Interview: Deyaar Facilities Management reveals its sustainable strategy

Published: 10 October 2019 - 6:30 a.m.

For a firm to grow and not run into problems with financing, it has to grow at a sustainable growth rate. Deyaar Facilities Management has made sustainable growth as part of its overall strategy. Mohamad Abou Laban, chief executive officer at Deyaar Facilities Management, says: “We have done really well in the past couple of months and have grown our business. We have reached about 39% growth in facilities management contracts this year with seven new sites, which was an achievement. We have made sustainable growth as part of our strategy.”

Established in 2011, Deyaar Facilities Management is a fully owned subsidiary of Deyaar Properties. Laban joined Deyaar Facilities Management as the CEO in 2018, to drive the company’s corporate vision and mission. As a CEO, he is responsible for overseeing all of Deyaar Facilities Management (DFM) operations, including delivering superior service to all customers and securing business beyond Deyaar’s property portfolio.
With more than a decade of experience working in the real estate sector in the GCC, Laban most recently held the position of vice president – facilities at DAMAC Properties. He says that DFM has entered aggressively into the hospitality sector with projects such as Millennium Atria Business Bay, Millennium Al Barsha and Millennium Montrose, among others.

The firm also started self-delivering security services last year and have crossed the hundred security guards mark. “We like to do things steadily. In order to reach our goals we focus on delivering quality services to our customers,” says Laban.
There is a growth in the hospitality sector, especially in Dubai, Laban says. “In our 2019 business plan, we wanted to target the hospitality sector. We have also targeted other sectors like education, residential, and commercial. We have a plan in place and we stick with it. The plan is readdressed and reviewed every six months but if you want to have sustainable growth, you look at the next five years and set goals for each year and for every quarter of that year. This is the Deyaar culture.”

Deyaar Facilities Management has also been awarded one of the tallest towers in Fujairah called Fujairah tower, which is a mixed-use tower. Laban adds: “This is now one of our flagship [projects] in Fujairah. We operate in all seven emirates and I believe that’s a unique selling point for Deyaar Facilities Management.”

Overcoming challenges through innovation and technology
According to Laban, challenges are indeed prevalent in the market, but there is nothing that cannot be overcome. “The market at the moment is cost-driven and we are in a competitive market. We have to find creative ways to drive costs down without affecting the quality and that’s key. Innovation is at the center of our business. It is at the centre of the economy at the moment. If you cannot innovate, you will be obsolete. So the biggest challenge is to self-deliver on time and with good quality.” Deyaar FM introduced a new initiative where in it carries out sessions with its customers called ‘pains and gains’. The firm looks at what is causing their customers pain and how Deyaar FM can resolve it. In addition, the firm learns what gains the customers can get from the relationship. “We don’t call our customers as clients. We call them business partners because we want to be in a partnership with our customers,” Laban adds.

Deyaar FM has taken technological adoption quite seriously, with the firm recently rolling out an Enterprise Asset Management software, with an integrated ERP solution of Microsoft Dynamics. “Every transaction now is on our system. We wanted something to be bespoke for our business that tackles the total facilities management business as well as our call-out business. We have more than 40,000 transactions per year, which is unique for a facilities management company. We have also implemented the handheld or mobility solution from Caterpillar. This transparency helps us to understand what is happening on site as we have live feed. The device is for the workers and also for our engineers. Our health and safety team use iPads to do their inspections. Soon we are going to do our appraisals through iPad. The supervisor will sit with the technician, cleaner or an operator and we’ll go to through his appraisal online. So we’re trying to go paperless and trying to be more environmentally friendly and sustainable. In our office, there are no plastic bottles or plastic cups. We are an FM company. We cannot preach, what we don’t practice.”
Talking about the trends in the FM industry, Laban reiterates that there is a big drive towards technology for the past several years, especially in implementing CAFM systems and Enterprise Asset Management software. The other trend that Laban has noticed is that people are moving from single service to bundled service, to TFM, and subsequently, to output-driven contracts. Finally, there is the trend of using robotics and drones. He says: “We are in talks with a couple of companies to see how we can implement robotics into our business such as drones that clean external glass. We are looking at robots that clean commercial areas such as bathrooms in stadiums and malls.”

The firm also believes that health and safety is important for an FM company. The firm’s lost time injury (LTI) was zero in 2018, and this is also maintained in 2019. Laban says that it is the result of continuous training that is done with the team.

Status quo and future
At the moment, Deyaar FM gets 75% of its business from Deyaar, and 25% from the market, and the target is to make it an even 50-50% in the next couple of years.

The current challenges facing the industry is competition and costs cuts, Laban says. Then, there is the importance of maintaining staff, as FM companies are all about manpower. He explains: “The technicians, cleaners, security staff, are your biggest asset in an FM company. When you look at our contract, we don’t have bulldozers and machinery. Sure, we have cleaning equipment but it is mainly about our staff. This year we upgraded their accommodation. We have also invested heavily in their training, among other initiatives.”

Besides this, in the current economic scenario, tight margins are another reality. Laban says that this issue is dealt with through weekly meetings. He says: “We obviously know cash flow is a big issue. We are selective about our customers from the beginning. We understand who we are dealing with. I don’t mind if a client tells me that he will pay you in 60 days. As long as people are honest, I can plan my cashflow accordingly. We have a strong team, where we work closely with operation and finance [teams] and [the teams] are integrated with each other. We have weekly meetings where we have a system in place to show us the collection from each customer.”

He concludes: “We have reached an agreement with all our customers on how we should receive our payments, and accordingly, we pay our dues to our service providers and suppliers.” Laban admits that it’s a difficult market, and that the firm is lucky to have good customers, or business partners.

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