In the 1800’s during the agricultural age, the first settlers would create their wealth and power by staking their claim to a piece of land. They settled in one place and worked their land to produce as much as they could from it; this would become the place they built their fortune.
People who failed to claim a piece of land wandered around aimlessly, doing odd jobs for the people who owned the land. These workers were called ‘swagmen’ because they carried all their possessions in rolled-up swags on their backs as they navigated from farm to farm. They had no place to call home and they just kept wandering around looking for any work they could find.
After a while all the workable land was claimed and they were stuck feeling frustrated and resentful that they hadn’t staked their land when they had the chance. They complained that they worked hard and didn’t get paid enough.
The problem was, they were so attached to the old way of thinking, which was to “work for fair exchange”. They were happy to use the farms for their income, but an attachment to the old way of thinking held them back from opening their mind and moving with the flow of the industry at that time.
Then came the industrial revolution.
If you had said to one of the swagmen that eventually the movement in technology would replace one thousand farm workers with an innovative machine that would complete their job in a fraction of the time and at half the cost, they would have laughed at you.
Well, that movement happened. Many functional people were replaced by machines created by vital people. Then it happened again in the information age whereby the creation of the internet allowed businesses to create products and machines far more quickly and cheaply than they had done for many years, which created new swagmen out of the people who were initially innovative enough to involve themselves with the creation of the machines the first place. And it all comes down to a dangerous selective learning process that takes place due to attachments to old ways of thinking.
There is a certain amount of information that you must take on board and embrace through any era if you want security and stability in your business, but it all depends on how functional or vital you are.
But what is a vital person and what is a functional person?
The Functional Person
Functional people might be great at what they do (like the swagmen). They might talk the talk and walk the walk, but the harsh reality is they are usually performing a role to a level that is or will be replaceable. A company can downsize functional people easily.
People who are in functional jobs see themselves as competent at their set of processes. They try to stay up to date with standards and make sure they are able to perform as directed, but they secretly resist change and don’t like disruptive new ideas.
Functional people are fearful that someone might come along who can do things better than they can. They are concerned about technology and new systems that could replace the tasks they know how to complete.
The Vital Person
Vital people just want to create more value and they want to deliver more of it regardless of how it happens. They aren’t concerned about using the benefits of new technology if it adds more value to their product or service.
No matter what, they will always adapt and change dynamically if it helps get them towards a better result, a faster result or a result that matters.
The word ‘vital’ has two definitions. One definition means ‘irreplaceable’ and the other means ‘life-force’.
Vital people see themselves as being the ‘irreplaceable life-force’ of a project or business.
A functional person wants to get more, a vital person wants to produce more.
The most successful businesses and people today are people who let go of the past.
When the late Steve Jobs took over Apple in 1997, one of his first decisions was to get rid of the Apple Museum that occupied the foyer where people walked through the front door. He said that he refused to be in a company that was living in the past. Apple are the company that created the phone, tablet or laptop you are probably reading this on.
Remember Blockbuster? That was the place you used to drive to on a Friday night, search for an overpriced film and buy overpriced popcorn and sweets. Then drive back home, watch the film and then drive back the following day to return the film to avoid a fine.
Then Netflix came along.
One click, £5.00 per month.
Blockbuster were so attached to the old way of thinking that they were buried by a start-up that had no contrast of the old methods to compare their idea too. In 1998, Reed Hastings simply embraced the technology around him and used it to get his message to the world.
So what does all this have to do with BMS?
If you are reading this blog and some light bulbs are going off inside your mind then that is great!
But the too farmiliar scenario we find ourselves in is a situation on a project whereby the mechanical, electrical or structural engineer will say something along the lines of “BMS goes over the top of my head, thats why we call you guys”.
Now this is a dangerous attachment to the past.
We appreciate that there will always be specialists in the industry but as mentioned earlier, we are living in the information age where we are welcoming technologies into our homes that listen to our conversations to figure out our habits, hobbies and interests. This is all for convenience.
BMS is becoming more and more personal as it moves into the information space that people are obsessed with now.
Dashboard displays, tablet control of plant and meeting rooms, energy reporting, information being streamed from smart meters, occupancy sensors and displaying more and more real time information.
Its the people who say things like “Its over the top of my head” that I fear will become the new swagmen.
They have selective learning and this will put them in serious danger in the very near future.
