Maxwell Stephens

Time to speak up - FM insights from Elliott Chase

We will long be looking back on 2020 as a landmark year for FM, in the spotlight for facing its own challenges and simultaneously rising to the challenges of its clients.


And I believe we’ll also be looking back at 2021 as the year that saw an exceptional number of changes in the FM market landscape, as the sector continues to mature in an environment marked by new and still-evolving conditions.


Take those two together and there is plenty to talk about in this big, important, positive, forward-moving business.


UK FM has always been an active place for company news, including a more or less steady stream of new entrants, newly focused strategies and of course mergers & acquisition. On the M&A front, we’ve seen in the past six months or so (amongst others) –



In a not unrelated news area, we’ve also seen a fair level of investment activity –



These are the main headliners but there will be other deals that have been done quietly. And this kind of growth and development isn’t all at the big or fairly big company level.  This year also saw the launch of a new facilities management business focusing on the clients in the Milton Keynes area and news of a Birmingham-based FM business reaching that milestone of doubling in size – from two people to four.


Clearly FM remains a dynamic market, broadly speaking right across the spectrum of size. And it is an optimistic one, too. If there were some way to capture all the threads involved in market sentiment and chart them, the trend line would definitely be rising this year.

FM is dynamic in the still-evolving sense, too; in fact, the pace of that seems to be stepping up.  The shift from a building-focused ethos to a people focus, which has been underway for quite some time, is increasingly evident in how FM companies talk about themselves and what they are offering to and/or doing for clients.  And there’s technology, health & safety, wellbeing, sustainability and social value, all solidly on the current agenda. And all issues that have been around for some time, too, but firmly spurred on by wider, pressing factors including the pandemic and the climate crisis.


So, this is a great time to be in FM.  There are plenty of opportunities – OK, they may demand investigating, understanding, maybe some change to clear the way forward and some investment, too; but isn’t that pretty much always the case with progress?


More challenging will be some of those issues that have been chronic in the sector seemingly forever. Perception, appreciation of value-add, low margins, pay rates for labour-intensive services…. It would be nice to think that as the industry evolves – relatively quickly over the near-term if the current trend persists – some real progress could be made on these issues.  To some extent, the first two must be the shaping factors for the second two.


Can we take advantage of the fact that the industry has been more visible over the past 18 months or so, that its role has been demonstrably positive, delivering real value and benefits in multiple ways?  Much of the market education and the positive promotion – the influencer role – inevitably falls to service providers themselves.  We have various trade and professional organisations that contribute – the BSA, IWFM, RICS and specific service bodies – but in the absence of a dedicated ‘voice of the industry’, FM companies become that collectively.  We, along with the other FM publications, provide a platform for this influencing; but we are only a part of the needed communication strategy. The positive messages must reach beyond FM to the wider business and government communities, too – and ultimately even beyond that. 


We’ve been saying this for years, and I make no apology for banging on about it again. The burden of educating people about facilities management, what it is, what it does and all the benefits it brings, is on all of us in the industry.  Targeting that objective should be in the mix with all the other goals that figure in every FM company’s go-to-market strategy. Better informed customers make for a better business environment.


And as everyone in the industry knows, there is plenty to talk about these days.


The whole range of current pressing topics is sure to be aired in two weeks’ time at our Return to the Workplace – planning and managing for success conference. If you haven’t already registered to attend, you really should.  It’s free, the panel of speakers is excellent, and the content will be right on target, wherever you are in the back-to-the-workplace discussion.  Find out more and sign up for your free delegate place here.

Elliott Chase


Managing Editor, i-FM

wellness in facilities management

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