It might sound like a daft question, but a couple of things this week have raised this issue and got me thinking.
This first came up when I ran into an occasional client on the platform and we rode home from London together. Earlier this year I had helped his team review the checklist for visiting shortlisted companies for a re-tender of his outsourced FM contract.
I have a well-rehearsed programme for such things, and whilst when vetting potential service providers, clients will only visit a reference site, I always suggest a visit to their head office as well. You can learn so much about a company by visiting its lair.
I had suggested this tack to my companion and also proposed that they ask the supplier's own FM to take them around rather that have the sales team do it. On our journey I asked him how things had gone.
He told me that they had fairly quickly discounted the other bids and decided to re-appoint their existing supplier, but that they had decided to visit that company's head office to sign the contract and to have a look around. It would not change their decision, but he liked the idea.
"Guess what?" he then asked me. "They didn't have an FM". Apparently the MD's secretary acted as an office manager and that was about the nearest they could offer.
This got me thinking back to my own experiences working for service providers and it struck me that I wasn't exactly sure how we ran FM at any of the various offices that we used.
As a road warrior I would only appear in any of our offices for meetings and sign in, do the meeting, sign out as push off so I really came into little contact with my headquarters colleagues and as long as I knew where the fire exits, the loo the tea making facilities and the meeting rooms were, roughly in that order, I was happy. Discounting the places where we had a few people in serviced accommodation, the only place where I came across anyone attempting to manage facilities was at one outfit where the HR director was a micro manager of the first order and made such a fuss. It was obvious there who was, at least trying, to run FM, but you could hardly have referred to that individual as an FM professional.
There could be an argument that in those businesses we were lean and mean, ran a tight ship and didn't need to have a full time person running FM, but what does that say about our industry? If we treat the role like that ourselves is it no wonder that so many customers fail to take FM seriously.
Equally the argument that a company that is in the industry employs FM people and so can look after itself does not hold water, because it begs the question: who is in charge?
Having thought about the topic I am conscious that it is something that I haven't thought about much before and I certainly haven't discussed the internal arrangements with anyone in the industry for a while, probably not in the current decade. Perhaps I am mistaken in my perception and I would love to be proved wrong so feel free to start chucking rocks (unless of course you live in glass houses).
Assuming I am wrong, it might be interesting to hear from some of the FMs on how they get on with their internal customers!
John Bowen is an FM consultant