Mark and Del

Breathe Out – Volume 5

Mark and Del

Tell us a little about who you are, who you work for and what you do? 

My name is Mark Day, I am the Managing Director of Proceed Solutions. Proceed Solutions is a cleaning company that was formed just under six years ago. We do all aspects of cleaning from commercial cleaning, logistics, retail, offices, universities, shopping centres and all types of specialist cleaning. My role was a bit more hands-on previously, but as the company’s got bigger and the team has progressed I’m involved a little bit less now in the day to day.  I’m still coming to terms with this and dealing with it, but on the whole that’s a positive thing. I love spending time with customers and colleagues; I feel that is a strength of mine and I really enjoy getting out of the office and spending time on our contracts. I would previously have always been on site on a brand-new contract start up to help the team. We have a contract mobilising at the moment and I’ve yet to visit, I still find that a little bit strange. We’ve also our biggest ever contract mobilising at the moment and I’m not going to be at the start up. It’s great to hear the team have everything in hand – I suppose it’s a reflection on how far the company has come and how well the team are doing. A worry of mine was always when we got bigger would the company become ‘diluted’? When it was just Barrie and I we were in total control, we worried about diluting that enthusiasm and passion. We have however created something very special, everyone plays a role that makes us perform so effectively.

How long have you been in your industry? 

I’ve been in the cleaning industry coming up to 28 years now. I love the cleaning industry, I find it’s like a game of chess. Everyday is different, one day you’ll be visiting a client you’ve known for years for a pie and a pint and the next day you could be meeting a brand new client who may be on top of their game so you have to be on top of yours. When I first started off working, every job I ever had I always seemed to rise up through the ranks. I was an upholsterer for a little while and worked my way up to management. I remember the owner of this particular business asked me to discipline the staff for not working their overtime. I had a real issue with this as I knew we hadn’t informed them, I said maybe if we communicated a bit better we wouldn’t have this issue. That didn’t go down well and I couldn’t work for a company that didn’t treat their staff properly. I then started working for a company called GSF, I remember being young and being given my first company car which I was very excited about. I went through the ranks at GSF very quickly. I started off on small contracts and then started looking after their biggest contracts. I really enjoyed it there, travelling the country troubleshooting. I sacrificed a lot during this time, giving up family time for nights away in London and Birmingham. London was losing lots of money at the time but I went down there and ended up staying for 5 years. I remember having to make some tough decisions while in London to make people redundant but I see some of these people at awards and dinners and some are now Managing Directors themselves so it might have been the push they needed. I stayed with this business for 11 years in the end before joining another cleaning company called Dougland. That’s where I met Barrie Richards, I had a recruitment agent invite me to a meeting with him. At the time I wasn’t looking for a job and was reluctant to meet with him. It was my wife Claire who talked me into it and I’m glad she did because the rest as they say is history! Barrie is a very infectious guy, he sold his company and himself very well and after a few more meetings we started working together. The company was incredible and I met some people who I now consider as friends for life. In the end Barrie sold the business to Kingdom and we went our separate ways but fast forward two years and 6 years on from there – here we are today.

What makes the business you represent unique in relation to mental health?

That’s a tough question but I think it’s due to the people we have. So many of us within the business are so passionate about mental health, about raising the awareness and talking about it. When we started working together again this was one of our first conversations (#BreatheOut) and I loved everything about it. I talk about it all the time and it’s through everything that we do. People who know me well know why this subject is dear to me, I know we will come on to this a little later but my passion and the rest of the leadership team’s passion for not only BreatheOut but the subject itself is what makes us unique. Trying to help normalise these types of conversations and raise money for mental health charities while supporting our own workforce is what Proceed and BreatheOut is all about.

Tell us something most people won’t know about you.

Something that most people won’t know about me is that I had trials for West Brom football club. This was before I had a dodgy knee, I have 3 brothers and they would say I was the worst player but I definitely had the better engine. My youngest brother was probably the best out of all of us but once he started socialising and meeting girls that was it for him. He was really good though and I even remember sponsoring him when he was younger, getting him football boots (Patrick 2022) and kitting him out in tracksuits and kits but he never made it.

As part of the BreatheOut initiative, which highlights the positive impact of talking to someone, especially if you are struggling and also being active. How important are these two factors of combatting mental ill-health to you?

For me there’s no doubt about the benefits of getting out and about. Just look at us now, in this beautiful part of the world and life is just better because we’re outside getting fresh air and being active. If I go a week or so without any activity it really affects me. Other than the place we don’t talk about, when I worked in London that was the most stressed work environment I’ve ever been in. I had to make a load of people redundant. The business was haemorrhaging money and I had to make some difficult decisions affecting people’s livelihoods. I’d take this home and I’d go running every night. I’d get in, go for a 5k run and really enjoyed it – it was my way of cleansing away the stresses of the day. I look back to when I ruptured my ACL, I couldn’t run or even walk and I literally couldn’t do anything apart from sit on the sofa! I’d get out of bed, go downstairs and then lay on the sofa. I felt myself getting really sluggish, I didn’t want to have a shave or do anything. My wife Claire noticed a change in me due to not being active. I felt like a caged lion, I was not nice to be around but Claire, through tough love, definitely helped me. In reference to opening up and talking I’m a firm believer in a problem shared is a problem halved. Unfortunately it’s still a bit of a taboo subject (even in my own family), especially amongst men, maybe of a particular age but it really shouldn’t be. I’m particularly close to a couple of friends and my cousin (almost 40 years of friendship!), some struggle with their mental health more than others. We meet up regularly, we play pool together, we go on holidays together and put the world to rights. We also have a WhatsApp group and every day, without fail we interact with each other and check in. It’s definitely helped me and I know it’s also helping them too so yeah, opening up and talking is something we need to do, particularly if we’re struggling.

