Sunday 15 September 2019

Paul McNeive: 'Pursuit of excellence is not as simple as it sounds'

The right moves

Paul McNeive
Paul McNeive

Paul McNeive

Excellence - the dictionary tells me - is the quality of being outstanding, or extremely good.

Preparing for, and co-presenting the KPMG Irish Independent Property Industry Excellence Awards last week, set me thinking about the concept of 'excellence' in business. Why would you bother, as an individual or a firm, trying to move from 'very good' to 'excellent', when the vagaries of the market may have more impact on your income? Or, you might be excellent at things that aren't important to your client, or what you think is excellent, doesn't appear so, to your client.

So, this pursuit of excellence is not as simple as it sounds. But, there was a helpful theme to the comments of some of this year's award winners - they saw excellence as being 'all about people'.

To me, the quest to keep raising your standards is vital, because, if you are not driving continuous improvement, complacency sets in. Also, a consistent message from a firm's leaders, that constantly seeking to improve our performance is a strategic goal, is a great way of pulling a firm together, and getting everyone involved.

But how do you go about achieving excellence in an organisation? In a small, owner-managed firm it's easier, because the principal sets the standards, by their actions in front of staff, every day. It's much more difficult in larger firms, with lots of different services, and layers of management. In these cases, a system is required - something to keep everyone 'on message'.

Quality management systems, such as ISO 9000, can play a role in structuring how you strive to improve. They contain that essential component of setting up a system for measuring how your clients rate your performance, so that you know, whether you are improving or not. The key to their success is keeping them simple, and translating a jargon borne of manufacturing processes, into a service industry.

Another way of enthusing people about striving for excellence, is to make it a goal to be shortlisted, or even win, an award scheme, such as the Property Awards. To be nominated by an independent judging panel, made up of every stakeholder imaginable in the property business, is a huge accolade. The positive impact on morale is tremendous and winning can be used as a serious endorsement of your services.

It was interesting to interview Rob Kearney and Paul O'Connell on the trajectory of the Irish rugby team, from very good to excellent. And how interesting their response that, despite the new level of professionalism and the 'Joe Schmidt factor', the move to excellence can only happen if each individual wants it, demands it of themselves, and is prepared to work for it.

John Moran, Managing Director of JLL, who won Commercial Agency of the Year, put their success down to pro-actively understanding one's client and their needs. Peter McGovern, Director of HJ Lyons Architects, winner of the Design Project of the Year, for the RCSI's headquarters in Dublin 2, talked about a collaborative journey of discovery, with an ambitious and challenging client.

And rounding it all off, Mark McGreevey, Group Commercial Director of Sisk, winners of Contractor of the Year, and the Overall Award for Outstanding Performance, said their approach was all about people. Their strategy is to develop their own people to the highest standards, to appreciate and strive for excellence with their suppliers, and to abide by their core value with their clients of 'Care, Integrity and Excellence'.

Doesn't that all make perfect sense?

SCSI Southern Region Annual Dinner

I'm looking forward to a quick return to Cork, where I am honoured to be the guest speaker at the SCSI Southern Region Annual Dinner, which takes place on Friday, November 23 next, in the Maryborough Hotel. Approximately 200 people are expected to attend the event, which is sponsored by Bank of Ireland. The last remaining tickets are available on

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