Toby Hart has been running Airwave’s operational arm (almost) since day one. We catch up with Mr.Operations and chat about life in the operational hot-seat:
What’s the biggest operational challenge in healthcare technology?
The nature of the healthcare industry, especially within hospitals, means that we have a very finite delivery and installation window, as a consequence, we have to deliver, install and integrate technology within a very specific schedule – on the specified time and date – we can’t afford even the slightest deviation, so there’s no excuses and not margin for error. When you’re installing hundreds, sometimes thousands of televisions across the business every week, you can imagine how difficult that is.
With this in mind, our planning process needs to be of military precision and requires meticulous coordination across all departments.
We also need to be mindful of external factors – for example, manufacturer incoming stock delays are common. We hold a quantity of buffer stock in the organisation to allow for this – that doesn’t please the finance team but it’s a necessity.
Another big challenge is the sheer speed in the development of television technology.
Does fast-moving technology affect your strategy?
Absolutely, we need to be thinking 3, 6 even 12 months in advance. Airwave is all about reputation and we can’t afford to recommend a technology that, for example, will be superseded within a year.
We also need to make sure that each technology is understood across the organisation, not just the guys that sell it. This involves a seemingly never-ending series of training sessions.
Luckily, we’re mostly technology geeks so the sessions are usually welcomed!
Where do you see the industry going?
In similar fashion to the hospitality industry (Airwave’s other core focus), we’re seeing more demanding expectations – a large screen TV is no longer a wow factor. If a hospital or care home wants to achieve this, it needs to provide a user-friendly, home-from-home experience. First and foremost, this means a fast and robust WiFi connection; seamless content sharing, intuitive access to streaming services and catch-up TV are also top of the agenda.
In parallel, we need to keep an eye on OLED and QLED technology and make sure we’re on top of audio and charging solutions.
As you can see, there’s so much to think about and from an operational perspective, we need to be dynamic, forward-thinking and constantly embracing change.
How can operations make a difference in the healthcare industry?
Our organisation is very operations heavy, we have 10 sales managers but over 40 people in the projects and installation teams. In simple terms, our culture isn’t sales-led.
We don’t want to be an organisation that takes its foot of the gas once the PO comes in. It’s easy to become blasé about the installation process but we need to recognise the investment placed by our customers. Each project is different, each customer is different and we need to be sensitive to this.
I ask my team to treat each project like it’s the company’s first. I want our customers to feel safe in our hands and that they’ve made a great decision in working with us.
So, in essence, customer centric operations make a difference. It’s easy to get caught up in process management and forget the basics. We can’t base a company ethos on customer service if we don’t reflect this across the whole organisation. For me, this needs to be championed by operations.
So, is the customer always right?!
It’s an old-fashioned sentiment but we have to have that mind-set. As a director, I have ambitious growth plans and these must be underpinned by repeat business. The nature of our industry means that this often falls several years down the line, however we must adopt long-term thinking. I’m proud to say that we simply don’t lose customers – most of our key accounts have been with for years.
We achieve this by being obsessive about customer service and old-fashioned or not, I make sure that all my staff understand – the customer is indeed always right!
What makes you tick?!
My vision when joining Airwave was to turn the company into a one-stop operation. Doing this whilst remaining streamlined and efficient has been my biggest challenge.
As the company evolves and technology progresses, maintaining this offering keeps me busy and makes me tick!