Hotting up the AC industry: how staying cool generated rapid growth for Greenmill

Growth is often the primary ambition of a business, but when that growth happens fast, it requires the right support to sustain it and support that continued trajectory. Pioneering AC distribution business Greenmill recognised the importance of developing a strategic people plan to support and enable growth, and brought in People Puzzles to help.

Greenmill is a successful air conditioning distribution business based in Colchester, Essex. Back in 2001, founders Nico & Bruce Miller saw a market opportunity to provide a specialist one-stop-shop for air conditioning installers.  Their effective operational model, and ‘In Stock, On Site, On Time’ promise, quickly challenged the larger, more-established competitors.

Remaining a family-run business and managing rapid growth, Greenmill wanted to ensure they could maintain their strong culture and ‘people-first’ approach, so they turned to People Puzzles for some strategic HR and People support.

Cool heads prevail in growth

In just three short years between 2020 and 2023, Greenmill more than doubled its revenue and is fast approaching a £40m turnover business, with a healthy EBITDA. At the heart of this success has been Greenmill’s people and culture.

People Puzzles supported Greenmill throughout this period with fractional Board-level HR support since 2020. People Director Helen Witt started with creating the leadership structure, roles and people function for growth. In 2022, Adrian Bates took over and focused on creating a plan to identify and solve their growing pains. To kick off he spoke to Managing Director Tristan Miller, and pulled together a workplan based around the People Puzzles pinwheel, looking at their business strategy, leadership, culture, talent and people processes.

It was essential to Adrian that it was not simply a top-down process, but that there was input from everyone from all levels and all departments across the business. Data was gathered and success tracked through regular engagement surveys, supplemented by monthly pulse surveys. Measurement was key to ensure they were achieving what they had set out to achieve.

Driving Performance diagram
Driving Performance

Adrian explains: “I believe that driving performance comes from clarity from the top, starting with the company Vision and Goals. That clarity provides the basis for a people plan that can support long-term growth.”

The Greenmill plan included the following steps:

  1. Vision, goals and purpose – culminating in a Strategy On A Page available to the whole team.
  2. Strategy and communication – quarterly meetings with the leadership and management teams were established to track progress and agree next quarter targets, followed by all company meetings.
  3. Values – focus group enabled us to revamp and launch new values for the next phase of growth.
  4. Leadership and management – to take the business to the next level, a leadership team was established, with key external hires filling gaps in the team. Clear accountabilities were established for the Leadership and Management teams to provide vision and traction, as the company grows.
  5. Behaviours and ways of working – a focus group was established to help in “Evolving” (a key value) the way all work within the company.
  6. EVP and employee experience– a key theme of each of the company quarterly meetings is the employee journey of Recruiting and Hiring, Onboarding, Engaging, Developing and Progressing. Greenmill is committed to delivering on their company promises at each stage of the employee experience. This is evidenced in the very high employee net promoter and engagement scores.

To support their organic growth, and the TUPE transfer of 30 operational people, the People and Culture Team expanded by hiring two people managers. These new hires have enabled a comprehensive people audit to be completed and subsequent plugging of gaps with policies and updating the company handbook.

Cooling the room, raising the roof

The company has expanded over the years, smashing through a number of ceilings, which Adrian illustrates using the Greiner Growth Model below. The growth journey doesn’t stop – but the needs of the business do change in each phase.


Greiner’s Growth Model

The next big challenge for Greenmill is delegation. With Adrian’s support, they are now looking to implement the five Entrepreneur’s Operating System (EOS) abilities through 2024:

  1. Simplicity by using the EOS tools.
  2. Elevation and delegation by using the accountability chart to push decision making down the organisation.
  3. Systemisation through a digital transformation project.
  4. Prediction, through sharing company results with all staff on a monthly basis.
  5. Structure – allowing more time for the MD to work on the business rather than being in the business.

Greenmill has had its growth spurts and different interventions have been needed to break through successive barriers on their journey so far. A clear vision for the future, rigour in achieving its targets, and clear measurement to track progress continue to be fundamental to the company’s growth, underpinned by a talented team of people and strong culture.

Tristan Miller explains: “The fractional model works exceedingly well for us. As a growing business to have access to these services as you scale works brilliantly. When you are planning a big change, it is invaluable to get the guidance of a people expert like the team at People Puzzles to embed people into the long-term picture. I’ve also really appreciated the way Adrian feeds back to me on the ‘vibes’ and comments on the team – it is invaluable for helping me know how to play certain conversations. It’s definitely helped me avoid awkward situations, and pick up on concerns early, which can then be addressed with some degree of emotional awareness and sensitivity”.

To find out more, do simply give us a call, as we’d love to help your organisation go from strength to strength, helping your people deliver on your business plans.


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