ISS and McLaren: The Path to Pole Position – Henrik Andersen and Andy Myers

Growing numbers of corporates are seeing the benefits of taking a holistic approach to facilities management outsourcing. Andy Myers of McLaren and Henrik Andersen of ISS tell Rod James how taking time to understand each other's corporate values can result in strong partnerships and increased levels of service excellence.  

In May 2003, architectural firm Foster + Partners applied the finishing touches to the McLaren Technology Centre, one of its most impressive projects to date. The vast glass and steel structure is set in 50,000 square metres of English countryside, and incorporates an artificial lake that is used to heat and cool the facility. It is where some of the world's best engineers and designers create and test the racing cars, performance cars and electronic components that the firm is famous for.

Since McLaren's Formula 1 debut in 1966, 107 racing teams have come and gone. More amazingly, its cars have won a quarter of all grands prix since then. This sense of history is palpable in the atrium that runs the length of the facility, known as 'the boulevard'; it is lined with championship-winning cars from across motor-racing classes. According to Andy Myers, the company's CFO, the centre is very much a part of McLaren's ethos and is symbolic of its success.

"We are extremely competitive – we aspire to win at everything we do," he explains. "This building is integral to our values and what we are. It is a demonstration of our brand, and one that we want to share with all our sponsors and partners."

The premium McLaren places on its technology centre makes attention to detail imperative, not only in terms of the products and ideas that emerge from the building, but in the running of the facility itself. All work surfaces are spotless, with no protruding wires or desk clutter, and even the smallest components are carefully audited.

"When you have Ron Dennis as your chairman, with his extremely high standards, this building has to be perfect," Myers explains. "It's now six and a half years old but needs to look like new and work properly. If it doesn't work, and you can't get a component to the racetrack or a car off the end of the line, you can lose a race or lose a fortune."

New approach

With this in mind, around two years ago the company decided to outsource its facilities management. Up until that point it had no defined view on the subject, outsourcing some services and occasionally bringing them back in-house at a later date. McLaren came to realise that outsourcing would not only result in cost savings but would allow it to direct greater resources towards its highest-value activities. In Myers' view, this time around it was integral to find the right partner for the job.

"We may have looked too simplistically at what seemed to be the cheapest thing to do at the time," Myers says. "But our business isn't to clean, maintain and look after a facility. We are about technology, racing cars and electronics. We knew we had to find a partner, but it had to be the right partner, who is 100% committed to what we want."

"There is a growing understanding that there is a real advantage to taking a holistic approach to outsourcing."

McLaren decided on facilities management leader ISS. Employing around 520,000 staff across more than 50 countries, ISS is not just a major player in its field but one of the largest private employers in the world. Despite this size and experience, its UK CEO, Henrik Andersen, admits that forming a partnership with McLaren was a daunting undertaking.

"It is fair to say that when our board heard about the McLaren opportunity, some could not quite believe it," he says. "McLaren has extremely high standards and a unique ethos. In addition, there are many specialised working environments on site, conceptually more similar to what you might find in a healthcare or data centre than a manufacturing facility."

Both men realised that, for facilities management provision to be of the highest standard, the relationship would have to go above and beyond a conventional business arrangement. The employees of ISS would need to not just understand McLaren's values but fully embrace them.

"When Henrik and I met initially, we both agreed that things would have to be done that you'd never normally do in a commercial relationship," Myers says. "I don't think you'd get many chief executives coming down to a facility at 9pm to brief staff making a changeover. That is extremely impressive and shows his commitment to the partnership."

This commitment was formed through many months of discussion, with both sides wanting to make sure that their respective outlooks were understood before any paperwork was signed. In Andersen's view, it was a good example of what can be achieved when senior management takes true ownership and a deep interest in how a partnership should work.

"We didn't start by discussing the details and wording of a contract," Andersen explains. "We spent the best part of half a year exchanging views of the world, of the culture from when you drive through the gates to when you are sitting in this chair. Once this process had taken place and a deal was agreed, it wasn't long until the papers were signed."

Performance boost

Although it is still early days, the partnership is blossoming. ISS has come to understand the role that McLaren's drive for excellence can have in boosting its own performance.

"Formula 1 is the prime example of where excellence is defined," Andersen explains. "A tenth of a second can be the difference. You can see the value for us and how we can use McLaren in building our company ethos. They have 1,500 employees, we have 42,000 people in the UK. If we can develop our programmes well, so that we become just a minute faster every day, that is 42,000 minutes to invest in our stakeholders."

Andersen also notes that benefits can be derived from the facility itself. "For a global company like us, it can be quite difficult to bring customers together and hold an event that they are able to attend," he says. "Typically, people will have to give up a couple of days of working time. They could come here, which would give us an opportunity to show what we do and how we work with a company on the culture side. It's an opportunity for us to associate with McLaren, but also to bring in some potentially useful decision-makers for them."

Partner potential

McLaren is also eyeing a number of potential projects that can benefit from its partner's strength. The company's high-end catering service Absolute Taste is one such example.

"In March we held a meeting with the head of ISS' hospitality and catering division and looked at where we could work together," Myers explains. "With the muscle, size and scope of ISS and the power of McLaren's brand name and attention to detail, we can win contracts together."

The CFO believes that this approach to doing business is becoming an increasingly significant part of Formula 1's offering. The sport brings some of the world's largest corporates together and allows for discussions to take place that could later result in the sort of partnerships that ISS and McLaren have formed.

"People have associations with McLaren because we are extremely successful, so you start to have brands that want to be associated with success," Myers explains. "What is becoming a bigger part of the business model is B2B, the meetings of minds that aren't part of a contract, but more informal. It starts with a conversation and months later a commercial transaction happens."

Looking ahead, Andersen sees the relationship with McLaren becoming a blueprint for growth, with facilities management coming to play a more influential role in corporate strategy. He also believes the decision to outsource all aspects of facilities management will become an increasingly popular one.

"There is a growing understanding that there is a real advantage to taking a holistic approach to outsourcing," he says. "We are now seeing sectors that only ever outsourced the odd single service ask for advice on how an integrated approach can yield better results. With McLaren we can develop the best methods, the best practices and the best equipment to help our customers do this."

Henrik Andersen, CEO of ISS UK.
Andy Myers, CFO of McLaren.
The McLaren Technology Centre has become as iconic as the vehicles and components made within it. Foster + Partners has also designed the McLaren Production Centre, due to open in June 2011, where the firm will make road cars.
The boulevard showcases a legacy of motor-racing success spanning more than 40 years.