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Clicking on the About tab of the enlightgroup.co.uk website provides an instant insight into the company and the ethical approach of its founder and chief executive Ahmed Malik, beginning with the statement “We’re a bit different…”.

Speaking to FM Director after his company had celebrated its fifth anniversary, Mr Malik describes how his upbringing and life experiences have continued to affirm his belief in human nature and how everyone has the opportunity to help others in a number of ways. Proof of this is provided by his recognition of those who have provided the most relevant examples of this throughout his studies and career.

“My journey into the FM industry has not been the same as a lot of others, but I’ve found that taking the time and effort to get to know people and understand how they work has helped me in a lot of ways and particularly within business,” says Mr Malik.

Having played cricket at a high level throughout his mid teenage years and into his early 20s, he returned to full-time education at the age of 21. “I hadn’t done very well at school for a number of reasons, but was told that the best course to follow was getting an apprenticeship and returning to education,” he explains.

He had secured work with Interserve as a cleaner prior to this, which he continued as he resumed his studies. One of the results of this was the realisation that he is dyslexic.

“My psychology lecturer at college was Gloria Burns and she quickly spotted this and encouraged me to get the diagnosis and she was then very supportive throughout my time at college. After being diagnosed she also made sure I was supported and given more time with exams, etc, and this really helped me in my studies,” Mr Malik continues.

Having succeeded in gaining the necessary qualifications, he was then accepted by the University of Hertfordshire to begin to study for his degree in business and finance. “Before I graduated I decided I wanted to get into banking, mainly to prove to my parents that I’m capable of doing something,” he continues.

Mr Malik describes the finance sector as “attractive and sexy”, but found that job applicants from Oxford and Cambridge universities were more likely to receive offers of employment than others. His work with Interserve had included working within helpdesk support and this had helped to develop his telephone communication skills, which he then applied to calling potential employers in the finance industry.

“I started to call people direct and I think had between 30 and 40 rejections, with some people just slamming the phone down, but then one person thanked me for my call and said: ‘I haven’t experienced this for a very long time, so why don’t you come in?’,” he says.

Mr Malik states that this was Wayne Preston and uses this to explain that he always remembers those that help him on his journey. “Even thought we may not be in touch now, or if we lose contact in the future, I will never forget them because they were there for me and created the opportunity that helped me to progress,” he says.

“Wayne got me the opportunity and I was offered my first role in finance. After I joined I made myself promise: ‘At the end of this month, everyone in this bank will know who I am’. And within a month I’d formed so many good relationships with so many people,” he continues.

With his career in finance continue to develop, Mr Malik began working for Investec Wealth and Investment UK as a research assistant, then felt the need to follow a different career direction. “I decided that finance wasn’t working for me and I still don’t understand exactly why to this day, but I then came across Sarah Barnard who was instructing on the use of Excel Spreadsheets,” says Mr Malik.

He credits Ms Barnard with both encouraging him to start his own business and supporting him through the launch of Enlight Group. “She helped me to set up the company but before this she advised that it would be best to focus on creating a business that was based on what I understand.

“We discussed what I’d done before I joined the finance industry and then looked at what I’d done with Interserve and opportunities within the cleaning sector. She then spent a few months helping me to get Enlight off the ground as well as convincing me that I can do this,” he continues.

Having launched the business in April 2018, Mr Malik had to overcome initial issues around submitting tenders without a portfolio of clients to support these. His solution involved approaching companies around East London and engaging them in discussions about their cleaning requirements.

“After six months we won a small contract to provide cleaning services to a small nursery and then started to develop the business further over the next 12 months or so. I started walking around London and looking for other companies to work with, and found ???????, which had recently opened,” he says.

After receiving a favourable response to the initial contact, Mr Malik stayed in touch with the business and this led to his company being awarded the cleaning contract for a co-working space. “This led to us starting to work for Knight Frank, which is now our biggest client, and I’m very pleased that we’ve been able to expand our work with them over the last few years.”

He returns to the topic of people who have helped him over the years, and particularly with the development of Enlight Group. “Whenever I find really good people I try to keep them with me on my journey. A great example of this is our first cleaning supervisor, Jade Kanga, who helped with the cleaning of the co-worker space and set up our first contracts with Nazreen Akhtar, and that led to the company working with more clients and continuing to grow.”

