It is not often that you can bear to see the company you built fritter away. Bill Heath, a civil engineer, has not only witnessed that but went on to build another facilities management company - but this one is still going strong.
A facilities management company ensures maintenance services, cleaning and pest control, security and car-park management and other aspects are in place after the construction of a building. The 61-year-old managing director of Mace Macro International in Dubai talks about why he is not yet ready to hang up his boots.
How did you come to facilities management?
The industry in the United Kingdom developed in early the 1990s. In 1994, I started CBX Ltd in London with a team of 25 people, as its operations director. Four years later it got sold to a major Swiss outfit called Sulzer Group and two years on, it had a turnover of Dh500 million [US$136.1m]. In 2001, three years after Sulzer bought CBX, it sold it again to Axima. I disagreed because clients can get unsettled with so many changes so frequently and decided to step out. Proving the decision was right, within 18 months the company we built up over six years vanished.
What did you do next?
[After a stint elsewhere] I had an opportunity with Mace Group in 2002 as they wanted to get into facilities management as an add-on service to clients. And I established Mace Macro UK.
How did you come to Dubai?
In 2004, Mace entered the UAE. Among others, we helped Dubai Properties draw up a model to set up their facilities management business that year. We had one major client and that was Jumeirah Beach Residence, which wanted to engage a facilities management company for its 25,000 residents and 40 tower blocks.
How has the facilities management industry developed here?
Competition has grown significantly over the past six years, with other international companies entering the market along with a number of local companies having been set up largely by some of the major developers. The main law issue that has impacted the industry has been the Jointly Owned Property regulations, with stipulations that subcontracting is not permitted.
How did your company grow?
Since we were already present here, in 2008 I set up Mace Macro International with a colleague in Dubai. And got a three-year contract with Emaar. We also learnt to adapt to local culture and business practices here.
In 2010, Emaar cut your Old Town Island contract. How did that affect your business?
We lost the project through normal competitive tendering. We have regularly seen compound growth in the region of 20 to 25 per cent per annum.
What are the challenges of your industry here?
Educating clients about the benefits of using well-planned facilities management, along with the introduction of facilities management advice during the design and construction phases of a new development.