Q: What was your first ever job?
I did a day job in a grocery store when I was 14 years old and Saturdays in a dentist at the age of 16. When I left school, I did six months in the Department of Social Security… before running away to get married!
Q: What was you first job in the FM sector?
Before I really found facilities management, I was a cleaner, a singer and a political activist… so it was quite a colourful and challenging period! My first job in FM was as an area property manager for the London Borough of Haringey in 1986. I wasn’t the most experienced for the role but I’ve been told “once seen never forgotten”. You wouldn’t get away with my lack of experience today, but I convinced them I could do the job and must have managed to talk my way in!
Q: What made you choose FM as a career?
I think FM chose me to be honest. And for that I am everlastingly grateful. That is why I am holding my special 70th birthday charity event in September* (www.payingbackat70.com) – and everyone is welcome!
Q: How did you progress through the profession to your current role?
From Haringey I moved to the Royal Post Graduate Medical School at Hammersmith Hospital. I was there for six years and was sponsored to do a Master’s degree in FM and environmental management at University College London. I was then lucky enough to be head-hunted by a handful of companies and ended up choosing Procord. I then moved from client to supply side, and from public to private sector. I had a fantastic time with them, looking after clients like BP and Esso. I covered both hard and soft services as well as projects, so it was a great experience to work with so many different industries and clients. In 2002, I took a year’s sabbatical, moved to Shropshire and set up my own business. Most recently, I founded the collaboration consultancy FMP360 Ltd, so I now have two FM businesses and a property development company with my husband. I keep pretty busy!
Q: Do you have any qualifications or training in FM and related areas such as health and safety? And how have you benefited from them?
When I completed my Master’s degree I was able to double my salary over-night. I doubt that would happen today but, as a new industry and profession, qualified and experienced FM’s were few and far between. I also have an IOSH and am also a Master Practitioner in Neuro Linguistic Programming and find that really useful to help the softer skills of FM.
Q: What is your greatest contribution to the FM sector, or your current role?
In 2013, I was honoured to receive the Profound Impact on the FM Industry award from BIFM for my work in introducing the concepts of NLP and Emotional Intelligence to over 2,000 FM’s via my training courses.
Q: What’s changed most since you started in FM?
The professionalism of the sector and the expectations of our customers. In the 1980s it was all about buildings – today it is all about people. I was speaking about this at conferences from the late 80’s onwards, so perhaps I had a hidden glimpse of the future.
Q: What personal qualities do you think are most needed for a successful career in FM?
A determination to work really hard. Have an appetite to understand and use collaboration and compromise to find solutions that deliver value to your clients.
Q: If you could do one thing differently in your career in FM, what would it be?
Do you know – I don’t think there is a single thing I would change. I made mistakes, but they led me to a better place and here I am.
Q: What would make the biggest difference to the FM sector? And how could that be achieved?
The biggest difference will be bringing in young people straight from school or university who want FM to be their career. All of us who have benefitted from this wonderful industry need to reach out to younger generations to mentor them into FM.
Q: Are you a member of any FM association or body and if so what benefits do you think they provide?
I am a fellow of the BIFM and also of RICS. There are countless benefits to both, and it is incredibly important to be engaged with your peers and network to keep learning and developing yourself.
Q: What advice would you give to young people coming into the profession now?
Make sure you attend some of the many events run by the FM bodies, get to know other young people and work hard to learn everything you can. There is no such thing as an FM expert. So, choose a specialism and then study for a qualification in it.
Q: What do you predict could be the main changes to the FM sector over the next few years?
I hope we will drive out some of the bureaucracy and complexity around procurement, SLAs and KPIs. We must ensure we are measuring what is really important to our clients, and deliver just that.
Q: What are the greatest challenges of working in FM?
Managing the stress and constant demands for more value, less cost and continuous innovation. You have to love FM to be successful or it will eat you alive.
Q: What do you enjoy most about working in FM?
The people who work in FM are mostly great people and many have become life-long friends. It has grown from a small community back in the 80’s to the wonderful profession it is today and I continue to meet new people and make new friends.