He provides additional credit for the support received from Mark Douglas, who employed Mr Malik to work on the FX sales desk, and Simple Health Kitchen chief executive officer Bradley Hill, who has continued to mentor him from the age of 19 to the present day.

As the conversation with Mr Malik progresses, he further explains how his work ethic, appreciation of others and sense of loyalty originated and continues to influence his work within the FM sector and the running of his business. “Technically I’m an outsider and I didn’t have many contacts withithe FM industry when I started the business and didn’t know where to begin, at first. I’ve always been really grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given and I know that there are always other people who are more deserving,” he says.

“I’m from a different ethnic background to a lot of people in the industry and grew up in an East London council estate, but a lot of people have liked my attitude, appreciate my story and have been really supportive, which has been really helpful to developing the business,” he continues.

In addition to his many personal attributes, Mr Malik has found that an ability for multi-tasking has been another important factor, particularly in the early years of founding a business. “There’s no one else to turn to, so you have to handle the marketing, HR, IT and administration.

“I got to know Malcolm Thompson, who is a very well known health and safety consultant. He came to see me and liked my story and created all our health and safety policy documents for free and Malcolm, Kate and many other people have been central to all our success.”

“It’s been a very emotional journey, in many ways, and I’m very grateful to everyone that has supported me and provided all the opportunities that have helped the business to expand to its current position, and from where we hope to grow it further in the years ahead,” he says.

Further evidence of Mr Malik’s gratitude for his personal and business success has included support for charitable causes and voluntary work by himself and his colleagues. He states that he is particularly keen to assist young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, which has led to his company sponsoring the Wapping Youth and Football Club team for boys and girls aged from seven to 14 years.

“We really need to support young people and help them to develop interests that will keep them off the streets and out of trouble to give them a good start in life that will help them with achieving more in the future. I’m really keen to give back wherever I can,” he says.

Having begun with small cleaning contracts, Enlight Group initially increased the numbers of these, then began to win work on a larger scale and this aspect of the business is expected to provide further growth in future. While much of the new business is expected to include elements of cleaning, the company has developed into all other areas of FM service delivery which is providing ever-increasing numbers of additional opportunities.

There are now three main divisions, including Workplace, Facility Infrastructure and Service Hub, all of which include multiple options that can be selected on an individual basis or bundled together.

“We began to increase our work with our cleaning clients, which has proved to be a great way to expand the company,” Mr Malik continues. “A lot of our additional work is around statutory compliance, as well as maintenance and repairs.

“Our clients told us we were doing a great job of cleaning the building and were happy for us to help to maintain the building and complete general repairs. This often results from our cleaners seeing something that needs mending, such as a broken towel rail or something similar, taking a picture on their phone and sharing with their colleagues and the client.

“Then there are more services such as emergency light testing and electrical appliance testing, as we continue to add value and cement our position in the supply chain,” he continues. “We’ve always continued to strengthen our own supply chain, too, and this has led to conversations with clients about managing the entire running of facilities.

“We now find that cleaning accounts for around 75% of our business, with the compliancy and other services accounting for the remaining 25%. This balance is likely to move more towards the 50-50 level in a few years.”

More recently, Mr Malik has started working with ActionCoach UK’s Darien Jay to create sharper focus for his long-terms goals and vision for the company. As a result, he now sees Enlight Group as the tool for helping him achieve his wider ambitions in life and, given his plans for the company over the next 12 months and beyond, states that having a trusted advisor in his corner can only be a benefit as he looks to take the business to the next level.

Having established a strong ethical business culture, Mr Malik is keen to ensure that this remains in place and is very much aware of the need to protect this as the company expands. With many FM businesses achieving their growth ambitions through mergers and acquisitions, he states that any deals of this nature will only include those that provide a close match with his company.

Core values such as sustainability, high levels of customer service, support for colleagues and clients through trust, honesty and loyalty have continued to be central theme and it seems Mr Malik and the Enlight Group will continue to enjoy success in finding increasing numbers of like-minded clients and industry partners in the years ahead.