FM Frequency: Sustaining Optimism

By Jeff Crane, P.E., LEED® AP
Published in the November 2008 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Another marathon election cycle has ended, and this month we’re thankful for relief (albeit temporary) from the political blood sport that has become a staple of the modern information saturation age. Anyone disappointed with results in local, state, or national contests can take comfort knowing 2010 and 2012 candidates were jockeying for position long before this year’s exit polling concluded. New and improved campaigns are undoubtedly right around the corner…

Fortunately, the success of most facility managers (fms) isn’t dependent on temporary residents of the White House or the “semi-permanent” pork junkies on Capitol Hill. As one of the oldest (legal) professions, facility management (FM) promises a bright future and an exciting career for ambitious professionals willing to shape their own destiny. The most common limits to success in FM (much like limitations in other aspects of life) are often self-imposed.

So why should fms be optimistic in such uncertain times? In most communities, new construction still outpaces demolition, and unlike many professional services that can be offshored for pennies on the dollar, the physical presence and site specific expertise of fms can’t be understated.

This isn’t to suggest that the industry is static or even predictable—quite the contrary. The pace and growing reach of 21st century commerce and geopolitics require organizations to maintain extremely nimble support services.

Facilities, IT, human resources, and even accounting needs can change dramatically from week to week as clients are won or lost or entire business units are acquired or sold. Like most organizations, the fm profession is in a constant state of flux. To survive and thrive in such dynamic times, everyone must embrace change and relentlessly seek value improvement opportunities.

Perhaps the best news is that fms face no shortage of options when supplementing their professional toolboxes and building up their value. Consider the numerous opportunities just within these essential skill sets:

Customer Service And People. This attribute is among the most obvious and universal requirements for fms. There are plenty of affordable seminars, books, and Web-based materials for acquiring or improving valuable skills in customer satisfaction; negotiation strategies; sales and marketing; people management and leadership; time and task management; getting and staying motivated; and motivating others.

Financial Proficiency. Advancing beyond administrative responsibilities and building the confidence of superiors and executives requires fms to speak the original “green” language—organizational finance—fluently. [For more on pursuing the recently extended commercial building tax deduction, read this installation of “Sustainable By Design.”] Beyond the hundreds of books and seminars on budgeting, economics, and accounting, fms can pursue evening or online courses to supplement existing knowledge or earn a Bachelor’s or perhaps even a graduate degree. FM MBA (facility manager with a Master’s degree in business administration) might sound like acronym soup, but it could be a delicious recipe for new opportunities and compensation growth.

Technology Expertise. Another avenue for adding value beyond administrative competence is to learn how the best facilities are designed, constructed, and maintained. Fms can pursue continuing education, certifications, or degrees for specific technical expertise (architecture, engineering, environmental science, carpentry, HVAC, site work, electrical, plumbing, data cabling, etc.). With the rise in popularity of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating systems, fms can attend workshops or study independently while learning about the industry’s best and environmentally sensitive practices in new construction, commercial interiors, operation and maintenance of existing buildings, and other sustainable concepts. Becoming a LEED Accredited Professional would also add value to an fm’s resume.

General Studies And Conclusion. For a more comprehensive approach to continuing education, fms can consider universities offering Bachelor’s degrees in FM or BOMI Institute’s impressive credential programs. BOMI credentials such as FMA (facilities management administrator) and RPA (real property administrator) require a variety of courses that can be completed via self study or through evening classes. These programs include project management, budgeting, risk management and legal issues, leasing and marketing, energy management, environmental health and safety, finance, technology, property condition assessments, maintenance, and even ethics.

As the end of another year quickly approaches, it’s an ideal time to ask which skills need development in 2009 and beyond. It’s also important to acknowledge that excuses for not succeeding in FM are as plentiful (perhaps more numerous) as opportunities for success. An old adage suggests that “luck” is when preparation meets opportunity. And with that, FM Frequency wishes all TFM readers the best of “luck” and good cheer over the holidays as we look forward to a new and better year!

Crane is a mechanical engineer and regional property manager with Childress Klein Properties, a leading real estate developer and property management services provider in the Southeast.