It started with a click….

In May 2015 I clicked “enter” on my keyboard. It was the press of a button that was to change my life. I checked the small print – there was no get out clause and I was committed to a BIFM Qualification.

Jump back 2 months when I made the decision I was ready for a new relationship. I spent many hours online researching my perfect partner, only for my calls not to be returned or to get the “it’s not you, it’s me” kind of speech. It really got to the point where I felt I was never going to be able to move on with my life and I should give up. However, one last Google search later and this site, which had kept cropping up before, again caught my eye. I’d only dismissed it earlier as I didn’t want a long-distance relationship, but I realised I might need to cast the net wider to land my catch.

It only takes a minute girl……

I went back on their website and checked out what was on offer. They certainly seemed to offer something different and quite unique. Without any commitment, the first step was to upload my profile and immediately it came back with a match. After all this time searching, it was such a relief to be told I was a perfect match for a Level 5 BIFM qualification. The One Minute Leveller was so easy and, amazingly, actually only took one minute to complete! Knowing my match, I then had to look for the right size, and decided that biggest was best – The Diploma.

Within minutes of completing my profile and getting a match, I got a follow up email, from Chris, and within the hour we were chatting away like long lost friends. We agreed that the Level 5 Diploma was right for me and, with confidence I jumped in and made the commitment – click – I enrolled.

We are family…..

It was like a whirlwind. Before I knew it, I was being introduced to the rest of the family. Firstly, there was Sue – the matriarch of the family. She was organised and efficient and made all the necessary arrangements to get me settled in nicely. Nothing was too much trouble and there were the lovely little follow ups to make sure I had everything I needed ahead of my first workshop. Some may say she lures you into a false sense of security – the Study Guide she asked me to complete was a doddle – how hard was this going to be….

That’s when I first met David – the Father figure! What I quickly learned about David was that what he didn’t know about FM wasn’t worth knowing anyway and should be left behind with the Ark which, if the rumours are true, was where he had his first FM appointment. David’s experience is vast and he could rattle off his FM positions and companies he had worked for with ease. Somehow it always puzzled me how someone so young could have had that many positions in that short time……

So, this is where my journey began, with the workshops. They literally were like group therapy sessions with the other students also getting a Level 5 match (or in my colleague’s case getting bullied by me to attend the Level 5 instead of Level 4). At first you feel like you have turned up in the wrong teaching venue and everyone else is speaking a language you don’t understand….SWOT, PESTLE, Demings Cycle, SMART, different contexts, sectors, strategy… I was so sure I had signed up for an FM course. I drove home after the first 2-day workshop in a daze and lay down in a dark room for the rest of the week.

Little did I know, that was the easy part. Next came the assignments.

My first one was FM5.05 – Financial Management. After staring at the page for what seemed an hour or so, I realised I still hadn’t decided where to put my name. Header? Footer? The choices were overwhelming and needed careful consideration. Having finally decided on a position for my name, BIFM number and cohort number, it was then time for a coffee break and a catch up on social media – anything to delay the inevitable – having to write 6,000 words on a subject I thought I knew nothing about. Alas, I could put it off no longer. I would love to say that once the first words went down, the rest came with ease, but they didn’t. It was hard work. However, I got to a point where I felt I could put my first draft submission in. Then came the email – “You have feedback…..”


My heart was pounding – was this another rejection? Actually, no, it wasn’t. My assignment came back with some really positive and helpful feedback on where, maybe, more detail was required or I had not quite addressed what the assessment criteria was looking for. It was all very helpful. However, the margin was also littered with lots of numbers: 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4……. what I soon realised was that this was where I had met the criteria – I was actually being told I knew what I was talking about. There’s a first time for everything, so they say.

And so began the Merry-go-Round for the next 11 months. Two days of workshops (therapy) followed by 5 weeks of weekends bashing out the assignment and a week to re-acquaint myself with my family before the next cycle began. However, each cycle got more manageable. I began to speak the language. The assignments seemed to become, well, easier. I no longer looked at them as 6,000 word assignments, I looked at them as 500 words per assessment criteria. I stopped going over the word count (my first one was 12,000 – luckily for me it was not enforced at that point). The feedback was becoming less and less – Sue’s emails would come in “All good – carry on!”.

Of course, there were some sections I really couldn’t get my head around. When I couldn’t find what I wanted in the workbook and I was convinced that everyone else was wrong and days when I wanted to give up totally (mostly related to FM5.02 – I hated that one). But they would be the days when my tutor, Sue, would pop up and ask if everything was OK? Did I understand the feedback? How was I getting on? Was there anything else I needed? Did I want a tutorial to go through anything?

Alternatively, I would attend the next workshop and sit with a glazed stare, which David got to know very well, but he would sit there and would take as long as it needed to explain it all to me/the group until we all got it no matter how long it took. Amazingly he always managed to finish at 4.30pm no matter what.

I started the course on 3rd June 2015 and 371 days later I got the email to say I had finished – my 8th and final assignment had been assessed and marked as achieved. I had done it. We had done it. That elusive BIFM Qualification was mine!

Signed, sealed, delivered – I’m yours!

So, what is the point of this blog – a well done to me? Absolutely not. The point to all the students out there who may be having one of those days, looking for every excuse not to continue, struggling with work/life balance, wondering how on earth you will get through this, questioning why you signed up for a BIFM Qualification in the first place, this blog is to say that you will.

You will because you are with the Xenon Group.

Fast forward 6 months and I am writing this as the newly appointed Director of Training. For those of you who are old enough to remember the 1979 Remington razor commercial with Victor Kiam (“I liked the shaver so much I bought the company”), I liked the Xenon Group so much, I didn’t quite buy the company but I am now working full time with the most committed, supportive and dedicated group of people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. I knew as a student how critical the support was that I got, and now I get to  see it happening all around me, and more importantly, I get to be the support for our students.

The difference with the Xenon Group is that we care. We have all, at some point, been on “the other side of the table” doing our BIFM qualification. We know how it feels. We know the difficulties and the problems that everyday life throws at us before we even have to battle the rush hour to go home (make tea, take the kids to swimming/football/dance, fill the dishwasher, put the washing on, feed the cat/dog, help with homework that needs to be handed in in the morning before collapsing in a heap at 9pm) and start to think about writing 500 words on FM strategy.  We’ve been there and got the T-Shirts. We know and we can help you (except with the maths homework – I never did like algebra).

So, if you are having one of those days, pick up the phone. Call us – David, Sue, Chris, Naomi and myself. We may just help to make sense of it all and help you get those last 500 words down on the page that mean the difference between your current position and the recognised qualification you deserve.

And as for me and my new relationship – truly a match made in heaven!