Tim Chadwick reveals how to turn an operational problem into a business.
I started my career in FM with a five-year indentured apprenticeship as an HVAC engineer and worked up the ranks, first as an engineer servicing corporate and commercial premises, then from supervisor to manager and contracts manager.
Next was 11 years as operations manager at EMCOR, before moving to area general manager at Norland Managed Services. It felt like a real promotion, but also the next step to expand my knowledge and gain exposure to new clients and situations.
I have worked on contracts at the British Museum, the O2 Arena and the ‘Gherkin’ as well as high-security data centres, and public sector facilities such as universities and council properties.
I noticed the many variations of health and safety systems at different companies, which made me astutely aware of what an FM company requires to be H&S-compliant.
When I moved to my next role as account director at ISS Integrated Facility Services, I felt I had reached the top of my career.
Skills to succeed in FM
I had worked tenaciously, consistently and methodically – the same as most skilled FMs I know. I progressed because I never stopped to look in any other direction. I made sure I was disciplined and organised, rarely missing a deadline.
Organisational skills are vital for documenting and auditing your own work and driving towards self-improvement.
I’d obviously had lingering thoughts of H&S compliance in my head, but I was not planning on launching a company based on it. It almost started by accident.
I was at a casual dinner with my now Genilogic co-directors Jo Thompson and Justin Jones. We were discussing the H&S frustrations of our jobs, thinking there must be a better way.
We were all sending out hundreds of risk assessments, often on paper, with minor changes to satisfy our compliance requirements. We were tired of keeping track of COSHH SDS sheets and chasing staff for engagement on the documents and training we had spent time and money producing for them.
We looked for a solution but found none that could solve all of our frustrations so we mad it ourselves. And so Genilogic Ltd was born and, with it, CRAMS (Comprehensive Risk Assessed Method Statements), a cloud-based H&S software solution.
It was born out of friends venting their frustrations but has become a powerful tool for reducing workload, and simplifying and supporting FM compliance. What I love most about CRAMS is meeting old colleagues who have solved their H&S problems with our product.
Tips for those looking to start a new venture
- Find a problem: Too many people working 9-5s never see an issue with how they work. And many also think they can solve a pain they’ve never felt. Pick a problem you are spending too much time on and focus on fixing it.
- Explore solutions: It’s likely the answer to your problem has been provided already so research available solutions. When you find it, use it to show management your problem-solving skills.
- Mind map: If you can’t solve your problem with something on the market, create a mind map of the problem’s various parts. Look at the competitors’ offerings and find out how to deliver something different.
- Consider skills: If you can’t do it yourself, find like-minded people with complementary skill sets and sell your idea to them. Remember, your involvement needs to add value too.
- Create a plan: Start-ups are hard work. Seek guidance from an experienced and successful entrepreneur to create a robust business plan, paying attention to development and marketing. Ensure that you can sustain the model for the first two years.
Tim Chadwick is a director at Genilogic Ltd
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