Mr. Femi Akintunde is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Alpha Mead Facilities Management & Consultancy Services, a leading facilities management company in Nigeria. He began his career as an Industrial Engineer with Nestle Plc and rose through the ranks to the position of Head, Corporate Technical Planning. In 1993, he joined Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) where he spent 12 years occupying various senior and management positions across human resources, major oil & gas projects, engineering, services, facilities and assets management. He then moved to the United Bank for Africa (UBA) as Deputy General Manager, Corporate Services, in charge of delivering corporate services to the entire UBA Group both in Nigeria and overseas covering banking, insurance, asset management, global markets etc.
Briefly tell us about your company?
Alpha Mead Facilities & Management Services (AM Facilities) was incorporated in January 2006. Our primary focus is to provide facility management, project management and real estate development consultancy, training and professional services delivery support to corporate organizations and private investors with major real estate assets. We pride ourselves in the delivery of high quality professional services, while ensuring minimum total life cycle cost of the asset to the owner.
What informed the setting-up of Alpha Mead?
The current state of most corporate and private real estate assets in Nigeria leaves much to be desired in terms of servicing and operating conditions and many organizations are seeking more professional organizations to help in providing efficient facilities management services that will reduce operating cost, increase operational efficiency and improve bottom-line performance. The promoters of Alpha Mead Facilities & Management Services identified this need very early and, driven by a passion to provide facility management solutions, decided to pursue it vigorously by forming an alliance with a world-class facility management organization to deliver value added services and raise the standard of facility management services in Nigeria to a new height.
What influenced your choice of business and why did you take up the challenge and responsibility as CEO?
Facility management is a profession that encompasses multiple disciplines such as health, safety, security and environment, property management, business continuity planning, electrical, mechanical, emergency response and people management. My career gave me a well-rounded exposure into these areas. In addition, I was fortunate to work in organizations with best practice cultures and also move across departments, which is very unique. For instance, in Nestle, I worked in the factory as an industrial engineer and rose through the ranks to the position of Head, Corporate Technical Planning. I moved from there in 1993 to the SPDC, where I spent 12 years in senior and management positions in Human Resources, major Oil & Gas projects, Engineering, Services, Facilities and Assets Management. Thereafter, I was Deputy General Manager, Corporate Services for the UBA Group and was responsible for delivering corporate services to the entire network in Nigeria and overseas, including banking, insurance, asset management and global markets. Therefore, my venture into facilities management is a function of my on-the-job exposure and experience.
What have been your major challenges since establishment and how have you coped?
There are a number of challenges facing Facility Management practice in Nigeria today, primary among which is the lack of adequate industry knowledge and experience among clients and contractors. A lot of people do not know how facility management should be run or how to structure an FM contract. The second major challenge is the dearth in skill. When you provide service to people, the person paying wants to believe that you have the capacity and capability to deliver on the agreed quality. That capability is based on the resources you have, as well as the resources you can get from outside. Regrettably, getting skilled technicians is a major challenge today. Another major challenge is in the quality of materials available in the market. There is a lot of adulteration of even critical products like spare parts and diesel, and if you are not trained, you may be unable to differentiate them from the original.
Another major challenge is regarding the appreciation of the value we render. This is particularly a major issue in Nigeria. People hardly appreciate when you prevent problems from happening, they would rather pay someone to fight a fire and don’t understand why they should pay someone to prevent it from occurring in the first place. We work from a model of preventive maintenance and it is disheartening to find that many people are reluctant to pay the right rates for that level of expertise. As a result, it is very challenging for facility management companies to stand as profitable organizations, and when you are not profitable, you are not able to get the best hands.
However, we defy the odds to recruit the best hands and we pay them well such that we are happy to know that our employees are highly motivated because they are always there when we are not. Our sites are managed round the clock. We also do this because it is important to ensure that when that staff is on site, he is thinking for the company just as he is thinking for himself and the only way you can achieve that is by making sure that he is well motivated. We have been able to stay afloat because we are highly selective in the choice of clients that we work for. Some people just don’t have the right sense of value for their lives, where they live and where they work. They will go for the cheapest solution available. We do not offer cheap solutions; we offer high quality service and high value for those that appreciate it.
What are the other problems facing the FM industry?
The other problems have to do with quackery. There are so many people claiming to do facility management and they create problems of skill and expertise. When they get contracts, mostly due to insider influence, they are unable to deliver and so when another facility management company shows up, they are viewed with suspicion. It can be very difficult to work in such an atmosphere.
Secondly, quacks usually thrive on price wars. As a professional, your pricing is based on the quality of service you want to deliver. Unfortunately, during tenders, you often find that you are being compared with people who are not offering up to the same level of service and are touting cheaper prices. Naïve evaluators sometimes are not able to compare like for like; so they award the job to the cheaper company and then call you back a few months later to come fix the pain inflicted by the poor service of the quacks.
Of course you cannot overlook the general problem of corruption in the Nigerian environment. It affects our industry a great deal because, even before a job is tendered, sometimes, you hear people saying that they have already won the job because they know the man in charge. If you are a company with strong corporate governance culture, you are unable to do some of the things those people do to get the jobs. So you are automatically short changed by the competition. From experience, we know that, usually, it is not the decision makers that do these things, but the people working for them. They feed the decision makers with wrong information, wrong evaluation results and wrong basis of assessment; so they end up selecting the wrong company and get unsatisfactorily service. The reasons are not far-fetched: because the quacks have been desperate in their pricing and also have an interest who must be settled, they cut back on quality to be able to meet the demands of their promoters.
