To mark World FM Day 2021 - Celebrating FM: Standing tall beyond the pandemic, Facilitate is featuring the stellar operational workplace and facilities managers who continue to support their colleagues, organisation and broader economy.
What do you do?
I’m currently the FM for Dentsu Aegis Network, responsible for both of the London HQ buildings comprising 200,000 square feet and 1,800 employees. It is a multinational media and digital marketing communications company and a wholly owned subsidiary of the Japanese advertising and PR firm Dentsu. Given the size of the remit, I have a sensible-sized department to oversee while supporting the continual changes of Dentsu along with planning for a relocation to new HQ premises.
What attracted you to FM, and how did you get into the industry?
I started working as a temp in a facilities assistant role within a law firm around 15 years ago and the contract soon turned into a permanent position. I quickly understood that facilities is a crucial function to enable the operation of a business.
How long have you been in your current role?
I joined in November 2019. It’s worth saying that it feels longer than that – a good thing, I hope, but likely contributed by the impact of Covid-19.
Do you see yourself as predominantly a task or a people manager?
I would certainly say I am more weighted towards a people manager. Having strong personable and relationship skills gives you an extra edge in being successful especially within a client servicing and supporting function. I have been fortunate to have some very good managers in my career who have not only given me opportunities but are like-minded and have probably in one way or another shaped my approach to management. They have invested in me personally and I have reaped the benefits of their approaches and I am a big advocate of empowering your team.
Would you describe your role as predominantly operational or strategic?
I’d say it’s a blend but would be more operational. The size of the business and the complexities to it, in addition to the future business-wide strategy requires the role to have strategic requirements while naturally having to support and operate the function effectively.
How many people are there in your FM/workplace team, and to whom does the FM team ultimately report
My role reports into the director of property & facilities, who reports into the director of operations, therefore this role is where we as a department ultimately report into. There are 16 in-house FM team members in our London HQ office, which includes a mix of front-of-house, mailroom and operations. The number increases if I include the on-site housekeeping, security and engineering teams who are contracted out.
My top perk at work is…
Being fortunate to even have a job is the biggest perk given there are so many who are less fortunate. The pre-Covid answer would be the team and manager that I work with. I have worked with some great teams in the past but we do have such a diverse and dynamic team that is a joy to be a part of. Now working in digital media and advertising means the suits are hanging up in the wardrobe at home and a more relaxed attire is sufficient! And being based next to Regent’s Park is also a perk.
What has been your biggest career challenge to date?
Having to immediately adjust and deliver after being promoted into a head of property and facilities position while at Close Brothers Asset Management. I’m ambitious and I had a career plan when joining but being promoted to that role even exceeded my plans ambitions sooner than I had envisaged. Fortunately, I have always been well connected with knowledgeable people in the real estate, FM and H&S world.
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
The reputation is positively growing year by year, but my question is, are we yet an industry that is doing enough to sell our industry to school and college-leavers? This year has showcased the proactivity in how our industry has, and is still is, dealing with the impact of Covid and planning of operation readiness for Covid-safe workplaces/areas and is a great advert.
If I wasn’t in facilities management, I’d probably be…
Involved in sport somehow, maybe coaching in football. Growing up, I managed to play at a good level but just couldn’t quite make the grade but it was always a passion of mine.
Which FM/workplace ‘myth’ would you most like to put an end to
When applying for a position you are greeted with “you must have experience working in X sector”. When I was looking for jobs last year I often saw on adverts that you must have five years’ experience working in a corporate/advertising/legal environment. I have really struggled to understand why in order for you to succeed in that position you must have that experience. In our industry we are always having to adapt. We are a service and should be able to plug and play our core services within any organisation.
What advice would you give to a young facilities/workplace manager starting out?
Rome wasn’t built in a day and none of us knows everything. Take the opportunity and invest in personal development, whether it be paid training or networking or using LinkedIn. I think our industry is great for helping others out, offering advice and wanting to connect. Don’t be afraid to make contact and ask for help – inside or outside of your organisation.
What was the weirdest day you’ve had in the office?
Many years ago I was called into a female toilet by our cleaning contractors washroom/feminine hygiene subcontactor. She wanted to evidence some ‘foul play’ that was deposited into one of the bins which, well, should be deposited down the toilet. Pretty appalling behaviour, which was immediately followed by a fire evacuation of our building whereby a member of staff took a tumble down the final step leading to the muster point, and broke a wrist. When finally congregating at our muster point a pigeon left me with a present on my shoulder!
What FM job in the world would you love more than anything?
Perhaps being responsible for FM/operations at a world-renowned golf course that gives employees free golf memberships! I’d suffer a bit more time on the golf course to work on my handicap..
And where would FM be an absolute nightmare?
I’m a West Ham fan, so working at one of our rivals such as Millwall? I’m kidding … Maybe working for an organisation that refuses to see the value of what we do.
Your life outside FM mostly involves
Spending time with my family… We are a family that likes to get away for short breaks, which for obvious reasons hasn’t been the case so much this year.
Russell Wood is facilities manager at Dentsu Aegis Network