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“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”- Thomas A. Edison

John Mellings biggest business learning curves and mistakes

Making mistakes in life and business is part of being human.  No one likes making mistakes, especially in business, which can cost you time, money, and reputation. What first appears to be a painful and costly mistake, however, can actually prove to be a valuable opportunity for learning and growth. The path to success is far from smooth and is often littered with bumps in the road. What’s important is that you learn from adversity and overcome the behaviours, tendencies, or attitudes that caused them in the first place, so you can be sure you’ll never make the same mistake twice.


“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new” ― Albert Einstein


Every new business venture is a journey into the unknown. No matter how well you know your industry or how well prepared you are, a misstep or two are inevitable. Every business owner has come up against some trials and tribulations over their career and I myself am no exception. While most business owners are happy to share their successes, many are reluctant to discuss their errors. Mistakes that you’ve learnt from are nothing to be ashamed of though. Sometimes you have to find out what not to do, in order to be successful in the future. While confronting and amending your past mistakes may not seem like the best way to build trust with your customers, the honesty and transparency involved goes a long way to instill confidence and respect in your brand. With this in mind, I thought I’d share my 5 biggest learning curves from my 9 years at Churchill Security and the valuable lessons I’ve learnt throughout my career.


“In the Chinese language, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters, one representing danger and the other, opportunity.”


Not Investing in Your Business as It Grows

As Churchill Security began to expand rapidly out of the North and across Britain, we realised that we lacked the operational skill set to deliver the excellent service that we wanted to stand for. We initially had operators traveling up and down the country to take care of our customer’s needs, which put a strain on our people and was ultimately unsustainable. We were trying to cut costs and keep as close to our head office as we could- but this had a negative impact on our standard of operational service and our ability to retain our customers. While we had no problem finding new business, we never saw any real growth because we were losing existing clients.  At this point, it felt like we were treading water rather than powering our business forward.

In 2017, after reflecting on our strategy, we decided to massively invest in building an operational service delivery team to offer a better quality of service to our clients across the country. This investment allowed us to strengthen our operational presence and capability, allowing us to retain a high standard of service whilst continuing to grow and win new business.


Be Patient- Good Results Take Time

It can be disheartening when you’ve identified a problem and worked hard to solve it- but just don’t see any results. But Rome wasn’t built in a day and it could be a while before you see a return on your investment, whether that’s an investment of money or time. In 2017, when we significantly overhauled  our operational management team, it took between 6-12 months to see a return on this initial investment and up to 24 months to see a considerable growth as a result of the groundwork two years prior. Sometimes, amending your strategy can have positive effects on your business that you don’t anticipate. In our case, a better quality of operational service and a significantly improved customer retention rate helped engage and motivate our sales staff to win more business.


Adapting your business Helps You Turn Crisis Into Opportunity 

It’s safe to say that COVID-19 has been an immense challenge for businesses of all types, and we here in the security industry are no exception. With the whole of the UK in lockdown, the coronavirus pandemic is a global crisis the likes of which we’ve never seen before and will hopefully never see again. In these unprecedented times, businesses have had to adapt to the unique challenges and needs that have resulted from COVID-19. Whilst there’s no denying that the coronavirus has been a tragedy for the country and the world, we’re trying to learn all we can from these challenging times by listening to our customers and the demands of the market.

While we initially saw an increase in business of 100% as retailers and offices closed their doors and required security protection, the difficult financial situation saw us lose some of our valued customers as their businesses went under. To make sure Churchill Security can weather the difficult times to come, we’ve adapted our business to our customers’ demands and have designed a range of solutions to support businesses and organisations in a post-coronavirus world. Our return to work solutions and cleaning services are designed to get the country back to work whilst helping to keep employees and the public safe and healthy.


Finding the Right Person for the Job

No man is an island and finding the perfect team that shares your virtues, goals and motivation is vital to driving your business towards success. Sometimes you have the right people but just not in the right seats, so a bit of restructuring is required to find the perfect fit. When working on our operational service, we assembled a first-class team to help us reach our goal of delivering service excellence and an improved operational structure. This included an operational manager, 3 regional business managers, a control room manager and contract support, all hired to improve the quality of our service and help expand the business. Beyond excellent management, having quality people on the ground is also vital to a solid reputation and excellent customer service.

Whilst COVID-19 has added extra pressure on our staff, the pandemic has shown how committed and dedicated our team are to providing the best security service, even when pushed to maximum capacity. We’re really proud of how all our staff have dealt with COVID-19, it’s been a sort of stress test that’s proven how strong our business and customer service has become in the past three years


Take a step back and look at the bigger picture

As someone who always gives 110%, I’ve learnt the importance of taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture.  It can be easy to get carried away or bogged down with the finer details, ending up with blinker vision and losing sight of the wider picture. Over the years I’ve learnt to stand back and assess the situation before jumping in with decision making, something which has helped me make better business choices. While big picture thinking can be labelled as ‘pie in the sky’ or “head in the cloud” thinking, the ability to see the bigger picture is essential for any successful entrepreneur wishing to grow their company and push their business to new heights.


“Hindsight is a wonderful thing” – Advice to My Younger Self


If I had to give my younger self one piece of advice it would be this: learn from the right people and identify bad habits before they begin to effect how you run your business. There’s always room for improvement and self-reflection. Look to the right people for inspiration and advice and look to the wrong people for what not to do. Both can provide a valuable lesson for the future.


Churchill Security is a leading cross-industry security company supplying professional and comprehensive security solutions to organisations seeking expert Security Guards, CCTV & Event Security, Key Holding & Alarm Response, Mobile Patrols and Thermal Imaging & People Flow.

To find out more about how Churchill Security can protect your business, contact us today on 08082509519 or email enquiry@churchillsecurity.co.uk


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John Melling is a Director for Churchill Security Ltd. John is a highly motivated, determined and decisive security industry professional. Drawing on his extensive experience gained within the security industry whilst working on the coalface John has operated at all levels within the industry. He has a proven track record for motivating and leading high performance teams and has helped mentor and develop many people at Churchill who now hold key or senior positions within the business. John is committed to delivering only the finest services, exercising compelling leadership, maintaining good internal morale and striving to resolve any challenges efficiently and effectively.