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17 January 2019
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Everything is bigger in Texas - part 1

4 January 2013

BIFM chairman Ismena Clout gives a personal account of her trip to the World Workplace exhibition and conference.

One of the many great things you get to do as chairman of the BIFM is to visit other countries’ conferences and exhibitions as a guest of their FM institutes.

One such event stands above the rest – World Workplace, organised by International Facility Management Association (IFMA). It is one of the jewels in the crown of a chairman’s term, along with our own fabulous awards ceremony.
It was with a heightened level of expectation that I boarded my plane to San Antonio, Texas, and the week-long event certainly didn't disappoint. My aims were to meet my counterparts from around the world, gather information on how the event operates, and to see what lessons we can learn for the UK market.
Starting the week on a positive note is always great, so I was delighted to find the weather was warm and the sun shining – I’d forgotten what a mood tonic sunshine could be! Another treat for me was seeing my parents who live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and who flew in for the weekend. We drove up to Austin on the Sunday to see some other relatives and eat at the world famous Salt Lick BBQ before visiting the grave of a family friend in Elgin, a town to the east of Austin. He’d been a Lutheran minister based in the nearby Swedish community for much of his career. As a thank-you gift, they’d given him a plot in their graveyard, and what a gift it was. The spot, surrounded by open farmland, was beautiful. In the gentle breeze and with sunlight shining, I reflected that it was a beautiful place to rest in peace.
My first official duties were on the Monday. I went into the main conference hotel to attend my first GlobalFM board meeting. The BIFM has been a member of GlobalFM since it was created in the mid-noughties and has supported it faithfully. Like all organisations, GlobalFM has reached a point at which it needs to refresh itself, and this meeting was to vote through the reforms that will make it a leaner and smarter organisation, giving it a more sustainable place on the global stage. The BIFM supports these changes and looks forward to the next stage of development.
This meeting was my first chance to meet some of the team: Teena Shouse, chairman of GlobalFM, who came up through the ranks at IFMA, Duncan Waddell, who is deputy chair of GlobalFM and a representative of FMA Australia, and, easily the most stylish of the group, Lionel Cottin who is the chief executive of ARSEG (the first French professional network dedicated to the work environment). For the second time I was able to meet Mauro Campos of Brazilian organisation ABRAFAC, who has boundless energy and enthusiasm, and Tony Keane, the chief executive of IFMA, who had been a guest at our own awards in October.
Tuesday’s schedule involved three events for me; the first was moving out of my 'value' hotel after a string of disasters and bad service, including an almost flooded bathroom, and moving into the conference hotel. Due to super-storm Sandy there had been a number of cancellations so I was able to get a room that made the rest of my stay much easier. I bade farewell to my parents with only a few tears and then to an IFMA lunch with their board and foundation people. This was the first time I had met a group of the Americans, and in a casual environment. As the ‘fresh blood’, I was swept up into their hospitality and goodwill, with a renewed desire to work together to advance the FM profession.
In the evening it was on the IFMA Foundation gala. The foundation awards scholarships to FM students around the world, and its associated gala is held to celebrate the work done and raise more money. There were silent auctions and not so silent auctions; it's always interesting watching competitive people want the same lot! There I bumped into Dave Wilson, who engages a lot with IFMA. He was a much-more knowledgeable kid on the block than me, and gave me a few hints for the rest of the week. I was adopted by the guys from Nespresso, and had a great time watching old friends seeing each other and catching up.
In the second and final part of this blog, I’ll talk more about the conference proceedings. It will appear here next Tuesday 8th January.

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