Lizzie Ward, the Managing Director at SAS Water Ltd, gives The Industry Leaders an eye-opening look into the importance of water safety in workplaces and what companies should be doing to maintain it.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
I didn’t start out in the industry, as my background is in teaching. However, my father set up Safe and Secure, a Legionella control company, in 1988. He’d worked in manufacturing and found it hard to get specialist water safety work done on-site.
I was keen to learn more about water safety in the workplace and business development, and I eventually took the reins around ten years ago. I’ve guided the company through a rebrand and grown the team of Legionella experts and commercial plumbers. My passion for education has certainly helped, as I’m passionate about raising awareness and educating people about water safety in the workplace.
What kind of work does your role involve?
I’m the managing director and I lead the team, ensuring customer satisfaction is the highest possible standard, and working hard on staff development and how we work. I’m always keen to develop my skills; I’m undergoing the MCIL Innovation Leadership Programme with the Keele University Business School.
What gets you excited about your industry?
I get immense satisfaction from raising the profile of water safety in the workplace. Compared to electrical, gas, or fire safety, it can be overlooked. Yet, there are around 500 confirmed cases of Legionnaire’s Disease solely in the UK each year, and it is widely said to be under-reported.
Ensuring that customer service is uppermost in the minds of our SAS Water team is a passion. We know Legionella bacteria isn’t uppermost in customers’ minds. Still, it must be mitigated against by law, and we can support them through putting into place testing regimes, training their staff and providing solutions.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
There are two fundamentals: always be truthful with your customers, and aspire to build the best team you can. These go hand in hand.
If you ensure you have a happy, well trained, competent workforce, this will shine through in ever greater service levels for your customers.
How do you support aspiring leaders in your field?
I’m passionate about leadership and education. I’m always, therefore, keen to get involved with industry initiatives. I’m an active member of the Legionella Control Association, a Chamber of Commerce member and an enthusiastic business networker.
We can learn so much from each other, and I am keen to support future business leaders where I can, realistically. I am at the early stage of that journey, and it is a role I’m eager to develop, particularly as I’m a female managing director in a typically male-dominated sector.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in your industry?
I’ve already written here about my passion for education, and, for me, this extends to all aspects of water safety in the workplace. Life-long learning is so important. I keep up to date with my industry colleagues through the Legionella Control Association and constantly seek out information from bodies such as the Health and Safety Executive, the Water Regulations Advisory Scheme, and bodies in other countries, such as the CDC in the US. Social media, such as LinkedIn, is now a fantastic resource for business information, and with SAS Water providing LCA registered training courses, I keep updated together with my team.
What was the most challenging project or situation you've overcome?
I came into the industry from a teaching background and quickly had to find my feet in a business that needed to change if it was to grow. This led to major challenges for me, as I had to work hard to gain trust and prove my worth to employees. The team dynamic is crucial to success, and I’ve worked hard to ensure we all pull together to provide the high levels of customer satisfaction we have today.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
Three things help define me and would be the focus of my efforts: my family, my business, and supporting the charity sector where I can, particularly Cancer Research UK. A substantial lottery win gives the gift of time and would allow me to support them all. We’ve built a strong team at SAS Water, and I’d want to ensure our workforce shared in the good fortune of a lottery win.
How do you define failure?
Failure should always be seen as a bump in the road on the way to business success. To succeed, we all have to try new things, and not every one of these will work out. As Robert F Kennedy said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can achieve greatly.”
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
We need to raise the profile of Legionnaire’s Disease and other waterborne bacteria in the workplace. Many people don’t know they are required by law to provide a Legionella risk assessment, have access to competent help and advice, and provide information and training to your staff. I believe that the Covid-19 pandemic has raised awareness of health threats in the workplace, and the water safety sector must build on that to ensure workplace water is safe.
What book or podcast should everyone know about?
Simon Sinek’s book and TED Talk, Start With Why, is thoughtful, inspiring and empowering. It gives focus on the crucial question of why customers return to your business again and again. We all work hard to ensure our companies have the right technology and processes in place. A fundamental question that must be considered is, why do people buy from one company and not another, and why do they keep coming back to you?
As Sinek says, “It goes without saying that Apple makes good tech and Nike make good shoes, but why do customers feel loyalty to them over other tech or shoe brands?”
How should people connect with you?
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