For any business to survive 40 years it takes focus, unrelenting determination and a committed team. The Claremont team has that in spades, but so too does one of the longest serving and friendliest faces in the business – Ann Malone.
As Ann nears retirement and celebrates more than 35 years at Claremont, we asked her to share some of her working highlights and, without getting too emotional, explain just what Claremont means to her.
Over the years, Ann has worn many varied hats and worked in countless different roles. Although she now flies the flag as client relationship associate director, she’s also been the office manager, quality manager, account manager and HR manager amongst other things, although she actually started out as a temporary receptionist.
Ann said: “You name it, I’ve pretty much done it in Claremont and it’s given me a very rounded view of the business. The part I’ve loved most is working with clients. It’s not always easy when you’re doing the post-project snagging and looking at defects, but I’ve found that if you’re honest with people you can overcome any obstacle and I enjoy making sure everything is to the client’s satisfaction once a project is complete.”
A lot has changed since Ann joined the small Claremont team in 1982. Ann said: “When I first joined Claremont, there were only seven employees and the business concentrated on computer room fit-outs. The evolution of technology brought the computer onto the desk and it changed the way we worked completely, so we shifted our focus to furniture supply and install, with some contracting. Of course, that’s all changed again since then.
“We’ve had a fair few new homes over the years too. We moved from one room in Warrington to a room and a small warehouse on Woolston Grange but the bigger transitions were to Heaton Court and then on to The Breeze which we bought and refurbished. I can still recall coming here each week and taking photos so that we could let staff see the progress of the refurbishment.”
There’s no denying Ann’s loved the changes, challenges and camaraderie, but it’s the people she holds dear. “I’ve made some very dear lifelong friends working at Claremont and I have some great memories. There have been some fabulous Christmas parties, lots of banter and laughter and even when times have been tough, the team has always looked out for each other.
“One of my fondest and funniest memories is of a surprise party to mark my 10-year anniversary. Someone organised a game of Blind Date for me and the two dates behind the screen were Tim Frankland and Gunter Durig. We laughed so much that day and I was given a fabulous weekend away to mark the occasion too.”
She’s not short of professional highlights either. She said: “In the early days, one of my biggest achievements was implementing the quality standard BS5750. At that time, we didn’t have any documented process, a proper paper trail or a consistent way of working, which is very hard to imagine now. No one else in the industry had the standard either so passing it first time made it even more significant. Obviously, we’ve since updated our IMS standard, passing first time again, which was another proud moment. On a more personal note, other highlights include finally learning to drive at 39, something that I’d never have done without the encouragement of Mike Gardner.”
During Ann’s 35 years, the business has had many of its own key milestone moments. Leaving Steelcase marked a seismic shift in Claremont’s focus, moving into purpose-built and owned premises gave the business the perfect space to practice what it preached and weathering two recessions built a stronger and more focused team than ever. Ann has been an instrumental part of that team throughout Claremont’s history, so we asked her to sum up what makes it special.
She said: “It’s the people and the Claremont culture that make this business so very different to any other. We’ve always been a growing and ambitious company yet we’ve still managed to keep a family business feel and I really hope that’s always the case. Our people care about each other, their environment and the clients and that’s special. I’ve seen the business grow first hand and I’m proud to have been part of it. Put simply, Claremont changed my life. You can definitely expect tears on my last day.”
Thank you, Ann, for more than 35 years of fantastic service and for being the very essence of a Claremont person.