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 am a facilities and maintenance manager at the Scout Store. I look after the distribution centre, production building and offices.
What attracted you to FM, and how did you get into the industry?
I always worked in the building industry. I started with my father on some small building projects and then I was a surveyor in our family-run health and safety business. Later on, I worked in the hospitality and healthcare sector as a maintenance manager. This role was extended to look after other aspects of the facilities. Those additional tasks and promotions opened up the world of facilities for me.
How long have you been in your current role?
This is my fourth year with the Scouts.
Do you see yourself predominantly as a task or a people manager?
I am trying to keep the balance between them and focus on both aspects. I believe every situation and person requires a diverse approach, which depends on relevant circumstances.
Would you describe your role as predominantly operational or strategic?
My role is mainly operational, but I like to get involved on strategic planning as it is closely related. A strategic plan frequently becomes an operational project.
How many people are there in your FM team, and to whom does the FM team ultimately report?
I am working with a small team and our main contractors. It is about 10-15 people, dependent on the project. Our team ultimately reports to the operations manager.
My top perk at work is…
I like organising events for our team. We have a barbecue each year where everyone comes together to have a laugh and feast. It is part of the experience.
What has been your biggest career challenge to date?
I moved to the UK 15 years ago to learn the language, but this journey encouraged me to an unpredicted path and led me to my position in FM today – that I will always be proud of.
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
I would place more focus on appreciation and respect for the people who are completing the frontline jobs. Their contribution is fundamental. I salute the cleaners, caterers and the general maintenance people. True heroes.
Any interesting tales to tell?
Working with the Scouts is always interesting. Especially when you have a meeting and Tim Peake joins in…
If I wasn’t in facilities management, I’d probably be…
I studied to become a teacher and played parts in small plays with the local theatre group. That would have been a completely different path.
Which ‘FM myth’ would you most like to put an end to?
There is no ‘5-minute job’. It is always hilarious when I hear the phrase, as most people won’t see the work behind a completed project.
What single piece of advice would you give to a young facilities manager starting out?
Start from the bottom of the chain to understand how the system works. The FM business is complex and you can learn new things every day. Know the building and understand the people who occupy it. Take all opportunities to expand your knowledge. There are plenty of courses available. Learn, learn and learn.
What was the weirdest day you’ve had in the office?
There are days when everything goes wrong. I arrived at the office one day to find a massive leak, blocked sewage, a power cut and IT failure. All before my first coffee.
Early bird or night owl?
Early bird, mainly. I am functioning between 6am and 11pm. These are the hours that I am happy with.
What FM job in the world would you love more than anything?
Any role what makes me feel content. I always dreamed about working in Legoland as a Masterbuilder.
And where would FM be an absolute nightmare?
I would not like to work in an environment where you don’t feel valued and appreciated.
Your life outside FM mostly involves…
The best times of the day are always working with my son in the garden or playing with my daughter. I like to keep myself busy so plenty of personal projects are running in the background. The biggest one is to finish my novel.
Robert Szabo-Laborcz is facilities and maintenance manager at Scout Shops Ltd