October 2010 Newsletter

October 2010 Newsletter

Welcome to the October 2010 issue of Xmo Strata’s online newsletter.

To view a story, please click on the relevant headline below.

For further information on any of the stories featured, please Contact us or visit http://www.xmostrata.com/



The Xmo Strata team at the 2010 KEiBA"Kent Excellence in Business Awards - staged and produced by Kent County Council and the KM Group to recognise and reward excellence in Kent and Medway's businesses." Awards

Xmo Strata is pleased to announce the accolade of ‘SME Business of the Year’ which was presented to Managing Director, Steve Martin, at this year’s Kent Excellence in Business Awards (KEiBA"Kent Excellence in Business Awards - staged and produced by Kent County Council and the KM Group to recognise and reward excellence in Kent and Medway's businesses.").

Following a runner-up position in the awards scheme last year, the company triumphed as one of the 11 winners at the black tie event hosted at the Historic Dockyard, Chatham on 1 July.

Judges described Xmo Strata as ‘a highly organised national signage implementation business with a fearsome strength in health and safety and very effective use of IT’. Particular praise was given to the company for its unique data management software system, XmoMan.

“This award is a tribute to everyone at Xmo Strata who has worked tirelessly to maintain the company’s reputation and offer our customers the best service possible,” said Steve Martin. “It was a great feeling to take the award back to the office and celebrate the achievements of the last 12 months.

“The presentation evening was tremendous, there was a real sense of community between the companies involved and it was great to see the support they all showed each other.”



Xmo Strata Managing Director, Steve Martin, says that precision planning of more than 1,000 site visits in an eight-week period contributed to the successful launch of a world cup promotion and a new fuel grade.

”Our unique management software tool offers us total vision of what is happening on each and every site,” said Steve. “It is essential to have immediate access to all site information as our customers expect efficiency, consistency and, above all, quality work that is finished on-time and within budget. With this system we can monitor all site activity, view the status of ongoing work, ensure safety regulations are being adhered too and ensure we are delivering what we have promised in every aspect of the work.

“Customers expect seamless transitions, whether that is between brands, product launches or promotions. This is even more critical when sites remain operational throughout complex multi-site programmes,” he said.

To find out more about XmoMan visit http://www.xmostrata.com/offer/index.php or Contact us 



Ian Birrell, Business Development Manager

A search to fill the position of Business Development Manager at Xmo Strata has come to an end with the appointment of Ian Birrell. He joins the team at a crucial time of change as the company strengthens its support of the fast growing UK dealer network.

Ian’s remit will focus predominately on developing the dealer business market and supporting these customers with a dedicated in-house team. It will also extend developing the company’s Vicom sign refurbishment service.

Steve Martin, Managing Director of Xmo Strata, said: “Ian will be a great asset to the team with his years of experience in the oil industry and several years in signage; needless to say, we certainly have the right man for the job. He has already hit the ground running.”

The company has beefed-up its management team in recent months as part of its growth strategy including the appointment of Dave Heathorn as Installation and Maintenance Manager, and the move of Kate Parmentier to Commercial Manager.

“We have worked hard to achieve world class accreditations in quality, environmental awareness and health and safety and we believe it is now appropriate to demonstrate our commitment to the dealer market and support these customers in achieving efficient, competitive re-brands and maintenance programmes. I am confident we have the skills and the people in place to do this,” he said.



The new team from lef to right – Michael Mott, Lucy Mazzocca, Steve Martin, Kate Parmentier and Dave Heathorn

Managing Director Steve Martin has told staff and some external audiences that the company is refocusing commercial strategy in the forecourt sector on the emerging ‘big dealer’ networks.

The decision is a key factor behind a management restructuring that has seen several new senior recruits including ex-Hawes veteran Dave Heathorn (Installation and Maintenance), Lucy Mazzocca (Accountant) and Ian Birrell (Business Development).

Kate Parmentier, one of the start-up management team, has taken on the commercial brief (profitability, productivity and negotiations) and a new project coordinator and paint spray team will also be joining soon. In the depths of a recession, it’s a hefty investment. Why do it?

