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17 January 2019
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Could FMs be sought after by other functions?

29 April 2013

I’ve been thinking a bit about transferable skills over the last week or so, prompted by some mentoring activity for someone who is trying to settle into one discipline, but with a background in an allied, but different field.

Such issues will not come as a surprise for many of my readers from the facilities management sphere; many of them, like me, came into FM from other roles.

A few of the stories I’ve published on this blog have told of some of the teams that I have inherited or assembled over the years; for example, one FM team was made up of me, a logistics and supply chain man, a merchant navy officer (H&S manager), a commercial chef (planning manager), and accountant (maintenance manager) and a reformed teenage tearaway (customer services manager).

As a newly formed FM team pitched straight into running a multi-property corporate estate, we would have seemed a strange bunch to any HR team. Fortunately HR had no part in the recruitment other than to issue the contracts of employment; I picked this group from a number of people who were made available as surplus to requirements.

I actually knew all of them from our former lives within that organisation, but this wasn’t a question of picking my mates – far from it. I had clashed with all of them on a work basis at some point. What was important was that I saw something in the potential of us as a quintet, and I was confident that I could manage the team dynamics.

And boy did we deliver. It was never a bed of roses, within and without the team, but it worked because we all had good generic skills that we could bring to running an estate of almost 30 properties.

Faced with taking five per cent out of the running costs of the estate that we inherited, some of which was in a deplorable state, we not only did better than eight per cent in each of three years working together, but on top of that, we closed down leases on other sites that saved over another £5 million per annum by moving those folks into our buildings.

By the time that changes at the corporate level saw that little group disband, our portfolio was in much better condition. This was all done for less money and by a bunch who, had someone being trying to recruit us, would never have signed on any of us. How did we do it? We managed what we did because we all had a lot of good skills that we could bring to the party.

When you’ve sailed bulk grain tankers across the Pacific and the Great Lakes, you know a lot about risk management and safety. When you’ve cooked dinners for several hundred people, night after night, you know a lot about resource management and planning – both of these individuals were very cool under pressure. Our former accountant was very aware of detail and maintaining accurate records, and also was very conscious of asset values and the impact on the balance sheet, all of which have a bearing on maintaining your estate.

So far so good, all positive skills that can move over to FM even if there is a lack of experience. But what could the reformed tearaway bring to customer service? Well, when you have recognised in yourself that you have been behaving like an idiot and are on the fast track to trouble, have taken it on yourself to change and have made something of yourself you’ve developed a tremendous level of character and that is something that is vital in customer service; you have to be able to deal with all sorts of people and if you’ve proved that you can manage yourself, you can manage relationships with others.

It’s great that we are now in a position where we are developing facilities managers from a young age and training them, hopefully for a long career. But we need to develop the generic skill sets that they have so that, if they need to or are forced to, they have skills that they can take somewhere else. Wouldn’t it be great if people recruiting in other disciplines were on the lookout for FMs because their skills were recognised as exceptional?

John Bowen is an FM consultant