The four individual winners of the BIFM awards each came to prominence during a different decade of facilities management's progress from ad hoc discipline to fully formed profession.
06 November 2017 | Martin Read
The thing that strikes you most about all four of this year's BIFM Awards individual category recipients is an innate enthusiasm - for their current roles, certainly, but also their choice of profession more broadly.
What particularly resonates this year is how all four combine to link every stage of the profession's development. Our recipients each started their first defined FM role in a separate one of the four decades during which facilities management has been a recognised business activity in this country: Marilyn Standley, who was helping define the profession during the 1980s, becoming the BIFM's first chair in 1993; Andrew Smart, who started out as a labourer before rising to key positions of influence in the 1990s; Mike Gibson, who has never looked back since embarking on the ENGIE graduate programme in the 2000s; and Conrad Dinsmore, a perfect example of the new generation of professional FMs coming out of university and making their mark during the 2010s.
This breadth of experience is helpful in uncovering not just what has changed, but what has remained constant about the way FM is both perceived and delivered. All four talk of frustration in dealing with those whose misconceptions about the sector can limit how effective FM can be; but conversely, all four - including Marilyn Standley, on the cusp of retirement yet still passionate about the sector - talk of the huge opportunity for intelligently delivered facilities management services to help organisations transcend any productivity, environmental and wellbeing problems.
It's also noteworthy that the word 'professionalisation' is present in each interview transcript - at all age levels, there is a sense that, from qualifications frameworks to engagement with associated professions, facilities management is making its mark more effectively in 2017 than it ever has before. Clients are more accepting of the value FM can bring, even if full definitions of that value remain difficult to spell out comprehensively.
Over the following four pages you'll learn more about their stories and get a sense of their perspectives on how FM is seen and delivered in 2017.
Newcomer of the year
Conrad Dinsmore, ISS Facility Services
The digital native embracing a people-first future
Conrad Dinsmore joined ISS Facility Services as part of the firm's graduate management trainee programme in 2015. Judges commended the quick learner and talented relationship manager for his "ability to transition to high-level functions yet still remain grounded and focused on career development learning."
Dinsmore's rotations on the ISS graduate programme gave him the opportunity to shine by establishing systems to streamline accounts and manage cost initiatives. They've also allowed him to recognise the shift to soft skills and the need for all-round management skills that has fast become a prerequisite in 21st century FM.
"The programme has allowed me to be the nerd in the background, joining up the numbers, but also to be in front of people understanding service delivery on the front line."
Dinsmore grew up in a family working in construction and always wondered, having seen a building designed and built, what came next. When his father started a maintenance company, Dinsmore gained an understanding of the building fabric and maintenance side of FM - it's fitting that his father was present on the night the Newcomer of the Year award was handed out.
This interest in the post-construction management of buildings influenced his choice of final-year dissertation as part of a degree in Construction, Engineering & Management at Ulster University - the entirely contemporary subject of building information modelling.
Dinsmore expects his generation to bring the full power of their digital nativism to bear on the way FM is practised and believes the ISS graduate programme has been hugely helpful.
"Coming into the sector with just a fabric maintenance background, I've gone from cleaning and engineering to projects and training. I thought I'd be an engineer or an operational manager, perhaps then a delivery analyst, and it's going well."
Whatever the future holds, Dinsmore intends to practice FM in his native Ireland at some stage.
"I want engineering to be a big part of what I do, because the likes of BIM and big data technology is going to change how we work a lot in the years to come."
BIFM qualifications and networking are set to loom large in Dinsmore's future. When he first moved to the UK, his father paid for BIFM membership, the networking being something he relishes. "With large companies it's easy to stick within your own firm's bubble but it's important to understand the bigger picture."
Manager Of The Year
Mike Gibson, Qwest Services, Engie
The JV Managing Director Looking To Expand Fm's Role
Six promotions in 10 years has set Mike Gibson apart as an operational facilities manager with his finger firmly on his client's pulse. Gibson joined Engie in 2007 on the firm's graduate programme, rising rapidly to help run some of the firm's biggest service delivery accounts including contracts with the London Borough of Harrow and Royal Borough of Kingston. His ascent culminated in 2016 with his current role at Qwest, ENGIE's joint venture with Cheshire West and Chester council.
Those who endorsed Gibson for Manager of the Year speak of Gibson's skill at managing people and projects at the highest level. He himself speaks of the need to understand his customer's core business and priorities. Judges remarked on how he has managed throughout his career to develop good personal relationships, ensuring communication channels are always open - "the traits of an exceptional FM".
"I've had a number of bosses and learnt something from all of them," explains Gibson. "Ultimately, if you can't communicate with people on their level, whatever that is, you're not going to get very far."
The key to rapid promotion? "Organisations take a chance on people who show they want to get on with it," he explains. "You need to show you're always up for a challenge."
