Meet Ria, our Operations Director

As a business, we’re so passionate about solving problems and exceeding expectations for our clients, we’ll often work to reactively fix things in the heat of the moment. However, we’re generally so busy we rarely get chance to sit down and unpick the difficult situations we’ve navigated so we can improve in future. 

Enter: Ria Blagburn, Vanti’s Operations Director. Ria is dedicated to understanding the complex challenges we face as a business and ensuring we can make our people happier and implement efficient processes moving forward. 

Our approach to culture is incredibly innovative; having a person who is so committed to solving process-related problems within an organisation of our size is fairly unique. However, for Vanti to scale in a sustainable way, one which benefits clients, our existing team, and new starters, Ria’s role is absolutely vital. 

Hey Ria! Just before we get into the details, tell me a little about yourself. 

I have an absolute angel of a dog called Geordie, who is a very cheeky 2-year-old Labradoodle. I have a love/hate relationship with running, I’m really into beer (and the amazing breweries we have in Birmingham), and I love designing homes and gardens in the Sims. 

I’ve been involved with Vanti for 5 years but only became an official member of the team in February 2019. Over the past half-decade with Vanti I’ve been involved with Marketing, Service, Improvement, and now Operations.  

What are some of your proudest moments in your career, both before and during Vanti? 

Winning the Marketing and Comms award at Birmingham Young Professional of the Year was certainly a highlight! Prior to joining Vanti properly I ran my own marketing consultancy business (of which Vanti was a client), which has given me invaluable commercial knowledge. 

Leading Vanti’s Service Team is also something I’m incredibly proud of. Essentially it was an IT Manager role, and Vanti trusted that despite me not having the technical experience, I had the skills and motivation to succeed. It really proved that we were committed to doing things differently. 

Working with clients like Informa has also been really cool; they trust us with the technology of their real estate, and believe we have their best interests at heart. They absolutely could have gone with a much bigger company over Vanti but still chose us. We have such a good working relationship that is not only professional but also incredibly friendly and genuine. This gives us the space for honesty and it’s such an amazing way of working. 

Could you tell me about your journey into your current role? 

I knew Vanti when we were both based at Faraday Wharf. Both Vanti and my old employer were members of a scaleup programmed called E4F Inspire. This is where I became friends with Mike [Brooman, Vanti CEO], and I’ll forever be grateful to him for the support (and business!) he gave me when I started my own consultancy company. Although I loved working with Vanti, my passion for marketing was starting to wane and that was when the Service role came up. They needed someone really organised, good with people, and able to strategise so it felt like a really good fit. 

I supported Service for 18 months, figuring out how to empower the team and improve processes. We then looked at how my skills could be applied to the business as a whole, which is where my current role came from.

I definitely have my hands full, and it can be stressful to know I shoulder much of the responsibility of making us a better business, but I think it’s really important for the team to know that there is someone dedicated to fixing problems at Vanti and making everyone’s life a bit easier! 

Sounds amazing! How’s your new role been so far? 

I started my current role in Summer 2020. The initial few weeks and months were all about getting a really deep understanding of the problems and challenges faced by individuals and teams, as so much of it is interlinked and it’s not easy to work on things in isolation.  

The biggest project I’ve completed since then has been the Master Projects Workflow. This involved setting up our project management tool so that work can be passed from team to team in a consistent way, ensuring that there is always enough context and information about the work they need to complete. 

I’ve also spent a lot of time with the individual teams across the business, supporting them in the development of processes that will help them grow more sustainably.

What do you plan to do next? 

I’m trying to implement more consistency around the software we use, such as making Slack more manageable and restructuring and migrating our file repositories. A big job for the next 12 months will be the launch of our new ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) tool, which will enable us to share data across different business functions so no balls get dropped.

I’m also working on better site preparation and handover processes so that the work we do onsite is aligned with what our Design team envisioned, and our Engineering team are able to work more efficiently and effectively. Measure twice, cut once! 

Finally, I’m really keen to embed a culture of proactive change, so I’m aiming for everyone within the business to understand exactly how they can action positive change within Vanti themselves.  

This will make Vanti an even better place to work in the future.