“In 1970 the UK had 40,000 filling stations, now there are only 9,000 and 10 sites have closed every week for the last 20 years,” said Steve.

“But those remaining are more professional and starting to buck the trend. Sites are still closing but leading trade magazine Forecourt Trader reported that the net number of dealer-owned sites had increased from 1,160 to 1,180 in the last 12 months.

“The team has already come up with some strong ideas – such as the new dealer ‘helpdesk’, with full-time coordinators taking the hassle for customers out of things like insurance claims.”

“The reason? The oil companies are selling-off their sites to large, professional dealer organisations. It’s a global trend.

“Conoco, Chevron/Texaco’s UK and Dutch networks, BP‘s Greek and French networks, Esso sites in the US and Australia – all sold to dealers. The industry is undergoing radical change.

“The new emerging dealer organisations are run by smart people and we need to respect that. Yes, they are focused on cost – so are we.”

Xmo Strata has some of the highest company credentials in the industry* but Steve bristles visibly at suggestions that quality, health and safety equal high cost.

He accuses rivals of misleading customers by deliberately under-costing jobs and then recovering the difference by applying hidden charges for spurious reasons.

“We know that goes on and yes, we could win business that way too – but we’d rather be known as an honest brand that people can trust. Some individuals that do this are just focused on their next bonus payments, and some of the companies which sanction or tolerate it have short-term objectives. We’re not like that, we’re in the business for the long haul and the reputational damage resulting from ‘stitching-up’ the customer is not something we’d want.”

Steve points to the many web-based reports of contractors getting work spectacularly wrong, sometimes with appalling consequences, and says quite apart from the quality and health and safety implications, the cost of ‘fixes’ can be eye-watering.

Steve Martin – Xmo Strata’s Managing Director

“We have a huge amount of business with oil companies and we’re always going to look after that well, but we do need to understand the changing market,” he said. “Everyone will find that the new management team is ‘thinking dealer’ … in fact, I would like everyone to do that.

“The team has already come up with some strong ideas – such as the new dealer ‘helpdesk’, with full-time coordinators taking the hassle for customers out of things like insurance claims.”

The company kept its cards close to its chest until the key management infrastructure changes had been made and the new team had time to get used to their roles.

“It is a change, and change is always challenging – but no industry stands still, and the forecourt industry certainly isn’t,” said Steve. “We are now one of the leading companies in the field and we have the resources, skills and capability to analyse the industries in which we operate with some precision. Just as an example, we have some of the best data in the industry now coming out of XmoMan, our software-based asset management system.

“That means we can make good strategic decisions, reduce risk, and manage change effectively. We only have a short history as a company – a shade under ten years – but we’ve already done that several times, much more successfully than some old-style established companies, many of which have not survived change. We, on the other hand, have thrived on it.

“I know we have the people, the talent, the infrastructure, the systems and the ability to do it again.”

* For example: ISO9001 (quality), ISO14001 (environmental), OHSAS18001 (health and safety) and NICEICThe National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting. Hazardous Area Accreditation (for petrol filling stations).



Congratulations to Darren Wilders, Project Coordinator, and his wife Vicky on the birth of their first child – Louie.

Louie arrived safely on 3 July at the Medway Maritime Hospital and, although he was six days late, he weighed a healthy 8lb 2oz.

Darren, Vicky and Louie have been inundated with flowers and presents from well-wishers and despite the late nights and early mornings, they are already finding parenthood very rewarding.

With half-open eyes, Darren commented: “It’s an amazing feeling when we get him up in the morning and are greeted with a beaming smile; it makes it all worth while! That smile gets me through the day and is one of the most precious things imaginable.”

Despite a fifty-hour labour, both mother and son are doing well – congratulations to you both.

New arrival  Baby Louie Proud father  Darren Wilders








Xmo Strata is introducing a new dimension to on-site toolbox talks with the use of video.

The first of these will focus on the risks associated with blade cuts and the measures taken by the company to reduce incident rates. It was identified in 2008 that blade cuts equated to 66% of incidents resulting in harm.

Toolbox talks are designed to promote open discussion between engineers and supervisors about site hazards and the identification/elimination of risk. With the use of video and the introduction of detailed glove checklists, it is hoped that incidents can be reduced, or even better, eliminated completely.

