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Young Leader winner sees FM career continuing to flourish

04 January 2022

Edward Wick has seen more opportunities and recognition following his YLOTY success at the PFM Partnership Awards 2021.

While the winner of the Young Leader of the Year category within the PFM Partnership Awards, organised by the Emerging Workplace Leaders (EWL) voluntary organisation, is always notable for their maturity and professionalism, previous winners can be typically seen to be employees within the larger FM service provider organisations.

This year’s successful finalist and Penguin FM co-founder and managing director Edward Wick seems to have changed this trend from a number of perspectives.

His job title provides the first indication, further endorsed by his involvement and personal journey within the FM sector.

“My first experience in FM was 12 years ago, while I was in the sixth form at school and working part-time as a window cleaner,” says Mr Wick.

This continued while he studied for a sports science degree and developed further when he began working as a sub-contractor to the same service provider. Having formed his own window cleaning business while pursuing his studies, Mr Wick continued to win more business with additional clients.

“With more work coming in through 2014 and 2015, it became clear that I was earning a better income than any sports science job could offer, so it seemed more sensible to carry on developing the business,” he says.

“At that point I had two employees, one full- and one part-time and things were looking good.”

Having continued his friendship with Rohin Dhand, described as “my best friend at school”, they discussed the options of working together and the success of Mr Wick’s efforts, combined with additional opportunities, persuaded them to focus their business activities on the FM sector, resulting in the launch of MGI FM.

Their assumptions were further supported when an existing client enquired whether the company could provide hard services to their hotel around the middle of 2016.

“This was one of our original clients and we won the hard services contract, which was a major development for us, and not only are we still working with that same customer, we’re now maintaining eight sites,” says Mr Wick.

“Winning that contract encouraged us to further develop the business and recruit more new clients, particularly SMEs that had had no previous exposure to FM service providers and so weren’t always getting the best value for money.”

Working mainly in the Yorkshire area, expansion continued throughout 2017 and 2018, followed by another important development in 2019 that saw the company extending both its client numbers and geographic coverage.

“Rohin and I discussed rebranding the business and he suggested the Penguin name, as we’d often described ourselves as ‘penguinologists’ as a bit of humour on nights out when asked what we do, as we shared a love of penguins. But when we properly considered it, we knew the name would be marketable, fun and more reflective of our characters, whilst delivering some disruption in the sector.

“From February 2020 we’ve been known as Penguin FM and it’s proved to be a great move in terms of building awareness of what we do and standing out in a market place dominated by large incumbents.”

The rebrand exercise was followed by a number of additional notable developments, one of which was the recruitment of Mike Robinson to the new role of business development director. Another development was the growth of the company’s fit-out division, further augmented by the acquisition of a supplier of joinery services.

“We started to include bespoke furniture manufacturing in our service options, along with the maintenance of automatic doors, and this was another successful move for the business,” says Mr Wick.

With its momentum continuing throughout last year, the effects of the pandemic seem to have had little or no effect on the Penguin FM development. The company has opened a new workshop and a London office, providing further confirmation of its ongoing expansion and geographic spread.

Last year also saw Mr Wick’s application for Young Leader of the Year (YLOTY) submitted to the EWL, resulting in “a lot of excitement in the office” when he was confirmed as a finalist.

“My presentation to the EWL allowed me to express my thoughts and personality, which I really enjoyed, and I felt a massive high after. It’s also been great to meet the other candidates,” he says.

For the final presentation, Mr Wick partnered with fellow finalist and Wates FM account director Terri Dale, providing another chance for him to impress the judges.

“I felt fairly relaxed before the YLOTY winner was announced and thought ‘it’s not the end of the world if I don’t win’, as I knew it would go to a deserving winner,” Mr Wick recalls. “When my name was read out the first thing I heard was Rohin and our colleague Paul Gisby cheering loudly from the table behind.”

Although he remembers little about collecting his YLOTY trophy and on-stage interview with presenter Martin Bayfield, messages of congratulations and increased industry recognition have resulted from his win.

“I feel humble and proud to have won YLOTY and it’s been particularly good to see the social media activity around this and the increased number of followers that have resulted,” he says.

“I’ve also been invited to do more work with EWL and I’m looking forward to that, too.”

Mr Wick shares additional plans for contacting local schools, initially within the Little London area where the company’s Leeds head office is located, with the aim of delivering talks to advise children of the many opportunities for careers within the FM sector.

He states that no mention of the industry was made by his former school career advisors and would like to see more appreciation for the highly varied options available in the sector, which he sees as inclusive and welcoming to new recruits.

From a wider industry perspective, Mr Wick states that he has noticed much more interest in and awareness of corporate environmental and social governance (ESG) and believes this will continue to expand.

Additional thoughts are shared on the essential nature of being proactive in the support of his colleagues’ wellbeing and mental health.

“We’ve introduced a wellbeing hour at Penguin FM to allow staff to take an hour a week and pursue any activity that will support their personal wellbeing. I think that’s helping everyone and we plan to continue this into the future, along with allowing everyone to be flexible in their working arrangements and encouraging them to feel relaxed in their working environment,” says Mr Wick.

The successes enjoyed by Messrs Wick and Dhand within their business can be seen to have been an important factor in the YLOTY award presented to Mr Wick and provides another endorsement for the high calibre of young managers and business leaders in the FM sector.

The YLOTY2021 category was sponsored by Boden Group.

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