Much is written on the subject of time, how we should value it and how we choose to use it. We all have it at our disposal, but no one knows how much of it we will have available. My own most recent read on the topic was Nancy Kline’s Time to Think.
Some years ago, when I was Chief Executive of Milton Keynes Theatre, I worked closely with someone I grew to admire greatly, Howard Raynor. Our paths had crossed over the years, and he had made a significant contribution to the arts scene in Manchester, heading up the new Bridgewater Hall. He then went on to found World Class Service, a ground-breaking organisation focussed on raising standards of customer service, and in this role I invited him to come and work with the team to develop our operation.
100% Customer Satisfaction
Howard spent a couple of days with us, challenging our thinking, encouraging us to identify new ways of working and develop our ability to look after our very loyal and enthusiastic customers. We followed his advice in detail over a number of months, and achieved what we set out to do – to achieve 100% customer satisfaction over the following year. What we put in place with Howard’s input took us on to local, regional and national recognition in the business awards arena. We were proud of what we had done and the accolades, and a lasting memory for me was phoning Howard to tell him about our achievements. He was so “chuffed” for us and the journey we had taken together.
Time is Important
One of the challenges Howard gave us was to identify the hallmarks of great customer service for our business and to develop our understanding of quality, all of which would help us to “meet the needs of our customers and exceed their expectations”. During one of the sessions he pulled back the cuff of his immaculately pressed shirt and showed us his watch. He pointed out that he was wearing a Rolex watch, and he had bought it in memory of his late father. Howard then went on to explain that his sadness was the premature death of his father. Checking the time on this high-quality piece of precision engineering and craftsmanship was a constant reminder that time was important.
A couple of years on, I was tasked as Chief Executive of the brand new Aylesbury Waterside Theatre with the opening of the venue. Once again, I invited Howard to come and work with the new team to get us off to off to a World Class start with our customer service offer. And again, Howard told us the story about why he chose to wear a Rolex watch. The greatest sadness was the news just a few months after opening the theatre that Howard had passed away after a short illness, at only 49 years of age. I had no idea his time was imminent, and wondered if he did, when I listened to him telling the story again. His passing was described as untimely.
This short piece is a tribute to Howard, a number of years on. He made sure time was important, and that was clear from what he achieved and his zest for life. He made a huge impression on me, and I have him to thank for things I have achieved. But I have him to thank for helping me to think differently, that is his legacy.
Now in my work as an Executive Coach, “time” is a recurring theme. Mostly, there isn’t enough of it to do all that is required, or time is filled with information downloads causing a difficulty in focussing, or, frequently there is an imbalance between the time needed for work, and time for living. I often think of Howard and his Rolex watch, “because time is important”, we don’t know how much of it we have, but we do need to be active in deciding how we use it, while we have it.
Tribute to Howard Raynor – Founder, World Class Service
Elizabeth Adlington, Adlington Young Ltd, Executive Coaching