Entering the second year of his chairmanship, Iain Murray sees many good opportunities for the sector and the BIFM despite the economic downturn. And, as he tells Cathy Hayward, Murray is busy spreading that positive message, whether face-to-face or through the new media of the blogosphere
by Cathy Hayward
20 August 2009
Overall he sees the progress in restructuring the BIFM Qualification and aligning it with the NVQ through to degree and post-graduate levels as a key success of his tenure so far. "FM apprenticeships are also being driven forward although I can't take too much credit but I feel that by speaking about it and having it as an agenda item on the BIFM board has driven the discussions with Asset Skills. I'm happy that it's happened."
And Murray has put his money where his mouth is. The entire staff at his firm Chard FM have attended BIFM Training's three-day foundation course in FM and 10 employees then decided to go on to do the ILM level 3 - and Murray joined them. He's now almost 80 per cent through the course: "It was good to be the boss, chair of the institute and doing it."
Closer links to government was one of Murray's key aims last July and a paper will be presented at this month's BIFM board meeting on the options for greater engagement, including an All Party Parliamentary Group for Facilities Management.
Such progress justifies the optimism Murray has long demonstrated. "I think we're doing really well as a sector," he says. Good businesses are continuing to do good business with listed FM companies returning a decent margin although he acknowledges that some are finding things tough.
"FM is going to come out of the other side of the recession in much better shape than other professions in the built environment," he says arguing that the business world is shifting from one of capital expenditure to whole life costing where the agenda is driven by FM. "We are now focusing on the built environment - that which is already built, rather than that which is to be built."
Murray cities the example of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Royal Institute of British Architects who at a recent Construction Industry Council meeting were bemoaning the huge redundancies in the sector - something Murray, who has a background in architecture and was made redundant during a previous recession, appreciates. "This is an opportunity for FM to attract the best talent. We've got to try to encourage people falling out of the other related professions and coming out of university to retrain and come into the FM sector. FM has not been so badly hit."
The day job
Murray's buoyant attitude towards the economy has much to do with his own personal experience at Chard FM - the FM firm he essentially founded at the end of last year. Founded in 1982 Chard Construction boasted a £50 million turnover; Murray transformed its £5 million turnover maintenance division into a total FM business which is now discussing £17 million of new business and is involved in retendering with its biggest client which could see Murray double or even treble the size of the business overnight.
The demanding day job doesn't stop Murray having ambitious plans for his remaining year as chair: "Moving towards chartered status is my next big thing. Right now we are definitely in good enough shape to decide whether becoming chartered is a good thing or not."
He acknowledges that some people felt that the way the MBIFM status was bestowed was not rigorous enough but feels that the changes to the education programme, where in a few years' time certified FMs will emerge having been through the entire diploma, means that now is the ideal time to start going down the chartered status route.
But with a three to four-year timescale it's not something that Murray will be able to achieve as chair personally. Unless, of course he goes for a second term - something he says he is considering, along with a possible role in March 2010 as vice-chair of Global FM which would lead to a chair's role in 2012.
Yet for now Murray is focusing on the next few months helping to drive through the institute's medium-term strategy, closing off the rest of the education programme changes and developing enterprise. This month, a BIFM board session will help to form the next set of objectives for the medium-term strategy. "There's lots of business as usual to be done. In a recession we need to be prudent to ensure that the institute and its members don't suffer but we're still making significant investments in the future of the institute and its members." Prudence is certainly something that Murray practises, choosing low cost airlines and budget hotels whenever he travels on institute business.
One of Murray's major initiatives was the creation of the chairman's blog, and latterly the introduction of tweets. He promised to blog at least fortnightly and has surpassed that aim with 40 posts in 52 weeks. At the recent Members' Day he tweeted continuously to keep members who couldn't attend updated with events as they happened.
"The idea of the blog was to show that I'm a normal person trying to do a job, I want to show people the level of activity that a chair does - the bare knuckle stuff." And his blog and Twitter followers will attest to that success. "Overall I'm very pleased with the way the first year has gone. I've achieved a reasonable amount and I'm enjoying it. What more could I ask for?"
Iain Murray's year in numbers
40 blog entries
9 BIFM board and Members' Council meetings
2 international visits
7 speeches at industry conferences
2 CIC Presidents and Chairs summit
9 conferences attended as BIFM Chair
7 industry dinners
2 regional balls
2 regional conferences
6 visits to Westminster to meet MPs
18 press article quotes
26 internet article quotes
16 BIFM regional and Sig events
52 tweets with 36 followers
Follow Iain Murray on at twitter.com/ iain_murray. For BIFM business use hashtag #BIFM