Training For Success – Ian Kirke speaks to The Grocery Trader

ian-kirke-picIn these nervous economic times, how resilient is your business to combat the significant increases in fraud, theft and violent assaults against your staff? Furthermore, companies may have detailed policies to combat external or internal threats but in reality how good are they, and how can you test their effectiveness?

Training For Success (TFS) has established an enviable track record in providing significant ROI for leading retail clients. Primary solutions engage with reducing shrink from both external and internal threats. The former has seen the establishment of the industry leading Personal Safety programme that equips staff with the requisite skills to effectively thwart the risk of organised shoplifters and troublesome persistent offenders whilst the latter hazard, that of internal fraud and theft, is confronted with the renowned internal investigations course. One leading UK retailer recently attributed a year on year saving of £2.2M in shrinkage reduction to the TFS management programme.

TFS has created a range of sophisticated techniques and software to help business leaders manage these fast moving events realistically and in real time. Launched in 1997, TFS works with leading organisations to minimise exposure, providing a range of training courses and consultancy services to help companies and their workforces deal effectively with threats and risks to their business. TFS’ impressive client list includes major supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Wilkinson and Morrisons, the security firm G4S, OFCOM, Sony, O2, central government, local councils and the International Bureau of Aviation.

TFS has also has strong links with the Institute of Criminal Justice Studies at the University of Portsmouth, allowing the latest research to be incorporated into their Critical Incident Workshops. TFS Managing Director Ian Kirke spoke to The Grocery Trader.

The Grocery Trader – Who were the founders of Training For Success? What were their backgrounds?

The Principle Directors of Training for Success are me and my business partner Rob McHarg. We were both previously police officers.

GT – How did you come to set up Training for Success?

Our police backgrounds helped considerably. For example, Rob spent some significant time working in the main town centre focusing on retail and commercial crime. During this period he became aware that in the vast majority of the crime incidents, which included shoplifting, robbery, burglary, assaults, fraud and internal theft, the victims had little or no training in how to deal with the range of challenging and often violent situations they faced in the workplace, often on a daily basis. Discussions with many retail managers, pub/club managers and business owners who had been victims of crime regularly raised their concerns over the lack of training they had received from their companies in dealing with internal and external threats and the limited assistance they were able to get from the police.

GT – So what did you do next?

dreamstime_3857432-trainingDuring the late 1990’s, the Police introduced the ‘Business Interests for Police Officers’ scheme that allowed serving officers to pursue commercial interests, subject to strict guidelines. Rob and I started to offer training in dealing with crime and various threats, initially on a part time basis, before the volume of companies requiring our support demonstrated the need and potential for a full-time business solution.

GT – Do you have any legal qualifications?

I have a qualifying Law Degree, a Masters in Criminology and Criminal Psychology and am presently studying for a PhD in Criminal Justice. All of the TFS team have training qualifications and specialised awards.

GT – As Managing Director, what’s your day to day role in the business? Do you get personally involved with training for clients?

Managing the growth across the UK and internationally is my primary focus, albeit I do get involved in the delivery process during the creation of new business opportunities.

GT – Where is your head office?

We’re based in Egham, Surrey, near southern England’s largest industrial estate and London’s Heathrow Airport.

GT – How big is Training For Success in terms of total staff?

We have a main office compliment of 7 and over 40 field staff.

GT – What different sectors are your clients in?

Our clients are in a diverse range of areas – retail, finance and banking, public bodies, central government, education and petrochemical. We train people in how to deal with crises at the earliest possible stage. It’s not overdramatic to say that these days your business is at risk of attack from all sides and if you wait until after the event, your corporate survival may be in question.

GT – In which areas is your business growing the fastest? Why do you think this is?

Our online products have seen an incredible growth rate. I suspect that this provision has met the requirements of flexibility and value for money. For example meeting the needs of customer-facing staff has been a persistent and thorny issue for many retailers, since churn and periods of time away from the shop floor are key commercial drivers, albeit collectively this group represent the most vulnerable side of any business. TFS has worked with the retail sector to provide a wholly flexible online solution that elegantly bridges this gap with a highly cost effective product.

