Portable Space

A leading supplier of new and used shipping containers, cabins and modular buildings for all kinds of uses, Portable Space is an ambitious business which has seen great success in its two decades of operation.

“Very professional, efficient and effective response”

“Impressed by the speed with which mad-hr responded to my query. The fact that I had the opportunity to properly explain the issue I was grappling with, and the confidence and obviously ability of the person who then offered advice.” Read the full review

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Portable Space started life back in 2002, when Mark Black (now Chairman) saw the opportunity to provide all kinds of businesses, services and initiatives, with flexible hire of accommodation and toilet units, along with shipping containers.

This evolved into the provision of both new and used shipping containers, some of which would be meticulously converted for the customer’s need.

Add to that a successful approach to delivery, installation and design – and the business is today trusted globally and has been responsible for no end of clever and critical business venues and functions.

The company is now led day to day by managing director Mark Dolman.

A team of 70 operate around the UK where needed, and the headquarters is based in Stowmarket, Suffolk.

The background

Such had been the success of Portable Space since its inception in 2002, that the company had had little trouble in attracting and retaining great employees, as part of its growing enterprise.

While still considering itself to be relatively ‘small scale’ after two decades, the company had begun to work closely with a trusted and respected independent HR consultant for the purposes of ‘transactional’ employee relations matters, as and when they might arise.

Even as Covid struck, the leadership team still felt very comfortable with the current HR provision, but were mindful of intentions for significant growth – which would necessitate more HR resource.

It was at this point that a business event – hosted by Carole and Charlotte of MAD-HR – led to a fuller introduction.

The case for support

On meeting MAD-HR, the leadership team accepted the increased scope and benefit that the consultancy might bring to Portable Space, but were keen not to change the current provision until really necessary.

At the same time, they wanted the opportunity to learn more about the MAD-HR team in order to gain confidence and reassurance that they would be a good ‘cultural fit’ for the vision of the business.

Throughout Covid, Portable Space stayed in touch with Charlotte and the team, and then, at the end of a contract for the existing provision, the company reached out to discover more about how the MAD-HR ethos would help the leadership team invest more in their staff, build a greater cohesive employee culture, and explore any issues or opportunities which employees might have with the current set-up.

The approach

In January 2022, it was agreed that MAD-HR would commence work with Portable Space, by undertaking an Organisational Review.

This process allows a leadership team to truly understand how employees feel about their work, what areas they feel the business is strong in, and areas where there are clear opportunities to learn and change.

Typically, it involves an employee survey, and can leave managers and owners feeling somewhat vulnerable – but it is hugely beneficial when creating a new route forward, particularly at a time of growth and change.

“I have to admit, that process is a really scary thing as a managing director,” admits Mark.

“It can feel very exposing when you’re asking an external consultancy to chat to what was, by then, a team of 60 staff.

“And yet, one of the biggest compliments I can pay to the MAD-HR team is that they 100% put me at ease with the whole process, and they absolutely reassured me that this was a necessary and effective way of looking at how we could change for the better.”

This was far more than a mere ‘paper exercise’, and the leadership team quickly recognised the benefit it was able to bring.

“Charlotte refers to that process as ‘getting under the ribs of the business,” adds Mark.

“I couldn’t put it better.

“That review helped us tackle issues with individuals which very much needed to be explored – for them and for me. And the result has been a great success.”

Portable Space

The verdict

Following the review, Mark has continued to work closely with the team at MAD-HR, using a co-ordinated and time-stamped structure which sits neatly alongside his own business approach of a ’90 day planning’ concept.

MAD-HR were quick to ensure that they could tie into that model, and are now able to review and conclude their thoughts over the same period, continually giving the team feedback and suggestions for improvement or adjustment.

“The way they have slotted into our way of working, while being an external objective voice with so much expertise, has been excellent,” says Mark.

“They don’t impose their ideas on us, but instead, help the team to realise where there are opportunities for change.

“In some cases they’re helping us identify things we have known but not acted on – like the fact that now we are very aware of the need to bring in an HR assistant, which are actioning.

“We have every confidence in the MAD-HR team and particularly like that they’re not afraid to challenge us, or to tell us things I might find more uncomfortable to hear.

“Perhaps also really importantly for someone like myself, is that they’ve got a very entrepreneurial mindset of their own. That’s something I really value.”

Mark also points to the ability of MAD-HR to take feedback, and to respond accordingly – something he feels isn’t always true of specialist advisory businesses.

He adds: “It has really been noticeable to me, and valued by myself and the leadership team, that MAD-HR have taken any feedback we’ve given them throughout our working together, and they’ve responded well and understood the reason for that feedback.
“I think that’s quite a unique and special quality among consultants.”

Top client tip

“Take the time to get to know the HR provider you’re thinking of working with, and go with them only if you feel they’re the right fit and personality for you and your approach.

“It was really clear to me that MAD-HR were different, without being ‘salesy’ or overtly pushy. They listened. They understood me, and they told me things I didn’t always find easy to hear.

“That’s how a relationship should work with a consultant, and I’m really pleased we’re with them.”

To read more about Portable Space, have a look at their website.