Gary helps top city offices make the grade


When a business plans to relocate, there are three important questions to ask when looking at potential new offices: is the building well located for our staff? What’s the specification like? Is it well maintained?

When it comes to 54, Hagley Road, Edgbaston, businesses can add a fourth – and possibly game-changing – question: does it have a first-class building manager?

Luckily for the 18 tenants, who include companies with a national and global reach, at the landmark office building, the answer to all those questions is: yes.

Joints agents Bilfinger GVA and GBR Phoenix Beard secured five new major lettings last year, including Extra Energy and Alliance Surgical, the largest national group of consultants in private practice in the UK, which recently moved 100 staff to the 10th and 11th floors of the east wing of the building.

The success is thanks, in part, to the reputation of Gary Hawkswood, who has led the building facilities team since 2009 and has forged a reputation as a formidable manager who knows every inch of the impressive 150,000 sq ft of prime office space.

He’s the go-to person that tenants contact if ever anything needs to be sorted – and for George Jennings, associate at Bilfinger GVA, having a reliable building manager is worth its weight in gold.

“We have a successful building that is very well run and it’s certainly the most active building in Edgbaston. Having someone of Gary’s calibre looking after it on a day-to-day basis is a great selling point when you are showing potential tenants around,” said George.

Richard Smith, managing director of Opus Land, the landlord of 54 Hagley Road, agreed: “Gary’s a one-stop shop who knows everything about the building and has everything at his fingertips to make sure it runs smoothly. He certainly makes my job as landlord a lot easier. It’s a big building and it needs to run efficiently and properly.”

It’s not just the £20 million investment in improvements since 2007 that makes the development, which comprises two high-rise offices that are linked by a glass atrium, such an attractive prospect.

Gary makes sure his team provides a professional and polished service at all times – from the friendly receptionists, 24-hour security, to the cleaning staff who ensure every corner is spotless.

He has been part of the fixtures and fittings at 54 Hagley Road since 1996, when he took a job as security guard.

Over the years, he began to take more interest in the backroom operations and was eventually rewarded for his expertise in 2009 when he was appointed building manager, having sole responsibility for the complex.

“I love doing it,” he said. “If I wasn’t involved in everything, I couldn’t offer a seamless service. The tenants pay my salary through their annual service charge, so it is absolutely vital that I do a good job for them so that they get on with running their business and not focusing on the facilities.

“In this business, you’re here to make sure people are happy with their work environment. Tenants shouldn’t even have to think about facilities because these things should run smoothly in the background.

“Like the best of services, you don’t notice it until there’s an issue, and we try to anticipate any potential problems beforehand. But, this is a large office building, and when something does go wrong, we deal with it in as smooth and efficient way as possible. Key to that is always being honest with the tenants and keeping them informed as to what is going on.”

Gary is found on site every day, dealing with all level of queries and ensuring that the building is in tip-top condition, from the ensuring the reception area is ft to welcome visitors to keeping on top of all the scheduled maintenance and repairs. He also chairs quarterly meetings with tenants and the landlord so that any concerns or suggestions can be raised.

“As far as I’m concerned, 54 Hagley Road is the best building in Edgbaston – and has been transformed internally to meet the needs of a 21st century occupier. All the floors have been refurbished and a lot of money has been spent on making it an exceptional office building – from new windows and boilers to air-handling units.

“You won’t get better, in my opinion, because we have always had landlords who are prepared to put their hands in their pockets and invest in their asset. They care for the building and its tenants.”

Work has also begun to refurbish the remaining 10,000 sq ft of suites that remain unoccupied, which George Jennings believes will attract more high calibre tenants when work is completed in the spring.

“We’ve already had quite a lot of interest but we are keen to upgrade the space even further and are looking forward to attracting new occupiers this year,” he said.

Charles Gillett, partner at Pennycuick Collins, which moved to 54 Hagley Road in February last year, agreed that good building management was one of the reasons it was attracted to it.

“It was not only the ease of accessibility from all parts of Birmingham by car and public transport, the ability to take the whole floor with room for further expansion of the business and being able to implement smarter working practices, it was also great value for money in terms of rent, rates and service charge,” he said.

“We’ve been incredibly impressed with how we, as tenants, are looked after by the building management team. It makes it much easier for us if we can focus on growing the business, rather than having to worry about housekeeping issues.”

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