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Face-to-Face: Maen Saddeq, CEO, MAB FM

Having built the company from scratch, MAB FM CEO Maen Saddeq explains his selective approach to winning new business and servicing five-star clientele

Self made: Maen Saddeq, chief executive officer, MAB Facilites Management in conversation with fmME.
Self made: Maen Saddeq, chief executive officer, MAB Facilites Management in conversation with fmME.

MAB Facilities Management (MAB FM) has developed a strong reputation across the regional FM sector, bagging big contract wins over its 12-year history.Maen Saddeq — MAB FM’s CEO — started the company back in 2005 and recalls: “I had a vision to build an integrated facilities management company in late 2005.

“I came to Dubai and started the company myself, eventually winning our first project in April of 2006 with Emaar in Dubai,” Saddeq says.

In 2007, MAB branched out into neighbouring Abu Dhabi after it established a strategic relationship with Abu Dhabi’s Aldar Properties — becoming the FM company of choice for its projects that were completed over the next four years. “Al Raha Gardens was our first project win in Abu Dhabi,” Saddeq recalls.

In the years that followed MAB FM established its presence in Sharjah, while expanding regionally in Jordan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Saddeq says: “We have managed to build a great team of professionals in all disciplines, growing to more than 5,000 employees. Today, when I look back at the scale of the brand we have managed to develop, it’s been down to the eforts of the staff and management working tirelessly. We are the FM company of choice for clients looking to manage prestigious assets.”

Saddeq speaks fondly of all of MAB’s clients, and says the company has a set pattern when it looks at winning new business. “We are a five-star FM service provider, that’s undeniable ,” says a confident Saddeq as he reclines in his spacious office.

Saddeq backs up that statment by pointing to the company’s list of clientele. MAB is contracted by Abu Dhabi Tourism for the Louvre Museum in the capital, which opened in November 2017. Speaking of the Louvre museum he says: “It’s a project that requires utmost attention from every single team member involved.”

Saddeq is also pleased to have won the contract for The Index tower in DIFC — a 328m tall, 80-storey skyscraper in Dubai’s financial district.

“[We also work with] the engineering office of the Government of Dubai; in Abu Dhabi we serve Etihad Airways, Aldar, Musanada and Mubadala,” Saddeq says glancing out of his window, overlooking Sheikh Zayed Road, that offers a bird’s eye view of DIFC and Downtown Dubai.

In Sharjah, MAB works closely with Shurooq across all of the emirate’s museums, the Al Qasba area and Al Majaz waterfront. Saddeq adds: “We also provide the Government of Sharjah with security solutions across all of its buildings.

“We are not after quantity, considering our projects in Dubai such as Emaar Square, Boulevard Plaza, Marina Mall, Souq Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai and DIFC to name a few. I consider us to be a boutique FM service provider,” he says.

Delving into market conditions and the overall FM sector’s performance, Saddeq isn’t too concerned about issues surrounding cash flow and growth, and says that the FM industry will be in business as long as developers are looking to offer top-notch service to their investors.

“The adoption of FM from a developer’s point of view is quite interesting because there are always assets that simply cannot offer a low or medium range of service to its habitants. Consider the Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa or the Downtown district, the Louvre Museum in Abu Dhabi or the World Trade Centre in Abu Dhabi — these are prestigious assets and the client cannot afford to offer anything but the best,” Saddeq notes.

He identifies the UAE as a key driver in the sector, as stakeholders understand the importance of good FM, but it weren’t always the case , especially when Saddeq looks back on the early days.

“It wasn’t easy initially, and getting clients to understand the IFM concept was a bit of a challenge. However, developers such as Emaar made things easy and its ongoing relationship with Emrill helped for sure. In a way, Emaar is the pioneer in adopting the concept of integrated FM,” he explains.

The IFM concept was then ported to Abu Dhabi, when Saddeq managed to successfully sign an agreement with Aldar. The master developer, he says, saw the benefit of contracting FM works to a tier one operator, just as Emaar did in Dubai.

