Interview with Tom Harmsworth, our country UK launcher

At WeMaintain, the uniqueness of each individual is an important value and the personality of each individual matters. We believe that it is because of the diversity of our team members and their past experiences that we collectively achieve better results.

Case in point, meet Tom, our country UK launcher who tells us about his career path and his experience at WeMaintain.

When you were younger, what did you want to do?

As a kid I dreamed of working with vertical transportation.

The above statement is not true. I got into the industry the same way almost everyone got into it, completely by chance. And, also like everyone else who fell into it, I quickly realised that it was a great industry to be in.

Hiding in plain sight, the world of lifts and escalators is fast moving, technical, high value and gives you access to some of the most prestigious buildings in the world. There really aren’t many other industries that deliver such a varied day-to-day experience and to this day I relish each new challenge; especially given that I’m not tied to a desk.

What were you doing before joining WeMaintain?

I was lucky to start my career with the industry leader in one of the largest cities in the world: London. This enabled me to gain a breadth of experience in a short period of time. I moved from sales to sales management and then into the operation in the City in the space of four years.

When I went into the operation, I only had a few years experience’ and couldn’t tell you how a lift worked. My main remit was to manage seven engineers who each had decades of experience.

It was here where I really started to understand how the industry worked and fully appreciate the depth of knowledge and skill that lift engineers possessed. These guys (and they were all guys unfortunately) demonstrated incredible technical skill in both mechanical and electrical engineering to identify and rectify faults on a daily basis to keep people moving through buildings

Around this time was also when I started to understand the source of customer frustration in our industry. Primarily it was borne out of having a maintenance engineer who, however talented, was overloaded with lifts on their route and was therefore not able to give their buildings the time they required. In addition, the main point of customer contact (me!) was also overworked, which meant I was not able to update them in a timely manner when things did go wrong and lifts weren’t working.

After a few years of this I needed a new challenge and, coming from a family of entrepreneurs, I saw that the industry was full of opportunity for people delivering a good service, no matter what that service was. With the help of a great friend and industry veteran, we set up a lift company that specialised in carrying out repairs and upgrades for larger companies. Our main intention was to reward great engineers with better pay and a better work-life balance. I thoroughly enjoyed owning a company and thought I would never work for anyone again.

Why did you change and decide to join WeMaintain to launch the second country?

Approached through a mutual connection, I met with Ben, Jade and Tristan who told me everything they had done in Paris and everything they planned to do by changing the lift and escalator industry through technology. The proposition appealed to me, not because of the tech angle, which was patently exciting, but because of the idea of a more equitable business model where engineers were appropriately rewarded for the value they created.

WeMaintain had demonstrated in Paris that it was possible to reduce a maintenance engineer’s workload whilst simultaneously increasing their remuneration. And with the global ambition of WeMaintain it means that we have the opportunity to remould the entire industry in a fairer way that better serves customers at the same time. What’s not to like about that?

All I had to do to contribute to our success was launch the London operation… in the midst of a global pandemic. Easy.

Having launched a business before I had a good idea of what to expect and steeled myself appropriately for the hard graft ahead. What made it slightly harder was the world ending in March 2020. The onset of Covid-19 and its effects on society have become clear to everyone in the intervening months and continue to be felt around the globe; this is especially true in the commercial real estate sector where we predominantly operate.

What has made the road easier has been the strong collaboration between our nascent team in London and the more established team in Paris. With their early days still fresh in the memory, everyone in the French team was really keen to assist in any way they could. Using digital tools made it frictionless to collaborate on the first major issues — recruitment, sales and establishing operations processes — even if video calls are not the easiest way to introduce potential customers to an entirely new concept or demonstrate our IoT technology!

My main frustration of the pandemic has been seeing property managers’ priorities change and, understandably, their focus move elsewhere; to dealing with a number of tenants struggling to pay or reassuring people understandably nervous about re-entering crowded offices. Despite this, it remains true that everyone we have pitched to who has understood how WeMaintain has differentiated itself in the market, both in terms of culture and technology, has expressed a keen interest and this appetite is demonstrated in our strong pipeline for the months ahead.

Tell us about your coming challenges in the UK?

I have been fortified in the early stages of the launch by being able to recruit a team that I truly believe is one of the best in the industry. Not only does the team have extensive experience across lifts and escalators and in some of the most demanding environments but, more importantly, the attitude and team spirit displayed already is beyond what I hoped we could achieve at this stage. Culture is the most important thing at WeMaintain and coming straight from a bureaucratic, multi-national company it can be difficult to adjust to this, but it has been embraced wholeheartedly by everyone in the team and that gives us a great foundation for the next stage of our growth.

Our next challenge within the team is diversity. The industry does not have a great track record with this and we believe that this will not be corrected without conscious action. Uniqueness is one of our core values; we believe that in 2020 the moral (not to mention the economic) argument for equality and diversity in the workplace is won. Our next hires will be taken with that in mind and I look forward to augmenting and enhancing the team with these different perspectives.

The main enjoyment I have derived from the early months of the launch has been seeing how well the business model and sales proposition is received by both engineers and potential customers. Time and again we have heard that the current status quo can’t persist and that the industry is in dire need of innovation. WeMaintain provides exactly that and it is my privilege to be able to contribute in some small way to this change for the better.

Which brings us to today: officially launching our London operation. The last few months have been tough but with the support of the Paris team, who are imbued with great ideas and a real desire to assist, we have been able to recruit an excellent team and build an operation from scratch. We know the task before us is huge but seeing the reaction to WeMaintain from all stakeholders in the UK fills me with certainty that if we continue to do the right things for the right reasons our success will be assured.

👉 Find out more about WeMaintain here: https://wemaintain.com/en-uk

Polly Uff

Polly Uff