I enjoyed Andrew Brown’s critical appraisal of the facilities service industry’s failed love affair with trade associations in which he asked if anyone really cared but I want to offer a few words of warning to anyone thinking of jumping into the empty seat left by the demise of the BFG.
First they must recognise the gulf that exists between the premium league multibillion players (ISS, JLL, Serco, G4S etc.) and the thousands of other small firms that make up our multi-faceted industry. The big boys don’t need a trade association. They have more than enough resources of their own to engage with government, media and the EU bureaucrats to promote their own self-interest and have no motivation to support the sector as a whole.
Trade associations work best in support of SME businesses who need to join together to establish a loud enough voice. Successful Associations become the voice of their sector and are able to represent all their members at every level. They provide government and other authorities with the peace of mind that they are getting a fully considered view of what is good for the whole sector. This is an extremely powerful asset for members and as the membership base grows so does the Association’s influence.
The FM sector’s history with Trade Associations has failed to grasp this important fact. The FMA was more concerned with networking events, the BFG was trying to compete with the training market, and the BIFM can’t always decide if it represents the industry or the profession. It really cannot do both and the Corporate Membership offer is a route to market not a route to representation. All of them have chased after the big names and their money and done little for the smaller players
The announcement of a collaboration between RICS and IFMA is long overdue. Both organisations have been competing in the international FM space, both have solid credentials and an established global presence. However as with the BIFM their core objective is the advancement of the profession and the individual facility managers that work in it, not the promotion of the employer’s interests.
Like the practice of facilities management, the facilities service industry is made up of multiple disciplines, many of which already have service specific industry representation from the Asbestos Removal Contractors Association (ARCA) to the World Federation of Building Services Contractors (WFBSC). The role of an FM trade association should mirror that of the facility manager and be an integrator and enabler not a competitor.
Facilities Management in the UK is an enormous industry employing millions of people and contributing a major slice of the nation’s gross domestic product but it fails to get the attention or respect that it deserves from the government, media and others who control our lives. The tax, regulation and restrictive controls faced by small businesses in our industry hamper its growth and success.
In answer to Andy’s question I’m one of those who care and I truly believe that a strong and effective FM trade association is needed but it must be different to those that have gone before.