“We have now completed 100,000 hours of work since our last incident involving a blade cut,” said Steve Martin, Managing Director of Xmo Strata. “But that doesn’t mean we sit back and think that our job is done. By continuing to raise awareness and putting more stringent safety practices in place, such as the new toolbox talk video, we hope to maintain this level of diligence.”

The company’s Job Safety Assessments (JSAs) include a minimum safety glove rating for each task.

To view the video please visit http://www.xmostrata.com/videos/index.php



Fluorescent jackets worn by Xmo Strata engineers will now identify those trained in emergency first aid, giving site patrons a clear point of contact in the event of an incident.

Dave Heathorn, Installation and Maintenance Manager at Xmo Strata, said: “Often, in the event of an incident, people start to panic and are not quite sure of who to turn to for help. These new jackets will identify those that are trained in emergency first aid and give site patrons a direct point of contact to someone who can take control of the situation and take appropriate action to help the injured person.”

Although customers often insist that one person on each site must be trained in emergency first aid, it is Xmo Strata policy that all employees and approved subcontractors undergo the relevant training.

To find out more about the qualifications of Xmo Strata employees, please visithttp://www.xmostrata.com/recruitment/qualifications.php



Kevin Airey (left) presenting Brian Cave with the ‘Talk not Tick’ award

Brian Cave, a lead PainterCrew trained, Experienced and Equipped to paint sites./SprayerCrew trained, Experienced and Equipped to spray sites. for Xmo Strata, has been rewarded for demonstrating exceptional levels of on-site safety as part of Shell‘s ‘Talk not Tick’ initiative.

During a random site audit – conducted by Shell‘s contract partner Johnson Controls – Brian achieved a flawless report covering his understanding of potential hazards, safety controls/implementation and the correct completion of compulsory site documentation.

Kevin Airey, who carried out the audit on behalf of Johnson controls, said: “What was exceptional about this audit was the level of care taken to genuinely be aware of site specific risks. Brian was able to show a written last minute risk assessmentDocument assessing risks and documenting control measures needed to do a task. and was fully aware of Shell’s lifesaving rules; he even queried a couple of points. Overall I was impressed by excellent safety awareness and the implementation of HSSE practices.”

Rewards, in the form of high-street gift vouchers, were introduced earlier this year to personally thank those who work with diligence and have an acute understanding of their working environment with regards to safety.

‘Talk not Tick’ is an initiative developed by Shell to encourage site operatives and their managers/supervisors to openly discuss the safety implications of their work rather than ticking boxes on compulsory paperwork.

Well done Brian!



Mopping up the fuel leak with the spill kit

Xmo Strata engineers, father and son Andy and Todd Wyer, have been praised by Shell forecourt managers for acting quickly to contain a fuel spill on a forecourt in Bury St Edmunds.

The spill is reported to have come from the fuel tank of a car while a customer was using one of the pumps.

The spill kit allowed engineers to contain the fuel with the use of ‘socks’ – padded tubes which prevent the fuel from spreading further – and then soak the rest up with disposable absorbent pads.

Coincidentally, the company adjacent to the site specialised in the disposal of hazardous waste and was able to assist the engineers in the safe disposal of the used kit.

In correspondence regarding the incident, Forecourt Manager, Sue Lucente, commented: “I would like to inform you that the two members of staff that attended our site today were extremely helpful when there was an incident on the forecourt involving a customer with a leaking fuel tank. Andy and Todd Wyer kindly allowed us to use their spillage kit to contain and mop up the spill. The assistance they gave was greatly appreciated.”

Dave Heathorn, Installation & Maintenance Manager for Xmo Strata, said: “Our engineers are trained to identify and, if possible, mitigate hazards at source. In this instance, the spill was dealt with swiftly, safely and, importantly, at no cost to the customer.”

Well done to Andy and Todd and for acting quickly and mitigating the hazard at source.



Following the success of the film at last year’s health and safety day the company is promising a brand new film for this year – and says its communications strategy is increasingly orientated towards ‘the moving image’.

