Services & Solutions

Why Gibbs Hybrid Is Special

"Gibbs is one of the most client-focused companies I have met. They are passionate about high-quality delivery, very determined and extremely hard working. They have built an incredible network!" - CEO Barclays

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Why the One-Stop Shop?

In today’s world, everyone wants to acquire everything under one roof… Amazon is a great example! Or Sky is another! Why get a telephone line with BT when Sky can offer a suite of solutions under one roof – internet, telephone, broadband, entertainment channels? Why do so many people love going to shopping malls? Because they can buy their goods, get some food and park their car all under one roof. Why do so many people like shopping in the larger supermarkets? Because they can get their groceries, grab a new kettle and purchase some clothes. Again, all under one roof. Life is moving towards convenience. Our shopping habits are changing.

We are a “one-stop shop” for any client who needs help with finding talent, or for anyone who wants to have a supplier build a team and run a project, and finally, for anyone who wants to outsource an administrative function.
Is this what we really do? Of course it is!

Gibbs Hybrid offers a “one-stop shop” solution across Talent Solutions, Managed Solutions and Outsourced Solutions that drive customer success.

The CEO Blog

The waning decades of the last century were the heydays of the conglomerates – IT&T, WR Grace, General Electric among others. Investor Christer Cardell now says, “I think it’s the end of conglomerates. Those classic conglomerates are falling apart. It’s an old-fashioned structure that is getting increasingly difficult to manage.” It never made much sense to have, for example, brewing, shipping and asbestos under one roof. Management consultant Tom Peters exhorted companies to ‘stick to the knitting’, and the era of diversification was upon us.

So the question now is, what’s the “knitting” Peters refers to? Companies define it differently, the broader definition allowing for a more intelligent strategy – Ford Motor Company, for example, defines itself as an automotive and mobility leader. This allows it to be not just in cars, but in driverless taxis, dashboard software, road technology, sustainable fuels, and so on. BT has gone way beyond plain old telephone service (POTS), and now offers customers broadband, tv, mobile communications and even, if you insist, landlines. Why? Because customers want the convenience of the one-stop.
Banks offer many value-added services on top of looking after your money. Travel insurance, mortgages, shopping discount packages, pension advice – it’s all there. They can do this not just because they have significant buying power and can offer benefits, but because people by and large trust banks with their assets and loyalty. While a customer may buy milk and Mars bars at the corner shop, it’s unlikely they would buy a pension plan at the same shop. They give the bank, however, permission to offer a wide range of finance-related products.

Inside our company, we have long discussed what our “knitting” is. We have different customers inside our client base – procurement, HR, finance, strategy, C-suite, among others. They would seem to have extremely varied requirements, infrastructures and timelines – and they do! We have managed payroll for multinationals, project-managed software architects and developers for government departments, set up an IT operation in Central Eastern Europe, developed a know-your-customer financial services practice in Luxembourg, and much, much more.

We have come to this – our “knitting” is not just the opportunity for clients to buy a single-source one-stop shop with Consultancy, Talent and Outsourced solutions, although that is what we do. While we believe this is a unique offering, and as a 13-year-old company with 29% year on year growth, it’s fair to say that it’s working for us, I think it’s more than that.

Companies today listen very carefully to their customers, especially if they are business-to-consumer. They respond to their customers’ aspirations and goals, sometimes leading, sometimes following. Doc Searls wrote the book on this, called the Cluetrain Manifesto. One of Searl’s sayings was that companies are conversations. They are porous and reflect their environment. So as their customers buy fair-trade coffee, free-range eggs and sustainable wood products, so too these companies are looking for vendors that reflect their values.

Vendors that think beyond the bottom line, that are relationship-driven rather than transactional. Vendors that demonstrate that they truly have a corporate social responsibility – not just write glossy brochures about it. Vendors that extoll diversity, encourage an inclusive workforce and celebrate difference.

