Buildings are like humans, they age and become decrepit if unattended to adequately. They can also become desolate even at infancy for lack of care, giving their owners pain and distress from accumulated maintenance cost. This ugly situation can be mitigated, the Managing Director, James Cubitt Facility Managers, Mrs. Gbadunade Ogunleye, tells Bennett Oghifo. She also talks about remedy in proper education for growth in the industry
Tell us about James Cubitt Facility Managers
James Cubitt Facility Managers (JCFM) is one of the foremost facility management firms in Nigeria and a part of the James Cubitt Group with offices in Lagos, London, Brisbane, Doha, Accra and Abu Dhabi. The company was launched in 2015 but leverages the James Cubitt brand 60-year track record of rendering excellent service. James Cubitt Facility Managers has a pedigree of collaborating with property owners and occupiers to offer the best-rated facility maintenance costs and ensures that its clients’ property are always an attractive lease with a high renewal rate. James Cubitt Facility Managers approaches facility management by analysing its clients’ property, developing bespoke plans and actioning the plans. The facility management company serves commercial and residential clients, offering three major packages namely; FullServ, a comprehensive facility management service that encompasses the complete spectrum of facility management, MultiServe, designed for multi-branched commercial facilities and On-Call which provides personalised home management packages to each of our unique clients.
What is your background in facility management?
We successfully set up James Cubitt Facility Managers, the facility management arm of James Cubitt Companies, in 2015. It kicked off as a desk and this was because we realised from experience that some investors are only interested in building that beautiful project without a thought for how to maintain them. What happens when a property is built ought to be considered from the design stage. Over five years now, we have made some statements, particularly with our product known as JCFM PropAlive. It is a facility management service designed by James Cubitt Facility Managers to specifically restore and/or complete abandoned and dilapidated structures. It is targeted at clients whose properties have not been occupied for a minimum of two years. Our custom-made solutions ensure that your facility comes to life and becomes the asset it deserves to be.
We have some that have been without occupants for eight years and we reactivated them and unlock the potentials. We possess a knack for bringing down operational costs while maintaining and enhancing asset value. I bring onboard experience garnered across two continents (Europe and Africa). I worked for London Borough of Barnet, Westminster Council, William Sutton Trust, South African Property/Real Estate Company, as well as Broll and Oando Plc. I have over 19 years of demonstrable experience in property and facility management. I’m a graduate of Chemistry from Nigeria’s premiere university, the University of Ibadan, a member of the British Institute of Facility Management, and have an Advanced Certificate in Facilities Management and Planning from the University of Lagos. I’m an advocate for knowledge acquisition, and currently a student of Owner Manager Programme (OMP) at the prestigious Lagos Business School.
What share of the industry has James Cubitt Facility Managers?
James Cubitt Facility Managers has grown over the years from the original two, an operations supervisor and me, to over 60 members of staff right now. We have locations in the commercial space; we were handling Diamond Bank even before it became Access Bank- eight branches nationwide. We have residential properties – estates- that we manage. Liberty Court Victoria Island is one of them. This is one of the property that was vacant for a long time that we reactivated.
What has been your experience with maintenance culture in Nigeria?
It has been very interesting. No maintenance culture, and that stems from lack of knowledge. If you look at Nigeria, the institutions offering Facility Management as courses are few. It is only at post graduate level that you have Facility Management. So, it means you have a lot of people that just stumbled into the profession. We have the education challenge, and the recognition challenge, which means that we are not even known. You won’t believe someone who has invested so much in their building would be using a cleaner as Facility Manager. A cleaner cannot be a Facility Manager, but the moment someone touches the bulb they are mistaken for Facility Manager. This is the reason some of us need to come out and let the public know what exactly facility management is all about because the impact or bottom-line for the economy, as well as for business owners would be very immense. Another challenge is quality of materials; everything comes to Nigeria. The nation, unfortunately, is seen as a dumping ground. There is no standard, so to buy bulbs, lightings that will last, you need to patronise foreign companies. You buy in our local market, and it pups the next minute.
A business owner naturally wants to cut costs and still have an efficient building. How do you come in?
This is where we come in. So, a business owner has a property and has been using his own in-house people to do facility management. What we do is come in with expertise, we understand your business, we understand you as a business owner- your vision, your goals, what you’re trying to achieve as a business owner, and we put that together with understanding the building itself, and then we come up with an FM model that is bespoke for that building. We don’t copy from one property and put in another, because they say different things, requesting for different FM needs and that is what we give that building. What that does for the business owner is you’re able to redirect the essential resources from your non-core to your core. They look at the cost of engaging a qualified facility manager, but on the long run you’ll be saving a lot.
I am data-driven as a facility manager, which means I record every service that I’m delivering. So, I have data and will be able to tell you after three months what it costs you to run your building. They want to build that edifice, that glass; they don’t even consider how they’d clean the glass. We have a building we’re managing that has marble façade. It was a beautiful but marble façade is not for our weather. You don’t use marble; if they had engaged James Cubitt Facility Managers, for example, we’ll look at it and quickly warn you that you don’t use this, because its maintenance will be at great cost. They’ll have to put scaffold six months down the line to scrape/clean the marble and this costs millions of Naira. There are good paints and even if I’m going to paint every year, it would be cheaper. Business owners are getting more aware that it is cheaper to use facility managers, because of the impact on their bottom-line.
How competitive are your services in terms of pricing?
We are not overly priced even though we are James Cubitt. We are really for the asset management and for the comfort of the users of that building. We are passionate facility managers, we are not just for the money; we do it for professionalism, and we have systems that attract other clients. Our work speaks for us and that is what we really want.
Tell us about staff and client management?
We are in this business for the development of people. The problem with Nigeria is a mindset, mediocrity. People are not given a chance, and that is what we are here for, to give people a chance. That is why our mission is to harness, discover opportunities that will change our world and transform lives. We have seen a lot of people walk into James Cubitt Facility Managers from day one and I smile when I see them a couple of years after and I smile. It is when I see a great number of facility managers changing things without making noise that I’d say we are fulfilled.
Professionally, the facility managers’ industry is relatively young. Do you see more companies setting up shop?
Professionally, the industry is quite young, it is not known, and that is because of lack of knowledge. Those of us that run facility management companies don’t even understand the value and the weight of the responsibility. During COVID lockdown, we were in the frontline, working to make sure there is power, water and cleanliness in residences and businesses. Did you see facility managers celebrated? No. Recently, they adopted certification which will be established soon and we also need good leadership in the industry.
At what stage is the facility manager required in the life of a building?
At the design stage, if it is a new one. I will say, if you’re about to build, make sure there is a facility manager on your design team. Facility managers will have more work to do if engaged after the design stage, because some damage may have been done. For example, some cables that shouldn’t have been laid or the wrong material may have been used in the flooring. For example, you have carpeted that office with a particular material without consideration for the traffic. So, every three months, the carpet needs to be changed, but if they had thought about it when they were selecting materials at the design stage, they would have been advised on an appropriate material to use.
What role should the government play in building maintenance since it is important to the economy?
Enforcement from building regulators is very weak and that is what gives us problems, because if they were quite firm and actually penalising people for mishaps, then it will make our work easy. So, what we will say is that facility management needs to be recognised by all levels of government. The government needs to know the impact of them not being firm with the building regulations. The impact causes needless deaths. There are buildings that we have seen that had to be rebuilt, because things inside the wall were wrongly placed. Air conditioners were piped and were leaking inside the wall and the water had gone into the building so badly that it was beginning to weaken the structure.