With the army now drafted in to provide security at the
Olympic Games, it has been embarrassing for the company at the
centre of the
storm. Could this have been avoided by rewarding
contracts to smaller businesses?
When asked if his company had overseen "a humiliating shambles"
Nick Buckles, the CEO of G4S, the security provider now famous for
all the wrong reasons, replied, "I cannot disagree with you".
After failing to supply sufficient numbers of security
staff for the Olympic Games, kicking off next week, and only
revealing the fact last week, Buckles faced the music during a
grilling in the Commons.
In the £284m contract his firm had committed to providing 10,400
security guards for Games venues around the country, yet now can
only hope to provide around 7,000 - although no one really knows
who will turn up to work on the day.
As it stands, 3,500 soldiers will now be filling in the gaps,
performing basic security duties - many of whom have recently
returned from service in Afghanistan and are due to be on leave.
The Home Office is ready to call up to 2,000 more should they be
With the company's reputation in bits Buckle admitted he regrets
ever signing the contract to provide such huge numbers, but he
insisted that the firm had not taken on the contract for the money.
It was mainly to boost their reputation. Just imagine, after
successfully undertaking a task of such a magnitude they'd be well
prepared for anything coming their way.
Needless to say G4S will now not be seeking to provide security
for the next Olympic Games in Rio in 2016. Or the next World Cup.
They may well still be re-building the company's reputation in four
While Buckles struggled to explain what had gone wrong, it
is obvious that it wasn't down to just one error. From the off, G4S
clearly took on more than it was capable of, no one discovered any
problems while there was still time to deal with it and the
recruitment difficulties were relayed far too late to the relevant
There was no plan B in place, nothing to spell out what to do if
the team failed to find enough recruits. Astonishingly, even
now G4S can't say how many people will turn up to work for
The whole performance will cost the company between £35m and
£50m and so far its share price had fallen by 17%. It's likely to
also cost Buckles his job.
The G4S Facebook page tells its own story of a shambolic
recruitment process with the communication problems evident.
The firm is no newcomer to handling large contracts,
the company already runs big security jobs in the UK and
the rest of the world - it operates in more than 120 countries and
has plenty of experience. Staff work in prisons and policing,
they supply security to airports and big events such as
The company seemed a safe pair of hands to deal with
arguably the biggest job of the London Games.
However, the Olympic organising committee may have avoided a
potentially catastrophic situation by splitting the security
contracts up and inviting more and smaller firms to tender for the
contracts. It would have made problems infinitely easier to deal
with plus smaller firms are likely to have better communication at
Any problems could be dealt with efficiently and quickly and
should a firm find that they are unable to fulfil the commitment it
is easier to find a replacement. As things stand now, only very
large companies of G4S size would be able to come in and supply the
workers. Or the armed forces.
On the other side of the coin, any company looking to go for
public sector contracts, would do well to read in to this story,
note the details and make sure that whatever you do don't take on
more than you are actually able to deliver. It's easy to assume
your promises will be scrutinised before being awarded the contract
but that's clearly not always the case.
Sure, it's tempting to promise more than you can deliver and
hope for the best, but the G4S episode, played out in such an
excruciatingly public way, should be more than enough reason to
steer clear of this strategy.
The last thing you want is to oversee a humiliating shambles. As
Nick Buckles can tell you.