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Women in FM: 5 mins with… Louisa Clarke

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

I am managing director of operations – I was delighted to have been promoted into this role in February this year, having worked my way up the ranks within Churchill over the last ten years. My day-to-day responsibilities involve developing strategic plans, implementing company policy, communicating and maintaining trust relationships and leading an incredible management team to deliver facilities management to a hugely diverse portfolio across the UK.

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

I was 18 when I joined the Roya Air Force and I spent just over a decade serving as a Movements Controller. Those were extraordinary years, I was lucky enough to travel the world and work with some incredible people. Having decided to ground myself in 2006, I wanted to find an alternative career choice. I was looking for a role with operational challenges, where no two days are the same and something with a focus on people and the environment…Cue facilities management. There are similarities: You need a ‘think on your feet’ attitude as well as strong discipline to be able to deliver high levels of service and operational excellence. FM is a great choice for veterans, I would say to anyone, if you can show great organisational skills, an appetite for success, customer focus, and love a challenge, then this is the job for you.

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

People, people, people! The industry’s diversity lends itself well to meeting new people from varied walks of life. Whether it be an existing, new or potential client, a fellow member of the FM industry or a new member of the team, I thrive on that communication and relationship building. However, my absolute favourite thing is watching team members grow, this is an industry you can join at all levels, and the opportunities for development as an individual are huge. I take great pleasure in watching people reach their full potential.

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

My biggest frustration has always been that more woman aren’t attracted to the top jobs in the industry. Historically, FM has struggled with diversity with many of the boardroom seats dominated by men. Pleasingly, over the last few years you can see a shift, with more woman entering the industry and gaining the confidence to reach their goals. The Churchill culture sits away from that perception of gender bias, with many senior/board members being female.

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

We continue to learn lessons from the pandemic. It’s been tough going and, while we won’t forget how difficult and sad this time has been for very many people, there have been positives. We’ve discovered new ways to communicate effectively with each other remotely, the topic of work-life balance has been brought to the forefront of our thoughts and I’ve enjoyed getting to know people online, whether it be meeting their children and pets or laughing over the dog barking. We are certainly beginning to remove the taboos that people feel around juggling their work and home life. Industry leaders will need to have a continued focus on flexible and hybrid working polices, looking to ensure they can maintain balance (office v home), while continuing to deliver high levels of service.

This will, of course, impact the FM market. With many of our clients, building occupancy will continue to fluctuate and the use of space will differ. As an FM provider we work closely with new and existing customers, recognising the changing landscape and financial constraints being placed on them. We’ve worked hard to build on our current cleaning provision, developing a sizeable suite of mitigation tools. We recognise transparency and a flexible approach is required. One notable addition to our toolkit is PRISM. This is a workplace hygiene and safety programme designed to bring a cleaning solution of the future through the integration of science, technology and people.