"I know a man who can do that"

In his roles as Technical Officer for 16 Air Assault Brigade and Facilities Manager at RAF Bruggen, Vince McNaught was certainly no stranger to overseeing large infrastructures. However, even he admits he was daunted at the prospect of looking after Canary Wharf's 97 acres of estate. Here, he discusses how the constant 'pursuit of excellence' within the Services helped him through.
 
Vince McNaught’s flexible attitude to his operations manager role at Canary Wharf Management Ltd has ensured he is a key member of the management team that everyone turns to when a challenge arises – albeit, sometimes, in areas not immediately synonymous with the glamour Canary Wharf exudes – waste for example, 780 tonnes of it to be exact.
It may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of facilities management but with 107,000 people on a 97-acre estate, inhabitants would soon start to notice if it was ignored.

Vince knows this topic inside and out as he reels off some fascinating facts: “Owing to the high pressure workers are under here, roughly 20% are smokers, a conservative estimate says they’ll smoke 5 cigs a day – that equates to roughly 40 million cigarette butts a year.” Take a stroll around Canary Wharf and you’ll be hard pushed to find one.
This fine attention to detail can be linked directly to Vince’s committed start to the day, which starts at 7-7.30 every morning. A kind of ‘Captain’s Rounds’, Vince meets all his supervisors, team leaders and managers before the ‘walkabout’ so that he can structure the day accordingly.

He explains: “You have to think, why is Canary Wharf so successful at attracting and maintaining its client base? A valid part of it is the high standards of maintenance and upkeep as demonstrated across the common areas.’’

It’s this pursuit of excellence Vince attributes to his time in the Services, which saw him working in a mixture of facilities management and engineering roles – in one he was responsible for keeping the RAF Bruggen open all winter, a feat which stood him in great stead for his first ‘challenging’ year at Canary Wharf, due to the adverse weather in Britain that winter: “I’m happy to report that the estate stayed open and the vast majority of the 107,000 commuters still made it into work."
 
Vince helps make sure you'll be hard pushed to find a cigarette butt on the 92-acre estate Vince admits that the first year was ‘daunting’. “Nowhere in the MOD do you have an estate with 107,000 people in it. I had many problems launched at me in that first year, which took me back to my problem solving time at Sandhurst in some ways.”

However, although he’s worked harder than he ever did in the Services, he loves the sense of empowerment and autonomy it has given him – “I’m able to come up with the plans for long term projects and there's less red tape –subsequently things happen quicker!’’

He finds that the high pressure and demanding inhabitants are a pro, rather than a con – “they push you to sustain that level of excellence and it really is worth it when you see the end product and think that was down to me, I personally made a difference.”

And make a difference he has. From saving the company money with the correct recycling techniques to ensuring a vast array of entertainment is serviced seamlessly across Canary’s Wharf’s park and large-event spaces.

Vince finds that changing mindsets, from high-end business execs' to retailers', is one of the most enjoyable parts of his role: “It’s important to explain why a new idea needs to be implemented and understanding people is key to this process. Again, my time in the Services really helped here, I worked with a lot of young people, from diverse backgrounds.”

Dealing with both the big and small problems is also integral to Vince’s success. A seemingly small incident can, however, become a large one. This is where the Captain’s Rounds become such an imperative start to the day.

Despite the pressure and endless attention to detail it’s clear that Vince is extremely passionate about this role and wants success for Canary Wharf in all its future ventures and endeavours – most of all he enjoys it. I, for one, will never again look at Canary Wharf in the same way, now I know the level of effort that goes into it behind the scenes, and each time I preamble through, will wonder what unforeseen challenge Vince has dealt with in the early hours that morning.

Please note: If you're considering facilities management as a career, find out more about what it entails at the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM). Here, you can work towards professional recognition and gain qualifications that will give an important indication of your level of experience in facilities management.

The OA works with former-Officers during their transition to civilian employment and is able to offer advice and guidance on a variety of occupations and sectors. It also provides a matching service to enable employers to access this talent pool. For more information, visit: www.officersassociation.org.uk.



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