In the third installment of our meet the team series, we spoke with Ann Dowdeswell about her career, the symptoms of an outdated uniform and the key to a successful team.
What has been the most valuable lesson of your career?
I have learnt that with a positive attitude and a great team, there is never a challenge that cannot be tackled. AND “Don’t sweat the small stuff”.
Who has been your greatest mentor and why?
That would have to be my Dad. He left his home country at age 30 to start life on the other side of the world, building a very successful business through hard work and sheer tenacity. He gets on well with people, but always put his family first. He is loyal, fair, but above all, kind. He offers sound advice, a shoulder to cry on and always tells the truth, even if it’s not what I want to hear.
What is the biggest challenge when you win a new project?
Understanding who the key decision makers are, managing their expectations in terms of timescales, budget, and design, and ensuring that they involve the end user – the wearers. I am sometimes amazed when really big companies have little interdepartmental communication on uniform projects. The responsibility often lies with just one department but Human Resource, Marketing, Operations and Purchasing, all have a pivotal role to play in providing us with the background at the start of a project.
Without each departments unique input we do not have the full picture of the service / product we have to provide. It is not always easy to get everyone round a table at the outset, but we enjoy the challenge.
What is the key to successful team work?
Communication, working with the best people in their field of expertise, Communication, experience or willingness to learn and Communication. At JSD we ensure that we employ the best people we can, whether that’s in: Account Management; Design; Production or Customer Service. There is a flat management structure, therefore we all work closely together and are encouraged to make our own decisions, but know that we have the full support of the management team.
What is the importance of a uniform to a company?
It helps build a company’s brand identity through customer interaction with the employees. The employees bear the mantle of the brand, so a uniform should clearly reflect the brand values to help build the identity.
Uniforms also offer practical benefits for the staff as they often have equipment to carry, hot and cold temperatures in which they work and departments are often identified by the uniform they wear, which makes it easy for customers to recognise them. A uniform can also give employees a sense of pride, with studies showing that uniforms can even boost employee performance.
What are the symptoms of an out-dated uniform?
Unhappy wearers is obviously the most important one. In many jobs what an employee wears to work gives them their sense of identity. If there has been little or no investment in keeping the uniform up to date (styling and fabric) and comfortable, the wearer will start to care less for their general appearance. We sometimes see other items of clothing creeping into the range from stock houses or high-street too.
Our designers regularly carry out competitor reviews in some of the key target markets. We update this regularly and it is always evident which ranges have fallen behind in terms of brand identity, styling and what the wearer likes to wear. Most of our clients review their uniform ranges every second year, we look at slow moving stock and what items need updating or replacing. This needn’t be a costly exercise if we plan ahead.
What should be considered before deciding to replace a uniform?
There are a number of considerations, the first is managing down the existing range. We consider how much stock is still available, how long it will last and what will be left over once a new uniform comes in. This enables us to see whether the residual stock can be recycled or given to charity. Other considerations include:
• Budget for the new uniform – This is often based on number of styles and allocations.
• Big bang or phased approach – Will all staff step out in the uniform on the same day or are we slowly introducing this by department, region etc.
• Timescales – The project as a new range can take 1-2 years to implement, particularly if you want a wearer trial.
• Design and development process – This is time consuming so usually requires a project team to work with us to sign off and gain staff buy in.
• Employee engagement – This is the most important consideration, what stage to involve, who to involve and how to involve them. Our most successful new uniform launches have involved fashion shows and staff road shows.
• Fit for purpose – Introducing a new range is a great opportunity to introduce some innovation – using latest fabrics or technology to make the garments more comfortable to wear.
What was the last picture you took on your phone?
A picture of my children toasting marshmallows round our first fire of the season, there was sheer glee on their faces.
If you could work with any brand on their new uniform, who would it be and why?
British Airways – they are such an iconic British brand. Their staff always look smart but it would be great to introduce a design twist, something a little cheeky, into their uniform – something unexpected, as currently it is a very classic design.
What is the most expensive item of clothing or accessory you have ever bought?
My watch – I saved for a long time to buy it. As I wanted to wear it every day, I picked an iconic, classic design which I love and one that will stand the test of time (excuse the pun).