How to Build a Positive FM Environment With MCFM Global Founder

Episode 9

Facilities Management Podcast


About this episode

Maxcene Crowe, facilities industry expert and founder at MCFM Global, explores the importance of openness, transparency, and improving an engineer's communication skills when it comes to building a positive FM environment.


Matt [Host]: All right, everyone. Welcome back to the Comparesoft Podcast. Great to have you here as it always is. Our guest this week is Maxcene [Crowe], and she is a facilities industry expert and founder at MCFM Global. She’s worked for well-known companies including Jones Lang LaSalle, Interserve, Mighty, OCS, and CBRE and now delivers procurement, support, consulting, and education through MCFM Global.

Maxcene has specialised in mobilising supply chains and supporting large operational teams across EMEA, and has worked with over 4000 suppliers worldwide. She’s focused on mobilisation mastery, collaboration, education, connecting and driving positive change that inspires, energises, and enhances the customer experience journey. So it’d be great to get her take on facilities management.

Welcome to the show Maxcene, thanks for being a guest. How are you?

Maxcene Crowe: I’m very well, thanks. It’s really great to be here with you today.

Matt: Great, well, thanks for being on. It’s our pleasure. Let’s just dive straight into it then. So, how do you go about setting a good facilities management culture?

Maxcene: When you’re working with a facilities management team, the culture is really what drives the behaviours of the teams and the delivery to your clients and your end users. Having clear communication goals and setting your objectives and expectations is really important so that the team know the vision and what they’re meant to be delivering on a day-to-day basis.

Also, transparency, and then encouraging openness, is really important. As a facilities management company or facilities manager operating on a site, there’s going to be lots of issues that are happening and lots of activities that you have to manage simultaneously. And for those facilities professionals out there, no two days are the same. So really having that transparency and openness, not only within your teams but also with your clients as well, when you’re informing them about things that have happened, you’re making recommendations, you’re articulating, sometimes quite complex situations. Having that open culture, openness and transparency is really helpful.

Another key area for fostering a good culture is all around encouraging collaborations, I’m very, very heavily invested in collaborating and partnerships. And that can be with suppliers, it can be your internal stakeholders. It can also be other parts of your business as well. Some of the large corporates that I’ve worked within in the past, we have completely different divisions that can support the business. Having those types of collaborations really strengthens the culture and what you’re delivering. Another area, I think, for culture is safety. The welfare and really protecting your teams that work for you, on the sites that they’re operating on. So there, I think, are the main things I’d say for fostering a good culture in facilities.

Matt: So, then what’s the best way to plan for facilities management activities?

Maxcene: Okay, so you do need to be a bit organised. Because as I said, before, you do have a lot of things going on at the same time. Always having a diary, some form of scheduler. I still love to write. When I’m planning facilities management, I mean, I’m writing down activities. I use a schedule. Microsoft Office is a good tool. Another thing that you need to do is also understand what’s being asked to view in terms of the delivery. So, scoping out what needs to be done, first of all, is a good starting point, and the deliveries. And then understanding the resources and who you need to engage, to actually deliver your plan. And then the key part of once you start implementing your plan, communication just runs throughout from the beginning to the end.

If it’s ongoing activities, setting those regular meetings, and it could be with your client, with your internal teams, with your supply chain, with other parts of the business as well, especially like a helpdesk. If it’s a central help desk that’s supporting you, that’s really important to ensure faults and things are being recorded and reported. But also, it’s really important in terms of an audit trail, as well. So anything that we’re doing as part of a plan, ensuring that it’s supported by documentation records, for auditing purposes, as well.

Also, to ensure that you’re keeping on track with your plans. Sometimes, especially if you’re working on a project, it’s got finite timelines that you need to deliver to. So working on that regular monitoring and checking in is quite important, as well.

Matt: Moving on to the next question. I feel like you’re going to have a great answer for this one. I don’t know why; I can feel it. So then talking about teams, we know that facilities management doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves. Because a lot of people within companies are talking about the teams or facilities when something isn’t working, and when they need them there. What do you think is the best way to go about driving appreciation for maintenance teams across businesses, particularly with top management and sort of getting that recognition?

Maxcene: Maintenance, I remember many, many years ago, you’d have the engineers that would be sort of how you go in the cubby holes of the plant rooms, and on top of the rooms in the cupboards. They wouldn’t be visible. For a long time, you just knew that the lights were on, the lights were working, and not recognise that there is a full maintenance team that can check the lines, they check the ventilation, they check the heating, they check the water, constantly to make sure that everything is not only statutory compliant but also that there’s comfort there for the workers in a building.

