Showing that innovation comes in many forms, Anna Shipley, director of Gareth Shipley ACS tells UMi about the impact of introducing a coaching and mentoring culture to her family business.

What does your business do?

Gareth Shipley ACS was founded in October 2004. Initially, it was a franchise, with a head office in Bradford. Our family business has grown over 14 years, with the addition of new engineers and office management staff, including Gareth's daughter, Anna, and her partner, David. 

We cover all aspects of air conditioning including repairs, maintenance and new installs.

What innovative products, services, materials or processes do you have relevant to the construction sector?

After being offered a place on Construction Futures Wales and Cardiff Metropolitan's business management course, director  Anna Shipley was introduced to coaching and mentoring.

Anna later took this further and gained a Level 5 qualification in Coaching in the Workplace. After her studies, she introduced ACS to a coaching culture. The aim is to direct all staff members to a common goal, assist with making decisions together and help members of staff feel confident to learn and try new methods of working.

Mentoring within an organisation also ensures that well-learnt skills are not lost in time, and through being mentored by more experienced staff members, it also helps build a better relationship between trainees and our experienced workforce.

Dan Ariely on his Ted Talks video, ‘What makes us feel good about our work’, says we need to make the ‘fruits of our labour meaningful’ so that people see meaning in their work. Seeing the whole process of the job from start to finish is more rewarding overall than just being involved in a small part of it. It was considered that motivation was rewarded by payment, but now there are many more factors to consider such as meaning, creation, challenge, ownership, identity and pride.

What difference does innovating make to your business?

We have already noticed that employees who feel valued, wanted and encouraged makes for a much better, healthier environment. Much less time has been spent managing people, already less late-night working, playing catch up, which is a great benefit.

How do you manage innovation; how do you encourage staff to innovate in their jobs?

ACS took coaching and mentoring as a way of life and integrated it into our working approach. The engineers can generally have several toolbox chats over the working day. They blended this in, working together and supporting each other through a coaching and mentoring approach rather than a dictator style management approach.

A new approach was to start a work Whatsapp group. Using this, they share jokes, information, updates where they are up to on jobs, advice and quirks. They have found this has helped greatly with the coaching and mentoring process, allowing a supportive environment in a very relaxed and informal way.

How do you encourage innovation in your supply chain, or in those that you partner with?

ACS like to work with companies who share the same values.

What is the most interesting/innovative contract or development you have been involved in?

ACS worked on a refurbishment project at Ruthin Castle Hotel. This was unlike anything we had ever done before and brought some extreme challenges; not only the thick walls but figuring out how do you put air conditioning in a medieval dining hall?

What has been your biggest challenge with embedding a culture of innovation?

Initially, it was a challenge for Gareth to step back from attending every job on every site and be able to leave the staff to work in the knowledge that they could come to him if wanted.

What advice would you give to other businesses looking to increase their innovation?

Embrace it. We would suggest people discuss with staff what they need to do their jobs better and see what is out there; sometimes it needs tweaking or you find the basis for something bigger and better.

What are your plans for the next 2-5 years?

ACS recently starting looking at a succession plan, which will see Gareth retire with Anna taking over the business. A woman in charge of an air conditioning business… so watch this space.

Related campaign: 

Construction Wales Innovation Index is a major initiative to identify some of Wales' most innovative companies across the construction and built environment sector, looking particularly at the supply chain to highlight the depth of the sector and its relevance to the future economic prosperity of the sector in Wales. 

The campaign will showcase nominated companies through inspiring content via a digital campaign and a series of events and debates shining the spotlight on Wales' most purpose driven construction companies and their businesses.

For more info visit

Neina Sheldon
Article by Neina Sheldon
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