“Ultimately we have always focused on clients who appreciate the benefits of integrated FM. Some assets do not require a five-star level of service and historically older buildings and projects weren’t our area of focus when it came to winning new business. However, we have started to see a bit of a shift.

“Clients that have invested in facilities — even though they might not have been of a five-star calibre — which are now mid way through their lifecycles, are looking at FM companies that have a strong pedigree in comparison to those offering a single-service. They see opportunities for a re-birth, if you may, where you cannot afford to tear down and replace the asset, instead to modernise and rehabilitate what you already have,” he adds.

Like many leading FM companies, MAB has witnessed its share of contract regains in recent times. “As much as we say the market is mature [from an FM understanding perspective] there’s still some way to go. We see some developers trying to take on FM disciplines in-house. And in time, they find out that it’s not entirely their cup of tea. It’s better managed by a specialist, and that  has led to a fair amount of work re-wins,” Saddeq notes.

MAB FM has managed a healthy development of its business since it began operations in 2005, experiencing double digit year-to-date growth. “The FM industry is growing and even if there is a slowdown in the economy our sector keeps on growing. Since we began the company in 2005, we have witnessed an annual growth of 20%-25% in revenue,” Saddeq notes.

However, challenges in terms of working with tighter budgets from owners’ associations and asset managers has made the firm think outside the box. “You have to comply with the property/asset management company, or the developer, to keep costs in check. That doesn’t change even though we service landmark destinations across the region. We are not penny pinching, but we work with every client to understand their needs and ensure a sustained level of quality.

“Now, that isn’t easy when the client is expecting a high level of service. And over time our operations teams have mastered ways to ensure clients receive the right level of service within stipulated budgets,” Saddeq adds.

He also says facilities managers, who have years of experience, come up with savings models for each client — right from energy efficiencies to routine activities. He says: “There are secrets in this industry where you can find ways to save money for the client.”

MAB’s success — like most FM companies — has been down to the commitment of its staff. Saddeq’s philosophy of “building expertise of disciplines in-house rather than outsourcing them” is followed until this day.

“The vision when I started the company was to hire directly and not sub-contract jobs because the concept I built the company on was to have direct connections with the staff — to impart training and grow a corporate culture among them. We only sub-contract a few specialised disciplines such as elevators and escalators. Other than that I believe in having our own staff and offering them good accommodation and focusing on employee welfare,” he states.

Work standards and benchmarks are also taken quite seriously, and Saddeq says MAB was one of the first FM companies to acquire BICSc standards. MAB FM has also acquired ISO certifications — ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 18001 and ISO 50001. “We take these ISO certifications seriously and they are part of our corporate culture, and not merely a tick box exercise,” he says.

To meet staffing requirement MAB works closely with recruitment agencies based in Asia and Africa, who train new recruits under MAB’s supervision. However, a new training centre is in the offing (see box out on p21) that will assist MAB’s staff that work in different sectors.

The Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA) is mulling a first-of-its-kind rating system for FM companies. In the November edition of fmME, Concordia’s Sanjay Bhatia welcomed the authority’s decision. And Saddeq resonates the sentiment as the rating system will translate to more transparency.

“The rating system [from RERA] will help a lot and it will also help developers and clients because it will make the tendering process a lot simpler. For instance, developers need not waste time and invite a plethora of FM companies to a critical asset. They will be able to bring a select few five-star FM companies to the table. It will also allow FM companies to compete on a level playing field,” Saddeq notes.

Building on the company’s success, MAB is building standalone businesses for its support services – landscaping, pest control, firefighting systems, and security systems. “These companies will need some time to mature, over the next five years to 10 years… When it comes to FM, it’s a still a relatively new field and the UAE is setting the benchmark with regards to quality, level of service and maturity of the sector.”

Financial institutions are willing to lend their hand to the cause and are relatively supportive of the sector. Saddeq says UAE banks have always been willing to support: “They understood the importance of the sector early on, and that is extremely important for the growth of FM.”

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