This month, we sat down with Andrew Hulbert, managing director of Pareto FM, to chat all things FM and workplace. Hulbert joined the industry as an undergraduate and, shortly after, won PFM’s Young Manager of the Year Award in 2010. He is also the co-founder of Tomorrow Meets Today, a charity that aims to promote diversity and inclusion in the facilities management sector, which is now in its fourth year.
Earlier this year, Magenta invited a group of senior corporate real estate and facilities management professionals, including Hulbert, to a special roundtable event to discuss the future of the commercial property lease with new trends like co-working now looming large. Hulbert provided some interesting responses, which made us want to find out more.
Why did you choose a career in FM?
I started with an internship with a company called Rollright. I was in my second year of uni and wanted work experience. I had no clue what FM was when I applied to the role, but when I got onto the scheme and completed the eight-week internship, I was able to learn about the industry. From what I saw, it was an incredibly vast industry but really old-fashioned and lacking graduates, so I thought I could really make an impact and hopefully forge a career for myself.
You’ve already achieved so much in your relatively short career in FM. What’s been the highlight?
In 2010, I won the Young Manager of the Year award, which was great in terms of exposure to the FM industry. And it made my mum very proud.
I’m also very proud of running Tomorrow Meets Today because we are in an industry that’s not as diverse or as representative as it should be at management and senior levels. Tomorrow Meets Today as a charity helps to promote diversity and inclusion strategy within businesses and creates the opportunity for people to make new connections.
Workplace is now high on the industry agenda. Has it always fallen under your remit as a facilities manager?
I’ve always been a service provider, but what I would say is that the workplace services and the workplace agenda has really grown in the last five years or so. There is a real movement towards people understanding that the office space, design, feel and operation really does shape the organisation and helps with productivity and attracting talent.
Because Pareto works with cool companies, we see how these organisations create great working environments that attract the right kind of staff. Clients are using workspaces and workspace services to create competitive advantages for their organisation. Ultimately, creating an appealing work environment attracts the best talent from a relatively small talent pool.
Is this new way of thinking, at least in part, responsible for the recent boom in co-working spaces?
The rise of co-working spaces represents the rise of Generations Y and Z, which are coming into the workforce, and don’t want to work in a grey, cellular, boring structured office; they would rather work in a coffee shop that has music playing, soft seating, Wi-Fi, a vibrant atmosphere and coffee. I completely identify with working in that kind of environment as that’s where I am able to focus – but I only want to work there for an hour or two at a time, and then I want to move on to somewhere else.
Good co-working spaces are cool environments with multiple different types of areas that people can sit and work in. They aren’t expected to sit in the same place for eight hours a day; they are expected sit and do hard pieces of work when needed, but the rest of the time they can spend their time how they want.
The co-working trend is something that is definitely going to get bigger. It’s an interesting concept for the FM industry because companies like WeWork are already offering FM services as part of their service delivery. But this also provides an opportunity to brand out into co-working spaces.
Why will FM have a stake in the future of work, however it may look?
Things will always need to work. FM makes things work – that’s fundamentally what we do. Even if everybody starts working in co-working spaces, they still need to be maintained, cleaned, and looked after.
But the challenge that some FM providers have is the ability (or inability) to adapt. At Pareto, our strong point is being able to adapt to change on an immediate basis. Almost like a fashion brand, we can execute those new trends immediately.
The FM industry will have a future, but it needs to become significantly more dynamic to accommodate the demand from clients and not be stuck doing things in the way they’ve been done for the last 40 years. How, for example, do you turn around this massive Carilion model? There is space for niche companies like Pareto within the sector not only to deliver specifically what clients ask for but also provide great levels of innovation.