European Cleaning & Hygiene Awards 2017 winner - Jan-Hein Hemke

4 July 2018

Exactly what it is that makes an inspirational leader? A commitment to the success of the business is a given, however a true leader will also have other qualities that inspire the respect and loyalty of his team. The 2017 winner of the Inspirational Leader of the Year award was Jan-Hein Hemke, managing director of Facilicom Cleaning Services in the UK.

“Jan-Hein would be the first to say Facilicom’s achievements are not all due to his leadership, but he certainly sets the tone, and even his deflection of any praise tells you a lot about his leadership style.” That’s according to Jeroen van der Brugge, organisational development manager for Facilicom Group who nominated Hemke.

Facilicom Group was founded in the Netherlands and has a UK branch called Facilicom Cleaning Services. Hemke moved from his home in the Netherlands to head up the UK operation. Jeroen van der Brugge continued: “In the past year alone he has overseen a review of Facilicom’s operations to ensure that the client comes first – essential for a financially sustainable business that wants to attract and retain clients. This has meant introducing a policy of asking ‘why’ on a regular basis so colleagues are able to get to know their clients’ needs.

“Jan-Hein is not afraid to challenge, or be challenged, but also knows when to leave people to solve their own issues, offering the benefit of his experience, but not dictating solutions. There are not many in leadership positions with the confidence to do that.”

One of Hemke’s passions is to develop his colleagues across the group and he regularly acts as a mentor. And when major decisions are to be made he discusses them with his management team and encourages open feedback. “He is open, direct, and pushes everyone to get most out of each situation,” added van der Brugge.

And Hemke’s successful leadership is not only demonstrated through personal involvement with his team. In the year to April 2017 Facilicom Cleaning Services reported a growth of 17 per cent on the previous year and a doubling in net profit. He is a strong supporter of the Living Wage and takes part in the leadership group of the Living Wage Foundation. Sustainability is a key focus for him too, and he ensures the company assesses its performance on an annual basis. In fact Facilicom has neutralcarbonzone accreditation for all its head office operations and is a net carbon emitter.

How would Jan-Hein Hemke himself describe his style of leadership? “I would say my style is inclusive. I am Dutch so I come from a different culture to that where I work in the UK. In the Netherlands management is based around consensus. What I found difficult to adjust to in the UK is that the managing director makes a decision and it is often not questioned. In the Netherlands we always ask ‘why has that decision been made?’

“Discussion on an equal basis is much more valuable. Of course the final decision is down to me but I always find discussion makes that decision stronger.”

Hemke believes his role has two key elements. “Firstly, my job is to paint the dot on the horizon – which is where we want to go. Then it is to enable my team to get there. And to develop them to the level where they want to go. I very much see myself as an enabler.”

He also believes he is responsible for taking care of the culture of the company, to set the tone of interaction with customers and with staff. And he feels he has been allowed the flexibility by HQ to stamp his own style of leadership on the UK operation. “I enjoy a great deal of freedom and there is real trust there.”

As Facilicom in the UK has grown and employed more people, one of the key challenges has been to maintain the ‘family’ culture which Hemke believes is so crucial to its success. “Distance does become an issue – by that I mean distance between the people – as we have more layers in terms of management etc.

“I really do not see any difference between me and any of my colleagues, at whatever level they are. I do understand, of course, that other people in the business may not always feel that way.”

Lisa Sheppard, Facilicom’s director of development concludes: “Jan Hein has always been honest, direct, interested and measured in his responses. In business he rarely fires from the hip, but takes the time to make a more rounded decision, and as such, leads by example. When major decisions are to be made, he discusses with the management team and encourages open feedback.

Source: European Cleaning & Hygiene Journal July 2018