30 January 2014
Elsewhere in this edition you'll read about Keith Broome, the ebullient operations manager at 3 Mills Studios.
You may not have heard of it, but 3 Mills is one of London's TV studios businesses, in fact one of the busiest. Hollywood blockbusters through to live variety shows, adverts and music videos are all shot here. Broome, meanwhile, is finding that the extraordinary variety of his clients (a fast-revolving carousel of production companies headed by often highly demanding 'divas') can be equal parts challenge and delight.
He loves the job, but the one thing he's learnt from his two years doing it is the need for he and his team to display an extraordinary amount of mental discipline. And by extraordinary, I'm talking about levels of diplomacy and tact that can border on the superhuman.
Consider the working environment; Broome and his team of seven can't operate out of hours, they're obliged to work while the client is on site, right in front of them. Being responsible for operations means always responding when clients suddenly demand (to use three typical examples) a hundred chairs, four tonnes of sand or a fridge.
All of this might be requested at 7:00am in the morning, for immediate supply if you please. And by client we're talking about multiple clients, each renting space for often wildly varying lengths of time, each with often dramatically different requirements. People and process are both constantly changing.
Then you have to factor in two other critical elements - the uniquely demanding nature of the client's management and the need to block from your mind the casual presence of celebrities. Whether it's Brad Pitt, David Beckham or Jessie J, Broome's team must ignore them and carry on regardless. (Something that's often easier said than done when Lady Gaga is queuing up for sandwiches along with everyone else on the production. True story.)
What all of this means is an FM operations team that can immediately adapt to fast-changing situations and communicate effectively to all types of individual.
I got to thinking about Keith and his uncanny powers of communication during a particularly gloomy commute into London the other day. Essentially, we commuters could have worked around the (desperately poor) rail operating company's failures if only they had even basic customer communication capabilities. I wondered how facilities managers would have assessed the situation, because FMs deal with this kind of communication emergency as a matter of course.
Why is the art of communication, so superbly executed by the best in our profession, so often desparately under-appreciated by those who pay the bills? It's extraordinary that the typical FM's ability to communicate up and down - as well as vertically and horizontally - is so poorly valued at C-suite level. Here, after all, is possibly the most important single characteristic of high-achieving individuals -yet even though FMs share it, they're never identified by it. This despite FMs demonstrating communications skills on a daily basis.
Shouldn't FMs be recognised for their ability to practice patience and discipline while multi-tasking for multiple audiences? Perhaps in time we'll see the emergence of a communications standard of sorts, the meeting of which will suddenly shine a better light on the hidden superpowers of the humble FM.
Martin Read is managing editor at FM World