270 tube stations & 6 lessons in corporate values
On October 15th, our company celebrated its annual Values Day which also coincided with World Values Day. It inspired me to create this piece as, particularly in times like these, our values become our guiding light and are more important than ever. Values Day is a day when we get to celebrate putting our values into action in everything we do, in order to change the world for the better. Each year, our employees typically nominate their colleagues for Values Heroes awards which shine a light on those who, through their actions, perfectly epitomise the corporate values of the organisation.
One such colleague is Richard McChesney, Senior Technology Implementation Consultant at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting UK, and also a veteran race walker who recently put a dream of his into action. In early September 2020, Richard set out to see if he could walk to all 270 London tube stations within five days, starting from Richmond station and covering a total of 325 miles. His journey was also an incredible feat taken for charity, raising approximately £2000 for Centrepoint to assist homeless youth.
What stood out to me was not just Richard’s courage in taking on this enormous feat (and sleeping rough for a great deal of it,) but also the parallels that both of us identified with our business. It struck me just how similar the pursuit of personal goals can be to our goal of serving the long-term interests of all our key stakeholders - customers, employees, investors, and society.
We are here to make sure we deliver deep impact when it matters most and contribute to shaping a better future for society at large. Our work helps to contribute to a safe and just society by providing deep insights and knowledge to professionals.
Here are a few things I learned through speaking to him:
Preparing for a long walk is the same as preparing for any project. If you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail. In business, it’s essential that we dedicate as much preparation to our projects and as we would for any personal feat; even if that’s a 325-mile, 5-day walk.
Utilise the best tools to achieve the best results:
When you put your customers at the heart of everything you do, you make an effort to understand their working landscape, and how your solution fits into it. It’s about learning from customers and providing solutions that best support them and measuring your own success through your ability to help advance customers’ work and their professions.
For Richard’s walk, his tools were his phone (using maps on his phone to navigate to each station via the most efficient route), and his head torch for night walking along unlit streets and trails.
Question everything and consider things from every point of view:
In Richard’s case, he was unaware that Greenwich foot tunnel was closed before getting there, despite being told it was open previously. This caused a significant detour of over six miles. It’s a great example that you should not rely on the information you are given without questioning it and double checking the facts. It’s an important lesson in truly understanding customer journeys as well: we need to make sure we understand each step of the journey and take the best information in discussion with customers in order to solve their pain points.
Expect some setbacks but focus on the end goal:
There is a great anecdote from Richard that illustrates this point beautifully: “I had intended to sleep rough as so many homeless people do night after night; people who my fundraising will help. But every time I tried; I was unable to get more than a few minutes sleep. By Sunday night, I had been walking for 85 hours (234 miles) and had to call it a day.
I went home and slept for 12 hours. When I woke, the thought of all the support and donations I had received inspired me to start again so I went back to Canada Water, where I had stopped the previous night and I continued my challenge.”
This is an amazing way to point out a simple lesson in any walk of business life. If it doesn’t quite go to plan, it’s time to regroup, recover, learn lessons and move on. Like Richard, you’ll be glad you did.
Set measurable milestones and celebrate them:
When Richard explained to me the importance of celebrating small milestones on a 325-mile walk, it made complete sense. In much the same way as he celebrated reaching his 100-mile milestone with a fizzy drink and chocolate bar, in business, we need to celebrate the granular moments, be it achieving better scores in customer service, or in a project, or achieving success on a new build. It’s a bit like the doctrine of marginal gains: small incremental improvements in any process will eventually add up to a significant improvement when they are all added together. It also helps teams to focus on what has been achieved, and not just what is yet to be achieved.
Make it better, aim high and deliver:
This aligns well with our corporate values, which is why Richard’s incredible efforts resonated with me so strongly. Richard demonstrated determination, and not just hard work, but smart work. He set clear goals on speed and quality, and did everything he could to reach them, also showing exceptional personal integrity along the way. These are the same high standards we set for ourselves in every project we’re involved in.
I’m pleased to reflect on Richard’s accomplishments and we’re fortunate to have colleagues such as Richard within our organisation. We should all remember that every time we do something, we have the opportunity to learn from the experience so that we can improve next time, whether that is providing better customer service, delivering projects more efficiently, or simply recognising that we have achieved what we set out to do. I hope that everyone has learned a little from his tremendous experience and fundraising efforts, and that his commitment to continuous improvement and innovation will inspire you to aim high and deliver and make it better in 2021.
Footnote: Richard’s original goal was to visit all 270 London tube stations on foot within five days. In the end, it took him 5 days, 20 hours, and 18 minutes but he completed his personal challenge, raising a significant sum for charity in the process.
Head of Customer Success at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting UK, Elaine has dedicated her career to improving customer service and experience in the enterprise. Prior to joining Wolters Kluwer, Elaine was Director of Professional Services at Experian Data Quality UK.