Neil Tilley discusses the variety of a career in facilities management

I feel like I’ve been in the news recently – or at least been a little part of history. I was involved in the independent survey of MP’s pay, pension and reward. I led the policy team in selecting the contractor to deliver the review, going through the tenders and setting the specifications that the contractors had to answer to. I was very aware of the political dimension to the review and that public expectation and polls suggested that MP’s should be paid in line with professions such as doctors for example. The options were either to do nothing, add inflation, follow public opinion and cut MP’s salary, all of which would be unpalatable to various groups. Where I felt that I really had a mark on the tender was in rejecting certain firms for it, despite the fact that they were market leaders and well recognised, and leading the push to go for a smaller independent firm. DLA Piper in the end won the bid and did an excellent job. The tender was rewarded with a trophy and certificate of excellence from the CEO.

All this goes to show that no two days are the same in FM, which is what I love about the job. I can go from processing work orders, permits, purchase orders and invoicing, writing reports from data, gathering data, keeping abreast of day to day operations. But in the middle of it, as a middle manager I can be variable: mopping a flooded floor, DSE assessment, instructing business rate review, selling a sub-let, tendering cleaning, or tendering actuarial experts or ICT engineering, even grouting a couple of tiles myself, the variety is what keeps me on my toes.

My most recent success was in unchartered territory for me, starting on a 11,000 square foot project, with 122 employees and a challenge to get the size of the workforce and the physical space down to under half what it currently was.

I hadn’t developed strategic programmes before, hadn’t realised what those senior people do in FM except sit at desks whilst us ‘co-ordinators’ get things done!

Through this project we set up our accommodation project board: risk and incident management, directors info meetings, down-sizing storage project, working user group for wants and needs, evaluating potential designs, team amalgamations, stripping back job roles in readiness for redundancy programmes, re-planning floor design and evaluating limitations. I personally drew up the construction specification and tendered for CDM, main contractor, and small works surrounding the construction to create two demised premises. I worked with my Director with lawyers for the sub-tenant. The up shot was that we lost some assets, and gained more than half our costs per annum in tenant rent, service and business rates. A provable saving of £892,000 in 30 months and £1.2 million in three full years. Seeing the visual result and the spreadsheet successes was very special for me.

I feel like it’s been quite a journey for me to get to my current position – I’ve worked in nightclub bars, a health food store, even as a professional athlete until I suffered a motorbike injury. I was setting up a cleaning contract for Amro Bank, who had no FM structure and threw out their current providers, but offered permanent roles and training to people like me who were working for them. So I moved through FM assistant and up the ladder. I currently work in the public sector. I’m always looking to prove myself for the next job, to show off the provable growth that FM can create at the start of an organisation. In my next role I’d like to become a strategic planning manager.

I’d say the key to success in FM is pragmatism and strong team leadership. I manage my team with praise, even when I’m delivering difficult messages, and try always to communicate clearly. As I hope I’ve just done. To sum up, it’s the variety that I love.

By Neil Tilley

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