The Hot Scots Power 40: Graham Box, Sodexo Scotland

21 February 2013
The Hot Scots Power 40: Graham Box, Sodexo Scotland

Ranking: 25

Graham Box is the managing director of Sodexo in Scotland, a role with an extensive brief that gives him responsibility for services including catering and hospitality, specialist cleaning, reception, security and mail room, through to car park management and hotel services.

Clients and contracts cover every sphere of Scottish life, including Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, Stirling University, Hampden Park, courts, castles, racecourses, clients in the oil sector - and the hospitality at the Open Championship, one of the world's biggest golf events.

Regional figures are not available, but Sodexo in the UK and Ireland employs about 35,000 people across 2,300 locations in the corporate, healthcare, education, leisure, justice and defence sectors.

With an annual turnover of over £1b, Sodexo delivers a range of services from catering, cleaning, reception to security, and laboratory and grounds maintenance services.

Graham Box - Career guide

Graham Box's first job after graduating with an HND in catering and hotelkeeping was as a purser's officer with P&O Cruises, where he stayed for six years, adding a keen eye for financial matters to his skill set.

In 1988, he joined Gardner Merchant services group, rising through the management ranks, until 1995, when he was headhunted to take on the role of managing director for Scotland and North of England with food services giant Compass Group.

In January 2008, his career took another up turn, when he was appointed managing director for Sodexo in Scotland, running a 1,000-strong team which provides catering and a wide range of on-site facilities at more than 100 locations, including schools, hospitals, courts, castles and football clubs.

As a result, the highly-motivated catering teams have collected a slew of awards under his leadership - and that same hunger for learning and development has been extended to every aspect of the business, from IT to financial control.

Graham Box - What we think

As an 18-year-old studying for his HND, Graham Box took a summer job working in the Grand Hotel, Lenk, in the Swiss mountains. There, under the hawkish gaze of a fastidious Swiss-German maitre d', he was given an insight that has influenced the rest of his professional career - he was praised for his attention to quality service and careful planning of his section.

Both service excellence and meticulous planning have remained mainstays of his working ethos ever since. But what he really learned from his Swiss experience was the power of praise in motivating people.

Since then, the key to Box's career success has been his ability to recognise and nurture talent and to help workers focus their energies and competences in areas where they can really make a difference.
His mantra is "to keep a sense of perspective in business life to allow you to focus energy and competence in areas where you can really make a difference. Balance your work and home life, easy to say but very important if you are to be productive, effective and happy."

Box reinforces the company's commitment to promoting healthy living among its employees, clients and customers and he has embraced Healthwise, Sodexo's nutrition, well-being and lifestyle philosophy.

As he has explained: "We provide information on a huge variety of topics such as which snacks make the best healthy energy boosters; what you need to know about additives and preservatives; what the different types of fat are; how much salt you can have; and how best to approach exercise to name a few. It sounds like a daunting amount of information, but it's presented in a very accessible and practical way.

Under his watch, the company has retained its Healthy Living Award year on year and, in 2012, Sodexo Scotland was named the Best Group Contract Caterer in Scotland for a third successive year in the Best Employers in Hospitality Awards.

With his keen interest in investing in people, Box pioneered master classes encouraging Sodexo chefs to stretch the limits of their imaginations. It's an approach that has led to his team winning multiple awards, including David Ward who was named Contract Chef of the Year for Scotland in 2012.

Box is chairman of the charity Springboard UK, which helps young, unemployed and disadvantaged people by offering job, training and career opportunities in hospitality, leisure and tourism. He is also on the Scottish Government's Healthy Living Award Working Group.

Graham Box to head up Sodexo Scotland >>

Words from the wise >>

Sodexo Prestige results >>

Sodexo website >>

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