The membership only portal for loss prevention professionals and heads of corporate security provides an intelligence led forum utilising material supplied by current informants. This group is managed in line with ACPO best practice and is fronted by ex-offenders in the form of short downloadable video clips covering a number of elements including, for example, credit card fraud, shoplifting scams and robbery. Credible presentations in short chunks, purposely modelled around the social networking genre, is coupled with clear examples of current and cyclical scams that can be actively used by staff to identify clear and safe deterrents.

GT – What different training courses do you offer?

tfs-logoWe offer a number of traditional classroom courses that can be run in-house along with a variety of blended learning solutions, including distance learning products. Our customer approach focuses upon the primary learning outcomes, culture and budgetary considerations to provide the most effective ROI. Many of our programmes are accredited by leading educational and sector bodies including, for example, Skills for Security. In addition the online portal allows access for all corporations from the level 3 corner store right through to the level 1 superstores.

GT – What kind of consultancy services do you offer?

Alongside our primary stable of learning programmes, our consultancy offerings include managing protestor activity; dealing with major incidents, including white powder incidents and post handling; surveillance techniques; the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000; the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and The Environmental Information Regulations 2004; Defensive Driving; Corporate Manslaughter; Mediation; Business Security Reviews and Corporate Risk Assessments.

GT – How do you get on with the police and the other emergency services? What professional standards do you work to as a company?

We have worked with a number of criminal justice systems across the globe and individual police services. Domestically we have a strong relationship with The Met and a number of leading provincial forces, especially in the online delivery of the Home Office-backed Community Safety Accreditation Scheme. Internationally we have worked alongside the Garda Síochána and agencies across Europe and Asia. In terms of professional standards we are proud of our partnership with the sector skills body Skills for Security and the renowned Institute of Criminal Justice Studies at The University of Portsmouth, who maintain an international programme of criminal justice service delivery. We also employ a number of serving senior police officers to deliver our frontline programmes and consultancy offerings.

GT – What’s the general attitude among retailers to hands-on intervention with suspected thieves?

Recently the BRC, in conjunction with Skills for Security, the UK security industry skills body, released a briefing on Physical intervention in Retail. Traditionally retailers’ general policy is non-hands on, to avoid violence, and to call in the police, but there are occasions in some high profile areas where police intervention is difficult and it’s down to the retailer to do something. Although we support the general notion of a ‘hands-off’ approach and provide the leading one-day solution, we recognise that threat assessments may lead to the conclusion that physical intervention is an appropriate and wholly proportionate response. For example we’ve gone live with a training programme for Waitrose. Their position on ‘hands on’ is that it’s necessary on occasions when partners have to intervene, so we had to make sure their staff remain safe at all times.

GT – What measures did you recommend Waitrose to put in place?

We’ve provided them with a package and a robust workplace policy that fits the needs of the selected partners doing it to achieve a brisk, safe, ordered resolution, and the people involved have been very happy. We’re also talking to other retailers about security training programmes for their businesses.

GT – You also mention Sainsbury’s and Wilkinson in your client list. Can you tell us about what you have done for them? Do you publish case studies?

We have partnered Sainsbury’s for more than a decade now, providing their managers with two specific solutions, Personal Safety for Managers and Investigative Interviewing. Recently Sainsbury’s conducted an internal review that concluded that our provision was responsible for a saving of over £2.2M per year in terms of shrink. We have worked alongside Wilkinson to provide a nationwide security and risk programme for their in-house guarding function. This has proved so successful that the client has now made it available to their operational managers. We regularly update our website with case studies too.

GT – How high is all this on retailers’ lists of priorities? Do they view security and rapid response to incidents as an important part of their Corporate Social Responsibility programme?

