Raising the profile of the FM function among an organisation's senior staff is an ongoing challenge for the industry and, as Cathy Hayward discovers, it's one that Shelter's head of facilities Andy Christophi is all too familiar with
by Cathy Hayward
3 September 2009
"I thought they would have a better understanding about the role of FM as a housing charity but they don't," he says citing the frustration of proposing, in March last year, to sub-let a floor of the office in London's Old Street as part of a revenue generation scheme, which wasn't accepted until November "by which time the letting market had collapsed and we've been unable to let it out".
"While working in the private sector, I had a great amount of influence on change within the FM domain and my proposals were readily accepted. However, in the charity sector, owing to the basic lack of understanding of FM, at SMT level, there is an undue bureaucratic process, even when proposing the simplest of initiatives. This is very frustrating, as one is constantly asked to justify, modify or water down proposals, which if implemented in the first instance would undoubtedly be of great benefit. Getting the message across seems to be an ongoing and unnecessary battle."
But Christophi sees the recession as an opportunity for his team to raise its profile within the organisation. "FM does cost-savings as a matter of course. We streamline as it is."
Part of the lack of recognition of FM within Shelter is because FM is a relatively new function in the organisation. Christophi's role was created by his line manager, the property director, bringing all aspects of FM into one cohesive FM unit. There was previously an office services manager at the site but FM functions were split across various people's roles.
If Shelter's senior management team don't recognise the value of FM, they cannot failed to have noticed the impact Christophi has made on the organisation's bottom line. Since he joined in December 2006, Christophi has changed 99 per cent of suppliers, reducing numbers and getting efficiencies, best value and service.
Part of this strategy has resulted in some impressive savings - £80,000 saving on a £300,000 insurance renewal; £60,000 saving on a £500,000 utility spend; and £30,000 on the stationery bill - while others have been more about organisational efficiencies. Christophi supports 55 satellite offices, a mix of regional offices and homeless centres, in their FM function and helped them to reduce the number of individual suppliers to free up management time. In one case there were 30 fire detection and supply system suppliers which he reduced to one supplier for 140 buildings.
Christophi heads up an eight-person FM team made up of a handyman, admin assistant, two post room staff, a health and safety expert and part-time receptionist. Cleaning, M&E maintenance and access control is all outsourced. The team is responsible for two buildings in London - the 18,500 sq ft Old Street premises, which is owned by the charity, and houses the property and FM team, finance, publishing and editorial, research and policy; HR and IT; and a 16,500 sq ft leased premises in London's City Road which is home to the advisory service for the homeless; legal team and trading department and is also a training centre for housing professionals.
Churn is a major issue for Christophi, a BIFM member for several years, who has been constantly moving people and refurbishing parts of the properties since he joined Shelter. He is currently involved in a project involving the creation of a new department - amalgamating the trading and fundraising teams to create a new division which will then move from the City Road to Old Street offices under the new director of trading. Recent redundancies have also meant several changes.
With the cost savings success under his belt Christophi is getting increasingly involved in other areas of the business particularly IT, printing and publishing and aims to become an unofficial procurement hub for Shelter. "I like trying to deliver the best possible result and service for an organisation and seeing the tears in the contractors' eyes. I go to work to do a job, not to make friends with suppliers," he says confidently.
Part of the shortage of FM professionalism in the charity sector, is down to a lack of networking between not-for-profit facilities professionals argues Christophi, who says he spent six months at Shelter before realising that he hadn't spoken to an FM counterpart in another charity. Unaware of the Charities Facilities Management Group, run by Upkeep's Annette McGill, Christophi got together the names of about 50 charity FMs and emailed them asking them if they wanted to meet up and discuss professional issues.
About 20 responded and the FM Charity Network Forum was born. Earlier this year it held its third quarterly meeting, facilitated by well-known FM consultant Martin Pickard, who agreed to become the body's first patron. The informal meetings include FMs from well-known charities such as the Samaritans, RSPB and Crisis, and aim to be an opportunity to talk through the issues and share not only best practice but also have a moan about suppliers and share specs. "Our aim is to create and harness a professionally focused approach to procurement, contract management, statutory compliance and other areas of FM, ensuring best value and enhanced efficiencies are received for our members."
Undoubtedly there is duplication with McGill's group and Christophi could be at risk of being accused of empire-building. Long-term, it would be ideal for both groups to merge, or at least share information, to avoid duplication in a small sector. But the informal nature of the FM Charity Network Forum is appreciated by many of its members and, if it develops into a buying organisation, as seems probable then it would be of great benefit to smaller charities who lack buying power. Christophi feels that many FMs in the not-for-profit sector are seen as an "easy touch" by suppliers and prices can inexplicably rise when the supplier finds out they are dealing with a charity.
"FM is FM wherever you go," he says. "Core budgets aren't different in the charity sector. We pay the same, not less, for core services as the private sector firm next door. But we cut out the frills such as cleaning the carpets every six months as the manufacturer might recommend. There's no such thing as first class FM in the charity sector. Working in the charity sector and particularly in the FM domain means that for every pound spent, there is a pound less towards the core services offered by the charity. Therefore, it is imperative that best value is consistently achieved and clearly demonstrated."
Andy Christophi: Career Profile
Dec 06 - Present head of facilities, Shelter
Jan 01 - Dec 06 Facilities manager, EDF Energy Powerlink
May 95 - Dec 00 Executive officer (Special Branch and operational police stations) Metropolitan Police Service, New Scotland Yard
Dec 93 - Apr 95 Office manager, Sterling Publications
Oct 91 - Dec 93 Operations manager, GKL Shoes
Aug 90 - Sep 91 Marketing administrator, Abbey National
Education: St Augustine's Secondary School, London
Nebosh General Certificate (Credit),
P405 Management of Asbestos in Buildings (BOHS) and various FM and management courses
Currently studying for the PG Dip in Management Studies, with a view to progressing to an MBA
Memberships and volunteering:
Active member of the BIFM and an associate member of the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management.
Recently set up the FM Charity Network Forum and is involved in pro bono work providing advice on facilities management and project related issues to a charity.