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edition 4 (219)
April 2017
Property management

The road from small to full FM

The largest facility managers have no room for complacency

Tomasz Cudowski

The road from small to full FM
Sławomir Halbryt, the president of the board of Sescom

Small service companies on the real estate market are no longer satisfied with basic jobs – they are adding other services to their offers and fighting for clients more and more aggressively

How do firms evolve from basic maintenance services providers to comprehensive FM companies – and who are the initiators of these changes? We asked representatives of companies that have already gone down this road. And each story is different. “Our adventure with the services market started in 1995 when we provided cleaning services for offices and hotels as Ever Clean. It was the hotels that taught us to take care of every detail and to provide high quality services,” recalls Przemysław Osowiecki, the commercial director of Ever Cleaning, part of the Ever Group. “As time went by and in response to requests from clients, we started to introduce other – security, catering, the provision of temporary staff and reception services. Over time, when the one canteen we ran turned into five, we started to separate out and professionalise the different services in our portfolio. We are now one of the country’s major canteen service providers. We have adopted the same model for our other services – adjusting them for the needs of one or two clients, ensuring the development opportunities for a given service and then marketing it.

Would you take care of this?

This form of the development of such companies, as a response to clients’ needs, is something of a common occurrence, according to industry professionals. “In a formal sense the initiator of such changes is admittedly the company’s management, because they are always prompted by a strategic decision by the company; but the motivation comes from the market, from customers. They often indicate the field we should grow into and their requirements determine the direction of our future activities,” explains Sławomir Halbryt, the president of the board of Sescom.

The organic development of Gdańsk-based Sescom has been recognised by the wider market – at last year’s Economic Forum in Krynica the company was awarded the ‘Hidden Champion of the Year’ title for its transformation from a local enterprise into an international player with over 30,000 serviced units in more than twenty countries within just a few years of launching its operations. “Clients themselves encourage us to offer additional services,” confirms Mikołaj Kusiak, the development director of Inwemer. “For example, if a company provides cleaning services for a building, they are often made such proposals as: ‘Perhaps you could also take care of our plants?’. After that you might get asked: ‘Sometimes a bulb burns out, a tap leaks or a lock jams. We don’t want to involve another contractor as a handyman. Would you take care of this?’ ”

Spotting the advantage

The provision of such ‘handyman’ services can be very useful. A chain store or a bank does not have to employ a maintenance person who – particularly when it comes to smaller premises – would not have a lot to do on an everyday basis, and they would also have to be suitably equipped, trained and insured. “Protective clothing and tools would probably deteriorate over something like a few hundred years,” jokes Mikołaj Kusiak of Inwemer. On a more serious note he adds: “The outsourcing of such services makes having a storage area for maintenance products unnecessary and you do not have to shop for the materials. Let’s take a look at a simple bulb, for example. A service company that buys bulbs on a wholesale basis for a hundred of its facilities usually gets a discount from the manufacturer and its warehouse of bulbs is located in the boot of its technician’s car. Furthermore, used up bulbs should not be binned, they need to be recycled the right way. And which employee of the bank should be made responsible for this?

A similar situation occurs when it comes to outsourcing ventilation or air-conditioning system inspections, which are carried out twice a year. “If such inspections with their frequency become part of the range of services of the cleaning or security company – provided they have the appropriate licences and professionals – and the parties agree on lump sum payments, eventually the employer could receive the inspections completely free of charge,” explains Mikołaj Kusiak. “A company that services clients on an everyday basis will plan its activities in such a way that they will pay the minimum costs that can be covered by the lump sum. Another external company, however, which only has a contract for the inspections and exists off that, will certainly charge the client in full,” he adds.

But what is it that eventually convinces clients to give their service providers the responsibility for additional tasks? “First of all it is the credibility of the company, the proven quality of its services, its individual approach and its engagement in problem solving,” states Sławomir Halbryt without any hesitation. “The most important thing is for the clients to see the advantage in complex FM services. And the main advantage is that they can focus on their core businesses because we take over the tasks related to technical maintenance and we offer solutions for problems they should not be faced with at all. An additional advantage of complex services is the simplification of internal procedures and processes. “The client can solve their problems and we gain an opportunity to make our presence known in several fields,” explains Przemysław Osowiecki of Ever Cleaning. “For example, reception services. Receptionists had always been employed directly by companies or they were part of the security service. This trend has been changing and we were able to successfully enter a new segment. And all thanks to an inquiry by one of the clients of our cleaning service,” he adds.

No place for a monopoly

However, the world would be too perfect if a single service provider simply received a stream of all its work from one client. A single service provider makes the employer more dependent and for a large services company a client is simply one of dozens or hundreds of buyers. “Admittedly, some employers are concerned that a large company will not approach their needs individually and their shops or offices will become ‘one of many’ – they will be among thousands of other outlets serviced,” admits Sławomir Kądziela, the business development director of Sescom. How can such concerns be addressed? By acting according to the specific arrangement. This is nothing new, but you have to be flexible and approach each client individually. Building direct relations in everyday work is a significant factor: you need to standardise the technical work and monitor client satisfaction – this makes it possible to identify possible irregularities before the problem escalates. “The most frequent problem is not the size of the service provider’s company, but the fact that one operator will be responsible for a number of significant services. So a single company will handle the cleaning, the security and the catering. Dependency on a single company, which monopolises all the services, is a common concern,” adds Przemysław Osowiecki. “In spite of the fact that it is against my business interests, I believe that withholding some services from the FM company is the right thing to do. Monopolising all the services in one contract could be problematic over the longer term, despite the obvious initial advantages.”

What is the ideal structure for an FM company providing services for the real estate market? Would one large company be better suited for taking on related tasks? Or perhaps companies operating as part of one group or as independent firms would be a more effective approach? “In order to provide complex services a supplier has to be internally harmonious regardless of whether it is one company, a group or a number of separate companies. Individual departments or entities much cooperate with each other to create an entirety,” believes Sławomir Halbryt, “they must fit together like jigsaw puzzles, be able to cooperate and complement their services. In short: a practical business model which is used on everyday basis is crucial, rather than a formal structure adopted by a given entity or entities.”

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