And so, with the maintenance, there was a shift in the culture of engineering to say, “Okay, well, we want engineers to be more visible. We want them to engage more with the client.” For example, someone says, “Oh, it’s too hot in here.” Or, “It’s too cold.” Yes, it would get adjusted, but then you’d never ever see who did that.

Engineers and maintenance teams, they can be quite shy, but then some of them are quite elderly, and not really front facing. And so we went through a phase of having to not educated because they’re not, they’re very intelligent, and they work with really complex systems. But it was more around those soft skills and those human skills and the communication skills. And really helping them not to be so shy about coming forward to say, “Okay, this is how I’ve fixed your issue.” Or introducing themselves, before they actually talk to a customer. But also, around re-educating in that the client really wants to know what’s happened, what has been done, and been kept informed if it’s an ongoing solution that we’re working towards, as well.

Another area is to involve them within the team as one team. So when we’re having team meetings, it wasn’t just the immediate team that looked after the facilities. It wasn’t just the coordinators. It wasn’t just help desk. It was also the other team. So the cleaning managers, the maintenance managers, and also just really celebrating what they’re doing. Facilities can be quite thankless in that when it’s working, as you said, you don’t hear anything, and when it goes wrong, then all hell breaks loose. So it is really just really celebrating and bringing to the fore, just telling the good news stories.

I love when there’s a construction project or building project. The users will come in and they’ll adjust and adapt to what’s happening with the project. I love doing these “did you know?” It’s really geeky as well, because in the past I had this construction fitter, and I was just like, “What can we do is like part of the welcome part of the people coming into the building?” And so it was “did you know?”

I’d go to the fit-out contract and I’d say, “How many lights did you use? How many contractors were there? How many wires data cables were there?” And they’d be like, “Why would you want to know that?” I said, “Well, people just see the end result. They come into this brand-new shiny office, and they don’t actually realise what has gone into making that space perfect for them.” The hundreds of hours, just everything that goes into it. The labour, the tools, the equipment, everything that goes into it. They don’t see that side, quite rightly. But I just find it really fascinating afterwards to say, “This is exactly what went into delivering this product for you.” I do get quite excited about that.

Matt: Yeah, absolutely. I think I’d say that 99% of people who are working in offices, don’t think about that at all. We’ve all been there with air conditioning. There’s always someone that’s freezing in some area of the office and somebody else is boiling. They’re always asking the chain up and down on the aircon and stuff like that. You have that patience with that as well, I’m sure?

Maxcene: Yeah, absolutely. And not two people are the same. Really getting the ambient temperatures right. Even now, we’re sort of entered energy sustainability, the car and utilities. It’s even more important now to create that self-awareness. bringing an extra cardigan to work. Or if you know that you end up getting hot and cold, especially if you’re middle-aged, then you make sure that you can take off the layers as well. So that’s always a good tip. Back to maintenance, it’s really making sure they’re involved, and that there’s that shared celebration of just how much goes into their work.

Matt: And so then moving on from that, what’s the best way to implement an effective facilities management plan?

Maxcene: The best way? Well, I know that this will be coming up around technology. But really implement in planning that is around the communication piece. Making sure you’ve got the right resources and the right teams in place to deliver those services. Also, what’s even more important is having contingencies and you’re managing any potential risks and mitigating any potential risks, especially we tell about mobilising and transitioning. It’s quite a fluid space. And when you haven’t worked in a building before, you are going to come across some knowns as well.

Effectively, a good plan is actually the planning, the preparation, the engagement that you have, especially when it could be a team that hadn’t really worked with you before. I said it goes back to transparency, openness, and really being prescriptive about what’s expected. Also, the rules of engagement. Some people or some festivals, with a plan that is getting rolled out. But sometimes they don’t get that continuous or who do I talk to? Where do I go for this information? Who’s the best point of contact, especially when there’s a lot of change? So having a really great communication plan behind your facilities, activities, and what you’re going to roll out, is the best way I would say.

Matt: Okay, so you did mention that there were going to be questions about technology. You mentioned actually, towards the beginning of the episode that you still like to write things down and you have a plan and stuff like that. What do you think about software tools? And do you think that they’re useful for managing facilities management activities?

