26 April 2016 | Martin Read
"Once upon a time there was a profession called Facilities Management, and its practitioners saw the world not always as it was - but perhaps as it could be with just a little bit of magic."
Forgive the corruption of those opening lines from the latest film adaptation of Cinderella. But you'll doubtless be aware of the unfortunate phrase "Cinderella service" and its application to FM. You know the kind of thing - FM goes on "behind closed doors", its practitioners doing all the preparatory stuff that ensures everyone else can enjoy themselves at the legally compliant, sustainably resourced and perfectly organised Ball. (An emphasis on catering and front-of-house for that particular project, obviously.)
None of this behind-closed-doors stuff would be half as bad were a Cinderella service not also defined as "a poor or unsuccessful person or thing, neglected or ignored". Who wants to be associated with any of that? Where the hell is our magic?
They call Cinderella "a folk tale embodying a myth-element of unjust oppression followed by triumphant reward". Time, perhaps, to focus on that 'triumphant reward' element. There's still a job to be done in getting the message to the consumer about what FM does - so how best do we target the most people, most effectively, with that positive message?
If the full extent of FM is to be laid out to the typical consumer, we need an environment in which it can be explained without prejudice. Might the best theatre to explain the "little bit of magic" that FM brings to everyone in their away-from-home lives be the place people visit in their spare time to see that Cinderella film, or buy that Cinderella merchandise? If an FM consumer awareness campaign is the aim, might a retail park or shopping centre be the best place to host it?
A shopping centre is an environment in which everyone comes together with a broad common purpose. And more importantly, the typical shopping centre has an impressive FM story to tell. In terms of the environment, retailers and their FM departments are doing amazing things with biomass, anaerobic digestion and more. A huge amount of recycling is done in innovative and interesting ways. (We reported last week on NG Bailey working with Land Securities on eight shopping centres for which it will be introducing 'innovative energy-saving solutions'.)
Then there are the security guards, the health and safety, the cleaning - all clearly on display to the public in a typical trading day. The front-of-house element is represented through information help desks and even product marketing campaigns, where shoppers are invited to become part of the 79 per cent of 137 people who prefer one shampoo to another.
It's a great environment in which to present the case for FM to a hitherto unappreciative public. Consumers would leave with a much better appreciation of the extent of FM, and you would also hope they'd have a kind word or two with the next member of FM personnel they encounter. Because as Cinderella says, where there is kindness there is goodness. And where there is goodness? There's magic.
Martin Read is managing editor of FM World