The Big Interview: A winning way to mark 30 years of Viking Signs

Viking Signs is named Employer of the Year at the Grantham Journal Business Awards 2016.
Viking Signs is named Employer of the Year at the Grantham Journal Business Awards 2016.

This year, Grantham firm Viking Signs celebrates its 30th anniversary, so it is fitting that 2016 is the year the business is named Employer of the Year.

Here, managing director Darren Joint tells us about the business and why winning the Grantham Journal Business Award is the ‘icing on the cake’.

Viking Signs, Grantham

Viking Signs, Grantham

How many staff does Viking Signs employ? How does it compare to when the business first started up?

Viking Signs was started in 1986 by Ron Gray; it was just him until my parents, Simon and Michele Joint, bought the business in 1997. Viking Signs is still owned by the Joint family, with me (their eldest son) as managing director, and currently employs 15 staff. Mel Fletcher is the longest serving and has been with us for 13 years, shortly followed by Sean McCourt with 11 years’ service.

What opportunities are there for employees who wish to develop their skills or move up the career ladder?

It can be difficult in a smaller business to provide the career opportunities to match everyone’s aspirations, but we try to follow Richard Branson’s advice to “train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to”. Three of our current managers have been promoted from within the business and we operate a weekly job rotation scheme so that everyone can experience every aspect of the company, including the MD.

Viking Signs team takes part in the Viking Challenge, of which it is a sponsor

Viking Signs team takes part in the Viking Challenge, of which it is a sponsor

How do you measure staff satisfaction?

We don’t currently have a company wide ‘measurement’ system, as we’re probably not quite big enough to need this yet. We hold regular 1:1 meetings and monthly ‘all hands’ where staff discuss how the overall business is performing and share any concerns, or ideas for improvement. We also operate ‘Lean 5S’, continuous improvement teams which are responsible for the organisation of the workplace, so everyone owns their own processes.

How do you feel about winning the Employer of the Year award?

Operating a family business and growing beyond this often means the culture has to change, sometimes for the worse. We’ve tried hard to keep the best bits and actively strive to make Viking Signs a great place to work. The best reward for this is a happy, engaged and productive team and winning the Grantham Journal Employer of the Year award is the icing on that cake!

What makes Viking Signs stand out as a great employer?

We might not have all the resources of a larger organisation – but we really do care about each and every employee, because everyone matters so much. It is still in many ways more like a family than just a workplace.

When was Viking Signs established?

As it’s our 30th anniversary, we’re planning a special celebration later in the year. We’ve grown beyond just serving the Grantham business community, with our eCommerce business selling safety signs nationwide. However, we’d like to think we’re still very much at the heart of the local business scene and proud to continue Grantham’s great manufacturing heritage. You can learn more about what we do at www.vikingsigns.co.uk