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Mon 14 Sep 2009 04:00 AM

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The facilitator

Christian Roberts is the CEO of EMCOR Facilities Services Group in the Middle East.

The facilitator
Christian Roberts says that becoming a CEO is similar to becoming a father.
The facilitator
According to Roberts, the hardest part of being a CEO is predicting what is going to happen in the facilities management industry, in light of the global economic downturn.

Christian Roberts is the CEO of EMCOR Facilities Services Group in the Middle East.

When you were younger, what did you want to be?

I wanted to be a helicopter pilot because I loved the idea of flying around in a helicopter. When I was about 16 years old I went to join the RAF but they told me I would have to go to university before training to be a pilot. That, combined with the fact I would have to get up at 6am to march around the parade ground every morning, didn't really appeal to me so I decided to do something else instead. The trouble is now I can learn how to fly, I don't have the time to do it.

What was your first job?

I worked for the family business, a hospitality and restaurant company. I worked my way up from the junior level. When I was about 16 years old I used to do the washing up and within five years I became the maître d'. Eventually I became a partner.

I worked there for 10 years. It was a great life teacher; it taught me about discipline because when you are the one that has to get out there and do it, it allows you to concentrate on the relationships and the responsibility. If you go straight into corporate life you tend to miss out on the bigger picture. Working for the family firm gave me good grounding and a sense of responsibility.

What would be your most hated job and why?

Contrary to what you might think, it wasn't the washing up. I have enjoyed most of the roles I have had because in every role I have learnt something new. I also think if you start from the bottom and work your way up, you appreciate where you are more when you get there.

If I had to name my worst job though, it would be running the outside catering business for the family firm. I was always the guy that was left in the hospitality tent at 3am while everyone was having fun and enjoying the party.

What is the worst management mistake you have ever made and how did you deal with it?

It doesn't matter what role you are in, I think you will always make mistakes. From my point of view it's making sure that you learn from them and that the people around you also learn. The mistakes you make as you become more experienced become less of a magnitude because you know exactly what your outcome is going to be.

I cannot stand there and say ‘I did this and it was a huge mistake and it caused a lot of problems,' you simply say ‘I did it and I moved on.'

Would your family recognise your character in the workplace?

I don't know if it's about character, I think it's with more with responsibility, you change. When I am at work as a CEO I am responsible for everything. Becoming a CEO is a bit like becoming a father, your whole life changes. You no longer look after one section or yourself, you look after everything for the next 10-20 years.

The responsibility factor of becoming a CEO hits you quite hard but after a while you learn to live with it. At home you have a different type of responsibility. What's the best way to sack someone?

I don't think ‘sack' is the correct word. There is a process at work that if you are successful you reward your employees. If people don't succeed at the first point then it is your job to help them and coach them so that they can achieve something.

If they still cannot relate to that then you have to give reasons why. One of the hardest things about my job is telling someone that they cannot move forward within the company, but it is important that you are very honest with them and give reasons why.

You have to be open and honest because ultimately you are responsible for the company. Equally, you have to look after your employees and give them every opportunity.

What is the hardest part of your job?

It's probably predicting what is going to happen in my industry, particularly in light of the global economic downturn. As a CEO you have to be able to predict what is going to happen. During a crisis such as this, there is a change in strategy for any company and if you don't make that change quickly it can create issues for the future.

The hardest bit is making that change quickly enough while also understanding the consequences if you don't.

Do you think, based on your management skills, you could manage your national football team?

100 percent yes. I'd manage Liverpool FC without a shadow of a doubt. But, like everything, there is a part which requires man-management skills and another part which is specialist.

You might be a good manager but at the same time you have to be able to make sure you have good specialist management around you to manage all of the technical bits. It is no different to me at work today.

I have some very good guys here who are technically brilliant and you need them around you to make it work because there is only so much you can do as one person.

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