Ask yourself how long will it be acceptable to claim you are “not a tech person” when over the last 2 years you have learned how to stream photos via social media, carry out your banking online, book flights and cinema tickets using your phone and access, reply and forward your emails 24 hours of the day? Pretty selective learning wouldn’t you say?
Perhaps you are not a tech person in the things you don’t want to be a tech person in?
In fact, ask yourself if you have any attachments to the past and then ask the three why’s.
The Power Of The Three Why’s
If you are the person that doesn’t like to give your name to the barista in Starbucks, ask yourself why.
Once you have the answer, then ask yourself why to the answer you just gave. Once you have that answer, ask yourself why a final time.
By the end of this process, I would imagine that your answer is made up of no real substance or true opinion and is purely down to you just not wanting to move with the flow of the times.
Its also a great exercise of becoming more vital and less functional.
There has been a huge gap in the industry in terms of expertise and this could be due to the early 90’s recession but what we saw around the last ten years was many great engineers and consultants retiring from the game without being replaced by anyone of remotely the same calibre.
There was a void of expertise and anyone left was prone to becoming more ‘functional’ because they weren’t motivated in looking for new ways of doing things as it was easier to carry on doing things the way they had been done in their past.
But now we have the Millennials.
This new breed are coming into the work force with a mindset of the future. It’s normal these days to recognise that a seventeen year old girl can start a Facebook group for free whilst sitting in her bedroom.
She can have thousands of followers for free. She can talk to them all via video for free. She can write to them all for free. She can get them all excited about her ideas…. all without parting with any of her money.
The same teenager can create or source a product easily and cheaply. She can design a brand easily and cheaply. She can have an online store easily and cheaply. She can take payment easily and cheaply. She can send her products flying all over the world easily and cheaply.
The point is that most people attached to the past still think that these “whizz kids” are succeeding because they are good with technology, but thats not the whole story.
These Millennials aren’t attached to the idea that a business has to be the way it used to be.
They aren’t thinking about the past. They have no old ways to hold them back because they don’t have that comparison to make. They will simply embrace technology which is normal to them and use it as a tool to create more value faster.
The BMS industry is purely a micro niche within the building services industry and it is moving very quickly just like any technology.
Gone are the days where BMS was a controller hidden in a plant room panel that nobody wanted to understand. Nowadays, we want information. We want personal interaction with our building, our office and our home.
The truth is, the construction industry moves at a rate of fifty years from an idea to implementation, whereas the technology that drives it moves at a rate of eighteen months and unless you embrace it where needed, and let go of the past, you may find yourself being replaced by a twenty one year old graduate who can execute your role far more efficiently. If you enjoy Netflix, you may say “and quite rightly so!”
Reading this next section will either open your eyes or make you want to punch me in the face.
We carried out some detailed analysis of our turnover last year in order to discover the common pains in the industry so we could adapt an innovate towards solutions.
After hundreds of hours of research and number crunching, we became increasingly interested in the nature of the call-outs placed from clients in our service and maintenance division.
We found an astonishing 83% of our call outs between 1st April 2016 and 31st March 2017 were Non-BMS related!
Yes, people had spent a whopping £622,533.80 in one year on calling a BMS engineer to attend site for a mechanical fault.
People are spending literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pounds per year with suppliers who are not the most efficient for the job.
Is this because they know that people who work with technology are more likely to be vital people who like to resolve a problem? Or is it down to a lack of system understanding? Either way, I think it says a lot about the level of intelligence and the lack of education available in the industry.
This is why after thousands of pounds spent on market research and the adoption of new technologies, we as a vital team want to produce more value in the form of education to the industry. We always want to be doing the complete opposite of what our competition are doing.
If you thought BMS was a black art, you may have been misguided by the functional businesses trying to hide behind that statement in order to generate revenue and ride the myth.
The truth is, it simply isn’t a black art.
At Gemco, we are going to debunk, expose and provide complete transparency on BMS in order to educate, guide, teach and ultimately shift the industry for the better.
To find out more about our comprehensive and industry leader endorsed e-learning programme designed to educate building managers, consultants, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, architects, caretakers and apprentices on BMS and smart buildings, be sure to sign up for our notification letter below.
And don’t forget to check out our new Disruptor series of interviews with industry though leaders as we talk about the market, the pains and the future. This series, which will also be available via podcast download on iTunes, is designed to hightlight critical information and ideas from experts and key individuals in the industry to ensure that we all in-the-know, and can work towards best practice through partnerhips, collaboration, and knowledge sharing.
Lastly, please leave your comments below and your thoughts on this topic.
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