Home > Leadership, The Monday Musings Column > Facilities Managers must become more businesslike

Facilities Managers must become more businesslike

I wrote a while back about the need for us to see more business acumen amongst the specialist disciplines like purchasing and facilities management, so I was delighted to read my fellow FM World columnist (and fellow consultant) Lionel Prodgers’ article last week talking along similar lines.

When I wrote about this last time my own thoughts on this topic had been prompted by a conversation I’d had with Steve Gladwin as we drove between site visits whilst judging in the BIFM awards. The general thrust was that, if we wanted to advance the FM profession into the boardroom, then FM people needed to understand that corporate jungle and its language.

Like many of my age group I came in to FM from other disciplines; I had an IT and purchasing/supply chain background and, although I had spent two and a half years as a buyer managing that end of M&E contracts, it was only later in life, as Operations Director running a large logistics operation, that I moved from FM customer to FM Provider. Even then it was a small part of my empire and it had only come to me because the Accommodation Team, as they were known, had managed to close down my goods inwards function with an ill thought through project. By the end of that month they had been transferred from Personnel to my team and we got on fine thereafter.

It was only when I merged that operation with another business and did away with my own job that I made the move to FM as a full time interest with a portfolio over more than 30 sites to manage. But I didn’t ever see myself as a facilities manager; more as a businessman who ran a facilities management organisation, and I think that this is a crucial difference in approach.

As a younger man I worked for some years in the wholesale trade where it was important to be able to supply the retail clients with things that they could easily sell on and make their profits from. That requirement to think past the next link in the supply chain to the next one beyond stood me in good stead in FM; what did my clients need to help them run their business? Indeed, to understand what their business was, how it was developing, what their objectives were and so on was a foundation of my approach. If I could understand what their issues were then I could help deliver FM solutions that much better and could contribute to the way that their strategies evolved.

As FM became established as a profession through the 1990s it came together with a wealth of talent from all sorts of backgrounds and it was this that, in many ways, enabled it to establish its own identity. Quite rightly we have tried to get to a point where FM is a profession of choice for younger people and BIFM have done sterling work in evolving a professional qualification framework to enable them to qualify through. These things take time to work through, but it is doing what it was intended to do in bringing people on.

This approach is something that I carry through today into helping people studying for their FM qualifications because, whilst they obviously need to understand FM, as they become more senior they need to become more business minded. When I qualified as a buyer I had to study marketing, accounting and law amongst other subjects to pass out, and it is this breadth that we need to develop in our FM people.


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