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Women in FM: 5 mins with… Charlotte Parr

What is your role at Churchill and what does it involve day to day?

I am a Director at Churchill Group and even in my first year the role has evolved. That’s the joy of working for a company like Churchill, we play to peoples’ strengths and let what they do evolve around them.

On a day-to-day basis I am involved in setting the agenda for our bid opportunities, marrying our strengths to our potential customers, and looking for industry partners that share our ethos and aspirations. I also manage strategic relationships with some of our clients to make sure our aspirations are aligned and looking for new ways we can grow together.

How did you find your way into FM? (Tell us a bit about your background)

I started in FM 20 years ago within supply chain (I know I don’t look old enough haha!). My first step into the industry was as a territory account manager for Cannon Consumables, and after cutting my teeth on the London area, I was lucky enough to be offered a job working for Bunzl Cleaning and Hygiene Supplies.

With a lot of hard work and tenacity, I worked my way up to become Head of Sales and Marketing, a role I am still very proud of and where I had a great team around me. I have been fortunate to work for some inspirational leaders who taught me the value of letting who you are speak for itself, and that hard work and resilience really does pay off.

My move to Churchill was driven by a chance to push myself further, learn about a different end of the market and pick up some new skills along the way. That, and a management team and a company culture I couldn’t not be tempted by!

What is your favourite thing about your job/the industry?

This past working year has been a tough one, but it has proven something I always knew, I LOVE this industry. FM is an unsung hero, touching every part of peoples’ lives away from home. We are able to introduce true innovation and push new ways of working that fundamentally make a difference to people’s surroundings.

My role at Churchill has given me the freedom to scope out new ideas, think of different solutions and operate in a culture where you can question your working practices if you have a better solution. 2021 will allow this industry to shine. After all, we are responsible for ensuring that as people return to the facilities in which they are taught and work, they are clean, hygienic and safe.

As a woman in FM, what are your biggest frustrations?

It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worth it! I have spent most of my career surrounded by men. I have been lucky to work with some fantastic people but it’s clear to me that for too long some top talent has gone unrewarded, or that unconscious bias has played its part. This, of course, isn’t just in FM, but it is something we need to work to resolve in our industry as well. We all have a part to play in supporting women to be braver and ask for the promotions they deserve.

As a working mother with two young girls, I am even more aware of the example I am setting. I knew that as soon as I had my chair at the table that it was my job to pull up the next. My favourite quote on this subject is by Rupi Kaur: “I stand on the sacrifices of a million women before me thinking: what can I do to make this mountain taller so the women after me can see farther?”

A boardroom with different thoughts, backgrounds, sexes and ethnicity for me is a rich one, full of empathy and great ideas.

What are your key predictions for/the biggest issues facing the FM market over the next year?

The largest challenge facing our industry in the aftermath of the pandemic is about being agile enough to bend and flex with the ever-changing horizon of social distancing and a phased return into the office environment.

We are continuously looking at new ways of managing this through sensor technology, hygiene management programmes such as PRISM, and integrating technology into our working practices to make us proactive and adaptable.

At Churchill we have also kept a laser-focus on sustainability. It is essential that as an industry we continue to challenge our working practices and seek new ways to make a sustainable difference.

Key areas of focus for me also include our people’s wellbeing, key client engagement, staying communicative and open with our teams, and ensuring we stand by our principles of doing the right thing for our business and our industry.