When you think of heroes, who would you think of as being the bigger hero? A firefighter or a health and safety officer?

Not hard to make the decision is it?

One goes into burning buildings facing imminent danger. The other walks round with a clipboard and a checklist.

No contest.

But is that just based on your personal perception of what a hero is? Someone who runs to the rescue, preventing an imminent disaster from happening.

But what if we changed our definition of hero? What if we based it on who saved the most lives?

You could easily count the number of lives a firefighter saved. It’s probably in a file somewhere. The people whose life was saved will never forget the person who rescued them from a burning building.

But for the Health and safety officer we’ll never know.

Because the lives they saved were saved by preventing something from happening. By ensuring that equipment was safe, that the right materials were used, that the correct lighting was installed, that the largest horse-racing event of the year was cancelled as a Worldwide pandemic approached (or not as the case may be).

There are people walking around today whose lives were saved because something didn’t happen. Maybe you or your parents are alive because of something a Health and safety officer prevented.

Back in the 80s, we had a couple of disasters every year. Kings Cross, Bradford football ground, Marchioness, Piper Alpha oil rig, Manchester airport, The Herald of Free Enterprise. They went on and on. Hundreds of people dead. Disaster became normal.

But the 90s saw a change in mindset to one that tried to prevent these things happening. Today’s world is a much safer place.

More recently though we all saw the impact of the Grenfell fire on our tvs. For those of us old enough to remember it was a reminder of days gone by.

But what about all the other similar buildings that had small fires which were quickly extinguished or never happened in the first place? We’ll never know who ensured that all the people in those buildings were never woken by fire engines or died in their sleep of smoke inhalation. Invisible heroes.

One of our clients once said that if it wasn’t for the advice he received from us, he might not have been around a year later. And he was talking about himself not the business!

I heard an amazing line in Ricky Gervais’s TV series “After Life” that “a society grows great when old men plant trees, the shade of which they know they will never sit in”.

And maybe “a business grows great when it’s staff put things right when no-one else has noticed that they were wrong.”

There have been loads of invisible heroes in the past 6 months doing all sorts of things to help friends, neighbours, family and yes employees and colleagues. Many of you have worked incredibly hard to ensure that there is a business for your employees to come back to.

Some of your team will appreciate what you’ve done. They’re the good ones. Hang on to them. Those with the special power to see invisible heroes are often invisible heroes themselves.

Others will judge you by their own standards and assume you either did very little or simply did whatever you did for no-one but yourself.

Do you remember the 19th March? I do. It was the day before the Chancellor stood up and announced The Job Retention Scheme.

One of my clients told me a story about how that day the most difficult member of his team was coming up with a whole list of jobs that they could all do while things were quiet.

My client was really surprised. He’d never seen this level of initiative from that particular employee before. He went home thinking how amazing it was that the pandemic had created a “we’re all in this together” attitude even from the most difficult employee.

And then Rishi Sunak made his announcement. And the following day the same employee demanded to be furloughed and claimed it was his right!

He was of course only ever looking out for himself. Some people always will. They can fool you for a while but their behaviour in certain situations will always give them away.

For the HR lawyers reading this, you may want to look away now or jump a few paragraphs because the next bit of advice might not be for your liking.

As your business recovers from the pandemic, you need to try and remove some of the people like that from your business by whatever (legal) means necessary. They will drag their colleagues down and drag you down at the same time. You spend a lot of time at work. Spend it with people you like.

Because the people you need are the sort of colleagues who will choose to spent time training a junior colleague. Or editing a standard template the company uses so that customers understand it better. Or giving a great impression of your business to a potential customer even when you’re not looking.

They’re the sort who will ask a colleague how they’re getting on, dig a little deeper and do what they can to help. They’re the sort of person who refers to the company as “we”.

You need more of these people. They are your invisible heroes.

And they are all out there. Some are losing their jobs as we speak.

The next two years represents a huge opportunity for many businesses. Yes, its going to be tough. But 6 months ago, you were probably complaining that you couldn’t find the right staff. That’s probably not going to be a problem for the next couple of years.

And whilst you are recruiting your invisible heroes, you need to start being a bit more visible yourself.

The work or sales are not going to come in by themselves. Over the past few months, we have featured a whole array of marketing and sales strategies on our Coronavirus hub. Pick one. Pick two. Spread the word about what you do and the benefits of buying from you.

If something works, do it more. If it doesn’t do something else. Keep at it.

For my part, I’m going to shine a little light on one of our invisible heroes, Donna Bygrave our Personnel Manager. Some of our clients use Donna for their HR needs but most of Donna’s work is for A4G.

And yesterday, the world noticed. Well maybe “the world” is exaggerating slightly but the School Leavers Employers’ awards noticed.

As many of you know, we take on school leavers every year and have done so for 25 years. Many of those have gone on to qualify as Chartered or Certified accountants and become senior members of our team. My deputy managing partner Emma White was straight out of school when she joined us in 1999.

The awards rank companies on how good they are as employers of school leavers.

Spoiler alert – we didn’t win. Nestle did. McDonalds came third. You may have heard of both. We suspect their budget for this sort of thing is bigger than ours.

Actually, we came 24th. Some of the noticeable names below us in the top 100 were St James’s Place, Bentley, PwC (Yes!), BP, Coca-Cola, IBM, Harrods, British Airways, Lloyds Bank, Barclays, Rolls-Royce.

We came 2nd for Accounting and Professional services and in the categories sections were deemed to have the 4th Best School leaver programme ahead of any other firm of accountants including several with turnover in the billions.

I could go on.

So anyway, well done Donna, well done everyone else at A4G that helps our school leavers develop their skills and well done all those trainees the reflection of whom got us this recognition. In 12 days’ time our new intake arrive. Hopefully Ethan, Hazel, Holly and Reece will all turn up for their first day as enthusiastic and as ready to learn as many of the predecessors.

If we get it right then hopefully they will be our invisible heroes of the future. Who will be yours?

Have a good weekend.

Contact me today!

Malcolm Palmer


Managing Partner

01474 853856

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