James Sutherland

10 Questions with James Sutherland

Our MD, James Sutherland, was recently interviewed by Tomorrow’s FM about his first job and experience within the FM industry, plus his advice to someone starting out in the industry. If you missed the original article, catch up below…

What was your first job?

At 14-years-old, I started out working in a shoe shop in the centre of Leeds. My parents taught me that if you want to be successful, you have to start earning and appreciating your own money early.

How did you get into the facilities management industry?

I’ve been a part of the business since 2005, originally joining as a small works manager. Now I look after both the architectural and maintenance divisions, helping to make facilities’ glazing installations safe and compliant, throughout the UK.

How do you challenge the status quo?

Mainly by raising awareness of what can go wrong when bad industry decisions are made. For example, whenever we find fundamental issues with installations, we try to sensitively raise this with our customers, through our architectural provision. With planned preventative maintenance – something often not prioritised at all – installations can last much longer.

Since you started in FM what has been the biggest change the industry has seen/you have observed?

Unfortunately, during the last recession procurement behaviour in the industry meant that some decisions were made just on the basis of cost, and these habits seem to have continued. There are only a small number of main contractors learning from past mistakes – a trend driven by market insecurity and instability.

Who, in any other industry, do you most admire?

Philip Knight – the co-founder of Nike, Inc. He’s an innovative thinker who has overcome lots of problems by working with people and building his team – very admirable leadership qualities.

What is your favourite film?

It’s tricky to choose just one! Good Will Hunting and Carlito’s Way scoop the top spots for me. I enjoy watching films about people who have dramatic things happen in their lives, which then lead to positive changes.

If you could host a dinner party with three guests, dead or alive, who would they be and why?

My grandfather Jim, who I never met and would love to know more about, my father Steve, to make sure I keep grounded, and American ultramarathon runner David Goggins, whose determination I find really inspiring.

Any advice to someone just starting out in the industry?

For me, there are four key areas. The first is to keep your eyes on your own course and don’t get distracted by what the competition are doing. Secondly, don’t put everything on your own shoulders – engage, nurture and listen to your team, and work with them. Thirdly, make contingencies – it’s not always rosy, so it’s important to be prepared if the unforeseen happens. And finally, don’t put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to customers – keep your approach grounded and practical.

What do you think is the future of the FM industry?

It’s on the precipice of growing. As the new-build and construction markets start to improve, the FM industry will benefit too.

Also, with the availability of new smart technologies and more efficient, high-performance materials now more accessible, these advances will make FM more interesting. They’ll improve productivity, reduce costs and enhance energy efficiency.

Steve McGregor, Group MD at DMA Group asks: Which area of FM do you think could be best transformed through technology?

Definitely the surveying and fault-finding side of operations. For instance, the utilisation of Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology is useful for maintaining buildings and ensuring they are performing to the highest level. But I think there is far more innovation to come in this area.

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