THE ROOT OF THE MATTER

Kuwait 2018 | CONSTRUCTION & REAL ESTATE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ahmad Yousef Al Kandari, Vice Chairman & CEO of United Facilities Management (UFM), on weathering the storm, freeing up client potential, and laying the groundwork for successful organizational structure.

Ahmad Yousef Al Kandari
BIOGRAPHY
Ahmad Yousef Al Kandari has over 30 years of experience in facility management, real estate, banking, and investment. Since 2007, he has been at the wheel of UFM. Prior to this, he held key executive positions at United Real Estate (URC), during which he was responsible for managing signature properties in Kuwait, ranging from high-end malls to state-of-the-art business towers. He also draws on his expertise in finance and operations acquired while working at leading investment and banking companies in Kuwait, such as Real Estate Bank, Gulf Credit Company, and Kuwait Oil Company to successfully expand UFM’s business across the GCC and MENA region. He holds a bachelor’s in business administration management from Kuwait University.

What have been the major developments over the past 12 months?

The sector in which we operate is not directly affected when the economy slows down, including a fall in oil prices, because we provide services for existing buildings. We even slightly surpassed our financial and operational growth targets. Outside of Kuwait, we have some new projects and compared to other industries, we have been fortunate because of the nature of our business and the sector we serve.

Why do clients choose UFM as their partner for facilities management?

Our main philosophy is to look after everything for our clients so they can focus on their core business. Many of our clients have a wide range of services within their umbrella. They do their core business in addition to all the support services within their organization, and this is our main challenge. Some of the large malls in Kuwait have all the operations on their shoulders, while their core business is in fact managing and operating malls and getting the right mix of tenants to attract shoppers. Meanwhile, their time is taken up by maintenance, security, and cleaning, all of which take up a major part of their operations. We tell our clients to focus on their core business while we do the rest. This is especially difficult with the government, because of the way things are structured there. Typically, technical services are all under one undersecretary while the soft services go with the administration and HR department. There are many government and private sector organizations that have not yet benefited from having an integrated facilities management provider serving their organizational structure.

How do you make sure UFM consistently provides its customers with the highest quality services?

We have to understand their business and needs. Our focus is not only on the people whom we signed the contract with; we also have to look at the real customer within that contract. For example, although my contract may be with the owner of a mall to provide it with services, the most important people in that chain are the mall's visitors. We have to look into the client's needs and ensure he is getting the entire benefit. If we have a contract with a governmental body for a service center and people do not receive good service, it will be in the newspaper the next day, an embarrassment for that ministry or division. Understanding these relations and the importance of each partner within it is vital to our success.

What competitive advantages do you have?

We are the largest in Kuwait in terms of size, the number of projects, and number of employees, with over 3,700 staff members. We are one of the few companies that do over 95% of our business with our in-house team; we only outsource certain specialized services. We do not do landscaping because we have a sister company doing that; we give such contracts to this company because we do not want to create competition within the group. When it comes to cleaning, security, valet parking, and maintenance, we do it with our team. Subcontractors have their own standards, and even if we have a contract, it takes a great deal of energy to manage them and ensure they are working to our expectations. Our competitors who use third parties have staff who are not necessarily fit, clean, or presentable because they do not manage their accommodation and transportation. They might use public transportation, which takes time, especially if their accommodation is a long distance away.

What role do innovation and technology play in your company?

Facilities management is a technology-driven industry. We are one of the few companies in Kuwait that use a computer-aided facility management (CAFM) system to administrate operations. All our activities are generated, controlled, or documented through that system. This is important when we have such a large workforce where things change frequently.