John Braithwaite

Newly Appointed Chair Shares His Vision

John started in FM with Serco as a gardener’s labourer in the Parliament FM contract. “Within Serco I worked until I achieved my first true FM role as the first Facilities Manager at Wellington Polytechnic – now the Massey campus in Mt Cook, Wellington.” From there it has been Facilities and Project Management roles locally and nationally along with a four year non-FM stint in Dublin “smack in the middle of the Celtic Tiger” working for a construction recruitment company.

 

What is your current role?

Currently employed by Service Resources as Contract Manager for KiwiRail.“My role is to deliver excellent service while having a whole lot of fun!”

You have worked in Facilities Management for over 25 years now. What path did you follow into FM? Are you an accidental Facilities Manager?

I don’t consider myself an accidental Facilities Manager. Once I understood what FM was I actively pursued this career path.  I am an Architectural Draughtsman by trade. I was made redundant in the late 80’s crash, built a house with my father then was introduced to the team at Serco as a gardener’s labourer at Parliament. This team introduced me to FM and gave me my grounding in this career. I have recently reconnected with a number of that team at Service Resources which has been like one big homecoming.

If you were asked to sum up what facilities managers do in one sentence, what would you say?

It would want to be one very, very, very long sentence!

What do you enjoy most about working in Facilities Management?

It took me a long time to realise that I am a people person and it is a critical skill to survive in this profession. The NZ business community is so small it means you have to build and maintain networks at all levels of service provision.

What part of the job could you do without?!

Several times and in multiple businesses I have had the accounts team ban me from holding original invoices – I have to say my tolerance  for invoicing processes is my pet hate.

You were one of the founding members of FMANZ. Why do you think such an organisation is important?

For many years I recall discussion around the FM community about next year being the year everybody realises the value of our profession and the importance of what we add to business. It became clear that this was not going to happen all by itself and that an organisation such as FMANZ needed to be formed to advocate, educate and promote the profession.

Are you proud of what the association has achieved? What do you see as the stand-out achievements?

I think we have achieved an immense amount in the few short years we have been around.  I am most proud of the way the membership engages with the opportunities to network, learn and share knowledge. We identified early that the Association needed to serve the membership and without the member engagement we would have failed very early on.

How do you think facilities management as a profession is currently regarded in New Zealand? Do you think it has ‘come of age’?

We still have work to do before we start planning a Bar Mitzvah. I think there are much more valuable conversations taking place in some organisations, however the service is still seen by many as a largely transactional expense. We need more people to be having discussions about the value chain and what benefit we can offer around profitability, productivity and the enjoyment of the workplace.

What makes a good facilities manager do you think?

You need to be an effective borrower, prophet, narrator, negotiator and genie.

What do we do well in New Zealand as facilities managers and what could we do better?

I think the answer is the same to both questions – we generalise very well. What I mean is we are so good at finding solutions to each and every problem through our networks that we don’t specialise enough. I think this is changing slowly and there is a greater understanding of the value in fields such as asset management, finance, energy, sustainability, space utilisation and planning and other critical work streams.

What are the major challenges facing the industry?

As it has been for many years, being seen and understood for the positive effects and influences that we offer to the profitability, productivity and enjoyment of the workplace.  Moving out of the expense line to a value line.

Where would you like to see the FM industry in New Zealand in 10 years’ time?

There has always been a description of working ‘from boiler room to boardroom’. I would like to see much more time spent in the boardroom providing intelligent, productive and considered advice to effectively support corporate strategy and business planning.


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