Heron Tower: Mobilisation for six-star service

by FM Media
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CHRIS STODDART, general manager of Heron Tower for Cushman and Wakefield, and Total Facilities 2012 speaker, relates what made the mobilisation of Heron Tower a success.

The transition of a building from a construction site into a revenue-generating environment can be one of the most complicated and critical times of a property’s life cycle. It prepares the building to come out of development, through marketing and fitting out, and into use.
The key activities of mobilisation are:

  • understanding the design, construction program and finished product
  • comprehension of the running costs and compiling a service charge budget for year one and beyond
  • creating a mobilisation budget and program
  • shaping the leasing documents
  • preparation of the fitout guide and tenants’ handbook, as well as other documentation necessary to support the agreements for lease
  • procurement and assembly of suppliers and the site team
  • monitoring of the construction process to identify challenges that will have to be managed
  • preparing the building for fitout, reviewing fitout proposals for impacts on building occupation and de-conflicting activities from multiple fitouts
  • organisation of technical training to ensure the effective operation of the building and the protection of warranties
  • monitoring defects and the management of their resolution, and
  • the assembly of information required to manage the building post completion.

Why is successful mobilisation of a building, especially a developer’s speculative investment, so important? A well-thought through and delivered mobilisation process is absolutely vital to ensure all risks are identified and managed to an acceptable level. A well-mobilised building reflects the developer’s vision and respects the design philosophy of both architects and engineers, as well as the needs of the target audience. It keeps the building ‘on-brand’, brings clarity to the leasing provisions, builds incoming tenants’ trust in the property and can be a deal clincher.
A developer’s reputation is at risk if the tenant experience or market perception is poor. A badly managed mobilisation process will give rise to residual liabilities from inadequate budgets, lease recovery provisions and/or poor building performance from badly managed fitouts.

What made the mobilisation of Heron Tower a success? From the outset, the developer’s vision was clearly stated. This included:

  • to be more like an international hotel than an office building
  • if you want commodity space, this is not the place to go
  • to be the best product of its kind – detail, detail, detail
  • to be a hotel manager, not an office manager, and
  • if you’re offering a six-star product, you can’t deliver three-star service.

Our mobilisation strategy reflected this vision. We undertook detailed research to differentiate ourselves from the London market. This research helped us to gain an understanding of where the perception of service is now and what the market requires.
In this research, trophy buildings were examined to help us understand the service and amenities on offer and distil the difference between five-star and six-star hotel service delivery. This research has been reflected in our grooming manual, couture garment design for the front of house and the Heron Academy, our talent selection and development program for delivering luxury customer service.
Concerning service partner selection, our service partners were selected with the following criteria:

  • output-based specifications
  • the appropriate allocation of risk
  • fully transparent open-book accounting
  • negotiations on contract duration – to allow the service partner to invest in the contract
  • appropriate share/save reward schemes
  • objectivity – to allow all parties to clearly understand what is being measured, and
  • an alignment of objectives.

All staff selection included psychometric testing, which was mapped out against role profiles, and all staff were interviewed by me or the Heron Tower operations manager prior to an offer of employment. In addition, all staff received a letter of welcome from me and went through a detailed induction program, which included both building specific training and, more importantly, an understanding of the vision.
The Heron Academy allows for continual training and development; for instance, language training for front of house and formal health and safety qualifications for the cleaning team. Other initiatives running through the academy are instant recognition awards, staff events, monthly informal team meetings and the Sirius Award.
Our first Sirius Awards evening took place on 21 June 2012, with electrical engineer, Kevin Tranter, receiving a week’s trip for him and his family to Disney World, Orlando. As an additional prize, Tranter received three days at the Walt Disney Management School focusing on customer service.
Despite everything thrown at us, the mobilisation of Heron Tower has been a success based on the following:

  • early engagement of the principals in the facilities management team
  • planning and programming
  • budget management
  • having a supportive client
  • having an experienced team that knows what they are doing (mobilisation is not the place to learn on the job, as mistakes at this stage tend to be expensive)
  • management of the post-construction snagging process
  • de-confliction of the fitout, snagging and facilities management operations
  • client management, and
  • tenant management.

Chris Stoddart is the general manager of Heron Tower for Cushman and Wakefield. His track record includes the mobilisation process and ongoing management of 204,972 square metres of both corporate and commercial, A grade office space over the past 12 years. Stoddart was the winner of BIFM 2011 FM of the Year, is chair of the BIFM Fellows Forum and is a founding committee member of BIFM Women in FM SIG.

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