IntlSOS 30 Years - From East to West - Page 159

08 Developing a Global Infrastructure | A Professional Approach
A Professional Approach
It used to
be the Wild
West, now it
is rather more
Some describe our early days as “chaotic,” others
put it more positively as “highly entrepreneurial.”
Certainly everyone was very busy building our client
base and our range of services. People were given a
lot of freedom to develop the business in each
country according to local needs. For a long time
this worked well, helped by the fact that we were a
relatively small group of people; everyone knew
each other and communicated regularly.
But as we became bigger we needed to build a
clearer, more disciplined structure. In short, we had
to become more professional. Our clients wanted
greater consistency too; they saw that our service
offering was different country by country. As
Arnaud said in the Founders’ millennium message,
we had to optimise our products and processes
and move “to an outward focus with the customer
at the centre of our thinking.”
Without losing our all-important entrepreneurial
spirit we began to accept that we could not do
everything and follow every opportunity. We
created definable products and consistent services,
later decommissioning those which did not fit our
core offering. As Nigel Pool points out, this is a
“natural phase” in the growth of most companies.
They start out as entirely entrepreneurial then
they have to “settle down and organise – decide
where to grow next.”
Left: Medical assistance
meeting in dedicated
crisis meeting room,
Paris office, France, 2013.
The joint venture with Control Risks added a further
impetus to our need to organise ourselves. We
renewed our focus on medical and security services.
In recent years we have also rationalised our client
base, focusing on direct selling to corporate clients,
whilst building our relationships with governments
and NGOs.
We have built a strong corporate team, bringing in
senior people to develop our Finance, HR and other
functions. We have put those structures and systems
in place and become professional. But we have done
so without losing sight of our fundamental beliefs.
Yes we are more efficient, but we still put a patient’s
needs, and our continuous drive to increase
capabilities, above the desire to maximise profits.
“It used to be the Wild West, now it is rather more
We consolidated our different operations: Assistance,
concierge, security and medical services under one
operations umbrella. We then set about developing a
comprehensive set of guiding policies, standards,
procedures and processes. In 2011 London achieved
ISO accreditation for the Assistance Centre and this
was followed in 2012 when we achieved ISO 9001 –
2008 quality management accreditation across our
complete operations structure.
Many of these cases require the involvement of
more than one Assistance Centre. For example,
if an American falls ill in Myanmar, the Myanmar
Assistance Centre is likely to be involved, and input
from the teams in Hong Kong and Philadelphia may
be required too. This can raise the possibility of
different opinions emerging about what course of
action to take. Even though our doctors are
professionally trained and follow clear protocols, in
some cases doctors do sometimes disagree. To avoid
such disagreements and ensure a unified approach
to treatment is always given, based on the best
advice, we have created clear escalation procedures.


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