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Growing Up

15 March 2006

Keith Pratt takes a personal walk down memory lane for PFM. He talks to some of the founders of facilities management in the UK to show how the profession emerged, careers developed and early aspirations were fulfilled and surpassed

The past 20 years have seen the fm sector grow up in a rapidly expanding world market. It has put down strong roots, but even now it is not fully mature. The facilities management profession is emerging onto a firmer footing but new challenges such as the need for greater operational security and the demands of global business, are increasingly moving the profession beyond the built environment. The early 1980s were a melting pot for opinion about facilities management. America had shown the lead with the formation of the Facilities Management Association of America, subsequently renamed the International Facilities Management Association (IFMA).

When PFM published its first edition in 1986, facilities management was emerging quickly in the UK. The Institute of Facilities Managers (IFM) was formed from members of the Institute of Administrative Management (IAM). The Association of Facilities Managers (AFM) was also recruiting up and coming business administrators with facilities-related responsibilities.

I was a typical recruit to the IAM in 1982 being then head of Corporate Services for the City of Westminster and responsible for the Council’s executive property and facilities services. I had a staff of 400 including the Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages, facilities management and the Rent Officer Service! I was also in the process of outsourcing many of the Council’s services to specialist suppliers. Westminster Council was then part of a pilot for Mrs Thatcher’s new policy on Compulsory Competitive Tendering (CCT). However, in those days effective providers were few and far between, and progress was very slow. In 1988 I joined Coopers & Lybrand, now PriceWaterhouseCoopers. This FM appointment like many others then and now still carried the title Director of Administration.

In these formative years, the future of the profession was far from certain. I attended meetings of the IFM chaired by Peter Lebus, but to hedge my bets, had also joined the AFM. Other active IFM and AFM members at that time who played a significant role in both the development of the facilities management industry and the profession including Geoff Gidley, Marylin Standley, John Crawshaw and Oliver Jones to name but a few.

In 1986 Geoff Gidley was working for Unilever as Resource Coordinator, responsible for research laboratory facilities and related engineering, health, safety and security issues.

He was initially a member of the AFM, which in 1986 was primarily a London-based organisation with nearly 100 members. Initially he organised events but then became Chairman of the AFM during the period when talks started with Peter Lebus to explore how a merger between IFM and the AFM might work. John Crawshaw, myself and several others joined the merger working party.

Geoff, who was subsequently to be Chairman of BIFM, remembers drafting initial strategy documents for the new organisation which, he recalls, “were focussed on professional development, education and creating the right roles and identity for facilities managers.

After a lot of hard bargaining, The British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) was formally launched at the end of 1993 and John Crawshaw became its first Director and Marilyn Standley was elected the first Chairman of the BIFM in 1994. I was Deputy Chairman in the same year.

Her first copy of PFM in 1986 when she was Director of Facilities at the publishers, Longman, and returning to work after the birth of her son. Her primary task on her return was to outsource the catering but the coming years were to see her deeply immersed in the development of a relocation strategy and the planning for a new headquarters for Longman outside London. The project lasted until 1996

Making a difference
“The final opening of the new facilities was a huge achievement for me because as facilities manager I had a chance to make a difference” she said. “The building made an impact as the then largest most environmentally friendly building in the UK, and when I last checked, it is stilI operating very satisfactorily”. Marilyn added, ‘The other achievement for me is probably my working life now. Having left a ‘proper’ job to establish my own business four years ago, I have not only survived economically but I also love working as an facilities management consultant. I guess it’s because this life allows you to work with different businesses who really want to change and improve facilities management delivery. I adore getting to grips with their issues. It has been the most interesting and personally satisfying part of my working life since Longman

John Crawshaw had retired early from the Army aged 48 in the rank of Colonel in May 1986 to join Ernst & Whinney (merged with Arthur Young in 1989 to become Ernst & Young) as its first UK Head of Administration. At about the same time John de Lucy, now Director of Estates and Facilities at The British Library, was Director of Administration for London at Arthur Young covering real estate and facilities. Post merger, he liased frequently with John Crawshaw on facilities issues affecting the combined consultancy practice.

As John explained, “My key professional achievement was commanding a regiment in the Royal Artillery, concluding my military career with further promotion and staff appointments. Whilst the army and the role at Ernst & Young provided more than their fair share of challenges, during the ten years I was Director of the BIFM I was able to shape the development of professional support in the UK.”

In 1992 I had left Coopers & Lybrand to join Oliver Jones at Symonds FM. Mike Cant, now Director Larch Consulting was the director responsible for consultancy and Colin Hale, now Head of Support Services at MITIE, was operations director for the North of England. Colin and I were eventually to found MITIE Managed Services in 1997.

