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All about Andrew

Author : Amanda Vlietstra

15 December 2022

Read our interview with Andrew Lunt, winner of the Peter Middup Lifetime Achievement Award at this year's PFM Awards...

Andrew Lunt, the Group MD for Salisbury Group, was the winner of the Peter Middup Lifetime Achievement Award at this year's PFM Awards. Nominated because of his pragmatic, low drama approach to the industry, he has nonetheless become an extremely well-known and influential figure within it.

So, how did it all start for Andrew? Perhaps ironically, it was never Andrew’s intention to work in FM. After graduating with a surveying degree from Nottingham Trent University in 1995, with a recession in full swing, Andrew looked at the opportunities that were available and went to work for Turner & Townsend on an FM contract. “I took that role and started in Manchester, looking after three buildings on a Government portfolio. I basically spent that whole summer putting fans together, as it was so hot…I thought “what have I done!””

By 1997, Andrew had been promoted and was asked to move to London. He went to work on a contract for the DTI to write an environmental management system for them, which they achieved in 1998. Around this time, the part of Turner & Townsend Andrew worked for was acquired by a Japanese investment bank. Andrew went off to do PFI-style deals and due diligence, working on a bid to acquire the Millennium Dome, among other things.

Headhunted

In 2003, he was headhunted by outsourcing and property investment business Mapeley to go and work in business development. “I spent five years in business development, and then was asked to look at Mapeley’s FM arrangements and run their FM team,” he said. “Mapeley were spending £50million on FM at that point, so I essentially became the internal client for the FM supplier who worked for Mapeley. It didn’t really work in terms of suppliers, so in 2012, we launched Salisbury by insourcing all of their work.”

He continued: “I wrote the business case for Salisbury, we pitched it to the private equity people who owned Mapeley, got the investment that we needed, and I was appointed Group Managing Director of Salisbury in 2012.”
 
Clearly, it’s been quite a journey – but of course it didn’t end there. Indeed, it was just the start of Salisbury’s journey. “We initially launched Salisbury just to look after Mapeley’s properties, but because we had private equity owners, they were keen to see what they could do with Salisbury, and keen to support it,” Andrew explained. “We invested a lot in new people, the CAFM system, marketing, and so on. We then started picking up new work in 2017 – and in 2019 it really took off.”

Mapeley owned the business until March of this year, but by this point, they were a minority customer. “It was the right time to sell,” Andrew said.

Emerging player

The company then became part of the Atlas FM group. Although it’s an emerging player in the marketplace, Andrew says he was attracted to Atlas by the fact it was a family-style business. “The same people have owned the business for 35 years and they care about it. They have a very customer-focused culture.”

He says that Atlas takes a very different approach from some of the more bureaucratic FM companies. “What we try to do is make sure everyone gets senior airtime. I still make a point of giving business cards out with my mobile telephone number so clients can get hold of me at any time. We do things in a slightly different way.”

The integration with Atlas is still in its infancy. What will it mean for Salisbury in the long term? “It’s very positive. The reason Atlas acquired Salisbury was to develop TFM capability. Atlas can now offer TFM to all their clients, using Salisbury’s capabilities.”

However, the company going from working alone as a £40million a year turnover, to being part of a £200million a year organisation with almost 10,000 staff, opens a lot of doors. “The really nice thing about the Atlas acquisition is that it opens up a lot of opportunities for people in the business to grow into a larger role,” Andrew said.

Unique oversight

There’s no doubt that Andrew’s career has given him a unique oversight into the FM industry and the direction in which it may be travelling. “Every industry has challenges,” he said. For FM, at the moment, a lot of is it around staffing. “Our security people were talking last week about how there’s a 60,000 shortage of security personnel in the UK. There are more jobs on Indeed than there are people looking for work at present, so this is a UK-wide problem.”

He believes that FM “isn’t doing too badly” at recruiting. “I think there’s a lot of good young people in the industry. Look at the PFM Awards – it’s got good awards for young people, the account manager, the team member.” The fact is, he says, that talent is coming through – and it’s important to keep that going. “The industry is good at getting people in, then developing them through training.”

Diversity is, however, an issue. “We’d love to have a more diverse workforce, but we’ve first got to get diverse talent into the industry and then help them to flourish. FM definitely has a challenge [in recruiting diverse teams], so we have to look at how we attract underrepresented groups.”

The cost-of-living crisis is also creating anxiety that is translating into the workplace. “It is going to affect retention and wellbeing. It’s really important to keep people in the industry. We need to work with clients, with suppliers, and make sure there’s an arm around everyone.”
 
He points out that, during the pandemic, it was FM staff who were on the frontline, and under a good deal of pressure to keep the country up and running. “We’ve got to be really careful we don’t damage our people,” he said. This is particularly important as many people in FM are on hourly contracts and may feel they have less financial security than other industry sectors. As such, engagement can be a problem, as it can be a challenge to make them feel part of the team.

Positive approach

However, Andrew is strongly positive about Atlas’ approach to this. “Atlas has all sorts of technology solutions as well as people-facing solutions,” Andrew said. “They get rewards for good work, and are incentivised and motivated in the right way. I think if we look after people’s welfare within a caring industry, then you can deliver on what the business needs to deliver on. When people start feeling economic pressures on top, that’s often the bit that goes first.”

Looking forward, he says that technology will be the big driver of future changes, particularly around sustainability. “We’re proud that we achieved Net Zero a couple of years ago,” he said. “The industry is in a good place to lead on decarbonisation.”

And although, of course, the current recession will be felt in FM as in any other sector, Andrew feels that FM is more cushioned from it, due to the important frontline nature of the work. That said, as the pressures of the recession begin to bite, he says it’s important that the industry acts responsibly and doesn’t fall prey to temptation to undercut each other to get work. “These things have to be sustainable,” he said.

People, he states, are what FM is all about. “The industry has a responsibility to put food on people’s tables, at the end of the day,” he said. “If you’re not doing that, you’re not doing it right.”








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