If you want something done, give it to a busy person. And Iain Murray, who takes on the mantle of institute chair next month, has plenty on his to-do list
by Cathy Hayward
FM World magazine: 24 June 2008
If you want something done, give it to a busy person. And Iain Murray, who takes on the mantle of institute chair next month, has plenty on his to-do list. As well as turning 40, Murray is also occupied by his day job as CEO of SMC Facilities Management following a turbulent time for the plc parent over the past couple of years and a new role as a non-executive director for a growing FM response maintenance business.
But the former head boy also has plenty of plans for his two-year tenure as head of the BIFM. Part of his role will be to help put in place the medium-term strategy that the institute developed last year, including the setting up of an Enterprise Unit. Naturally, Murray also wants to do something to leave his mark on and augment the institute to which he has been an active volunteer for eight years - including taking on the role of corporate liaison manager in the Scottish region moving to treasurer, events team manager, deputy chair and Scotland region chair for three years. He has also had key roles at national level including Scotland region's representative on Members' Council, regions' representative on the board and deputy chair.
MPs for FM
Closer links to government is one of Murray's key aims. He has already had several meetings lobbying MPs about setting up an all-party parliamentary group for facilities management. The current all-party parliamentary group for business services, which might cover FM, sends a confusing message about the sector, he says. Nick Raynsford MP, outgoing chair of the Construction Industry Council, has indicated that he would support an FM group and there is also backing from Shailesh Vara MP, the shadow deputy leader of the House of Commons.
"The idea is to get the support of the opposition party as well as government, so that when they do get into power, they understand and support FM and the benefits it brings to business."
Developing apprenticeships and entry level qualifications in FM is another goal, something that is already improving with the introduction, in September, of the Construction and Built Environment diploma (see p57). Murray compares the BIFM to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Royal Institute of British Architects, both of which have professional qualifications at entry level. "The FM industry has thousands of employees at the coalface and progression in the industry can be very quick as we are starved of new talent." He cites Jamie Reynolds, head of GSH USA, a former-YTS sales clerk who rose through the ranks to become company president by the age of 30, as a prime example of what can be achieved in a very short space of time.
Murray firmly believes that both government and service providers will support apprenticeships in the sector: "Any government will put their hand in their pockets to support apprenticeships but we need the backing of the FM industry as well, both financially and for them to commit to offering apprenticeships."
A sustainable sector
As well as communicating his progress with these plans through FM World, the BIFM website and at events, Murray also plans to write a blog about his activities. "It's all about accessibility," he says. "People have a right to know how they're being represented and how their money is being spent."
Murray's new role comes when the media is full of reports about a credit crunch and the possible onset of a recession, or at least a downturn. But he remains optimistic for the FM industry, describing the profession as having a "recession-proof tag". The sector shouldn't struggle as much as others as there are always buildings which need to be managed. "Albeit at the same time when a company is looking to reduce head count and overheads, they may recognise they still need cleaners and maintenance people but they question whether they need the office plants, the same number of reception staff, the telephone cleaning service every month and that number of security officers. The core things you can't get away from, but it will be the touchy-feely things which are cut back on."
Sustainability is the saving grace for the FM sector, he says. "The world is shouting sustainability from the rooftops and FM is the sector capable of delivering the sustainable future." But he warns that there are buildings going up which are paying no attention to sustainable principles: "In the next decade we will see legislation affecting the sector that can't even be imagined now and the way the market is going with fuel and energy shortages we might not even be able to afford to run services in the same way that we do now. But we are still building buildings which are crammed full of energy-hungry M&E."
Building a career
The relationship between architects and FMs is an essential and close one for Murray, who started out training to be an architect before moving into FM. He joined Cockburn Associates, a small architectural practice, to learn and study architecture and enrolled at the prestigious Mackintosh School of Architecture as a part-time student. Murray continued his studies after moving to architects McGurn Logan Duncan & Opfer, until he was made redundant as a casualty of the recession.
A combination of fewer jobs in architecture and what Murray describes as "sound technical ability but little design flair" meant that he chose to change disciplines and moved to GSH as a trainee manager. Soon after, he was appointed Edinburgh branch manager where he was responsible for new business and management of operational services to a growing client base.
Murray left GSH to set up Imtech Management, an Edinburgh-based operational service provider, where he worked for a year before suffering a major accident. While recovering, Murray joined Highfield Group as an in-house project manager and the group's facilities manager. Over the next four years he managed 16 new-build healthcare projects worth £21 million, together with the management of the FM operational expansion the growth represented. Following an acquisition, Murray had FM operational responsibility for 5,500 bed spaces across the UK.
Following the completion of the Highfield project, Murray worked with a friend in consultancy and also with Forward Thinking Childcare from Northern Ireland to business plan an entry to the UK childcare market. The consultancy theme continued when he joined Gardiner & Theobald as its first FM employee. In the four years he was with the firm he grew the business to one of the largest FM consultancy practices in the UK and was appointed MD of the business.
Turning down the opportunity to relocate to London, the Scot started Jenkins & Marr Facilities Management, a separate company associated with the architectural practice Jenkins & Marr. Developed as a white-collar independent FM consultancy, JMFM continued to develop the PPP, outsourcing and strategic advice markets as well as lifecycle modelling and management capabilities. It also provided complimentary services to the rest of the practice in estates strategy and design interface.
In 2006 SMC Group plc acquired both JMFM and Jenkins & Marr and JMFM was renamed SMC Facilities Management. Murray, who became its CEO, saw the move as a great opportunity to sell the FM message to the architectural community and its clients. But it took longer to happen than expected as the plc suffered three profit warnings and saw its share price plummet. Murray was heavily involved in trying to keep the architectural business afloat and despite SMC Facilities Management being one of the most profitable parts of the business, it remained static as attention was elsewhere.
At the beginning of this year, the group restructured and has been healthily profitable ever since. Murray approached the board and said that he could help to introduce the systems and processes in the facilities management business throughout the group - "FMing the group" as he describes it. The growth suits Murray well as he readily admits that he enjoys "the strategic stuff and the bigger picture, rather than the nitty gritty". And that, combined with his experience of heading up a business within a plc, bodes well for his stewardship of the institute over the next two years. Not bad for someone who started out as a YTS trainee on £29.50 a week.