Talking BIFM with Stephen Roots

Congratulations on Airport City’s win for Property Deal of the Year at this year’s Insider NW Property Awards. This must be a very exciting time for Manchester Airports Group.

2014 is proving to be an incredibly exciting time for MAG. Following on from the great successes of our 75th year in 2013, 2014 is showing no signs of slowing down. As well as the continued increase in passengers numbers across the group, we are continuing to add to our destination list across all airports.

It’s not only in aviation where we are seeing exciting times, as Airport City is really getting off the ground this year. We are shortly due to take Airport City out to China for the first of its international road shows where we will showcase the project to potential occupiers in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. During 9th – 13th June we’ll show investors why Airport City is the ideal choice for their business and this summer will see DHL become the first occupier of Airport City which is an iconic moment for all involved.

As summer progresses I am sure it will get more and more exciting (and busy) at MAG as our 43m annual passengers get away on their holidays through our four airports.

Tell us a bit about your career to date and your role as Head of Facilities Management within MAG Property at Manchester Airports Group.

I’ve been extremely lucky in that as predominately working as a consultant for 15 years I have been involved with some really interesting projects, in the UK and the Middle East with end users, suppliers and specialist architects, designers etc.   Some of the schemes I have worked on include the Liverpool Arena in readiness for the Capital of Culture in 2008, the re-orginsation of the engineering function at BAA Gatwick and acting as client FM advisor to the Abu Dhabi Culture and Heritage Department.  MAG Property is my first appointed client side role and I am responsible for ensuring the delivery of our FM services across our property portfolio at MAG’s four sites.  The portfolio is extremely diverse with an estate consisting of residential, agricultural, industrial units, aircraft hangers, multi-tenanted office blocks and air-cargo transit sheds.  As part of the Airport City development, I am developing the Estate Management service provision providing Whole Life Cycle and FM support to the infrastructure and public realm elements of the development which will be maintained by MAG as the development expands.

You are a Quantity Surveyor by background – How did your career start within the FM arena?

When I graduated in 1995, the construction industry was still feeling the effects of the recession that hit the UK in the early 1990’s.  I was fortunate to gain a position at Faithful & Gould as a graduate surveyor administering Measured Term Contracts (MTC) for various multi-site customers including pub chains and utilities companies.  These MTC contracts were the forerunner of hard FM contracts in the UK and when F&G/WS Atkins were appointed to manage the Employment Service estate, I was appointed as the Regional Facilities Manager for the North West managing some 160 sites across the region.  Although I had a hard FM services background, this was my first experience of managing soft FM contracts and it was a very steep learning curve.   From the Employment Service role, my portfolio increased to include the NW estate of Barclays Bank.

How did you come to be involved with BIFM?

I joined BIFM in early 2002, as at the time the RICS did not truly recognise Facilities Management as a profession within the industry.  After attending a number of CPD events, I was invited to join the NW committee in 2005.  Building on the foundations laid by Bob Davy, our new regional chair Ian Broadbent set about shaping the region into its current structure.  When Ian was appointed national chair of the BIFM in 2008-9, I was asked if I would take over the regional chair role which I held for nearly 5 years until I stepped down early this year to take up a position on the BIFM board.

What benefits have you enjoyed by way of executing your day to day role from being affiliated with BIFM?

The first thing I have to say is the number of really good friends I have made through the BIFM network.  Both on a personal and professional level, the network of FM colleagues is really supportive and always willing to share best practice and innovative ideas.  The knowledge held by the membership within the BIFM is vast and as a reference point, I don’t believe that there is a better source of FM knowledge anywhere in the UK.

The CPD events and site visits have enabled me to continue my professional learning and understand some of the challenges FM’s in different sectors face on a day to day basis, and as I have had the privilege to sit on Members Council, I have had the opportunity to shape how the BIFM will look in the future.

Tell us a little bit more about the BIFM 2014 Summer Ball.

Well, this is the third year we have held the Summer Ball at the Hilton, Manchester Deansgate and it is looking like it will be the best attended so far.  The evening is around providing networking opportunities for the FM industry in a social setting and giving the North’s FM professionals a night to remember!  We are really fortunate in that Norland Managed Services have once again supported the event as Headline Sponsor and this year we also welcome two new sponsors; Lantei for the Charity Raffle and yourselves (Foundation Recruitment) as the Champagne Reception sponsors.

The evening will commence with an opportunity to network at the Champagne Reception, before we head into the Deansgate suite for a fantastic four course meal and entertainment from our  live band and possibly a few surprises on the way late into the night.  This year we are supporting The Retreat in York as our nominated charity so we will be asking all of our guests to dig deep for the chance to win some fabulous prizes in our draw.

There’s also the chance to support some of the BIFM North team who will be cycling from York to Manchester on the day (hopefully in time for dinner!).  People can support Justin and the team by the just giving link.

How is the market shaping up for FM professionals in the region?

Activity seems to be increasing within the market.  Client organisations who have been taking a holding position over the last few years are now exploring the opportunities available if they went to market for their FM service requirement.  Suppliers are reacting and this in turn is leading to new opportunities for people.

What do you see to be the main challenges that lie ahead for FM professionals this year?

BIM is the buzz phrase at the moment and this poses challenges as well as opportunities for FM’s with an existing portfolio.  BIM can certainly help FM’s in delivering their facilities, however initial outlay (where the information is not readily available) may seem to be a de-railer in collecting good quality data for existing buildings.  The business case for the initial investment may be a difficult one to pass via a FD if the FM is unable to show strong cashable benefits in adopting a BIM approach to maintaining the portfolio.

One of the main challenges is to ensure that all stakeholders truly understand what is needed from them when they are delivering FM services.  Understanding customers key drivers are readily discussed at tender stage and during contract negotiations, however once the ink is dried on the contract, it has to be the responsibility of all involved to deliver what has been previously committed to.

What advice would you give to any young professional seeking a career within the Facilities Management industry?

The first thing I would advocate is to join the BIFM.  The Institute has a wide knowledge base and is always welcoming to new people entering the industry.  Use the CPD and networking events to broaden experience, it’s really easy to focus on your individual sector or business, but some of the best ideas come from your peers in other sectors.  Reliability Centred Maintenance (RCM) which is changing the way assets are maintained originated from NASA.  There is lots to learn from key successful processes in manufacturing, finance and other sectors, so try and take time to look at what other industries are doing.

Try and map your role (current and future) against the BIFM qualification levels (these can be found on this will help you understand what potential gaps you have in your skill set which may delay moving up that next step.

And finally, I would say, don’t be afraid to ask, the vast majority of people who work in the FM industry are really keen to share their knowledge and experiences, especially if you offer to buy them a coffee!!

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