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Fri 27 Feb 2009 04:00 AM

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Facilitating Islands

Richard Burl, MD of First Resort, explains the challenges a start-up, boutique FM company faces and how to overcome them.

Richard Burl, MD of First Resort, explains the challenges a start-up, boutique FM company faces and how to overcome them.

Dubai boasts a huge number of large-scale developers that not only construct the Emirate's iconic buildings, but also engineer the considerable infrastructure required to support projects, such as roads, bridges, sewerage treatment plants, district cooling plants and all of the networks that sustain utilities.

The Palm Jumeirah is one such landmark development, as well as being one of the world's most exciting and challenging projects from an FM and environmental perspective.

The FM challenges are enormous. From ensuring that Palm Jumeirah’s residents have safe access to their villas or apartments whilst construction continues, through to providing mail or newspaper deliveries in the morning.

The island is now home to more than 2,000 families and will ultimately encompass 8,000 homes, 30 world-class hotels - with most of the top hospitality brands, including Atlantis, represented - in addition to the first permanent Cirque du Soleil theatre outside of the US and the Far East.

The challenges of managing such a development are enormous and often vary daily; from simple challenges, such as ensuring that Palm Jumeirah's residents have safe access to their villas or apartments whilst construction continues, right the way through to providing simple services, like mail or newspaper deliveries in the mornings.

Weekly challenges come in the form of the handover of the project, from a construction phase to an operational phase; something that is relatively easy when you are talking about a standard residential building but, when discussing the handover of 20 buildings at a time - more than 2,500 apartments - this provides additional difficulties; for example, making sure that staff are in place and trained on the systems, ready to operate them and in a position to manage the defects liability period. Meanwhile, at all times, residents' needs must be met.

At a monthly level, there are often sustainability and Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) issues, however we have chosen to view these as opportunities rather than challenges, as we put in place the systems and processes to guarantee that sustainability is part of the project's day-to-day culture.

Such complications can only truly be addressed successfully by the best facilities management companies in the region; recognised as a global brand for its commitment and integrity in providing professional facility and estate management services, EMCOR Facilities Services is widely considered to be one such company.

With over 30,000 employees worldwide and US$ 6.8 billion in annual revenues, EMCOR provides facilities services for companies in market sectors ranging from airports to banks, energy to education, healthcare to hospitality, residential communities to governments and beyond.

Our services are all backed by Integrated Management Systems - certified to ISO 9001-2000, ensuring full compliance with building, health and safety regulations - as well as with sound environmental and energy management procedures.

Two years ago, we decided to establish a boutique facilities management company to deliver the exceptional levels of customer service and technical focus required to operate, maintain, clean and secure hotels and resorts of the highest standards.

Offering a full range of carefully selected, well-trained and directly employed staff capable of providing MEP, housekeeping and security services, that FM company, First Resort, is now accomplishing our five-star vision.

We identified three critical strategies in providing FM services which were:

• Providing all of our core services through our own staff;

• Utilising staff that are technically capable and professionally proficient but, most importantly, focused on the delivery of customer service - an interaction that will become our trademark;

• Recruiting, training and developing staff to deliver five-star hotel quality customer service, technical ability and know-how, health, safety and environmental awareness.We knew that developing a new business from scratch, or even from within EMCOR's own existing organisation, would be complex and require a broad knowledge base.

Therefore, as a service provider specialising in hotel, resort and residence facilities provision and management, based on the Palm Jumeriah, it was natural for us to seek to create a working relationship with The Palm's master-developer Nakheel.

First Resort has solid experience in providing complementary facilities services and associated functions; Nakheel, through its many influential offshoots - many of which are directly linked to The Palm - therefore stood out as a business that First Resort would like to work with.

Through a determined approach towards building a robust FM business and managing it successfully, we identified ourselves as the perfect partner for Nakheel.

Through a determined approach towards building a robust FM business and managing it successfully, we identified ourselves as the perfect partner for Nakheel. The real question was: would Nakheel recognise First Resort, a young start-up, as a company it could do business with?

We analysed both theirs and our own market positions before approaching them.

We imagined that Nakheel would think twice before employing our skills and, although we're not privy to the ins and outs of their decision-making process, we are grateful that we were given the opportunity to show what we can do. Subsequently, we have gradually built a solid working relationship with Nakheel.

To succeed, we knew that we had to demonstrate that we were a skilled and effective operator and, to do that, we identified the following as important strengths that we must have in place to be successful:

• Developing a team with the potential to deliver into the future;

• Expanding upon the idea of exploiting innovation and committing to ensured protection of the interests of both companies;

• Identifying the specific target markets that Nakheel was in, to determine the fundamental demand for our products and services;

• Obtaining the financial resources to sustain success and maximise the potential revenue for both businesses;

• Producing a business plan to demonstrate our understanding of the way forward;

• Instigating strategic service delivery for Nakheel that would enable First Resorts to grow.

We don't have a crystal ball, so it was impossible to forecast the global credit crunch that has enveloped all businesses; nonetheless, we had a clear strategy for dealing with external changes that could affect our business.In particular, it was crucial that we had a strong core that would survive and grow in both today's and tomorrow's marketplace.

Nakheel's trust in First Resort, and the work that we were able to secure through them, have helped us to reach a position of strength that will keep us afloat through the gathering storms.

The work we have undertaken for Nakheel has helped First Resort, has grown the business and has provided us with the ability to assess our current corporate position and question the clarity and direction of our future.

Cash flow is always a problem for any smaller operation supplying services to a much larger venture; you rely, in part at least, on the larger business to navigate the tougher times.

We were consequently able to rigorously investigate existing financial plans and make informative decisions; specifically, can First Resort truly maximise its potential? Working with Nakheel provides a resounding yes.

A further consideration we've applied throughout the relationship with Nakheel is a constant self-operational examination of our skills to ensure that we are delivering at what the client expects to be an acceptable level and timely fashion. We believe we've exceeded those expectations.

There are always operational problems within a business, such as inefficient work practices, growing pains and staffing issues. We needed a rigorous methodology that involved the people from within our organisation delivering on the day-to-day demands.

We not only looked at the high-level issues, but also identified solutions that were deliverable throughout the whole company.

With the client's help and feedback, First Resort identified the business processes that would best aid both organisations in achieving their goals.

We became fully clued-up on the needs of Nakheel, its customers, its managers and its employess; we analysed work processes to understand their practice, where problems could occur and where greater efficiencies could be achieved.

Based on the results, we redesigned processes that were inefficient and actively involved staff in developing those processes and ensuring that their knowledge had a positive influence on the outcome.

In conclusion, we've now delivered a number of successful FM projects for Nakheel and, subsequently, we are pitching for new opportunities.

To ensure that we become a preferred supplier to all clients, we've undertaken a complete process review of administration activities that support the operational implementation and delivery of the services we provide.

We believe and we hope that Nakheel agrees that our inclusive approach across all levels of the FM service led to smooth delivery processes and the realisation of the benefits First Resort is capable of supplying.

So far, meeting the challenges has been a privilege and a pleasure, and we hope that positive relationships with clients becomes a trademark of our company going forward.

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