Maxcene: Absolutely. Yes, I love to write, but it’s also a process that I use when I’m thinking, when I’m planning, and mapping things out. I’m a scribbler, as well. So, I’ll have my whiteboard stuff stuck on the wall and I’ll be scribbling out solutions and various things as well. But technology has just come on in leaps and bounds artificial intelligence. Just even for managing the maintenance in a building, you’re tracking 1000s of assets, 1000s of pieces of equipment, and maintaining not only just for statutory regulated health and safety, but just maintaining a building, and how much goes into that. You can’t do it with a manual operation. It’s just way too much. It takes up too much time and too many resources. I’m very pro-technology and software tools for doing the job.

Matt: And so then what do you think about spreadsheets for FM management? Do you still use them a lot? Or do you think they’re going to get faded out? Or what do you think about that?

Maxcene: Quite a few years ago, on a project I was in, I was nicknamed as the queen of spreadsheets. Basically, because a spreadsheet and Excel are really great for tracking lots of information. When I do a transition or remobilization, and particularly when it was multicounty, multi-region, multiple regions, multiple suppliers, or multiple services, a spreadsheet is a great way to capture that information and to log and manage that information.

Another great way that spreadsheets are used as well, is risk management, risk registers, or mobilisation plans Excel, but you do have the software equivalent tools. Depending on the advancement of an organisation, sometimes they won’t have Microsoft. So the spreadsheets are great for reverting to for sharing information, for tracking progress. You can do so many things with Excel. Yeah, I think it definitely still has its place. And software tools equally, whilst they are quite advanced. What you want to do depends on what you’re trying to achieve.

Matt: Yeah, so they’re living side by side, basically?

Maxcene: Yeah.

Matt: Well, you’ve given us some fantastic insights on this episode already. But can I ask you what are your top three tips for our listeners on effective facilities management?

Maxcene: Okay, so effective facilities management. The first tip is, don’t be afraid of the big data and having to analyse it. Devil is in the detail. By having an understanding of data, the analysis behind why something happens, what’s happening? It helps you to articulate and really give your clients that assurance and that comfort feel that the decisions and the solutions you’re presenting have been well thought, they’ve been validated, and they can take comfort in that, especially when they’re having to invest in a solution that’s quite expensive.

Another side is around someone that’s listening now, might be a facility coordinator might be a facility manager, and they’re aspiring to be directors or account managers, and usually really, really elevate within their career over the coming years. I’d say a really great tip is to become very strong when it comes to commercial acumen. So, getting under the skin of your contract, the agreement that your employer has signed up to. What are the performance indicators? Are there any fees or penalties involved? What needs to be delivered? So really understanding the agreements and the obligations that we’ve signed up to. And that real commercial acumen around costing, around pressures. Understanding the economics around, inflation is really heavy right now. We have suppliers that some unfortunately SMEs are going under because it’s just too much to sustain the business. Whereas others sometimes with the clients, we’re able to increase the costs to help with the cost of living and the cost of inflation. Understanding technology, the economic macroeconomics is really key as well as a top tip.

Another top tip which has stayed with me for my whole career really is no surprises. I’ve always said surprises are great for Christmases and for birthdays, but not when it comes to having to manage your buildings and your client expectations. So, no surprises. Full open, full transparency, warts and all. Even if it’s bad news, at least clients or your internal stakeholders or your team know what you need to do to fix that problem, and to move forward.

Matt: Some fantastic tips there for the listeners. Thanks for that. And so then wrapping it up in a bow, what’s your favourite saying or quote on FM?

Maxcene: Oh my gosh. I was thinking quite a lot about this one, actually. There’s a, it’s quite boring, but it’s a really prevalent one. I think it was Peter Drucker. It was from a very old management guru from years ago. He basically said, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure”. This really encompasses when you’re measuring, it could be the performance of your teams, it could be the performance of your suppliers, and they’re meeting their service levels, their targets.

It could be the responses or from the help desk in terms of on a monthly basis, how are we tracking? How many things have been reported? And then also identifying, are there any significant trends that are happening from that reporting that can give us insights into how we can manage and perform better and do things in a different way that really bring value to our clients and to our business and to our teams? Yeah, really, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. That’s one of my top quotes, I would say.

Matt: It makes absolute sense. It’s a great quote. So, thanks for that. Thanks again for being a guest, Maxcene, you’ve given us some really great insights and a really fantastic episode.

Maxcene: Thank you so much for having me here. It’s been great. I’ve been happy to share.

Matt: It’s our pleasure. Well, thanks to all of you guys for being here again with us and we will see you on the next episode. Cheers.