Another major problem in the industry is that of integrity as many people do not respect contract terms. You enter into a contract with someone with agreed service levels and payment plans. After you have delivered your part and the person is not forth coming with payment, what do you do? Do you down tools or walk out of the site? How do you pay staff? Where the client delays payment for a long time, the whole margin of profit for the facility manager is gone because, whatever money the company was supposed to make for itself is paid to the banks to retain your good rating so you can get financing for your next business. The reality is that these are difficult times for facility managers in Nigeria because they are still struggling for recognition and the market is not mature. Nonetheless, we see these as teething problems and we are very confident that those who deliver quality service will continue to have the day and that is where companies like ours have really been able to stand up to be counted in the industry.
What are the unique factors that stand your company out?
AM Facilities boasts a robust portfolio built on our reputation in managing high profile facility management consultancy and delivery projects. The company currently manages office and residential properties for various clients across different sectors of the economy such as Shell, Total E&P, Primrose Properties, Ultimate Apartments and many more. Our differentiating factor is in the value we add. We see ourselves as partners, not just vendors, with every organisation we work for, and we deploy our expertise, experience and resources to deliver results that bear positive direct impact on the client’s bottom-line in the short and long run. Within the first three months of taking over any new site, we have a record of saving our clients a minimum of 15-25 per cent of their existing maintenance and operating costs through various cost reduction and process improvement measures that we introduce. Given our strong focus on a preventive maintenance program, we have been able to minimise frequent breakdown of plant and equipment and guarantee higher reliability of the systems.
Another differentiating factor that stands AM Facilities out is our strong drive for growth, whether at the individual, company or industry level. We do not want to be the one-eyed king of the blind. We believe that when the aggregate of industry knowledge and expertise is high, it creates for robust competition which ultimately plays out for good for all stakeholders. Consequently, as a company, we ensure that our staff is exposed to the highest level of training both locally and abroad. We also encourage them to pursue relevant professional programmes that enhance their career interests. Our company is also an active member of several professional associations such as the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), Nigeria Chapter.
At the industry level, we have the AM Facilities Training Centre, which offers a rich array of courses and caters for practitioners from both the client and service providers side. In commemoration of the World FM Day last year, we organized the first facility management roundtable in Nigeria, which brought together stakeholders from across Nigeria and the international community to discuss the challenges and opportunities in the Nigerian industry and chart the way forward. Participation was drawn from government, industry professionals, developers, financiers and resident associations. This is our thought leadership initiative to jump-start robust discourse that will grow the industry and, based on the response received, we have instituted it as an annual event.
Also, in the last quarter of 2012, Alpha Mead was appointed to bench mark facilities management practice in Nigeria and the entire Africa region by FM Benchmarking, the global body responsible for tracking the performance of facilities management organisations and establishing universal standards for the industry.
What has client response been like?
Most customers tell us that they have experienced the most comfort and satisfaction with us in all their dealings with facility management companies. In fact, we have consistently maintained an almost 100 per cent retention rate on all the sites we have worked on since inception. This is largely because we are driven by our very simple motto, “We Care.” At AM Facilities, we understand the peculiarity of the facility management challenges facing companies operating in the Nigerian terrain, particularly as it relates to aligning available resources with global standards, and have positioned ourselves to work successfully with our clients to optimize their staff and asset performance against these odds. Moreso, our business is built on a strong platform of 3Ps that define our mission – People, Process and Place. People are at the centre of all we do; whether as our customers, investors, vendors, employees or the communities where we live and work. We pride ourselves in a competent and very capable workforce with strong customer orientation and a passion for excellence in service delivery. The next is our Processes. We have a strong track record for sustained delivery on good results. This automatically derives from the well-defined processes and standards that guide all our work. Place includes everywhere our customers live, work or play. This is the ultimate result that we deliver. We guarantee that whatever the state of the facility you give to us, we will make it into a haven for you, taking into cognizance your comfort, safety and security. Our relationship with our technical partners is also a key resource that grants us access to global standards, systems, specialist resources and support to effectively manage major FM challenges. These three pillars are the fulcrum on which our organization is built and based on our experience and testimonials from our clients, we are optimistic that the future is very bright for us. Our goal is to be the leading facility management company, not only in Nigeria, but in the whole of Africa.
What are your expectations of FM professionals and government in 2013 and beyond?
Essentially, the FM Day is a commemoration of the contributions of facilities management to the built environment and the workplace. It encompasses a large body of stakeholders such as government, private developers, building owners, financiers, building consultants, facility managers and professional organisations. It is important we realize that we all have a stake and must work together to ensure the continuous improvement of the facilities management industry in Nigeria. Government needs to create an enabling environment through the provision of adequate infrastructure, legislative backing and effective regulatory framework to enforce standards. Professionalism and good business ethics must be promoted and upheld by building industry professionals, while institutional knowledge and support provided by professional institutions such as IFMA will drive qualitative research and the development of local industry benchmark data. Building owners and developers, for their part, should actively patronize and reward professionalism, as this will provide the support and encouragement needed to grow the industry.