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Women in FM: 5 mins with… Mabel Fourie

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

I’m the senior commercial manager for the Churchill Group. I am part of the legal and commercial team and am responsible for the management of all commercial aspects of the business, helping with drafting, negotiating, and managing contracts, including managing commercial risks and opportunities, resolving contractual and commercial problems as and when they occur.

My main obligation is to ensure contracts or projects are agreed to on a commercially sound basis.

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

I was born and bred in sunny South Africa, where I obtained my business management and law degree. After being sworn in as solicitor, I joined my now-husband in the UK in 2007 where my relationship with the FM Industry began.

It was never my intention to remain in the FM industry, I wanted to join a law firm and use my law degree… But the FM world had other plans and had so much to offer!

As the FM industry was foreign to me, I had to get to grips with the dos and don’ts, the lingo and being a woman in a man’s world. However, I worked my way up from being an on-site administrator (seen as a woman’s job) to being a senior commercial manager, that’s part of the Churchill Group’s senior team tapping into both my business management and law degrees, making my journey and where I find myself now just so much sweeter.

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

In terms of my job:
• The leading trendsetting clientele we work with, each of them offering a unique brand / environment that enables and challenges me to grow and expand my knowledge and expertise on a daily basis; and
• Being part of a company that promotes diversity and inclusion, striving to do right by their people (regardless of their gender).

In terms of the industry:
• I love the ever-changing industry that is FM, as it pushes you to always be open to and embrace new challenges and take advantage of new things as they come your way.

As a woman in FM, what are your biggest frustrations?
The perception that women should look and act a certain way if wanting to be successful in the FM Industry (or any industry for that matter).

The assumption that women are best placed in certain roles / positions.

At times it appears that the focus for a lot of organisations in promoting diversity and equality is more about ‘ticking a box’ than it is about actually doing the right thing.

By doing this, organisations are missing out. Besides doubling their talent pool, having a variety of talents in your business can make a vast difference to productivity and your bottom line. Men and women have different viewpoints, ideas and insights which allow for better problem solving and an increase in business performance.

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

I think we can all agree that 2020 was a year like no other, especially for the FM Industry.

With the vaccination programme in full swing we will start seeing an increase in companies slowly returning to their headquarters and, for them, FM will be vital.

Sensor technology and analytics will play a massive part in the FM Industry’s day-to-day operations to not just manage desk occupancy, washroom attendance and cleaning regimes (to only name a few) but to also utilise temperature and humidity sensors to improve comfort and minimise the chances of spreading the virus through air.

Being flexible to our clients’ operational needs and being easy to do business with will be key. Controlling costs will be a challenge, as we will be expected to do more for less, supporting our customers to recover but also providing their employees with a safe working environment.

It is clear that the pandemic has served as the catalyst for change, which made us all take stock and look at how we do things.