10 Questions with…(Francesca Laugier-Davies, Account Manager, Pareto FM)
1. What was your first job?
Saturday girl at a local fabric shop when I was 13
2. How did you get into the facilities management industry?
I applied for an FM apprenticeship with a charity I was volunteering for, although I wasn’t exactly clear on what FM was, I was intrigued by the role and felt that I had enough transferable skills to make the leap. FM was a conscious decision for me and after a year’s apprenticeship I discovered I really did enjoy the variety and challenge it offered.
3. How did you progress through FM to your current role?
I own my early career to my mentor, boss and friend Chris, he exposed me to every facet of FM; hard and soft service contracts, end to end lease management, planning applications, project management, he even encouraged me to self-teach AutoCAD. On completion of my apprenticeship I remained with the charity as an FM, progressed to a regional manager and, while working full time, completed my MSc in Facility and Environmental Management at UCL. Once I’d matriculated, I moved onto Vitality as their FM for the London and later Croydon offices. Despite enjoying my time there, I began to feel increasingly frustrated with the way services were delivered by FM companies; the limited involvement, lack of initiative and impersonal, overly formal relationships. I’d seen Andrew lecture at UCL while doing my degree and when the opportunity to work for him came up, I jumped at the chance!
4. Since you started in FM what has been the biggest change the industry has seen/you have observed?
The way we work has changed; our hours and locations are no longer as fixed as they once were, and this has significantly impacted the way we construct work space and use buildings; there’s an emphasis on space for collaboration and socialisation to meet the needs of a more diverse and fluid workforce. Employees have come to a holistic environment and companies recognise that if they want to attract and retain the best talent, they need to create innovative, multi-functional spaces that suit this changing workforce.
5. Who, in any other industry, do you most admire?
Stephen King, author. Not for the horror; for The Dark Tower, all 7 novels, which I’ve ready at least 4 times cover to cover. I wish I had half his imagination and creativity
6. If you were to outline three qualities that are essential for a successful career in FM, what would they be (and why)?
· Flexibility is key- Being able to quickly adapt to change is crucial in an industry that is constantly evolving and as broad as FM; learning is part of the job. Clients requirements are as unpredictable; expectations change, new management is hired, businesses develop; as an FM provider we must meet and overcome these challenges while maintaining the same service standards.
· Being an excellent communicator is tied to adaptability, the role of a Facilities Manager spans all levels; you need to be able to confidently present solutions, direct contractors, negotiate with suppliers, manage and inspire teams, collaborate with and support peers.
· Confident in Decision Making- As the experts, we’re relied upon to make informed, logical decisions based on experience and available information; in pressured situations you need to be able to make quick, confident decisions without comprising service standards.
7. If you could host a dinner part with three guests, dead or alive, who would they be and why?
Nobody famous; it would be the three people who had a significant impact on my life, but I’ve never met; my mother’s twin brother, my grandfather and uncle on my father’s side. They died before I was born but I’m told I have traits from each of them, some good, some bad.
8. Any advice to someone just starting out in the industry?
Be prepared to go off piste; FMs do what it takes to get the job done. I’ve had some bizarre requests over the last 7 years, responsibly disposing of two 14ft fibreglass runners’ springs to mind, but when you find the right solution and the clients happy, you get a real sense of achievement from a job well done.
9. What do you think is the future of the FM industry?
There has been an increased focus on health and wellbeing both in and out of work; building and offices are being designed to promote more active and comfortable environments in a bid to retain quality staff. The challenge for the FM industry will be understanding and reacting to the needs of individual businesses to develop a flexible solution that optimise the productivity of the staff and support the needs of the organisation.
10. Phil Roker, Co-owner and MD of Vacherin asks: How do we ensure a focus on quality rather than the price-driven, race to the bottom that led to the Carillion collapse and is still prevalent?
Carillion’s collapse (very simply) was born out of a lack of foresight, the desire to become the biggest, rather than the best, FM provider saw aggressive bidding to secure contracts at the lowest possible price, through poor payment terms to contractors, leaving no margin for error or delivery delays. FM needs integrity at its core; it’s up to the industry as a whole to demonstrate through the practice of responsible bidding, fair payment terms, longer-term supplier relationships, that there is added value in procuring the right service at a realistic price.
Please leave your question for the next person
Is CAFM software really making facilities management easier and more efficient?