Is it more complicated for large corporations to live in the world now? Yes, but engagement always wins over isolation, and the outcome is always better. Their encouragement of a more diverse supplier base gives opportunities to companies like ours and many others. It empowers us to raise our game, operate at the highest level, and treat every client opportunity as if it were our first.

That’s our knitting, and we’re proud of it.

The Power of the One-Stop Shop

Over the break, I’ve been thinking about how some companies like to showcase their ability to deliver to specification, on time and within budget. But surely, these are ‘givens’? What about additional measures such as ‘harmony’, ‘delight’ and, yes, even ‘love’; aren’t these the kind of things that inspire loyalty and trigger favourable recommendations?

My company prides itself on its relationships with its clients – understanding their needs and tailoring our responses precisely to them. That’s the harmony element. We also deliver and go the extra mile, plus a bit more, to make sure they’re delighted with our services. In fact, we strive hard to make them love us, so that they spread the good word. An internal recommendation to another divisional head is probably the most powerful way of expanding our business. It’s priceless. We like to think of this as cross-buying rather than cross-selling. And it’s been working for the past 13 years.

Okay, we may appear to be a bit altruistic, but we base our approach on common sense. We are unusual in that we embed, in a single company, three lines of business which clients normally source separately, along with the administrative headaches that go with such an approach. Why go to one company for contingency staff, another for outsourcing work and a third for ‘Statement of Work’ based tech projects or programmes when you can get all three, of at least the same quality, from a single organisation? You can perhaps see where the ‘Hybrid’ part of our name comes from.

As, as sometimes happens, a client’s needs change – a headcount freeze in the middle of a project for example – a one-source company like ours can rearrange matters so that we can move from headcount to programme deliverables on a fixed price to complete the work suddenly threatened by such a policy change.

We are lucky that we are a privately-owned business. Our staff aren’t bound by red tape or the demands of shareholders to maximise their billable hours (and their billing rates). It means that our employees are flexible and can respond quickly to changing circumstances, doing what’s right rather than looking over their shoulders all the time. We encourage original thinking, innovation and agility as part of our culture. The talent we put in to fulfil a contract is exactly the same quality as that discussed during the initial negotiation. We do not subscribe to the “A-team to sell and B-team to deliver” principle, which seems to be quite common in so many walks of life.

Our story has appealed to several types of C-level executives, especially the Chief Procurement Officer, The Chief Financial Officer and the Chief Technology Officer. They each have their reasons. The CPO thinks, “We have too many suppliers – it’s great to have a supplier that has multiple lines.” The CFO thinks, “We save money this way and, furthermore, the more we buy, the greater the discounts.” And the CTO thinks, “This helps my consolidation and rationalisation. I get multiple services under one roof, and I get a good price.” Our model might be disruptive in that it challenges traditional perceptions about company specialisations. But, in its way, is this so different from a bank offering insurance and pension services, for example? After all, we have come to accept this as normal.

Our company serves some of the world’s largest organisations. And they keep coming back for the above reasons. And also, to paraphrase a line from an old Al Jolson song, “we made them love us.” It’s what we do, and we’re proud to be that kind of company, working in a spirit of true partnership and harmony with our clients.

David, Goliath and Me

In his book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants, Malcolm Gladwell sets out to readdress the myth of David’s invincibility. It was not just David’s aim, says Gladwell, but the lumbering giant’s weakness that settled the issue. Goliath was slow, clumsy and probably half-blind. And he was a large target for a foot soldier like David, with his trusty slingshot. So it is with small and medium-sized businesses like mine. We must use all our skills to outwit our larger, more powerful competitors. But, although there are many exceptions, they can be slow to respond, tone-deaf in their approach to problem-solving and top-heavy, like poor old Goliath.

In the marketplace, I find that we attract like-minded clients, of all sizes. Corporations are looking for new ways to compete and operate in an environment that is, to put it mildly, dynamic. Many of the larger ones struggle with legacies – legacy software, legacy structures and legacy business methods. All of the strategies that served them well for years or even decades are now under scrutiny. Slowly in some cases, radically in others, sacred cows are being jettisoned.

