In the latest instalment of our commercial cleaning and FM industry executive interview series we spoke to Jason Rout, Group Operations Director at SBFM, about the company, his career path, and what the future could hold for the industry.
Can you tell us about SBFM and the services it provides?
SBFM is proud to be an innovative and ambitious national cleaning company. Founded in 2013, we have grown substantially and organically to become one of the leading providers of facilities management services in the UK.
Operating nationally, our team of over 5,000 employees deliver a full range of internal and external contract cleaning services including reactive works, periodic and deep cleaning. We currently serve some of the UK’s leading brands, from high-profile retailers to global logistics providers, businesses in the private sector and manufacturers at the forefront of their industries, to name just a few.
How is SBFM different to other commercial cleaning and soft FM providers?
The UK facilities management market is arguably now the most mature and competitive in Europe. And as clients have become more demanding and sophisticated in procuring FM services, gaining a competitive advantage and differentiating yourselves will be key to success.
Unlike many Private Equity (PE) owned enterprises, SBFM is an owner operated FM Business with a long-term strategy and ambitions. Our customer-centric approach serves as the foundation upon which our company is built, and we continue to champion our clients and place them at the forefront of everything we do as we maintain our rapid growth.
Our success lies with investment in innovative and state-of-the-art systems and technologies, with a heavy focus on the leveraging of technology that can deliver bespoke solutions for our clients, solve existing challenges and drive value.
Of course, SBFM’s market-leading services are only as strong as the people who deliver them. As a company, we have worked hard to build a positive, people-focused culture that provides our employees with clear pathways to grow in their careers organically within the business.
In a market landscape impacted by mounting recruitment and retention challenges, we are continually working to understand our employees needs and make the necessary changes to retain our fantastic workforce, while also meeting the demand to increase their numbers.
What is your background? How did you progress through the profession to your current role?
After starting out in the industry as a site-based manager, I spent over a decade honing my skillset and progressing my career in commercial cleaning by operating across various sectors including logistics, key account management, retail and pest control.
I took the decision to move to a rapidly growing business in SBFM. An organisation which is solely focused on driving great customer service with no barriers to implement change and innovation.
Following my career with a large FM company spanning some 12 years, including extensive experience in the logistics and retail markets, I joined SBFM because I recognised that they are different. More akin to the company I joined in 2009, SBFM is agile, innovative, and proactive, without the corporate baggage that many larger companies seem to acquire as they grow.
What is your role and responsibilities within SBFM?
As Operations Director for SBFM I oversee the delivery of all operational aspects of the business, in line with the business strategy and customer needs across multiple sector verticals. With a strong focus on evaluating operational performance, I gather and analyse technological data to better meet our business and client needs.
My role also sees me making sure our people, their wellbeing, safety and performance are supported and developed across the business. While at the same time ensuring SBFM is delivering and evolving our strategic goals in line with client and market trends. Whether that takes the form of driving innovative technology and systems to add value to our clients, or forging strong customer relationships to form long-term partnerships and grow the SBFM business.
What’s the most exciting thing about your job?
One of the selling points for me is the fast-paced nature of the business. Getting the opportunity to be an integral cog in SBFM, a business aligned to the customer journey and committed to providing flexible solution for our clients – both new and existing – is what makes my role so exciting.
And what’s the most challenging?
The cost challenges driven by the erosion of the commercial viability of contracts has led to SBFM having to creatively define new compelling solutions for our clients, but it is something we have been able to achieve with remarkable success.
What have been the biggest challenges the commercial cleaning and FM industry has faced over the past two years?
Following another year of disruption due to COVID, the pandemic continued to provide hurdles for SBFM to overcome. Of course, while it did present challenges, you could argue it also provided the greatest opportunity as cleaning regimes remained critical as the virus lingered well into 2021.
We were also operating amid a labour market shortage in the UK which extended to nearly every industry, but hit facility management particularly hard. With a shortage of contract FM employees, and cleaners and domestic staff some of the most in-demand, we had to find practical and creative ways to get through the crisis.
Our inhouse recruitment team – combined with a comprehensive training and development programme – has been critical to attracting and retaining the most qualified colleagues for frontline roles.
And what have been the biggest opportunities?
It has been particularly refreshing to support clients that were willing to work in partnership to create new unique ways of working and delivering FM contracts. The past year has seen the business world adapt and find new creative ways to work as they return to a semblance of pre-pandemic routine, and this innovation and adaptability has certainly crossed over into facilities services.
The last 12 months has driven the exposure of the FM industry as an integral part of the UK business market. As businesses seek to keep the workforce safe in the months ahead, our role is more important than ever before.
Of course, the opportunities presented have not just been limited to our clients. At SBFM we have used the situation as the springboard to find compelling ways to offer an enhanced career path and benefits to our workforce, with many more exciting plans in place for the coming year.
What does the future of commercial cleaning and FM look like? Do you envisage any key trends in the market in 2022 and beyond?
In one word… exciting.
As technology becomes more intuitive, and critically affordable, we will see an increased demand for services underpinned by innovation. The evolution of smart tech is powering the FM industry to push the traditional boundaries of building management, and the possibilities are almost limitless.
The rise of connectivity and connected devices also means we can produce more data than ever before to drive performance. This access to quick, easy, and meaningful insights available through data will undoubtedly bring significant opportunities to uncover unnecessary expenses, reduce waste, and improve efficiencies throughout FM contracts.
At SBFM, we continue to collaborate closely with our customers to integrate technology and data analytics that drive ‘true value’, rather than innovation for innovation’s sake.
In addition, sustainability and our contribution to climate change will continue to be a key focus not only in 2022 but beyond. As the expectations on corporate responsibility increase, and as transparency becomes more prevalent, the need to act sustainably has become a business imperative. It is a trend that will not abate anytime soon and one which form the very foundation of FM services and how they are delivered.