Our Managing Director, Mauro Ortelli, has been answering questions from the team - asked by Matthew Lockton, our Business Development Director.
Mauro has been MD of 14forty since 2013 and has worked at Compass Group for 13 years. However, it’s safe to say that 2020 has been a year like no other and so we wanted to hear his thoughts on the past few months, and how the future might look for the business.
How has 14forty been trading during the COVID-19 pandemic?
We have a wide range of clients across a varied cross sector of businesses, that have each been impacted in different ways.
Naturally some clients have had a lower headcount on site due to the ability for their employees to temporarily work from home in line with guidance, but for others it’s been business as usual and in fact for some of our industry led clients, they’ve been busier than ever.
What has remained a constant is that we have been working incredibly closely with each client to support their own individual needs and make sure that the workplace is a safe environment for their employees whilst they are working, and as they return to work.
What have been the most common trends you have seen during 2020?
The trends we have seen are in line with a lot of businesses across the UK and indeed around the world – the need to create COVID-19 safe environments, managing changing commercial landscapes to minimise the impact on costs and indeed maintaining front and centre health and wellbeing for those that are in buildings.
Plus we have seen changes for our own teams where in some cases people working more remotely now. A great example of this has been our helpdesk which has been moved to a remote function - the team have really focussed on maintaining the camaraderie of being together depsite working outside of the office, whilst still delivering upon their exemplary KPI targets for our clients.
How have we reacted as a business during this year?
In a word - quickly. There has been greater collaboration with clients to implement changes and solutions at a quicker speed as the environment has necessitated it.
We immediately recognised that we are all in this together and whilst there is a need to adapt swiftly short term, we also want to now look at the medium to longer term impacts of post COVID-19 in order to be ready for the next wave of change as buildings become reoccupied.
I think that is likely to happen relatively quickly with the positive news in the press around vaccines and the confidence that businesses will take in this, plus the known benefits of employee collaboration face to face which a lot of clients have flagged as something that has been lost over the past months.
In all our relationships, we work really hard to keep the complex simple and provide a one stop solution for our client’s, which has also meant in some instances supporting on areas that were not necessarily part of our initial or usual remit. But as I said, we’re in this together and it is always a partnership approach.
How have you supported your 14forty people during the pandemic?
People are the key differentiator in our business – they’re the individuals and teams that deliver the exceptional service every day and they are the one who go above and beyond for our clients, their employees and visitors. I truly believe that we have some of the best facilities professionals in the business.
As part of Compass Group, we have implemented a wide range of initiatives including the appointment of mental health ambassadors, “Take 5” conversations to encourage breaks and check in with our teams and individuals, central support lines that give advice on not just COVID-19, but general health and wellbeing, as well as giving back to them through recognition and reward.
One of the things Compass has also now committed to is being a Living Wage employer and this is something we are in conversations with existing clients around. We are highlighting the benefits of moving to this and what this means for their operations, something I am really proud that we have done and especially in the backdrop of what has happened this year.
What are you most proud of during 2020?
For me, it has been our client engagement and continuity of service, and how our teams have supported this. No-one could have predicted the impact of COVID-19 so there was limited planning for us, and industry and UK as a whole, but suddenly overnight the world changed.
We worked really hard in 14forty, as well as across Compass, to flex our model in order to direct support and resource efforts to where they were needed. Whether that was increasing services at a site or redirecting resource from one location to another, which in turn then allowed us to control the cost base for our clients effectively and efficiently.
I am therefore sure that one of the positive outcomes of COVID-19 will be building on our already strong partnerships to create much deeper and collaborative relationships with our clients, as they have seen us as more than just a service provider and indeed as a great partner.
What do you see the next three to six months looking like?
More of the same in the shorter term, as many of our clients continue to operate with employees on site, albeit perhaps not at full capacity.
However in the medium term, we are already being asked on how we can support those needing phased, rotational or increased returns to offices and workspaces.
My view is that whilst there has been great adoption of the technology that has facilitated remote working over the recent months, nothing can completely replace the benefits that are delivered by face-to-face interaction with colleagues - be that connections, relationship building, collaboration and feeling part of a wider team and organisation. We’ve done a lot of work on this in our business, to make sure that our teams are fully engaged and we know our clients are having the same discussions as well.
This is something we are developing plans for in partnership with each of our clients to make sure that we provide the right solution for each situation and that this aligns to their business, people and commercial needs.
What do you feel the long-term changes in Facilities Management will be, as a result of what is currently happening in the world?
Continued focus on cleaning and safety of premises will be paramount – whilst there are developments in finding a solution for COVID-19, I think even after we are out the other side of this there will be a greater need for a more visible cleaning presence to reassure people as they are returning to the workplace.
I also think that there will be more flexibility in how people work and that businesses will use their premises for different uses, so when people come to the office it will be for a specific reason instead of just to siting at a desk. This may mean that workspaces are used as more of a collaborative and creative space, than a day-to-day space, which is what we are seeing from the conversations we are having with our clients at present.
This means that we will need to adapt and tailor our services to provide an even greater focus on the guest experience in each of our service lines, to deliver a consistent and memorable experience for our clients employees and visitors.
We are already working on how to take our already high standards of service, which are underpinned by our food heritage and hospitality mindset, to the next level and looking into how this translates into the world of facilities to deliver a flexible benefits to our end users.