Leading from the front
John Moriarty won't read this profile until the end of June. Instead he will be cycling from John O'Groats to Land's End - the long way, 1060 miles unstopped - from 1st June until 16th June. This is not unusual. Each year he sets himself a target to do something challenging and different. It might be a parachute jump or cycling in Patagonia over the southern Andes. Whatever it is, it requires focus, practice, dedication and the ability to stick to a plan.
This approach does not just keep him healthy (he's shed a significant amount of weight since the turn of the year), it acts as a template for his business life. Clear vision, dedication and a straightforward manner have helped him take FSI (developer of the Concept™ range of CAFM solutions) from strength to strength since he joined as Managing Director in 2005. The company now has offices in Dubai and Australia complementing its UK operation.
It is this relish for a challenge and the determination to see it through that led the Facilities Management Association to make Moriarty Chairman in 2010.
The FMA has been criticised in the past for punching below its perceived weight; it has been cajoled by FMX to do more, strike a bolder profile within the UK's built environment lobby, and champion facilities management in the corridors of power. When FMX asked for comment, pundits were united in the belief that the FMA has real potential to do so much more for the industry. So what does Moriarty think?
"We need to do more; more for our members and more for the industry as a whole - but it's members that must come first," he says, taking the criticism on the chin. "When I took on the role, I put myself in the shoes of a member and asked, "what's in it for me?!"
"Right now, there is not enough. We must give the members of the FMA some tangible benefits."
He points out that the HVCA does this well. It regularly produces white papers, comment and industry documents that are provided as a tangible resource to members, and which are a model for the whole industry to follow. "The FMA should produce white papers, provide comment on business practice, advocate excellence when it recognises it and admonish poor practice when it becomes apparent. In short, the FMA needs to have an opinion," says Moriarty.
Up to now the FMA has been rather publicity-shy, often ducking the opportunity to comment, and as a result has sometimes come across as a passive organisation. Moriarty is determined that it must be more representative of its membership, and one way to do this is by becoming far more active. Consequently, he is pushing for a public relations strategy to ensure that the FMA is more visible and has a public voice (this is being driven by Martin Pickard, the FM Guru, and Fiona Perrin of HSS).
"We must strive to ensure that the FMA is regarded as a font of knowledge, but we must also be reasoned and objective with our views and comments," explains Moriarty. "It is vital that we have a different view; we cannot just run with the pack. We must be seen to be commenting on key issues and events - saying nothing is not in our interests or those of our member."
Moriarty comes across as a man of conviction. But while he knows what the FMA needs to achieve in order to fulfil its potential and deliver consequential benefits to its members, he faces the perennial problem of lack of resources. Generating more revenue means expanding the membership.
Chris Hoar, the Chief Executive, has made a good start on this; he has invigorated what some saw as a cosy little club of contractors and associates, and the FMA can boast a series of vibrant networking events and 50 per cent growth in membership in 24 months (it now has 86 members). Moriarty knows the effort has to continue. He wants to see the FMA broaden its reach up, down and across the FM supply chain.
Meanwhile, he is focused on changing the feel of the FMA. "In the past it was too London focused, perhaps too contractor oriented," he says. "If we're to be more representative of the industry we have to broaden the FMA's span. We need contractors, but we also need suppliers because to be truly representative we have to reflect the nature of the whole industry throughout the supply chain, right the way down to second or third tier contractors and suppliers."
Another objective on his mind is changing the structure of the FMA board. "We need to move away from the cosiness of the past; we need to sharpen edges, more dynamism," he explains. "So, at this year's AGM we will be simplifying the structure to allow us to bring in new people and create a more effective operating model."
Even within the FMA, the board structure is seen as complex, which is at odds with Moriarty's direct, no-nonsense approach. "It should be easier to get things done; easier to deliver benefit for our members with a new structure," he argues. "I am hoping we can set up an experts' panel of volunteers offering advice on best practice and writing white papers. I want to see webinars on FMA website and to see us recruit ambassadors and spokespeople.
"I'd hope to see statements and advice offered on core FM topics such as real estate, commercial decision-making and supply chain management, as well as technology and infrastructure."
Moriarty believes in setting clear targets and has allowed himself three years as FMA chairman; he has a lot to achieve in that time. He strongly believes that the industry needs the FMA. He accepts that the larger high-profile prime contractors might not need the organisation as much as, say, the emerging FM providers, but he is convinced there is a role for the FMA on the wider business services stage.
"Ten to 15 years ago, when the FMA began and when FM was gaining pace as an industry sector, operating margins were in double figures for many of the FM providers," he says. "Now, we see margins pared back to two or three per cent. But membership of the FMA has grown in the past two years; our opinion is being sought by key decision-makers in business and government; we are asked to sit on panels and committees, and even take part in television documentaries.
"Facilities management provides something like five per cent of GDP to the UK economy - of course the FMA has a role to play."
What about the BIFM, Business Services Association and RICS? Moriarty dismisses the question. "Look, the industry needs both the BIFM and the FMA. The two bodies have different roles and work in different ways - there is no conflict and many shared interests. RICS is the same; so is BSA. We're all working for the same ends, but what the FMA needs to do is have its own voice and opinions."
The FMA is known for its support of younger practitioners, and Moriarty agrees that "the future of our industry is not in the hands of the people in their 50s and 60s; it's in the hands of the young managers in their 20s and 30s, many of whom have already made a great impression on their companies and customers, not just the industry." The FMA Young Managers' Forum is thriving, and has raised its profile by partnering with FMX to create a '40 under 40' ranking of up and coming FMs. Moriarty is also keen that the FMA plays its part in encouraging the development of FM qualifications at university level.
He points to the FMA's current Young Manager of the Year, Andrew Hulbert of Rollright, as an example of the kind of new blood the industry needs. "When we judged him Young FM of the Year in 2010, he stood out not just because he knew his facts, but because he explained his work and decision-making fluently, eloquently and very simply. He never missed a beat. To me, he and people like him epitomise what FM should be about."
Perhaps he sees something of himself in Hulbert. Talking to him, one can sense that he researches his decisions. He picks his battles and deals with problems as they arrive head on. That single-minded approach has served him well with FSI.
"I'm a facilities services man, from an electrical and service industry background, so I always bring the mind-set of a customer to everything that FSI does," he says. "That means I have never become drawn into IT-speak, as it were. Indeed, because I was a customer of FSI for a long time beforehand, I think I am well placed to judge what is good for the customer."
That was exactly what he set out to do when he joined the company. He challenged the FSI team to lead on the basis of what its product can add to the bottom line of the customer. Indeed, not such a different approach from the strategy he's advocating for the FMA. So, what's next?
"For FMA, we want to reach 100 members by the end of 2011 and make sure the members have at least some of the benefits I've been championing," he states. "For FSI, we want to keep growing steadily. We want to build on the opening of our Australia office and develop business in Asia and the Pacific. We already have good business in the Middle East, with around 70 clients. As well as consolidating and them improving our UK business, maybe the next move might be Canada, where there is some interest in the healthcare sector."
Difficult economic conditions have not dented Moriarty's optimistic view of FSI's future prospects, or the resilience of FM. He points out the great advantage of his company, and indeed of the FM industry - the need to repair and maintain facilities never goes away.
"Construction and other aspects of the built environment might be suffering, or performing below expectation, but many FM players are enjoying the current period. If our industry is clever and introduces different contracts and innovative operating models, it can do well."
FMX entirely agrees. With strong leadership, we believe FM can carve out the vital strategic role it deserves. John Moriarty might be just the kind of no-nonsense business leader to make a real difference.