We have developed a close and productive relationship with all of our clients. Organisations that choose to turn the other cheek in terms of failing to address the needs of the security function leave themselves exposed to significant risk. I would advise all board members to familiarise themselves with the content of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.

GT – Do you carry out full-scale crisis exercises for clients? Do you supply consultants to help with actual crises when they arise? In the retail sector, food manufacturing and supply chain, what kinds of experience have your people got?

In short – yes we do! In terms of experience the delivery team includes John Jones, Director, Centre for Critical Event Learning and Leadership at The Institute of Criminal Justice Studies, The University of Portsmouth, Mervyn Edwards (a vastly experienced Silver Commander, having commanded a number of high profile national events, including the policing of the Newbury Bypass) and myself as an experienced Bronze Commander. Examples of crisis management exercises include Tiger Kidnap, Protestor Activity and Bomb threats.

GT – Many people reading this article will have in-house security training measures in place. If they decide to call you in, what’s involved with one of your Business Security Reviews and Corporate Risk Assessments?

As in all cases of an initial contact we would value the opportunity to talk through confidentially some of the key issues before reviewing the need to meet up for an informal discussion. A full risk assessment would usually ensue with time spent with the client with one of our experienced team with a view to producing a thorough written review. This process provides a solid platform for the production of efficient and legally compliant policies.

GT – You’ve also developed a new product for frontline staff, which I understand is based on social media. Can you tell us about that?

As previously mentioned we have a bank of downloadable ‘Youtube’ style clips of ex-offenders giving us the inside track on what they used to get up to and how to deal with it. It’s a very cost effective online product to brief frontline staff about scams and helps formulate strategies such as simple tactics like meet and greet stops for shoppers, which tell likely shoplifters we’ve seen them and will put most of them off.

GT – What kind of results can people expect from your services?

By working with us and developing strategies to prevent stock loss from shoplifting and internal threats clients can recognise a significant and timely ROI, as I mentioned earlier Sainsbury’s have saved £2.2m in losses. At a recent employment tribunal in Leeds, the officials told Sainsbury’s it was a breath of fresh air to hear about the kinds of measures we advocate. Our personal safety strategies significantly reduce the likelihood of staff being injured by increasing confidence and practical skills. Equally the potential of retailers being sued if members of the public or staff get injured in an incident is greatly reduced.

GT – Have you won any awards for excellence from your peers?

We have won a number of national titles, albeit the one I am most proud of was the recent award by Skills for Security for outstanding skills development partnership for our work with G4S in providing a national training course for their staff to equip them to deal with violent robbery situations.

GT – Given the recent student protests about tuition fees that turned into riots with damage to property and the current climate of unrest generally, what’s your advice to retailers when they hear there’s going to be a demonstration in their area?

Share this intelligence immediately with the local police, in order that the threat level can be assessed correctly. The police in the UK are, in my opinion, the best at dealing with public disorder, and early communication can often determine the most appropriate response. In terms of companies being targeted by extremists, for example, we offer a comprehensive service in threat reduction and removal of trespassers by highly skilled and experienced personnel.

GT – What do you regard as the most significant external factors that are affecting demand for your services? Is the recession to blame, or are we living in a more dangerous and threatening age?

Ask me a more difficult question, why don’t you! I think it’s nearer the truth to say many organisations simply take their eye off the ball. Security is often considered as the ‘dark side’ and is only engaged with when things go wrong, when in fact it should be a golden thread that runs throughout each business function. Cost effective training and target hardening techniques are available and should be ever present on the corporate agenda. As a wise sage once said to me, “The time to learn to dance is not the day of the ball.”

GT – How much more capacity have you got for growth? Where do you see Training For Success going from here?

Our medium term goal is to be the leading one-stop shop for all matters of risk and security. Why bundle up your security needs with a desperate band of providers, when a client can access a completely joined up method of risk aversion and staff safety?

Training For Success

Tel: 0870 114 9999

www.tfsuccess.com