Every month Katy Gordon speaks to a Courier Country business person to learn what makes them tick. This month, she met Anne Smith of Keepsafe Storage Centres at the Malmaison in Dundee.
If I were to use one word to sum up my lunch with Keepsafe Storage Centres’ managing director, Anne Smith, it would be “evolve”. Whether she’s talking about herself, the members of her team or the business, that one word seems to be at the heart of everything she does.
“I truly believe that any good business has to keep changing and coming up with new ideas, otherwise they get left behind,” she explained as we enjoyed cool glasses of water on what would end up being the hottest day of the year so far. “Everyone can always improve and it’s important that we keep doing so – and everyone can have an idea that can help make the business better, so I’m always open to hearing their ideas and trying out the ones I think will work.”
Anne told me that recently Keepsafe and its parent company, Castlecroft Securities, had been working with Tickety Boo Training, a company in Dunblane, to offer staff management training, coaching and other skills needed to ensure the company’s future.
“Sometimes it’s great to have a third party come in and work with staff, because they can offer a different perspective on things.”
And Anne herself has done a great deal of evolving. She started with Castlecroft Securities as an office administrator 20 years ago, becoming office manager after five years. Then in 2007, she took on her current role as MD of the business, which includes Keepsafe Storage Centres, Scotloo and Scotbox.
As we tucked into our starters – I had the roast Heritage beetroots with endive, Feta and salted pecans, which were beautiful and tasty, while Anne opted for the crab with apple and cucumber (although a lack of crab in the kitchen meant it was served with lobster instead) and again it came impeccably served – I asked Anne about the team she has working for her.
“There are about 35 people across Castlecroft’s four businesses. I don’t tend to micro-manage – there is no point in me and a manager worrying about the same thing. And we have an average time with the company of around eight years, so many of the staff have grown with the business.”
Keepsafe, in particular, is a community player. Recently it signed a year-long sponsorship of Horsecross Arts and its Transform Perth Theatre project, and is also sponsoring a summer-long video game exhibition at Perth Museum & Art Gallery.
Anne is also looking for opportunities to expand.
“With KeepSafe, around 60 per cent of our business comes from small businesses looking for a place to keep stock or equipment. But whether it’s for that reason, or a house move or change in a person’s circumstances, there is always a requirement for self-storage.
“I would like to open more premises, including in Stirling, south Fife
For our main courses both Anne and I opted for burgers – the Mal burger for her and the chickpea and lentil burger for me, both of which were massive and extremely tasty – and she told me that during her time with Castlecroft she had tried not to be “too corporate”.
“We have an open door policy – we are all very approachable and people know who I am and where I am so they can speak to me at any time.
“I think that’s necessary, and particularly during the recession of 2008, when our commercial property renters were having difficulties, when we were flexible with rent payments and helped them downsize if they needed in order to help them survive in an extremely difficult time, it helped forge good relationships with clients.”
When I asked Anne to sum up the ethos she tries to instil in staff, she told me: “You spend more time at work than anywhere else so you better do something you enjoy.
“Always be willing to have a laugh but know when to get down to business.
“Always accept change if it is the right thing for the company.”
And from our highly enjoyable (and at times, hysterical) lunch, I can see that for Anne, those are strongly held and followed beliefs.