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 Paul Heiford, FM at Porvair Filtration Group.
What do you do?
I am an FM for an engineering company in Hampshire, UK, specialising in the manufacture of filters for the aerospace industry.
What attracted you to FM, and how did you get into the industry?
I’ve always been interested in how things work and what they do, from machine maintenance to alarm systems. I first became a key holder for a site, which ultimately led me to get involved in the alarm side of things, then I was carrying out machine maintenance and hosting contractors and it led from there. I remember watching people being interviewed for the FM job and sat at my workstation and thought “I could do that job!”
I was told to apply and see what happens – and here we are!
How long have you been in your current role?
Seven years in my FM role. I joined Porvair Filtration Group 27 years ago, starting off in stores, then as a fitter, then onto the leading hand of the section before this FM role.
Do you see yourself as predominantly a task or a people manager?
Definitely a people manager. You need a good relationship with contractors who are willing to react in the way that’s needed for any issue – especially compliance-related or machine breakdowns!
Would you describe your role as predominantly operational or strategic?
More operational than strategic due to the nature of our business, machines need to be running!
How many people are there in your FM/workplace team, and to whom does the FM team ultimately report?
I report directly to the GM. We use mainly third parties to carry out work, hence the importance of good people management.
My top perk at work is…
I work with great people. You need a bit of banter every now and then to keep you sane! Working with some of them for 27 years must mean we have something good.
What has been your biggest career challenge to date?
Without doubt, keeping the site safe and Covid-secure during the pandemic. We didn’t shut down and carried on working right through. The extra H&S work needed was a massive task! At one point I was in very early on a Saturday fitting bespoke screens to our reception area.
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
For people to understand the value facilities brings to any organisation. Some still seem to think of facilities as an afterthought.
Any interesting talks to tell?
Ha! Erm, there was this time involving a van and a baby parrot. The parrot was fine.
If I wasn’t in facilities management, I’d probably be…
Honestly not sure. I’ve never sat and thought “what if” apart from winning the lottery. If I won, I wouldn’t be doing much, maybe buy classic cars and drive them around, except on Bank Holidays. I hate traffic on Bank Holidays!
Which FM/workplace ‘myth’ would you most like to put an end to?
That we just fix things when they break. Facilities are fixing problems most people don’t even know they’ve got! Oh, and we don’t set the air conditioning temperature in the office just to suit us.
What advice would you give to a young facilities/workplace manager starting out?
Listen, learn and ask questions time and time again. I was always taught that it’s better to ask the same question three or four times and get something right, than to ask only once and get it wrong. In this profession, it can be costly.
What was the weirdest day you’ve had in the office?
The first day of lockdown, I remember travelling to work and not seeing another car on the way. It was surreal. When I arrived, the office was empty. Obviously those who could work from home did so, but my job doesn’t allow that – at least there wasn’t a queue for the coffee machine!
Early bird or night owl?
Both! I’m at my desk by 7am most days and can stay late if I have contractors on site or there is an issue to resolve.
What FM job in the world would you love more than anything?
A luxurious hotel on a remote sunny island? If not, just a luxurious hotel in North Devon somewhere. I love that place!
And where would FM be an absolute nightmare?
A football stadium. All those extra people a couple of times a week to keep safe.
Your life outside FM mostly involves…
Family. I have two beautiful granddaughters who I am very proud of! Classic minis, Portsmouth Football Club and friends, more so after the last couple of years. You realise what you have when it’s taken away from you, albeit temporarily.