Talking ‘FM’ with Mark Whittaker

A respected figure with the UK Facilities Management Sector, Mark Whittaker (Chair of the BIFM North West Branch and BIFM North Deputy Chair) and (Business Development Manager at Integral) is a  keen advocate for raising FM visibility within the North region.  Mark spends some time with us to explain his involvement  within the BIFM  and how he came to have a career within FM.

1.  What does the role of BIFM North West Chair & Deputy Chair North involve? 

The role is two tiered really. Working with the BIFM North Committee and North West team, it is to provide support to our corporate and individual members within the region and to represent their interests. In addition it is also to attract new members to BIFM and generally advance the profile and importance of the profession in the region.

2. How did you come to be involved with BIFM?

I joined several years ago, through my employers and attended a few networking events. Then I became more heavily involved three years ago in response to a call for help from the BIFM Lancashire Group.  They were struggling to get members to attend the event and working closely as a team, we have built the networking events to ones where we have over 100 attendees. Over time, I have become more and more involved and have found it very rewarding and important for my own career development and industry profile.

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

It provides access to a great network of professionals within the FM industry, great learning events such as Think FM and the ability to hear and learn the latest industry ideas and best practice. The events I attend are exceptional and last month enjoyed events organised in both Scotland and Durham.

4. Tell us a bit about your career to date and your role within Integral.

I have worked for Integral for nearly six years now, as their Business Development Manager. Like so many people, I came into the industry more by chance than choice, having worked in the insurance and social housing industry before that. I was keen to join the industry because of its relative young age and the fact that despite the recession, it was forecast to continue to grow. I am heavily involved in developing relationship and new business opportunities, bidding the opportunities and then mobilising the contracts we have been awarded. The thing I like most of my career with Integral is that it is so varied, challenging and evolving.

5. As a Business Development Manager, what kind of start have you had to the new year?

In the business development role there can be quiet times of the year, such as the New Year and the holiday months of July and August. It is starting to get busy again and we have had a couple of significant ‘wins’ which has kick started the year in great style.

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

Within BIFM North Region we have some excellent events planned in the Yorkshire, North East and North West regions, particularly our Key Learning events, Summer Ball and Careers Event at Sheffield Hallam University in the coming months.  The new BIFM North regional leadership come in to force in April and we have lots of plans and very hard acts to follow.

The FM industry in the region is strong and I am a keen advocate for the focus of FM to be less “London-centric” and more visible in the North.

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

The challenge is to be cost competitive and to operationally deliver on promises. FM has to win the battle not to be overly commoditised and allowing innovation to be stifled.  They key challenge for contractors is to offer something different and to be able to evidence innovation and strategic value.

8. What advice would you give to any young professional looking to secure a new role within the Facilities Management industry.

When I am lecturing to FM student at UK universities, I have two mantras:

a)      Start developing your networks now and use social media to increase your visibility within the industry, whether that is through Linked In, Twitter and blogs. It is time well spent in preparing the foundations of their career.

b)       Be distinctive – there is an oversupply in the market and you need to clearly and sufficiently show potential employers the benefits/value you could bring to their organisations.  Oh and never tell an employer that you enjoy “reading” and “socialising with friends” in your CV; stand out from the crowd.

9. What work does BIFM North West do to raise the profile of the FM profession?

Last year, following the success of events at The Co-operative Group and BBC Media City, I wanted to organise a series of  BIFM North West Branch events with a theme of Key Learning Events. My aim was to get some of the industry best speakers to come and talk, that there would be a clear educational content and a brilliant opportunity to network and build meaningful relationships with a large cross section of professionals within the region.  Our social media activity, including our You Tube videos is really helping us get on the map as a forward thinking and vibrant region.

10. Tell us a little bit more about the guest lecturing you undertake at UK Universities.

Following a BIFM Merseyside event I attended at Liverpool John Moores University, I met Nazali Mohd Noor and Matt Tucker, who are both senior FM lecturers at the University. They thought the insight I could give from a contractor point of view would be really useful to their students and invited me to give a two hour lecture!!  I am a keen believer in stepping out of comfort zones (I had never guest lectured before) but gave it a go and really enjoyed it and got some really positive feedback.

I am really keen to attract new people, with new, fresh and challenging ideas to enter the FM profession and the lectures gave me an opportunity to evangelise about that! Since then I have lectured several times to students at Liverpool John Moores including visiting students from the University of Malaya and have also lectured at UCLAN, the University of Liverpool and Leeds Metropolitan University.   I have also spoken at a conference in Malaysia at the invitation of Liverpool John Moores University.

11. Tell us about a recent event that you organised for BIFM North West. Were there any notable successes that came from it?

In January we held our first  BIFM North Region Key Learning event in Manchester. As it was the start of the New Year, I wanted a theme about the future and to get industry experts to predict what trends may emerge in the industry.

We had 76 people attend on the day (the capacity was 80 and had several people on the waiting list before the event) and I received some really encouraging feedback. Below are two comments that make all the hard work and worry in organising such events, so worthwhile!

“Just wanted to say thank you for another interesting and thought provoking event this morning. Good to be in the company of individuals who are passionate about the FM industry.”

“This was the first BIFM event I have attended and found it extremely informative and have recommended attendance to future events to my colleagues.”

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