge moments for the business and myself personally, but becoming operations director at 28 is a testament to what people can achieve at NSS with the right attitude.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced throughout your career?
Probably earning the respect of the workforce in my early days. Having had no man management experience and being in such a fast paced environment, there were always those around who took advantage of the young lad from Uni not knowing how long a job took. Some of them definitely got the better of me at times but it was all a learning curve and being in the deep end meant you had to pick things up twice as quick. Over time I realised how to deal with certain people differently and I became wise to potentially problematic characters. Although this was my biggest challenge it’s something I’ve gained the most value from and I wouldn’t change any of it.
What advice would you now give to a younger self?
Get out of your comfort zone quicker. It’s the best place to be if you want to grow as a person.
How do you relax or unwind outside the office?
A lot of the business have met my passive aggressive dog, which I’m out walking before work most days. It clears my head and it’s a fresh way to start the day. I play a lot of squash with the guys in the Hale office so if anyone fancies a game then give me a shout and I’ll show you up on the court! Other than that I’m often out eating and drinking with friends and family in Altrincham. It’s great place and there’s always something going on.
What sets the newly formed NSS apart from the competition?
A few years back in client meetings I used to sell the dream of High Access and stretch the truth to get our name and brand out there. These days, following the merger and the acquisitions, I can tell clients about our set up with confidence knowing we truly are a one stop shop with national reach. There are no other providers offering our range of skills and who self deliver all our services with a fleet of truck mounted platforms at their disposal. It’s an exciting offering which is gathering fast pace within the industry. You can already see our competitors trying to copy us but we’re 5 years ahead of the game and we’re first to market. This puts us in a strong position.
What does the future hold for NSS?
I’d like to think everyone reading this is vested in NSS and our plans. You’ll all continue to see the growth of the business and with it comes more opportunities to develop your training, career and experience. It’s rare that people can become part of an exciting group of companies working toward the same goal and everyone should take advantage of what this can bring for the business and themselves personally.