Meet the Groundsure team at the LFS Conference & Awards
Malcolm Smith is Commercial Director at Groundsure and one of the organisers and sponsors of this year’s Law Firm Services (LFS) Conference and Awards, taking place on Thursday September 17th at the MK Stadium in Milton Keynes. He told Jane Common at Today’s Conveyancer why it’s such a positive event – and fulfils his love of chatting to customers!
How long has Groundsure been sponsoring the LFS Conference and Awards?
“This year will be our third as the main sponsors of the LFS Awards, but since its inception we’ve been attending the conference as exhibitors, hosting guests at the awards dinner and supporting the charity work too.”
What are the advantages of sponsorship for Groundsure?
“Visibility in the market – the event is one of the largest and most successful gatherings of our target audience in the industry so there are a number of solicitors who attend, especially from well-known and influential law firms, including some of our channel partners. Richard Mathias is one of our channel partners so by being involved with the event we’re supporting him and being part of a good news story – after all, the awards are a celebration of our customers’ work. The event also provides a good forum to showcase Groundsure as a business – people can put faces to names and meet the outstanding people behind our business.”
Are you one of the key people at Groundsure involved with the conference?
“Yes, I suppose I am – the decision to support it and the funding comes from my budget. All joking aside though, the key people from Groundsure who support the event includes our MD, Dan Montagnani, who will be hosting the awards ceremony, and our Head of Channel, Gary Miller. Gary will be presenting at the conference and will provide attendees with detail around why considering all the facts and information can be so vital to the products we provide to solicitors and he will also provide an update on what’s happening at Groundsure. On the day, my role will be mingling and chatting to as many of the influential people as I can – these people are vital to the success of our business. One of the big things that marks Groundsure out as different to our competitors is that our management team are very visible. So as much as Dan and I lead the business we’re always attending events and conferences to help support and drive the industry forward. It’s critical to get out there and talk to people!”
Apparently there’s a 50% increase in entrants this year – why do you think that is?
“It’s increased every year and this year is no different. I believe it’s testament to not only the success of the informative conference during the day, but also to the pride people take in entering and winning the awards.
“When the LFS Conference first started it was small and had many rival events in the same sector to compete against but soon many of those events disappeared and now the success of LFS is evident from looking at the space required to host such a great day – we have large halls, a dance floor, music, loads of hosted tables, more attendees and more award entries. Law firms tend to have senior members of staff at the conference getting the lowdown on what’s going on in the industry and then host tables for their clients or staff for the awards dinner – and if they’re lucky they might walk away with one of the awards. Onwards and upwards – long may the event’s success continue!”
How long have you been with Groundsure?
“I’ve been with the business since 2007 but I’ve worked closely with Groundsure since 2004 in various other guises in the industry. When I was head hunted by the executives at Groundsure in 2007 it was transitioning from being a family-operated business to being bought by Emap – now Top Right Group. That change from a family-run business to a more corporate animal is quite a big step for any business – and it happened right at the time when the recession hit so that made things entertaining. Interesting times – we basically started with a blank piece of paper and built the business up with key staff and key customers. That’s the reason we successfully grew through the recession and became one of the fastest growing businesses for Top Right Group.”
What’s your ethos when dealing with customers?
“Everybody in my teams – in fact make that the whole business – is equal. We don’t have a hierarchical approach to things – ‘I do this and you do that’ and ‘I won’t touch this because it’s not my responsibility’. I bend over backward for customers in exactly the same way as the rest of the people at Groundsure and I believe that engenders a high level of respect between us – I don’t ask anybody to do something I wouldn’t do myself. This creates a good synergy in the team and great relationship with customers. I know it’s easy to say that we live and breathe customers but there’s a difference between saying it and doing it – and we’re definitely a business that does it.”
And is that an ethos you brought with you when you joined in 2007?
“Yes, you have to truly believe in something to ever commit all your effort to it. Many of the senior management team including Dan Montagnani, Stuart Telfer and I have always worked very closely together and we share the same ethos. Everyone experienced tough times during the recession and as a team we all had to knuckle down and get our hands dirty. Speak to any of the Groundsure staff and they’ll say they’ve never seen managers so closely involved with the nuts and bolts and day-to-day running of the company. We really support our teams and I believe that’s vital when you want to put customers first and lead with great products.”
What do you enjoy about your role at Groundsure?
“Relationships – I will never stop over-delivering for our clients. I love getting out there and seeing the people we support. The business knows: ‘Don’t put Malcolm in the office all the time – he’ll go bonkers!’ and it’s true.
“And I relish problem solving – it makes things exciting. A customer will contact me with something they perceive as a catastrophe but I’ll view it as a challenge – a way to exercise the skills and experience I have gained – and find a way to an agreed solution. I always have high expectations of my team and I expect the same from them – I want to see solutions, not problems.”
Are your team good?
“Well they have won the prestigious title of global sales team of the year at the Top Right Group awards on two occasions so yes – they’re awesome, so good, in fact, that they’re constantly being headhunted or going off and starting their own businesses. Some have even been poached by our customers, which makes things interesting! But I’m proud of them all and want the best for their careers.”
What about your future at Groundsure?
“I have been here for a long time, but my job is far from done at Groundsure – Rome wasn’t built in a day and I still have a lot to offer the business. These are challenging and changing times when you consider the Land Registry’s plans in the future; politics around open data; case management solutions like Veyo and Free 2 Convey entering the market; and our competitors trying to own the vertical space of the house buying and selling process. Then there’s the area that possibly excites me most and that’s the data assets and information side of our business.
“We currently hold a small share of that space so there are significant opportunities for growth, which I hope to influence and develop. One thing is for sure – in all our markets we are listening, innovating and are most definitely going to deliver. So be prepared!”