Oliver Jones was a QS in 1986 working for BAA just prior to its privatisation and had put together an outsourced proposal to create Gatwick Premises Management in 1987, a spin off designed to deliver facilities management services. He recalls, “The result was a huge disappointment because the downside was that I was unlikely to get an equity share in the business and this blunted my enthusiasm. Shortly afterwards I met Norman Biddle the Chief Executive of Symonds Group and in 1988 put forward a business case to create Symonds FM the following year.”

FM the following year.” In those formative years Oliver and Symonds FM were early sponsors of the PFM Awards and during all this activity he still found time to complete his MBA. Symonds FM was eventually bought by a French multinational and emerged repackaged as Dalkia.

He is driving yet another new venture, ‘The Asset Factor’ with Helical Bar. “It’s strange,” Oliver he commented, “everything that’s been around comes around. Nearly 20 years ago my mentor at Symonds FM was David Carrie, an ex Merrill Lynch Property and Facilities Manager. Today I’m working closely on the development of the site in London once occupied by that business.”

Mike Cant joined Symonds FM in the late 80’s,but in 1986 he was working for the leading design practice, Fitch, responsible for it’s property portfolio and a new headquarters development. He had been asked to run all infrastructure services, something he now acknowledges he had little previous exposure to. He was trying to find out how all the components fitted together - architecture, planning, development, management, HR, finance, ICT and facilities - with mixed success.

“Strategy could only be achieved via behaviours and professional credibility”, Mike explained. ‘If you just talked technical, you didn’t achieve credibility to influence at a strategic level.”

Mike believes his personal and professional aspirations were helped with his grounding in architecture and property surveying and the experience he was accumulating. He wanted to make a mark in the facilities management sector, not just be part of it. This led to the founding of Larch Consulting.

The 1980’s also saw the client side moving ahead. John Jack was Property Director for IBM UK Ltd with a prime goal to cut costs and embrace the ‘information age’. This included the impact of IT on work patterns and the use, or lack of it, of expensive city centre office space.

He explained: “At around this time we were talking to the likes of BET and P&O about delivering improved value for money through facilities management and were not impressed. This lack of response from the FM sector eventually led to the formation of our own facilities management solution to improve the services provided to the people occupying IBM premises.”

The management buyout led by John Jack from IBM and the formation of Procord were as significant for the facilities management sector as for IBM itself. “Even today, I meet and hear from former employees of Procord and Johnson Controls who have continued where we left off”, he said.

One of Procord's early successes was with BP and the client manager John Dowsett set the tone for facilities outsourcing. “This was ground breaking in its day,” he said, “and it has stood the test of time even though the original concept and scope has changed, and the contract is now under Johnson Controls.”

In 1986 John was working as a chemical engineer with BP evaluating a new technology for pipeline transportation of Canadian heavy oil. His personal and professional aspirations were all closely linked to improving technical management and leading a team of engineers engaged on a major oil production project. He recalls: ‘At the time FM was not even on my radar screen and I could never have imagined that by 1996 I would be FM Manager for BP's Sunbury site, developing its outsourced model.”

Another in-house FM in the 1980’s was Phil Roberts, now working for Mace. In 1986 he was working in the Home Office advising on police and courts buildings, looking at performance and advising on capital projects and programmes. He became increasingly interested in taking a management role that would shape the business needs for FM service delivery andb two years later he got that chance working with the British Council.

This international perspective proved valuable when elected International Director for IFMA. “My time on the IFMA board helping to improve understanding between IFMA and other international professional organisations was an outstanding highlight of my professional career,” he said.

The next generation of FMs were still in education in 1986, demonstrating like their forebears a varied background and circuitous route into FM. Typical is Lucy Jeynes, MD Larch Consutling, who was midway through a degree in Modern Languages at Pembroke College Cambridge, planning a career in marketing. She recalled: ‘It was a very surreal experience for a girl from a pit village in South Yorkshire to go to Cambridge in the middle of the miner’s strike’. My interest in economic regeneration was born.”

Lucy was planning a career in marketing and a major personal aspiration was to create and develop a successful brand. She had never heard of facilities management but now loves it and says there is never a dull moment. It had not occurred her then to start her own business. Now, as a member of both national and regional women’s enterprise steering groups and a former winner of the Businesswoman of The Year Award’, she is very active encouraging and inspiring women to become entrepreneurs. “There is a lack of information about this career option when young people are beginning to plan their future,” she says.

Jason Cousins, now Head of FM at Eversheds and is also Chairman of the FMA Young Managers Forum, was completing his educationin 1986 and focussed on computer studies. His first job was in the National Westminster Bank’s computer centre in London, but he soon found this job lacked interest and he moved across to work on relocation planning for IT. He joined Lloyds TSB in a similar capacity but with greater emphasis on the development and planning of IT installations. This fostered a desire to learn more about buildings and resulted in achieving an HNC in construction and a degree.

