Farhaana Mohidien: Breaking the glass ceiling at Servest Group

Farhaana Mohidien talks about power, principles and people in a company that holds international shares worth over R16-billion.

Farhaana Mohidien, Servest’s Group Head of Marketing, left the banking industry to join the facilities management (FM) industry because she needed more multiplicity in her job.

You would be forgiven to think this is paradoxical because what can facilities management offer that is so exciting?  Try a company that holds international shares worth R16.40BN, more than two thirds of the estimated R25BN industry, a figure that immediately makes you sit up straight and now add to that, the fact that it is one of the fastest growing industries in the world.

This male dominated environment has opened itself to embrace women around the boardroom table and Farhaana is set to turn the table right on its head from within, by what she calls, “an empty box with a limitless ceiling”.

Seeing the opportunity for change in the industry and the opportunity to contribute towards it; and the fact that she was welcomed with open arms by the CEO, Steve Wallbanks and his team, made the move that much more worthwhile for her. “I realised very early in my working career that women have much to give in the form of EQ, which adds a completely new and powerful dynamic to any team”, she says.

“The FM business is a people’s business, yet the people on the ground have limited communication channels to corporate and we are actively changing that – we want to become a company of choice for people who have the prerequisites to turn this into a more diverse industry, which is a priority for Servest”, she says.

For her, growing people in a way that makes them see their own potential is a personal journey, having herself had strong leaders, who were not afraid to grow her. Farhaana says, “it is important to realise the strengths of your team and when it gets to a point where you can no longer teach them anything, then you know it is time for you to move to something else, even if it is a lateral shift to keep growing your own knowledge; and Servest certainly has much to offer as an organisation that is still young”.

Progressive

Farhaana says that the company, and indeed the industry, is more progressive than what people think.  Innovation forms part of the company’s key imperatives to allow them to constantly and consistently be ahead of its competitors, in offering the best suite of services to their clients. An example of this thinking is the way in which the team is working towards sharing information across this business, so that everyone is equally informed in order to provide the best service possible.

Needless to say, building the brand is one of Farhaana and her team’s greatest functions; however this is no easy feat. Colleagues are placed all over the country, in different industries and indeed in different companies, so they tend to adopt the culture of the company where they work.

In some instances, clients actually negotiate these terms into their contracts. “We are happy to provide the specifics, but it is not without its challenges”, says Farhaana.” It must be viewed within the context of the client’s expectations and requirements, and fortunately we have regional head offices because external challenges ultimately become internal issues.  This brings us back to the brand and in ensuring ambassadors for Servest, the company’s CEO engages all colleagues on a regular basis, through Town Halls, walk-abouts, recognition programmes and an open door policy.

Farhaana says “in the beginning it was difficult to get used to such an amorphous organisation, but it should be viewed within the context of her restricted mining and banking background. As a facilities management company, we have to lead by example, so we try to emulate internally, what we offer externally to our clients. 

According to an independent survey that was conducted by CXI Today, on behalf of Servest, “service, quality, access to technical expertise, reducing costs and the ability for end-users to focus on their core business, will drive outsourcing in the next five years.”

Global, European and African nearshore outsourcing will increase a fair bit in the next five years, while there will be moderate growth in total facilities management (TFM), integrated services and TFM and property services. Bundled services will increase substantially, while single services will decrease.

When it is all said and done, Farhaana has her role cut out for her and “the awaiting tasks, could not excite her more”, she says.

 

Mettle Administrative Services

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