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Meet the 2023 PFM Partnership Awards' Winner of Winners!

11 December 2023

Gary Zetter, from ASH Integrated Services, and Chris Fishwick, from Lovett Care Homes, explain just what makes their winning partnership work so well...

Every year, at the PFM Partnership Awards, there’s an Overall Winner or Winner or Winners – the partnership, voted for by the judges, that’s deemed to be the most outstanding of all the winners. This year, amid a crop of best-in-class entries, ASH Integrated Services and Lovett Care Homes, the winner of the Partners in SME Organisations category, were deemed the Winner of Winners.

The judges described the relationship between ASH and Lovett Care Homes as ‘one of the most engaging, positive partnership relationships witnessed to date’ – high praise indeed from our notoriously tough judges! 

ASH Integrated Services provides a joined up electrical, plumbing, heating and air conditioning solution for Lovett Care, which owns 10 care homes across England and Wales that have very specific needs around heating and hot water provision for their residents. The largest of their homes houses 90 residents, and the smallest 38, as well as treating day patients who come in for appointments or respite care. “The residents need bathing on a regular basis, so we've got to over-calculate the size of the boilers and the amount of water because we operate quite differently in each one of the homes,” explains Lovett Care Homes’ Group Property Manager Chris Fishwick. “We also need to monitor water temperatures and storage temperatures and manage Legionella risk.”

The impact of this not being done correctly can be life-threatening for the homes’ vulnerable residents. “The fear is within our facility that heating or hot water goes down. We need 24/7 response and the immediate effects of the first-time fix,” Chris says.

Urgent need

With such an urgent need for reactive service providers, one of ASH’s directors, Howard Jackson, offered his company’s services when he discovered that Chris – who has an engineering background – was being let down by service providers and doing a lot of the callouts himself. Within a month, the strength of this relationship was tested when one of the boilers at a Lovett Care Home went down, and the ASH team, led by one of the directors, Sean Jackson, worked overnight to restore it. Needless to say, the success of this operation sealed the deal, and the two companies have been working closely together ever since.

ASH has a four-hour slot to respond to calls from Chris, but nine times out of 10, are there within two – and the relationship has been transparent and honest from the start. “Thanks to my engineering background, I know exactly what they’re speaking about, exactly what the pricing or routine costs, and how it all factors around legislation and regulations,” Chris says. 

“It’s been great with Chris being technical, but it's not within our culture to pull the wool over his – or anyone’s - eyes. We want the best for our clients,” ASH’s Operations Manager, Gary Zetter, adds.

Trust

It’s clear that trust is a huge part of the relationship between ASH and Lovett Care Homes. Indeed, both Chris and Gary say that trust is the most essential ingredient in any successful FM relationship – and they believe that this is where being an SME can be an advantage, because the two companies are able to have a closer relationship than large service providers with multiple layers of management are able to provide. “The client really wants a relationship with the senior people,” Gary explains. “Chris knows he doesn’t have to go through emails or levels of management to get the support he needs. The directors are hands-on.”

Furthermore, working as part of an SME, the senior management are also fully aware of what’s going on at site level. “Sometimes, as part of a bigger company, you don't get to hear the whole story,” Gary says. “Whenever I go on to any site, it's not just to see the client, I will also do a site visit because I simply want to see how my engineers are getting on. We are a people business, and without good people, we couldn’t do what we do. We know we can trust our people to get on and do a great job for our clients like Chris.”

Compliance 

ASH doesn’t just offer reactive maintenance, but also helps Lovett Care Homes with compliance; unsurprisingly, the care environment is highly regulated, with homes receiving regular unscheduled checks from both the care sector and environmental regulatory bodies. As such, the homes need to be inspection-ready at all times. Gary says that ASH’s CAFM, BigChange, has proved to be game-changing in this respect. “We invested in BigChange early doors,” he explains. “Chris can have a job ticket, he can send it straight to our engineers through the system, and we’re on it.”

“We always have to be proactive,” he adds. “If, for instance, we have a boiler which is which is three or four years old, coming to the end of its life expectancy, then we proactively replace or get a spare or consignments we replace.”

Clearly, there’s an atmosphere of mutual understanding between the ASH and Lovett Care teams – which is helped by the fact that all come from an engineering background and understand the technical challenges of the work. But what else is important to creating the perfect FM partnership?

“Be visible to your clients - whether you're a big company or a small company, be visible and be active,” Gary advises. “And know your team's names! As I’ve said before, this is a people business, and understanding your people is crucial to getting things right.”

“Communication is also king,” Chris adds. “Obviously, I can't be everywhere at any particular point, so I rely on ASH to tell me exactly what’s going on. They communicate with me on a regular basis, so that I know exactly what pieces of plant asset we have, where we need it to be, and what we need.”

Both sides of the partnership envision their relationship carrying on for many more years to come – despite whatever challenges the FM sector might throw at them. One issue the sector has been experiencing is around skills shortages; however, ASH has pre-empted this by upskilling much of its own team. “Take on more apprentices and upskill your own people,” Gary advises. “For me, it’s all about developing your people internally. I stopped going outside the business looking for managers and supervisors, but instead have developed them internally instead. It makes for a stronger team.”

He also credits the leadership at ASH for much of the company’s success. “Our three directors, Antony Grace, Sean Jackson and Howard Jackson, are true gentleman and the hardest working directors I have had the pleasure to work alongside, they really do lead by example and we all follow that lead here at ASH.”

When it comes to the PFM Awards themselves, Gary and Chris are still in shock from their win. “The judging process was tough,” Gary laughs. “Very tough indeed – but the judges did make it enjoyable.” Both Chris, Gary, and the rest of the ASH and Lovett Care Home teams are extremely proud of winning – and so they should be, it’s one of the highest accolades in the industry.

It's also very well-deserved – we look forward to hearing a lot more from ASH Integrated Services and Lovett Care Homes!








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