Have you ever personally struggled with your own mental health. If so how did you or do you deal with it?

I always knew I was going to do one of these sessions, we originally talked about the #BreatheOut concept when you joined the business and I knew I wanted to take part in an episode. I needed to talk to my family to almost get clearance as we’ve had some tragedy and this forum and in particular this question gives me an opportunity to discuss it. We are approaching 2 years since my cousin Joanne took her own life. Joanne worked for Proceed for a little while, she was an amazing person and a great cleaner. Nobody knew in the family that she was on antidepressants, I remember getting a call from my Dad while I was at work who told me that she’d gone missing. I remember almost dismissing it thinking to myself, she’ll turn up. I then got a text from my Dad saying that the police helicopters were out, I then realised the severity of it. I have always been really close to my Auntie Jenny and my Uncle Bob who’s now passed. I was close to my cousin Joanne and I’m still really close now to her brother Justin who’s my age, we holiday together and text each other every day. I remember going round to their house on the Monday and I sat in their immaculate lounge. I still remember all the details, being sat in their lounge with the telly on but on mute. I remember my auntie asking me to tell her that she’s going to come back. I reassured her and told her, of course she will but she’s going to need some help from professionals. I remember how emotional my auntie was and how hard my cousin was trying to support his Mum. I remember finding it really hard the amount of people calling trying to get information, watching my auntie going over the story time and time again. The room was silent so whenever the phone would ring it would make everyone jump. We were sat there for two and a half hours but it felt like a lifetime. I had to go back to work so I said my goodbyes and got to the office, as I walked through the office door my cousin called me. I knew it was the worst news because I could hear my auntie wailing in the background. My cousin said that they had found her body. I remember sinking to my knees thinking I’d just told my auntie that she’d be okay and I lied! I felt so bad for my cousin and all I could hear was her wailing. I’d never heard anything like it, this was without doubt the toughest thing I ever had to go through. It’s incredible how strong people are, she was so young, she was bossy, really bossy. She worked for us for a while, the clients loved her. We used to argue over silly things in work but I’d give in and get her whatever she needed. It turns out she got herself into a bit of a drug problem and just didn’t talk to us. To think the amount of pain she must have been in to end up doing what she did – also the pain it leaves behind for everyone. When you grow up you don’t tend to see your aunties as much but I try to make a point of seeing her once a month just to see if she’s okay even though I know she’s not okay. She cries every time I see her and she hopes one day Joanna is somehow going to walk through the door, obviously that’s never going to happen. When I think of my cousin and his family, their Dad died horrifically in an accident in work and what started Joanne’s problems is that they had an argument before work and then he had a horrific accident and died and Joanne never forgave herself for that and ended up getting involved with the wrong people and got hooked on drugs. In the end she ended up getting in some financial difficulties and this was her only way out. If only she would have opened up and talked to any one of us, we could have sorted this issue out and tried to get her the help she clearly needed. At the wake I remember a few things, I was trying to be strong for my auntie and cousin and the vicar was talking about my cousin and said the best job she ever had was working for her cousin at Proceed Solutions. It was at that point when I completely broke down. I also remember really celebrating my cousins life but in the strangest way possible we had an incredible day – it was really poignant and we all enjoyed each others company and truly celebrated her life.

In business there is a stigma attached to people with mental health issues. Why do you think that is?

It’s a shame that there is a stigma in business, at Proceed we try to identify any additional needs to help people, work with them and create the best environment for people to flourish. The business world is improving, if we look back to only 5-10 years ago. The subject wasn’t talked about so openly, the support wasn’t available and initiatives like BreatheOut would not exist. We are far from it being perfect but we are moving in the right direction. I love what we’ve created at Proceed, the informal chats we have, the BreatheOut colleague support. We’ve even just bought some comfy chairs for the office encouraging our team to get away from their desks and open up about life in general and maybe problems they have.

What tips or guidance could you offer other people who are maybe struggling with their own mental health.

It’s really easy to get bogged down with life’s everyday challenges, struggle with no time etc. You owe it to yourself to make time for yourself to get out and about, meet up with a friend and open up. Break the cycle, get some fresh air and open up. I almost done it myself today, I wasn’t looking forward to this. I knew I’d get emotional and I was trying to think of excuses to put it off but being out, with a friend and opening up I now feel so much better. I was dreading this because I knew it would be hard. We’ve known each other for a very long time, however I don’t think we’ve ever cried together! I knew it was going to be tough in parts but I now feel so much better and I’m really glad I did it. So if you’re struggling or you know of someone who is. Get out in the fresh air and open up to someone. It might be hard and even the thought of it might be daunting but you’ll feel so much better for it. You owe it to yourself!

This Breathout session is dedicated to my cousin Joanne and to the strongest man I know, her brother Justin always here for you CUZ.  RIP Joanne X

Participants – Mark Day and Del McGee, Proceed Solutions

Location – Swanwick Marina, Southampton

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