Ten years ago, in a time before the then BIFM awards routinely recognised the achievements of up and coming FMs, we at what was FM World magazine set out to identify a group of 40 individuals representative of the future face of workplace and facilities management. The limit was on experience rather than age, in this case no more than 10 years’ of working in the sector; we wanted to find people demonstrating significant achievement in a relatively short space of time.
One such Rising Star of FM was Helen Cooper, then director and shareholder at Diamond Facilities Support, and now the joint managing director at the same organisation. A decade later, we ask Cooper about personal progress and the evolution of the profession.
What do you remember about 2012 – and if you could, what would you warn your 2012 self about?
My youngest was born! Securing our largest contract that year. Clients all gained their own web portals and the additional admin burden this has put on FM contractors to not only manage their own systems but now client systems too, including engineers having to manage multiple client Field Apps and the importance of direct labour.
What makes you excited about the profession? How has this changed from when you began your career?
There are now many more women in FM and maintenance. When I first started close on 25 years ago it was very much male dominated. There are great opportunities for women in FM and maintenance to develop great careers and reach the pinnacle of the sector.
How have your expectations of workplace and FM evolved? And what do you think the profession needs to do next?
Lots has changed including work flexibility with working from home, the advent of ever more technological advances allowing better control of labour and costs – efficiency and communication is absolutely the key to success combined with direct labour.
What is the most pressing challenge facing the industry?
Recruitment of suitably qualified and experienced labour both in the office and in the field, and the low margins that contracting organisations operate to – meaning the industry has a very high failure rate if organisations are not well controlled and managed. The other issue currently is the price of fuel given engineers generally drive around in diesel vans with fuel increased by over 30% but net margins well below 10% for most contractors.
What are your top three focus points currently and why?
- Recruitment – due to the significant tightening of the labour market;
- Client service – as this is all that matters when looking for long-term relationships; and
- Margins – of course, the need for robustness.
To what extent have the behaviours and attitudes of your clients changed in the last decade?
Clients demand excellent service as always but generally still expect incredibly competitive rates. Clients also now expect engineers to use their apps and update their systems, which is fine for some but not all. Some engineers are excellent practically, but administration and IT systems are not always their forte – especially some older engineers whom we need to retain given the lack of younger engineers coming through.
Reacquaint yourself with our other Rising Stars of FM
- Martin Bell
- Annette Best
- Ryan Botta
- Dean Botten
- Will Bowen
- Peter Burnell-Jones
- Martin Frohock
- Jason Gurd
- Adrian Harris
- Herbie Hawes
- Daniel Hawkins
- Andrew Hulbert
- Ryan Jarman
- Annie Karastoyanova
- Stephanie Kendall
- Ben Luvaglio
- Kate Morris-Bates
- Darren Raczkowski
- Tom Robinson
- Rishi Sharma
- Tristam Slater
- Kate Smith
- Will Tyler
- Clifford Yeend