Industry Leaders Forum: Mark Fermor, General Manager APAC, TEAM Software by Workwave

Discover TEAM Software's transformative 2023 journey: integration, growth, and innovation, setting the stage for an ambitious 2024.

How was 2023 for TEAM Software? What were the highlights? What were the challenges?

In hindsight, 2023 has been a year of many new things for TEAM Software APAC. Our integration with the WorkWave family is complete, and our local team is happy where we landed, as we are now part of a group that delivers solutions to FM companies across the globe. This has given us the platform to deliver more in APAC in the coming years, so watch this space!

As the business has grown, so have our people. We now have an APAC Leadership Team that coordinates across departments and links us to the broader WorkWave business units. I’d like to congratulate Kaylene Ward, Vivian Woo and Will McClellan for their promotions and thank them for stepping up to lead their respective teams.

The macroeconomic climate has weighed heavily on many businesses, but we have continued with steady growth and look forward to closing the year out above target. It’s refreshing for us to know that our solutions are seen as essential parts of our clients’ businesses, saving costs and winning new contracts. In slower years the “nice to haves” tend to fall off the radar and companies double down on what really works. Our systems clearly help, so we continue to grow.

What are the company’s main priorities for 2024?

In 2024, we will start to offer solutions to a broader range of markets in APAC. Our focus on Cleaning has always been strong, but next year we will expand this by introducing WorkWave Service, which caters to cleaning companies in Emerging Markets (1-100 employees).

We will also expand our offering to the APAC Security sector with the introduction of TEAM by WorkWave. In the UK almost 80% of the 20 largest security companies use TEAM, and once the localisation is completed for APAC, we look forward to offering the system benefits to clients down-under.

In another exciting step, we will look to expand into Pest Control with our US-based product called Pestpac. Pestpac delivers everything a company needs to be best in Pest, and it’s really taken the US market by storm.

What do you see as the most significant opportunities in the cleaning industry? How can technology help industry leverage or address these? 

The market has thrown a lot of new technology at the cleaning industry over the last few years. Those companies that have adopted new tech, need to make sure they are using the systems properly to realise a good ROI. Companies can be tempted to get “the next big thing,” without realising the ROI from last year’s big thing. You do not want to end up in a cycle of spending money, saying you have the latest tech but never realising business benefits!

Staff retention, and hence knowledge retention, has been a big challenge since COVID-19 measures. This has and will continue to ease up, so now is the opportunity to ensure that staff know their systems and use them effectively. Review your system usage against the original criteria for selection, and make sure you are getting your money’s worth.

What do you see as the most significant challenges? How can technology help the industry leverage or address these? 

My guess is that costs will continue to increase during 2024. Inflation is not under control, and as cleaner’s wages are legislated in Australia, it’s likely that the base cost of cleaning will continue to increase. Companies should fight their own inflation.

Control costs: Overspending on anything in the business will make or break you in this climate! Technology can help you track every hour and every dollar of costs, and when it comes to wages make sure you do. Ensure you use technology to track your materials and confirm that consumables are well spent. Ensure that no purchase order is sent to suppliers without knowing if the site budget allows for it. Many cleaning companies budget around 5% of the contract value for materials, and an overspend in this area can wipe out any profit earned on a site.

If, as a business owner you are not 100% confident what your spend is per site, then the systems you are using are not supporting your business in controlling costs.

Improve productivity: The industry is offered a broad spectrum of technology to help improve productivity. As cleaning time is too expensive to add, quicker ways to achieve the same thing are a must. In my recent visit to the ISSA Cleaning show in Melbourne, I was astonished at all the new innovative products on the market. Companies need to be aware of these innovations and implement those that improve productivity.

An important area that TEAM Software operates in is proof of service, or even productivity! If you invest in a new mop that cleans twice as fast as the old mop, it’s no good if the cleaner is not performing the task as they should. More and more, clients want confirmation that the work is being done, so ensure your business monitors how productive staff really are on site.

What do you expect to be the big trends of 2024?

In a word, Consolidation. The last two years have shifted the market and economic environments. I do not believe we will be heading back to the same conditions as before 2020 any time soon, so companies will need to learn how to operate under these new conditions.

They will have to find the value in systems and technology they have now, rather than spend big on new investments. Staff will stick around for longer, so invest in their knowledge and productivity.

What’s your leadership philosophy?

Not to be a manager. If someone requires management, they most likely lack enthusiasm for the work they are doing. Make sure you surround yourself with people who share the same goals as you, and support them to succeed.

Do you have a message for the industry?

The IT industry, like most others, comes up with hypes all the time: Who can remember “Big Data”? What ever happened to “The Internet of Things (IoT)”? Or, what are you doing with “AI”? The last one being the current top trender, thanks Elon Musk!

Whether these things are good or bad for your business should not be measured based on their existence. Just because it’s a hype, does not mean it offers your business any value. Make sure you look at technology through the lens of value to the business, not a must-have because it’s the current trend!

This article first appeared in INCLEAN magazine

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