Apart from approaching expansion from a geographical standpoint, Davies believes it’s important to work with partners who understand the value of FM. “There are customers we enjoy working for, we value their products and they value our contribution in return. They are the sort of customers you want to work for. Some of those owners are GCC-wide, having a presence pan-Gulf and we tend to work with them in the UAE. They are the ones that understand FM and the value proposition we bring. It’s more about who you do business with rather than where you do business.”
Davies feels economic challenges in the region pose a slight concern to growth. He says: “Economic pressures are always going to be a challenge. There is a national economic challenge that hit us, both in terms of price point but also in terms of collecting the cash. Another challenge that we face here is managing expectations, which in the UAE are quite rightfully very high. Nothing less than the best is expected. So we must make sure we do stay one step ahead.
“The economics about getting the price point right is extremely important. We work very hard in order to deliver an excellent product at the right price. We are lucky that a lot of our customers understand the price point discussion, and they understand the conversation about value of pure cost versus what you are actually going to sacrifice,” he notes.
As more infrastructure projects come on to the market, the uptake of FM services is also on the rise. More firms are seeking FM service providers, but costing is an issue, Davies says. “Understanding quality is an easy discussion to have with potenital clients, but they struggle to understand pricing. The sad reality is that people understand the value of FM only once they have experienced failure, and they are the customers that then understand the value of good FM. It’s never an easy conversation. Another aspect to understand for customers is the cost of change and the time that goes into the processes of a handover,” he says.
The FM industry is slowly but surely coming to terms with benchmarking business practices. And currently, FM service providers are left to decide for themselves which accreditations and training modules to shape their business on. Certifications from institutions such as BICSc, BIFM and NICEIC are just a few options from a growing list for FM companies to consider.
It’s an area in which Emrill says it has “to have taken the lead”, with a dedicated Centre of Excellence that administers various training to new hires, and refresher courses for employees moving on to other client’s premises. The Emrill Centre of Excellence has more than six training rooms, and as of August 2017, the number of BICSc assessors were doubled.
Davies concedes there are no pressures from outside to comply with the latest and greatest global standard —the desire stems from within.
He says: “The BICSc training or the NICEIC supervisor’s training is about setting an international standard. There isn’t necessarily regulation or what it stipulates over here, but we have to go and find that. At the end of the day, we are delivering maintenance for some of the most iconic buildings in the world.
“We deliver facilities management to the world’s tallest residential tower, along with the world’s busiest airport. We are confident of taking the responsibility and say we will make sure we are going to [deliver the standards people expect when they visit such places]. It’s clear the UAE wants to be the world leader. So, how can we operate within the UAE without having that same aspiration? We have doubled the number of BICSc assessors, so we are continually scouring international best practices.”
He explains further: “But, the reason we focus so much on developing our people is because at the end of the day facilities management is about the experience people have. With the Dubai Airport project, it’s not as much about keeping the airport clean as it is welcoming millions of people to the UAE every year.