By Heidi Schwartz
Published in the September 2008 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
How long—and in what capacity—have you been affiliated with the facility management profession?
I have worked for IFMA for the past 15 years, initially serving as director of member resources and then as vice president of administration, vice president of education and event management, and executive vice president/COO. In 2002, I was appointed president/CEO by the board of directors.
In my role as IFMA’s chief staff executive I normally share, with our chairman of the board, spokesperson responsibilities related to the association’s mission as the resource and representative for the advancement of the facility management profession.
What is the most significant change in the profession you have observed over the past 15 years? Is there one triggering factor that has prompted this change or have there been several?
Selecting a single significant change is difficult, taking into consideration how radically facility management (FM) has evolved, even over the last five years. If I had to select one, it would have to be the huge changes in the scope of responsibilities for the FM practitioner.
By looking at what has happened in the areas of sustainability, energy management, emergency preparedness, strategic facility planning, sourced services management, globalization, and technology, it’s easy to understand that this profession today is about a great deal more than operations, maintenance, and project management.
I can’t say there has been one triggering factor that has prompted these changes, other than management’s growing recognition of the importance of FM to corporate strategy and business success. Today’s workplace is virtually unrecognizable from the one I remember 15 years ago. Try remembering what you had on your desk or in your cubicle as recently as five or 10 years ago, and you’ll understand what I mean.
Do you have any predictions for the future viability of the FM profession? Do you see it gaining momentum and strategic relevance? Or will global factors prompt consolidation?
From IFMA’s perspective, and this shouldn’t surprise anyone, since it’s coming from us, the profession has been gaining momentum for a number of years and continues to do so. As long as the C-suite recognizes the importance of quality FM to the achievement of corporate or organizational strategy, this profession can do nothing more than continue to gain in importance, respect, and relevance.
Do you have any amusing anecdotes or surprising stories to share about your experiences with members of the FM profession?
After 15 years, there are probably more than I can even begin to remember. Rather than amusing though, what immediately comes to mind when I think about my experiences can be summed up in one word: passion. Looking back over the 36 years that I have been in the work world, including 25 years in association management, I have never, ever experienced a profession that has the daily passion that I see in FM. These people love what they do and always take the opportunity to tell everyone they come in contact with what an uplifting and rewarding career they have. If you’ve ever attended an FM conference you’ll immediately understand what I mean.
Who has made the biggest impact on the evolution of the FM profession and why? Who are some of the profession’s future “all stars” and why?
There have been so many who have contributed to elevate the profession to its current status that it would be dangerous for me to try to pick out a certain few. That being said, I would be greatly remiss if I didn’t mention IFMA’s founders George Graves, David Armstrong, and Charles Hitch who, in 1980, had a vision for this profession and created the National Facility Management Association as its new representative body. These three gentlemen sat down at a conference table in Ann Arbor, MI with a dozen or so other folks and drafted a vision which literally became the FM profession.
Since then, thousands of individuals have served IFMA in a voluntary capacity. Virtually every one of them has also made an impact on the evolution of the profession.
One has only to visit one of the campuses of the IFMA Foundation Recognized Degree Programs to get a look at the profession’s future all stars. Speaking of passion, this is where you’ll find it. One of the members of the IFMA board of directors is Paul Ratkovic. Paul is a graduate of our facility management program at Cornell University, was the first individual to qualify for the Facility Management Professional (FMP) designation, just recently successfully completed the qualifications and exam to become a Certified Facility Manager® (CFM®), and is pursuing a successful career with EMCOR Facilities Services. Best of all, Paul is only 26 years old and there are many more like him who are finding that passion for FM I mentioned earlier.
How can facility professionals better prepare themselves for the challenges ahead? What characteristics should they have in order to achieve success?
Quite simply, never stop learning. Imagine how difficult it would be to practice FM today without the tremendous learning opportunities offered by IFMA, your publication, as well as the educational programs offered by many of our industry partners. In order for fms to be true masters of change, they need to take advantage of as many career enhancing learning opportunities as possible.
It goes without saying that employer support of professional development is a real asset. It must not, however, be the basis for seeking the education required to keep pace with the radical workplace trends that are facing us today or around the corner. We see a number of our members who are willing to use their personal financial resources as an investment in their career development.
Do you think the next generation of facility professionals will be distinctly different from those who have gone before them? If so, how? If not, why not?
The next generation of facility professionals will be expected to have a greater range of competencies than those who came before them. IFMA finds itself in a position where it must revise the content of the CFM examination and its core competency course content much more frequently than ever before.
This is about more than future facility professionals. It’s about the workplace in general. We’re seeing that the generation now entering the workplace and the FM profession, and those who have been in it for less than 10 years, have a much higher level of expectations when it comes to career satisfaction.
Successful companies will find new and unique ways to aid in achieving employee satisfaction. One of those is certainly effective FM. More and more organizations are finding that their facilities are a resource for attracting and keeping the best and most loyal employees and that FM is an important component of human resource management.
Why do you think the profession has survived? What will it have to do to thrive in the future?
Dynamic changes call for dynamic planning, and I have to credit associations and publications such as yours for providing the knowledge and networking opportunities to make our members, your subscribers, and all of our stakeholders the professionals they are today. IFMA’s balanced scorecard has, as one of its most important objectives, a focus on magnifying the importance of the FM professional worldwide. This is much more than the proverbial preaching to the choir. It’s about the C-suite understanding how important FM is, and always will be, to their corporate objectives.
Do you have any parting thoughts regarding Today’s Facility Manager on its 20th anniversary?
IFMA has had a mutually rewarding business relationship with TFM for its entire history. Our reason for this bond is our recognition of what your publication does to assist in advancing the FM profession. None of us can do everything that needs to be done to assure the future relevancy of the profession and the quality and productivity of the workplace. My only words of wisdom are to continue to focus on our joint vision to serve as a valued resource for this profession called FM.
I personally congratulate you on your anniversary and look forward to our future collaborative endeavors.
Brady is president and CEO of the Houston, TX-based IFMA. He has 24 years of experience in association management. Brady entered the association management field from commercial banking in 1984. He is a member of the American Society of Association Executives and he holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Olivet College in Olivet, MI.