Al Bonian sets systematic growth plan in place
Tony Martin is passionately fixated on taking Al BonIan Facilities Management to the next level, backed by a strategic outlook and a personal touch of professionalism
Al Bonian Facilities Management Services (ABFMS) has undergone significant changes over the last eight months.
The change came about when the company, which was primarily known as an extension of its MEP contracting arm, appointed regional FM specialist Tony Martin to the position of CEO.
He wasted little time in putting together a strategic direction for the company — the 100-Day Plan — to ensure Al Bonian FM carves a definitive identity amidst its peers.
Prior to Martin’s arrival, Al Bonian FM was predominantly a MEP maintenance firm with a managed soft services arm through third-party companies. The MEP maintenance often followed the contractual work carried out by sister-company Al Bonian MEP Contracting, Martin tells fmME.
As part of the 100-Day Plan the firm is now targeting more external contracts and Martin says they have “been quite successful so far with all pre-qualification for major developers”. The goal is to now target integrated facilities management (IFM) contracts.
“The 100-Day Plan restructured the business as we decided to take advantage of our MEP expertise where we are known to install major systems such as chillers and then carry out the DLP and provide FM. This is going to serve as a stepping stone into our clients’ FM requirements because we are also going to self-deliver soft services. We have begun bidding for cleaning contracts as we look to diversify the business by offering pest control, swimming pool maintenance and attendants,” says Martin indicating that Al Bonian FM will look at strategic partnerships with companies coming into the UAE.
Over the past six months, Martin says, the firm has stepped up from being a maintenance company to delivering FM contracts correctly. Subsequently, the 100-Day Plan kick-starts a three year plan. “It’s all about implementation and setting operations in motion. The changes have been substantial which was also well received by the Al Bonian board of directors,” Martin says.
In terms of contracts, Al Bonian FM currently has a deal in place with Nakheel. “We will like to continue our partnership with Nakheel by proving to them we can deliver on SLAs, and requirements for their owner associations and tenants,” Martin notes.
The firm also has contracts with several malls and a few industrial establishments such as Dubai Refreshments Company’s new factory in DIP, where Al Bonian FM carry out the MEP services and also manage the soft contractors.
Moving forward the company is targeting large clusters in residential communities such as Discovery Gardens in Jebel Ali. “We are putting together a new way of service delivery that will become attractive. We are not out there to be the cheapest or on a race to the bottom, but we are out to deliver quality at a price point. We might be slightly higher or lower [priced] in some aspects but there is a reasoning behind it,” Martin says.
Does company size matter?
Martin is confident that his reputation in the UAE FM sector will be a crucial make or break in winning over new clients. He explains: “Some of the larger companies think they deliver quality by default, they don’t. The personal touch is missing. In contrast we are a smaller company where I’m directly involved with day-to-day operations. And you won’t get many CEOs in FM companies that are as involved — it’s not micromanaging but involvement that seems to be missing and I have seen it happen over the years.
“The larger FM companies’ plate becomes so full that they don’t see what’s falling off and smaller companies are probably targeting what’s falling of their plate. I’ve seen similar situations, having worked with QBG FM and Idama where we had thousands of employees, and the personal touch can be delivered by proxy through the firm’s facility managers and site supervisors once you grow larger.”
Martin says he visits various client sites on a daily basis to ensure he’s in tune with operations. “I also keep in touch with the client regularly which is appreciated because it’s not that common anymore. As we grow my involvement becomes more strategic and then it’s down to the people we employ who can carry on with that personal touch,” Martin says.
During his time at the helm Martin has managed to redirect funds that’s gone back into staff initiatives after making several minor changes and tweaks. In fact, he was able to accrue a substantial amount of money through the restructure and the efficiencies that have come in.
He also added that larger companies have an infrastructure in place with all processes and back office support but it might not always be used implemented or optimised. “Most importantly are they delivering the quality they promise? At the end of the day we all recruit from the same regions (geographical) which then boils down to the right sort of training and staff welfare, that’s what brings the quality. We have re-designated all job titles, rewritten all job descriptions and held our first employee recognition award ceremony. Now everyone knows what is required of them and what they need to do,” Martin tells fmME as he points to the firm’s staff accommodation site which is just across its headquarters in Al Quoz.
“I’m in the process of presenting an investment plan which they [the board] will review and come back positively with a figure,” he reveals.
Martin also says that there are circa five major FM service providers in the country. And while they have the ability to deliver Martin isn’t too confident about the quality they offer.
“You don’t want these companies to have a monopoly in the market. Smaller FM companies are a positive to the market and the bigger FM companies need to be challenged constantly. Service providers shouldn’t be able to pick up contracts by default. A smaller FM company with a fifth of the manpower doesn’t mean they have a fifth of the quality — it could be 10 times better,” he says indicating that it’s important to maintain a healthy competition amongst service providers.
He also adds that the problem isn’t created as much by smaller FM companies, instead by those firms who undercut the market bidding with unrealistically low amounts.
In the mid-term, Martin has his tasks laid out in front of him as he looks to consolidate and retain all existing contracts. “At the moment the market is challenging and clients are asking service providers for reductions in cost, while expecting the same level of services. This has led us to be extremely creative, and we have had to work even closer with our clients.”
Al Bonian FM currently employs 1,700 employees with its base mainly in Dubai. “We have a small presence in the Northern Emirates and Abu Dhabi which we want to increase. We are currently in discussions with an Abu Dhabi-based security company, we are looking at partnering with them.”