The Textile Services Association 2016 National Conference at the Dalmahoy Hotel & Country Club, Edinburgh, kicked off with a  good humoured opening speech by David Stevens, now CEO of NewGen Business Services, late of  Paragon (which was recently taken into the Clean stable), who wryly stated we can look forward to more and more consolidation of the laundry business adding that this process “is unstoppable”.

Having got that off his chest he welcomed the TSA’s new CEO, Dr Phillip Wright whom, he said, is challenging the board already after just a few months in post. “He is going to have a big impact on how we run the Association,” he said. Stevens went on to pay tribute to Roger Salmon who had stepped in from his retirement to keep the Association on course after the tragic death of CEO Murray Simpson. He also praised the work of long-time TSA office manager Beverley and welcomed members of the new team – Roseanne and Shyju, and suggested Gillian Farrar, TSA membership services manager and deputy CEO, who has been with TSA for three years, should receive a long service medal.

Stevens thanked sponsors and suppliers and told delegates, “this is your conference, your inspiration,” before hitting the audience with this pronouncement: “£97 million –6.9% gdp:  this is what domestic washing looks like translated into business terms.” He also stated that hospitality accounts have accounted for a big upturn in business and the subsequent hiring of 300,000 workers.  Concluding his speech with the news that TSA will be holding a textile management course on 12-17 March 2017, Stevens introduced the speakers and left the podium to applause.

Watch out for deviants and psychos

Management delegates were treated to a double dose of motivational encouragement from two business coaches. First up was leadership consultant Rachel Lambert of StudyFlex, whose subject was “What makes a great leader?” She led the audience through a lesson in recognising that only one in five managers actually have managerial qualifications but they get to be good at it; that there are also “accidental leaders” who have become good ones; and that valuing people, the greatest resource of any business, is the best policy of all. She also talked about the value and effect of “emotional intelligence” and categorised strategy – the curse of many a good business – as often being “what you aren’t going to do more than what you do”. She also assured managers there is no need for coercion – compelling leaders have compelling reasons for what they do and it is not always pounds and profit – but vision.”

Next up was speaker, facilitator and author Kate Atkin who came from another angle, asking “Confidence is key – or is it?”. She posited that what most CEO’s are afraid of is being found to be incompetent, a condition she terms “imposter syndrome”. However, it turned out this is a phase many people go through before the courage that brings the confidence comes. She also warned that many leaders – on different levels of a business – could well be “psychotic” or “deviant’ but that his was not always a bad thing, even in some instances positive. She did  however, laughingly, comment that “you don’t need to be a psycho to be a leader,  but if you are it is probably best to keep that side under control”.

Inspirational pair

If anybody lacked inspiration by the time canoeists Etienne Stott and Tim Baille took to the podium, they certainly had plenty to of opportunity to be fired up by this pair.

The Olympic athletes slalomed their way to victory in the 2012 London Olympics after a series of setbacks that would have sank lesser men.

The athletes powered their way to victory in that memorable Olympics through their sheer grit and determination. Being a first rate partnership, working seamlessly together helped, too.

The main event

What conference delegates were really keen to hear about was how the TSA is going to help them and support their businesses going forward. New CEO Dr Phillip Wright told delegates about his vision going forward.

■  What would you have the TSA start to do that we don’t already?

■  What must we continue to do that we already do?

■  What should we stop doing?

“One thing we are investing in over the next six months is a Membership Management System (the equivalent of a sales CRM but with specific functionality targeted to support membership organisations), “which will transform our ability to engage with members,” he said.

Continuing the bi-annual meetings of the Special Interest Groups (SIG) – Hospitality, Healthcare, Workwear, Retail – is a priority for members, Wright said, which are essential to the way the TSA identifies priorities in the various markets. He also promised knowledge networks in those sectors – technical standards, health & safety, logistics and HR, education, training.

Wright also identified three areas for action support for education and training; engaging across the supply chain.

Wright then spoke of his perusal of Hansard, the parliamentary record of debates and speeches in the House, he could not find one instance of textile service affairs recorded.“Our industry faces a number of pressures, not least the possible impact of Brexit on mobility of workers, and unless we, as an organisation, have a profile we will have little chance to influence the debate directly or even indirectly.

“We are hoping to have a stand in Parliament in 2017 conveying the importance of the sector to the UK economy, some positive case studies and highlighting some of the key issues that we face. We will also explore how we engage with the Scottish Parliament and Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies. “Indeed, we have some very positive messages to convey, not least: the diversity of the sectors we support that are at the core of the UK economy; support for a trailblazer apprenticeship scheme; the numbers of items that you process in your plants and real improvements to plant efficiency in terms of energy and water use and responsible sourcing.”

Consolidation of businesses has resulted in a shakeup in the way membership fees are calculated and changes should also attract small retail unit membership. He concluded by summing up the TSA’s immediate priorities:

■  Develop the new networks and identify appropriate company contacts t

■  Sustain the SIG programme

■  Raise profile and influence externally

■  Develop an education and training framework working with partners to deliver

■  Develop programme to deliver SIG priorities

■  Improve our reporting to membership

■  Annual report from end of 2017