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First thoughts on ThinkFM

Author : Tim Fryer

20 June 2012

ThinkFM was held in London last Monday (18th June 2012) and aimed to inspire delegates with ideas to change. Tim Fryer went to be inspired…

The conference was formulated following a series of round-tables and surveys conducted principally by Workplace Law along with input from BIFM – the two organisations who had combined forces to establish a single annual conference for the industry rather than their individual offerings in previous years.

The result was a conference squeezed into a single day – that representing the wishes of the majority of delegates. The only trouble with this, as I found out, is that all the topics are split across the four streams running concurrently, and there are inevitable clashes between subjects of interest. And there was plenty of interest.

The day kicked off with an excellent keynote from Sahar Hashemi who founded Coffee Republic with her brother and then went on to launch Skinny Candy. While there may not have been many direct lessons about facility management she presented an inspiring approach to life (“the measure of success is loving what you do”) and a healthy disregard for the ‘fear’s of the left brain’. I think most people coming away from the presentation would have been inspired to look at change. As this was the theme of the conference Sahar’s speech was the perfect start.

The programme then spilt into the four streams with freedom to switch between them. With over 300 delegates it was always going to be difficult to get the audience split into fairly equal sized groups and in some presentations there was standing room only. These included presentations from Peter Kimmel on Benchmarking and Paul Worland (EMCOR) and Sean Allen (NATS) on Collaboration. The former highlighted that benchmarking is something that everyone wants to do (backed up by the high attendance) but thinks it is too difficult to get started in, but the opposite is in fact true. And the latter explained how the two companies had worked through the client/contractor relationship to evolve a genuinely effective collaboration practice.

Other packed sessions were those involving the adoption of new technologies – an entertaining look at some of the new IT opportunities for modern facilities by Matthew Wailing (Cordless Consultants) was followed by a practical advice for FMs by Chris Webber (AWA) on how they can be incorporated into the workspace.

Ruby McGregor-Smith, CEO of MITIE, rounded off the day in predictably progressive fashion. She said: “Entrepreneurialism and equity incentivisation is at the heart of what MITIE is and how it grew into a £2 billion company. Our start-up model, which involves investing in budding entrepreneurs with an idea keeps us young, fresh, non-corporate and is a central tenet of our growth strategy. Businesses must be willing to take risks – on ideas, people and time – in order to realize the potential benefits. Encouraging an entrepreneurial culture where everyone’s ideas for growth are considered and given the opportunity to be explored is very important at MITIE. For example, we recently hosted an event called ‘MITIE Millions’ in which we invited all 63,000 of our staff to put forward their ideas for growth and pitch for millions of pounds worth of startup capital. Facilities Management may be a new industry, but it is highly competitive, and we must constantly innovate in new areas such as energy services in order to stay ahead. This goes beyond service delivery for our clients.”

In all I thought it was a fascinating, if intense, day and I think the most refreshing thing was its forward-looking nature. It would have been easy for every presentation to start “In these difficult economic times…”, but they didn’t. The conference was about the FM sector taking the next steps forward and I am sure the majority of the delegates will have been inspired to do just that – or at least to think about it!

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