David Smith, CEO of newly rebranded Bellrock FM, talks to Sara Bean about the company’s unique model of technology-led end-to-end property and facilities solutions
Take a look through FMJ’s news coverage for the past couple of years and you’ll notice the Bellrock group has gone through a particularly busy period of activity. It’s based in Leicester with 35 sites around the UK, a turnover of around £100 million, and employs approximately 700 direct employees with, coincidentally, a similar number of customers and suppliers. The group works across the public sector in government, health and education, and in the corporate sector with office occupier, retail and leisure clients.
Bellrock has never been easy to pigeonhole. Over the past two years the group has acquired a number of facilities management and property service companies. This includes a service charge consultancy for the retail and leisure sector, a planned and reactive maintenance business to manage critical assets, and more recently a facilities and property management business based in Bradford.
It has also won some key new accounts, including a place on the Crown Commercial Services (CCS) Facilities Management Marketplace Framework suppliers list, and has made a series of notable appointments to its senior team. David Smith, CEO of its facilities management business, is one of them.
Its most significant move, however, was the acquisition of FM, asset and project management software business Concerto in September 2016. This ensured it became one of the first service providers to offer fully integrated software and services to both the in-house and outsourced facilities and property management sectors.
“Concerto was the biggest acquisition we’ve made,” explains David Smith, adding that over the two years since, all their customers have been transferred to the system. “They’ve seen significant improvements in all of their key areas of cost, risk management and transparency.”
He continues: “But customers of Concerto were asking us to comment on and widen our consultancy services around the whole estate. We therefore bought three companies from the property and estate consultancy world to advise on property advisory and cost reduction.” He is at pains to add, however, that while the group will continue to expand into that area, it has no plans to move into the property management sphere like a Savills or CBRE.
“We’re trying to be that agnostic estates advisor on what you can do with your estate over time, helping to take cost and risk out of the estate,” he says. “We play in self-delivering total facilities management and as a strategic service integrator in a way that’s unique to the market.”
The business has three service divisions. Workplace and compliance focuses on the wellbeing of staff, including managing risk and helping an organisation achieve the regulatory compliance requirements of FM. Technical and real estate works with clients on their overall estate to help determine their long-term business strategy, encompassing everything from strategic plans, determining new buildings and organising a change of use through to managing the estate. This can include financial elements such as lease charges, treasury management, service charges and energy management. Finally, maintenance and engineering services covers the control and management of critical assets.
Says Smith: “Where customers require us to directly maintain equipment we can actually maintain those assets ourselves, via our planned engineering services business, but we’re not saying to customers you have to use us – we’re just saying for customers who want to use it, we now have that service. However, if you look at our overall mix of self-delivered versus supply chain, about 85 per cent of all our FM jobs are still done by our supply chain. We’re not interested in buying in a cleaning or catering company as we don’t want to be an end delivery partner of scale. We’re quite happy to work with Mitie or OCS, and in fact we partner them at different sites.”
With the acquisition of Concerto, Bellrock has been ahead of the curve in understanding the huge role technology can play in facilities management. According to Smith, while the FM sector now talks with incredulity that you can manage a job end to end, that’s already happened for 20 years with Amazon. He argues that the FM sector has been slow to work out how to use technology to improve the supply chain performance, take out cost and remove risk.
“FM has been fixated on driving TFM price points and contracts, which were all related to how labour costs could be sweated a bit more,” he argues. “Many of the FM services suppliers have got very large labour workforces attached to their business – but our feeling is, if you’re a supply chain agnostic and haven’t got a big self-delivery capability, then you can start to simplify the supply chain, the processes and the steps. The answer to that is a technology answer – some of that capability has existed a long time in other sectors.
“This is why we don’t talk about digital disruption, we talk about a company’s maturity in terms of its data, with the fundamentals being automating process steps to replace paper and manual interventions.”
Bellrock uses its Idea (integrated digital estates assets) model to help clients understand the maturity of their FM and property processes and data gathering so they can implement the most efficient delivery model for their organisation. “Effectively what we’re really saying is whichever the client organisation, they can’t do anything with technology if they don’t understand their estate, which isn’t easy to do using Excel spreadsheets or disjointed documentation. This is why we take them on a journey to help build a digital estate footprint, and as this gets more mature it opens up different areas of opportunity for them in terms of efficiency, cost and risk.”