Mr. Alex Ejiogu is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of AGE Facility Management. The CEO practiced facility management services in Saudi Arabia for 8 years before he moved to Dubai to manage one of its biggest Shopping Malls. In this interview with EBERE CHIBUZOR, the facility manger says that lack of maintenance culture is the bane of property development in the country.
What does it entail to be into facility management? Can you throw more light on that?
We are a construction company that specializes in furnishing other companies’ projects with the intention to achieve their clients’ dreams in respect to the type of facility they want to have, based on how prestigious, how clean and how fanciful and how efficient it is supposed to be.
However, when the construction fails, it is left to the clients and the facility management service provider to achieve such companies’ dreams.
The construction itself cannot just only give you the service but with the structure there and sometimes the structure is done properly but after a while the fancy look of that structure will start coming down and as a result of how it is handled, post construction will determine whether the luxury and the deluxe of the construction is still maintained.
So for this reason construction companies have started making sure that, they hand over prestigious construction projects to professionals in the facility management; people that can effectively look after what they intend to achieve with the construction.
So, with that in mind, some companies opt for in-house facility management providers and some go into partnership with established iconic facility management providers that are doing it as their own core business.
This is to ensure that proper and effective maintenance strategies are put in place after completion of such projects.
So if you have that post construction contract, you can always guarantee that a building or the structure will be fit for the purpose of which it is built.
So the experts in service provision in terms of facility will look at what is done and then start to make sure that they look at what is required, the expectation of the owner.
We are experts in service provision in terms of facility management and AGE is a specialist in providing service in the facility World. AGE stems from years of experience in looking after prestigious projects and facility internally.
AGE has operated in Dubai and other countries where quality and prestige is the order of the day.
AGE principles have ran big prestigious facility like the Mall Of Emirate and Skii Dubai and all the Five Star hotels and have ran big facilities for companies like Glaxo Smithline, Pfizer, and other big pharmaceutical Companies. We have also done a variety of services for areas where quality is required.
Some people develop properties without proper maintenance arrangement. What is your view on that?
It is like a nightmare and also a white elephant project because that is what we have seen so far in Nigeria really. Nigerians are one of such people that don’t seem to have maintenance culture and Nigerians travel quite a lot.
They go all these prestigious countries like UK Dubai, US and they stay in very good hotels. However, when they come back they discover that their own country’s similar projects may have spent about the same money to develop similar projects but they are not being maintained.
Is like saying to them, well why spend all these money in developing similar structures but you don’t have the strategy of maintaining them.
It is the key to bear in mind that the bedrock of those prestigious building in Dubai, US, UK is maintenance and that is why they remain what they are, why they remain five star, six star and 7 star.
Why do people go to these countries you have just mentioned and have the kind of comfort?
People go to them because somebody is behind the scene taking care of them. The facility manager are always at the back of prestigious and fancy building doing the hard work of making sure that service are intact completely.
Though you don’t see them often but they are the people providing the services. And it is just not the human factor or resources as required;of course budget has to be set out to ensure that those services are done.
So budget in terms of spare parts, in terms of material to use, in terms of salary to pay the people doing the work, environment to function to do what you want to do with that building and allow you to concentrate to your core business .
However, what AGE does in generally is to act as an outsource service instead of having people trying to run around within the organization trying to fix their services, find out if your toilet is running, find out if your water is flowing, find out whether the air conditioner is working.
With the expertise that they have gained in international practices and international services, they will look at your facilities and give it the best in class while they proceed in their core businesses.
So to answer to your question- it will be a nightmare for someone to invest in a prestigious building and don’t have a strategy, or plan or budget to have maintenance attach to it. And AGE will not encourage that.
AGE in the years of operations has always encouraged people whose existing facilities worth millions; those with existing facility that are around us, do what they call condition survey.
By this they find out what is not working; we help them to understand what is needed to be done to get them working, agree with how much is going to cost them working, review their existing practices and advise them accordingly and get them into place, providing the budget fund.
As for those that are starting newly as it were, they come in as early as possible at conceptual stage. We look into their cases and reason with them to know exactly what they want to do and whatis the end product.
We work with the entire of their sub contractors to make sure that their desires are achieved and that a sustaining period is maintained to give a proper life circle of the facility. That is what AGE specializes for.
AGE pride itself and also makes sure that their clients are satisfied with the quality of services they needed.
What do you think is the best strategy for AGE to penetrate into the Nigerian market?
In Nigeria business is not easy as it were . In Nigeria business is difficult in the sense that people still believe that the best way in looking at the property particularly the commercial project is just the capital cost of construction.
They don’t realized that to achieve the proper life circle of that project, they have to build a maintenance strategy to make sure that things that need to be done is done properly and also maintained properly.
So to penetrate into Nigeria market, this is important; let Nigerians know that what they are getting in Dubai, what they are getting in US and UK is achievable in Nigeria if only they can maintain their facilities.
Let them understand those things that are being done in those countries are paid for, there is a budget for it.
They should understand that life is too short; if your environment is bad, there is no point having a luxurious life outside and having a stinking environment inside your bed room.
So environmental concern and ability to live right is something we can always take as priority. Forget about spending money on staying in Dubai for two weeks in Dubai as it does not replace 20 months in Nigeria.
So it is better to look at where one spends much of your time and think of how you make it comfortable.
What do you think that AGE can do differently?
AGE manages the source of right partners, right clients and right customers that really want to spend their money where their mouth is.
AGE can demonstrate that what is achievable in Dubai, achievable in UK and US can also be achievable in Nigeria. Therefore, AGE can boast of the right kind of skills and can make sure that they get the best of their facility easy.
There are references for them to see what AGE has done internationally. So if AGE can build in Dubai, UK and US, it a can also do same in Nigeria.
So it is a question of getting the right people that get the right type of priorities, that got the type of passion of what they want to do in their country and AGE will help them in alliance partnership to achieve that.
How do you think AGE can promote tourism in Nigeria?
So it is important that professional companies like AGE are taken to such places to make sure that they mirror the service levels that are being offered there; come back here and offer it to places like Tinapa.
With such moves, everything will be available in Nigeria, not just because of the location, not because of the cleanliness but just because of the services.
That is how tourism can only be improved. However, that can only be achievable if companies like AGE are engaged by these numerous tourists sites. We focus our attention on to detail that drives a mirror to international standard in services provision.
How does AGE and Clarion complement each other?
AGE and Clarion combination in Nigeria is a scenario that is unique. The Managing Director of AGE happens to be the representative of Clarion Logistics as well.
As it is, AGE is in the services business, in terms of facility management while Clarion business is a global business. So AGE can contract services from Clarion.
Clarion being a logistics company, can go and prepare materials and equipment on behalf of AGE and do what they call door to door services at the point of manufacture to the point of use.
What do we expect from AGE in the nearest future?
In the next five years, we expect AGE to start having one of two assignments in Nigeria which can become a reference point. We want to see a situation where people can say this place is nice and who is taking care of it .
In any business there are bound to be challenges, what are your challenges and how do you intend to tackle some of these challenges?
The challenge that Age may likely have in Nigeria is that Nigerians may not want to pay for the services. Payment is an issue; payment is bedrock of effective provision because service providers have to be paid.
How did AGE Start?
AGE was originally registered in 2010 after the Chief Executive Officer left corporate employment and decided to start it.
AGE started with a group of specialists in all aspect of facility management.
Since then, it has been involved in mostly facility consultancy, advising people that are chasing prestigious projects in property development like Shopping Malls, companies like Shell trying to remodel their types of facility services and maintenance.