Fellow FMA Young Manager, Sandra Constable, now works with ISS Coflex, but in June 1986 she had just finished college having completed a City & Guilds in Hotel Reception. “I absolutely loved travelling and judged that a career in the hotel industry would increase that opportunity,” she said. When she left home in Liverpool to work in a hotel in Kensington, London she did not expect that in the years that followed she would completing a Post Graduate Diploma in FM in 2000, winning the FMA Young Manager of the Year Award in 2001 and establishing facilities services at 30 St Mary Axe, the landmark ‘Gherkin’ building. As if the last 20 years hasn’t provided challenges enough, all our contributors see further challenges ahead.

For Geoff Gidley the identity and role of facilities directors, managers, specialists and team members have still to be established and generally recognised. “Through their contributions they will win the right to pursue those roles alongside established professionals on whom they depend,” he said. He clearly believes that FM’s must not become ‘jacks of all trades and master of none’.

Mike Cant’s also sees key challenges for the profession in establishing long-term credibility for facilities management as a sector, with a professional accreditation comparable to other professions, such as the RICS. The future also poses challenges for the facilities management provider when trying to demonstrate added value, he said. “My research with clients over the last ten years has revealed there to be far less benefits in outsource strategies adopted than are claimed.”

Attracting enough young people into the sector is a concern for Jason Cousins. With his colleagues on the FMA Young Managers Forum, they are taking the initiative to talk to careers advisors about the potential for new entrants in facilities management. “We were amazed that school leavers are blissfully unaware of the opportunities that an FM career provides.”

Marilyn Standley sees challenges in the “Convergence of services and places from where they will be delivered. Soon there will be health diagnostic checks from local pharmacists and police facilities in schools or supermarkets. The service delivery locations and workplaces in 10-20 years time will be very different as will the legislation surrounding them.” She also points to the acceleration towards a 24/7 lifestyle, and consequent expectations for access to facilities of many different types with associated challenges will be hard to meet. “Finally the 2012 Olympics is coming up fast and it would be good to see these setting the standard for a number of key FM elements including the environment, the visitor experience, security and a truly useful legacy in terms of the facilities themselves.”

For my part, I concur with some of her views, believing that the next twenty years will severely test facilities managers and their professional organisations. If they are to remain innovative, dynamic, healthy and relevant, they will have to develop solutions far beyond property and asset management, moving into many other service areas.

Oliver Jones also sees the FM industry still facing huge challenges. “Margins continue to be driven down and the FM product is becoming just another commodity. The challenge over the next two decades is to put the sparkle back, saving money in other areas such as real estate, by leveraging the asset, enabling greater quality to be delivered from a greater investment in FM.” He also believes that the profession needs partnerships with other professions, it has to get ‘out of the loop’ and stop focusing on the tactical at the expense of the strategic.

Concurring, John Jack considers that the essential task for the facilities managers profession is to remain relevant as facilities managers services become commodities and price the only differentiator.

For John Dowsett, it is “Issues of economic change, user expectation, demography, technology, waste, water, energy, transport and safety are going to mean that the FM of the future will need to be increasingly sophisticated, knowledgeable and agile. ‘The good news is that advancing technology will help to solve many of these problems, even if the facility solutions may be difficult for us to forecast today’.

Sustainability, both in the environment and the community, are Lucy Jeynes feels, becoming a major factor in the next two decades. “The building energy rating system could well lead to a new perception of the suitability of property and shake up property market. Responsible citizenship will become a fundamental factor in organisational decision-making, covering local sourcing, community engagement, job creation, fair trade and global responsibility. Important social trends will also have a significant impact. The aging workforce, the expectation of parents, particularly fathers wanting more time with their children and an increasing trend towards career breaks and sabbaticals, will change working practices. They will need to be managed if we are to be able to recruit and retain key people in the future.”

Sandra Constable sees key challenges in legislative compliance to constantly changing regulation and keeping one step ahead of customer requirements. “Business challenges change constantly and it is the ability to be proactive, understanding the customer and business needs that challenges FM’s to provide the right solution and make the compromises required.”

Paying homage to the past, Sarah concluded: “The foundation was laid by very able and committed people and over the years others have helped to build reputations. However, it is the youth of today that will ensure that the profession continues to go from strength to strength.”

From these reminiscences and thoughts I can draw one clear conclusion. If life is a journey, then the FM profession still has a long way to go

Keith Pratt is a Director of Thomas Resource,
an author and sculptor. He has played leading
roles in IFM, BIFM and was Founder President of
the IFMA UK Chapter in 2000. Virtually retired
he continues his links with FM as a judge for the
PFM Awards

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