'A bit about you' finds out what it's like behind the job for the diverse workplace and facilities managers that make up this profession. Here we meet Neil Allart, senior FM operations manager at Atalian Servest.
What do you do?
I am a senior FM operations manager in the Integrated Solutions division for Atalian Servest UK & Ireland. I look after multi-service clients in food production, manufacturing, and newspaper printing across the UK. I enjoy client liaison and coming up with new ideas to improve processes and provide a better service.
What attracted you to FM, and how did you get into the industry?
It was by accident, really. I’ve had a connection to facilities roles and services for over 21 years when I was providing contract staffing for newspaper printing and working in a contract management position with Transport for London on the London Underground. I more formally got involved in FM in around 2015.
How long have you been in your current role?
A little over two years but I’ve been involved with Atalian Servest for nearly 14 years.
Do you see yourself as predominantly a task or a people manager?
I’m definitely a ‘people’ manager. Our staff are the lifeblood of our business and if they’re not motivated and knowledgeable, we have a problem. They are the ones that manage the tasks but without a strong, well-balanced team we can’t deliver our services.
Would you describe your role as predominantly operational or strategic?
For me, it’s both. Operational day-to-day but always with a strategic view, whether that’s what is happening in the month ahead, or the year ahead.
How many people are there in your FM/workplace team, and to whom does the FM team ultimately report?
I've got a team of six operations account managers looking after 60 client sites. We all report into our Operations Director, Martin Hesp.
My top perk at work is…
The role has always offered a reasonable degree of flexibility and autonomy which is invaluable.
What has been your biggest career challenge to date?
There’s only one answer to that: Covid-19. Even with the closure of sites and restrictions on staff access and movement, it’s been incredibly busy and demanding. Just in a different way to normal – whatever normal is! Our roles are usually busy and demanding but the pandemic has certainly added a different layer of difficulty and pressure.
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
Costs across the industry have been consistently driven down in recent years and, ultimately this can affect the service that can be delivered. Reduced costs can benefit clients in the short-term, but the reality is that it should be about value. Quality costs!
Any interesting tales to tell?
Many years ago, in a previous (but similar) role, we discovered a fully furnished ‘bedroom’ hidden within the pallet store complete with a mattress, lamps and even a kettle! It was impressive but very surprising to find.
If I wasn’t in facilities management, I’d probably be…
A bike shop owner!
Which FM/workplace ‘myth’ would you most like to put an end to?
The cheapest price is not always the best price. More and more often you get exactly what you pay for.
What advice would you give to a young facilities/workplace manager starting out?
Learn the tasks that the people you are managing complete. You’ll gain their respect and get a far better understanding of your own role and how to fulfil it to the best of your ability.
What was the weirdest day you’ve had in the office?
Unfortunately, apart from the pallet bedroom discovery, the weird stuff I’ve been confronted with isn’t really printable!
Early bird or night owl?
I’d have to say night owl, although I’m getting on now!
What FM job in the world would you love more than anything?
Looking after a posh hotel or office block with amazing facilities and in an interesting, warm, and exciting part of the world!
And where would FM be an absolute nightmare?
Probably in the posh hotel or office block with amazing facilities in an interesting, warm, and exciting part of the world that I dream about! The standards expected would be crazy!
Your life outside FM mostly involves…
Family, friends, and bikes, but not necessarily in that order!