I left school with nine O’levels, and a bunch of CSE’s wanting to be an Architect. Alas I was not encouraged to attend college or Uni, and instead found myself homeless as a teenager. Which was an education in itself.
Q: What was your first ever job?
I marked targets at Bisley rifle range. Six weeks of summer trying to avoid ricocheting bullets. H&S wasn’t what it is today. More prophetically my first job after my time sleeping rough was a cleaning job.
Q: What was you first job in the FM sector?
About 12 years ago selling cleaning for Initial. I loved it! The culture and my team were great. A fantastic bunch of people, doing a tough energetic job, week in week out, it was a buzz. I ended up running that team after 10 months.
Q: What made you choose FM as a career?
I didn’t. I chose the people I wanted to work for. I had recently sold off a small data mining & publishing business, and was looking for a new direction. I really liked the interviewers, that was the deciding factor. As it turned out it was one of my better decisions.
Q: How did you progress through the profession to your current role?
After my first foray into cleaning sales I decided to stick with it and add to my Soft FM experience. Each move was either a step up, or a new learning experience. I worked with some fantastic people and companies, and it was an educational path.
Through that I identified an issue in the industry around training and engagement of cleaning staff, and set about creating a solution for it. Hence UhUb, and where I am now.
Q: Do you have any qualifications or training in FM and related areas such as health and safety? And how have you benefited from them?
Qualifications, no. I learned a lot through my varied experience, utilised any available training programmes, and privately attended courses, and seminars around self-development, entrepreneurship, management, sales, etc.
Q: What is your greatest contribution to the FM sector, or your current role?
I would push for a Living Wage option in bids over a decade ago, when very few people thought it was important. I hope that had some small influence on where it is today. I think UhUb will be my greatest contribution. I am finding a lot of like-minded people, and businesses, who feel the same about cleaner training and engagement. It’s not a problem that the industry created per se’, it’s just there, and it’s been extremely difficult to solve, which is why I want to build solutions, and change the cleaners working experience for the better.
Q: What’s changed most since you started in FM?
A split between two views in the industry. Those who have a focus on quality of service and staff engagement, and win contracts by selling those aspects properly, and those who are racing to the bottom.
Increasing numbers of contracts are being reviewed or closed off by clients who have been ‘sold’ a cheap, unworkable service, and we are seeing the negative consequences. Whereas others are retaining more, contracts, and building solid client relations through real value provision. Volume doesn’t outweigh quality. I see this split getting wider in the coming years.
Q: If you could do one thing differently in your career in FM, what would it be?
I would say client understanding, the awareness of what can be delivered, and the toughness to say your piece about it, based on your principals and your business drivers. Perhaps there were decisions that I might change, if only to make things easier, but it’s all been very useful. So, right here, right now, nothing jumps out. It’s been a journey and it’s at a good place. I love what I do now.
Q: What would make the biggest difference to the FM sector? And how could that be achieved?
A move to embrace more real innovation. There are great tools out there, but often adopting innovation is held back, due to traditional thinking, or commitment to legacy systems. It’s a shame, as on the one hand we want new, young talent, but sometimes the ‘old way’ prevails.
You can’t fight the smart phone, it’s a societal addiction and we must go with it, and embrace it, to create value from it.
Q: Are you a member of any FM association or body and if so what benefits do you think they provide?
My business is a member of CSSA, The Living Wage Foundation, and I sit on the BSA Cleaning Committee, and the Apprenticeship Design Committee.
The CSSA relaunched just over a year ago, and its proving interesting. I think raising awareness of innovation, worker’s rights, political tides, bringing insights in from outside, and facilitating debate about industry direction and values, will be key benefits from CSSA. Its already proved valuable to my business.
Q: What advice would you give to young people coming into the profession now?
Gain as wide a range of experience as you can. Soak up any training, and take time to consider your direction. There are lots of options. It’s fine if you take a wrong turn, the experience will be useful wherever you end up in FM. That’s the thing about FM, those who have done multiple roles over the years, truly understand it with a wide view. Look for forward thinking companies to join; a business, and a team, which fit. Be prepared to be a force for change and stick your head above the parapet, if you see a need, do something about it.
Q: What are your long-term goals for the next seven to ten years?
Focusing on developing UhUb, its learning tools, community, and expanding its positive influence in the sector. It started as a good idea, but is now a deep-seated belief that we can change the way the industry deals with whole workforce training and engagement, benefitting all three tiers of clients, Cleaners/Company/End client.
I commit, and am driven, to make that happen.
Q: What do you predict could be the main changes to the FM sector over the next few years?
Technology, and better use of it. I predict the next three to five years will see a surge of adoption. I see a new exciting collaborative approach developing between businesses and tech. I actively promote and facilitate that approach, and believe that it will significantly change the landscape of how we do things.
Q: What are the greatest challenges of working in FM?
It can be frustrating at all levels. The ‘cheap to win’, and legacy thinking is still there, and whilst suiting some, it can be damaging for others. However, that just means there’s lots to do, so dull it isn’t. There is great opportunity influence beneficial change.
Q: What do you enjoy most about working in FM?
People, and the room to create change. The people are generally fantastic, enthusiastic, and keen to make things better. I love that we influence working lives in a positive way. Discussions over the last few months have been exciting, and I see so much potential for development. It’s great!
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