Last year’s film was about forecourt safety, and whilst managers aren’t revealing this year’s topic until the day itself (December 17), the emphasis will be on presenting real health, safety and quality issues in an attractive and watchable format.

“We have a great production team who have really understood what we’re trying to do, and they can turn a heavyweight ‘informed’ brief from us, on a really serious topic, into something entertaining and watchable, without trivialising it,” said Steve Martin.

“Our own management team work very closely with them throughout the production process to ensure that all the health and safety issues are as accurate as we can make them. The Xmo Strata crews taking part also contribute more than just ‘being filmed’. It’s a genuine partnership between the company and the film makers. We’re able to bring two different skills to bear in a team effort and I think the results speak for themselves. I know there is a real sense of achievement on the part of our own staff and the production team – they feel they are doing something of real importance. So do I.

“Some old style corporate videos used to be awful – senior managers lecturing people in films that had pretty low production values and were tedious to watch. Companies used to use the cheapest means of film production – such as hiring the local wedding photographer to do an industrial film. Or, worse, the in-house PR guy ‘buying a cine camera’ and doing a DIY job – with predictable results.

“Companies were often reluctant to fund proper shoots because they were expensive, and because they didn’t understand how to make good films, or why (for example) you needed three cameras on a particular shoot and not just one. Managers wouldn’t take professional advice. It was a dispiriting experience for the film makers and the results were sometimes lamentable.

“We were aware of all that and we’ve worked hard to avoid it. We selected people we trust, who know their business, and who have a very good track record. We fund the work sensibly – not extravagantly, just sensibly. We take their advice; conversely, they also take our advice, and I know they have even introduced some new safety procedures in their film making as a result of working with us.

“The team chemistry is good and it works well, and the films we produce really help us to get things across in a powerful way. And if something works for you, you tend to do more of it, because you’re getting good value.

“Not everything we do is a full-blown production. We did a very short, very cost effective film on knives to support a toolbox talk on the subject and I think it was great. It was just a different way of making a point. We live in a televisual age – we’re all used to receiving information in a certain way, with high quality, professional production. If you do a ‘cheap job’ it shows, but if you do a professional job you’ll communicate with much greater effectiveness.

“You can use films on the web, in presentations, in conferences and in many other ways. It’s a very flexible tool and I think we’re at the forefront of companies in our industry with our use of this medium. I’m very proud of what we’ve done and we’ll be building on that body of work in the future.”

If you didn’t get to see the forecourt safety film used at last year’s health and safety day, you can do so by visiting http://www.xmostrata.com/videos/index.php.

To view other films produced by Xmo Strata please visit the Video Vault.



Darren Wilders has completed the ‘Run to the Beat’ half-marathon on Sunday September 26 in a time of 2hrs 47mins. He ran the London-based half-marathon with his two brothers to help raise money for The Prostate Cancer Charity. The charity funds research and supports men who develop prostate cancer.

Darren Wilders (centre) at the end of the run with brothers Craig (left) and Glenn (right)

The run was centred around London‘s O2 and Greenwich area, with the thirteen mile course winding its way along the Thames to Woolwich, then to the Royal Artillery Barracks, through the Greenwich park with the final stretch back along the Thames to the O2.

“Amazingly the rain held off!” said Darren. “It wasn’t too hot or too cold, just right if you’re about to face a 13 mile run. After seven months of training it was great to finally get there, soak up the atmosphere and hopefully raise a good amount of money for charity.”

It’s not too late to sponsor Darren. If you can spare a few pounds, please visithttp://www.justgiving.com/Darren-Wilders0. It all adds up!


Steve Martin, Managing Director, Xmo Strata

If you decided to make your own beer, how would you go about it?

Would you read endless text books and undertake hours of internet research? Would you visit a brewery and quiz the staff on how to create the perfect pint? Or, would you pop into the supermarket, buy a DIY kit and just give it a go?

As humans we all do things differently. We all look at, react to and see things in very different ways. This also applies to how we learn and how we digest information.

The realisation

About 20 years ago when I was a regional manager for a large FMCG  company(Fast Moving Consumer Goods), I was responsible for 38 salesmen with a target of bringing in £60 million of business. I realised, after attending several presentations with my colleagues, that we all remembered different elements; it was sometimes as if we had all attended a different event.