Gibson believes the next generation of FMs, "digital by default", will bring a more questioning and enquiring mind to how service is delivered. And the sheer scale of FM's reach is making it a more attractive career option.
"Also, general management skills are much more important now," says Gibson. "When I started, most managers were qualified engineers, but you need a broader spectrum now. You still need those functional specialism skills sets, but clients want to engage with someone who sees the strategic picture of their services rather than any single particular issue or challenge.
For the future, Gibson sees FM in joint ventures such as Qwest being at an interesting point where it can better 'join the dots' for clients, being perhaps better placed than the client itself to see synergies and linkages between departments that can be used to drive further efficiencies or innovations.
And Gibson is in the final year of an MBA in business studies. "It's allowed me to step back and have a different view on my customers business and how we can help them," he explains. "I'd recommend it to anyone with aspirations to manage big teams or work with complex clients, because increasingly that's the direction that FM is moving in."
Leader of the year
The senior leader aiming to make fm all about the experience not the asset
What makes a strong leader in FM? Senior positions held, and the respect of those managed, are surely two strong KPIs - and Andrew Smart has ticked them off comfortably. He's worked in leadership roles across some of the most prominent FM companies for more than 15 years and within the wider sector for more than 30. A prominent speaker, he started out as a labourer in the 1980s before going on to hold senior roles at firms including Macro, Sodexo, CBRE, and Cushman
Colleagues talk of the great skill shown within Cushman & Wakefield and its clients to see through the firm's merger project with DTZ.
With Macro, Smart was part of the London 2012 Olympics when he led engagement with the Olympic Development Authority to design and facilitate a full FM service across all of the major venues prior to the games' commencement.
Awards judges held that Smart stands as "one of the brightest lights the profession has to offer". His ongoing enthusiasm sees him conjuring new ways of describing the joys of FM to tempt others. "One thing we don't talk about is our vicarious experience of other people's departments and working lives," he says. "We're lucky; we get to see so much that people in other jobs are denied."
Smart thinks recent projects to emphasise FM's productivity enhancement credentials are gradually bearing fruit. And he believes distinction between in-house and outsourced provision is secondary to the broader modelling of FM solutions.
"There's a real battle for clients to hold on to their talented workers. We can help through provision of a stimulating working environment; it's about FM tuning into the personality of the client business and what it's trying to achieve."
Smart sees FM's focus as moving from asset to experience management, "providing the right experience for the environment. Your focus is looking after the customer experience, not the asset, but that experience will be different for each client."
And Smart has always been of the firm belief that FM is a people-driven business. "Anyone who thinks they can lead people in FM needs to be clear that they need to empathise with them too. No single person ever does anything on their own in our world."
"What we do is very complex. The ability to pick out and present simply what's important from a lot of complex detail is a rare quality."
The lead character selling FM's wider narrative
In any book about FM's development in this country, Marilyn Standley would unquestionably be a lead character. Back in 1992 she was instrumental in joining the then Association of FM to the Institute of FM, becoming the first chair of the BIFM we know today. She's since volunteered in numerous capacities, jointly founding the Women in FM group and currently chairing its Fellows SIG. This magazine ranked Standley as one of the 20 most influential women in FM of all time, and one of the 20 pioneers of FM. With more than 30 years' experience in the sector, Standley can look back on key roles including leading operational FM delivery on both client and supply sides; running her own consultancy; and continuing to be involved with projects and initiatives in support of the further development of the sector.
Most recently, Standley put her retirement plans on hold to take a pivotal role with the British Museum - one she describes as "facilities plus - plus security, property, capital projects, a major mobilisation, visitor services and public safety too; much more than just FM."
Standley sees FM as having an often unappreciated influence on an organisation's wider performance, and establishing this fact remains one of her objectives. She's certainly walked the walk, having had major roles on both client and supply sides with organisations including Longman Publishing, Ernst & Young, Sheffield University, and the Metropolitan Police. So much of what an organisation wants to achieve can benefit from a strong FM influence, she says, citing the British Museum's exhibit conservation by way of example.
"There's a range of risk factors that conservators use to protect exhibits - damage by the public, vandalism, humidity, temperature, lighting, fire and flood - but they are all broadly based under the FM banner."
Standley thinks FM's service sector should do more to sell itself and to end the cycle of over-optimistic contract bidding and under-resourcing of contract mobilisation.
"When advising clients I always asked them not to have high expectations in year one so providers have time to get things right. But providers must make the most of that grace period. It's a problem on both sides - clients and their expectations; providers spending too little early on."
Standley is optimistic, though. With so many FMs now client-side having had prior experience of the service side - and vice versa - she believes great potential exists for intelligent FM deals. She is optimistic, too, about the emerging generation of professionally qualified FMs who, within a decade, will be in positions senior enough make a real difference. She welcomes the increase in female FMs but believes more diversity in the sector is key to its future growth.
Of her career, she says: "I've loved every day of it and I'm firmly of the belief that a career in FM opens the door to so many new experiences."