21 March 2017 | Martin Read
Two significant perceived barriers to FM client/provider harmony have struck me recently.
First, the problem of service providers failing to adapt to changing client demand and exiting their contractual arrangements in avoidably messy ways. Second, the evergreen demand that all we really need is longer contract terms to guarantee harmony and performance; contract relationships will flourish if both parties have the time to address and resolve initial teething troubles.
All well and good, but we've been banging these particular drums for some time. Fortunately, the Guardian's @SimonBurnton recently published an illuminating piece about former Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman and the following bright idea: The Football League, said Chapman, should relegate fully half its member clubs every season.
Why? Because fear of relegation forces football clubs in to making short-sighted, rushed and often regrettable decisions. Relegation, said Chapman, is seen "as an almost insufferable indignity"; relegating half the division "would eradicate that feeling of disgrace attaching to the clubs relegated" and "do away with that fear of financial embarrassment". It would diminish the stigma of failure and lead to increased interest; and it would also prevent clubs doing moderately well from giving up on a season when there is "nothing to fight for, nothing to struggle against".
In the days after reading that piece I couldn't get the FM service market out of my head - and then I realised why. Perhaps Chapman's great idea could be transposed to the FM sector in the following way - by ensuring that no FM service contract lasts more than a single year.
Just like football clubs facing an attritional fight to avoid relegation, service providers face an initial fight for success followed by long periods of struggle to keep above a minimum standard. Twelve-month maximum terms could work just like the idea of relegating half the Premier League - by taking away the stigma of failure and allowing clients and providers alike to keep fresh ideas and approaches bubbling away.
No contract would ever last long enough to cause the lingering trust issues frequently seen as a reason for contract failure. Fear of financial and brand embarrassment would be reduced on both sides. Clients would only be committed a year forward, while an annual 'spring clean' approach to sustaining interest in contracts would ensure that providers are kept on their mettle. Failing contracts - and the reasons for same - would be more quickly identified and addressed, be they principally the fault of client or provider.
The market for contracts would become huge by definition and smaller firms with either superstar personnel or a distinct service USP would have more chance to build a 'team' to best service a big-league contract. Middle-ranked service providers could 'do an AFC Bournemouth' and be promoted into the upper echelons, 12-month maximums allowing larger clients to 'try out' those smaller providers with interesting ideas that might better fit their market proposition but would normally be assessed as too risky by procurement bods.
Of course it's an idea that will always fall foul of a loud and entrenched "longer contract" lobby. But innovation in service provision? Back of the net!
Martin Read is editor of FM World