To cut a long story short, I established that in order for my team to absorb crucial information, I had to communicate in a way that would reach them all individually. That didn’t mean delivering a presentation in 38 different ways; it meant developing an inclusive presentation that took everyone’s way of learning into account. The theory was that this would have a positive impact on their salesmanship, and consequently a positive impact on the business.

“We all look at, react to and see things in very different ways. This also applies to how we learn and how we digest information.” 

I found this concept fascinating and discovered that learning is not about intelligence, it is about how information is interpreted and recalled. After reading many books I discovered that there are many different learning styles including activists, reflectors, theorists and pragmatists.

So, how does this affect our business, or how we train our people?

Typically, we understand that a sign engineerCrew trained, experienced and equipped to install and maintain signage. would learn better by ‘having a go’. They tend to enjoy change, solving problems and working as a team. They learn from being hands-on and ‘getting their hands dirty’, and are much less likely to read, digest and learn from an essay written on the subject, for example.

Electricians, on the other hand, we understand to learn more by reading in depth articles. They prefer to understand a subject inside-out and rationalise it by following principles and procedures.

“Learning is not about intelligence, it is about how information is interpreted and recalled.”

We have to approach our training with all of this in mind. All roles in our business are equally important, and all are likely to have different learning styles. So, how do we adapt our communication to reflect this?

Here are just some of the ways we deliver our safety messages as an example of our diverse communication strategy:

  • Weekly bulletinsBulletins highlight issues that will be experienced throughout the industry, and prove a useful tool to encourage the raising of standards and awareness of health and safety issues industry wide. – distributed to all staff, approved subcontractors and customers (upon request)
  • Toolbox talks – delivered onsite by supervisors
  • Moving image – to support verbal messages
  • Steering meetings – attended by senior management
  • Annual safety days – attended by all staff, approved subcontractors and customers (upon request)

This is a very complex subject and the above barely scratches the surface, but I hope it demonstrates to our customers that we tailor our communications to gain maximum understanding from everyone at Xmo Strata. This is done to improve both our business and yours.

If there is any way you feel we can improve communications further, please Contact us.



Image is everything!

The first thing customers notice at a filling station may well be the price of fuel, however; if a forecourt looks shabby – with faded signs, flaking paint or worn-out markings on the tarmac  – their eyes may be drawn elsewhere, potentially damaging for brand reputation and repeat custom.

Along with a host of sign related work, Xmo Strata also refreshes forecourt paintwork to ensure an immaculate image – this includes tarmac markings to highlight restricted areas or to direct site traffic.

Fore more information on Xmo Strata’s maintenance services please Contact us.


SAFETY BULLETINBulletins highlight issues that will be experienced throughout the industry, and prove a useful tool to encourage the raising of standards and awareness of health and safety issues industry wide. SIGN-UP

As part of Xmo Strata’s ongoing commitment to improving health and safety, the company publishes weekly health and safety bulletinsBulletins highlight issues that will be experienced throughout the industry, and prove a useful tool to encourage the raising of standards and awareness of health and safety issues industry wide. for staff, customers and interested parties.

BulletinsBulletins highlight issues that will be experienced throughout the industry, and prove a useful tool to encourage the raising of standards and awareness of health and safety issues industry wide. cover topics ranging from health and safety best practice to incident investigation reports.

Xmo Strata does not see safety as a competitive issue and chooses to share experiences openly in the hope that lessons can be learned and hazards can be avoided in the future.

“Health and safety is an issue that affects every industry,” said Kate Parmentier, Commercial Manager for Xmo Strata. “If the bulletinsBulletins highlight issues that will be experienced throughout the industry, and prove a useful tool to encourage the raising of standards and awareness of health and safety issues industry wide. we produce can help prevent an incident or even just help to improve safety awareness then it is a worthwhile exercise.”

Xmo Strata has now published more than 200 bulletinsBulletins highlight issues that will be experienced throughout the industry, and prove a useful tool to encourage the raising of standards and awareness of health and safety issues industry wide., all of which can be viewed by visitinghttp://www.xmostrata.com/health/bulletin-list_10.php

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