Well yes, actually I did.
Just before Christmas1999 I was at the CMHT’s offices on Rumour Hill in Cannock to discuss the progress of a brilliant joint housing initiative between the CMHT, Bromford, the local authority and the mental health charity NSF…..who I worked for. At the end of the meeting Ann Sutcliffe from Bromford leant across the table and asked me that question.
The 28th February 2000 was my first day at Bromford.
I’d had a fantastic time at NSF (now called Rethink) developing supported housing across Staffordshire but there was something missing. All the contact I’d had with people at Bromford suggested that that missing something just might be there. It was……and still is.
Bromford is like a great big start up.
Everyone is passionate about what they do. Nothing stands still. There is a respect for, and appreciation of, our past and our history……but a relentless focus on the future……where we are going……what’s next. This thirst to improve and achieve more has grown over the years and is the fuel that feeds us all. When I joined Bromford it was very much a housing association. Over the years we have done loads of great stuff. We’ve built new homes that have helped families escape overcrowded or temporary accommodation. We’ve provided housing related support to young people just starting out or individuals with mental health needs on their journey to recovery. We’ve provided advice and training to help unemployed customers into sustainable employment. But like most housing organisations we’ve tended to tackle these things as rather isolated issues. We’ve organised ourselves into separate teams that deliver interventions in a disjointed way with big gaps between them. Much of the value we could have created for individuals and communities has been lost between these gaps. At times we’ve tended to see our customers simply as consumers of our services at best or as over reliant on us and rather needy at worst.
A few years ago we started to do things a bit differently.
We launched the Bromford Deal. For all new general needs customers we decided to take the first step towards being more than just a landlord. We felt it was time we did more than simply hand over the keys to a home and wait to respond only if things went wrong. At first we thought that we were trying to help our customers become self-reliant.
But the more we got to know them the more we realised that the Deal really was the relationship……a proper, two-way relationship. A relationship developed as much through listening as telling. A relationship as much about finding out what our customers could do as providing services designed to help them overcome the things they couldn’t do. We had become increasingly aware that the issues faced by many of our general needs customers were similar to those faced by many of our supported housing customers. The focus of our customer relationships has increasingly moved towards the sort of one familiar in supported housing. It starts by getting to know each other. We find out what is important to our customers and what their goals and aspirations are; and then we talk about what steps they might take to achieve those goals and how Bromford might play a part.
Of course this relationship is underpinned by what you might call the ‘terms and conditions’…..the tenancy agreement. But the focus has shifted. We are redesigning how we do things and testing out a range of new approaches that start with the customer and which are aimed at building trust and unlocking potential. And it’s working. We are having much more open, honest conversations. Asking our customers about where they’re going and not just where they’ve come from is game changing. Many tell us it’s the first time any agency has asked them what they want; where they want to get to……what the good life looks like for them and their family.
It’s 5,478 days since I joined Bromford and in that time it’s become an even more buzzy and exciting family to be part of.
We have a much better sense of who we are and why we are here.
We’re not here to build homes but to help our customers build their lives.
Every day is different…..full of challenge, creativity and warmth…….and I get to spend them with wonderful people.
Today, 28th February 2015, is my official #BromDay.
It’s been a fab day. I completed my 50th parkrun in Leamington (here’s the first photo with my new selfie stick colleagues presented me with on Thursday); I watched Stratford Town beat Tiverton Town 2 – 0 with George; Stoke beat Hull 1 – 0 to consolidate their 10th position in the Premier League (though they’ll still probably be last on MOTD) and we had chips for tea!