This creates an opportunity for SMEs. The best of them combine cutting-edge technologies with the type of customer-obsessed business practices that most larger competitors simply can’t match. We treat each client as if it was our only one, and we mould our practices and pace to that client – some move quickly, others are more deliberate, some will take zero financial risks, others are willing to shoulder more risk in return for a lower price.

Working with SMEs has another benefit – the CEO is not some faceless person in a far off ‘corporate office’ – it’s me! I – and all the other CEOs of small and growing businesses – care deeply and profoundly about the people who work for me and the companies who have chosen to trust me with their business. This kind of authenticity and connection can’t be faked. We don’t operate like a conveyor belt, shuffling through people and clients like so many packages; we treat each client, each staff member, as an individual. The client has access to the top decision maker always, not some corporate VP: I respond, I empower decisions, I facilitate. Because in the end, while we don’t want to be the biggest company to serve our industry, we want to be respected and valued for what we do. What corporate vice-president could say that?

How Core Values Benefit a Business - Regardless of its Size

Core values are becoming increasingly important to companies because potential employees are seeking their next role with organisations that have core values that resonate with them. But how many companies out there really do know and uphold their core values?

For me, core values are things you feel – not something you make up or pluck out of the air. They support the vision of a business and shape its culture – essentially, they are your identity. I have noted that a lot of organisations tend to look at competencies rather than core values – a company cannot run on competencies alone. Furthermore, your values are your shop front for potential clients and employees as well as being an internal motivator for everyone.

When I set up Gibbs Hybrid over a decade ago, I wanted to establish some core values that would hold true no matter how much time and water passed under the proverbial bridge. Remember – they are not a fashion statement – they need to be embraced and lived and worked by. Indeed, I already knew what our core values at Gibbs would be, because I was raised by them. My parents said that if I lived by certain principles, I would grow up to be a good person and that appealed to me more than anything. I set up Gibbs because I was tired of the lack of respect and decency within our industry and wanted to build relationships with the people I dealt with.

Respect has always been the biggest thing for me –I was brought up with respect, and I applied it to my life and my work.

Because I set up my company on my own, I had to think about what really mattered to me. I thought about my previous places of employment and what had worked or not in terms of culture. I spent time thinking about who I am and what I care about and the service I wanted to offer my customers. I knew, for example, that the core values I set for the company would help me in my decision-making processes. Customer always first is one of our six core values – it means that we are always there for them, innovating new ways to help them succeed in their own businesses and going above and beyond what is normal good customer service.

When I hire people, I look at whether they will embrace the core values first and foremost – more so than their competencies. They can be taught new skills, but a person’s values are fundamental to who they are and whether they will be a natural fit for our business. I look at whether they will take that on board and embrace it. After all, we are a people-based company, and as such, we want to be the most respected one out there.

Aside from helping me to employ the right people, our core values help us to educate our clients and potential customers about what we do and what we care about. I believe that every single company we work with mirrors our values, which makes for a much smoother working passage. Indeed, I would feel uncomfortable in contemplating a working partnership with an organisation if their values were far removed from our own.

I passionately believe that our core values are our primary recruitment tools and the main reason we attract and retain the very best talent. Business is increasingly cut-throat, but I am a human being with flaws and emotions – I treat my team as part of my family. We all pull in the same direction, which makes us invincible.

Furthermore, job seekers are doing their homework. Before applying for a role, they will check you out on Glassdoor et al. and if you don’t have good values or treat your staff badly, you will find it hard to get the right people to come and work for you.

Core values should stand the test of time – through periods of shrinkage and growth. Benefits are also not the same as values – perks are nice, but they aren’t the glue that will keep you all together in times of turbulence.

My nugget of advice for what it’s worth is to set up a committee – a handful of people who really get your business and you – the CEO. They need that inner fire and passion for your company, and that input can come from anyone regardless of their seniority.

The biggest test for your chosen core values is this: you clambered into your time machine and whizzed forward 100 years, would those values still hold water? If you can honestly say they do, then you have them nailed.

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