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Part 1: Proven Tactics Facility Managers Use to Get Funding Approved
By Greg Zimmerman, Executive Editor
October 2011 -
Money may not grow on trees, but if you successfully cultivate relationships with your organization's financial folks, the CFO's office can become just as natural a source of facility funding as the proverbial money tree. However, it's not likely you'll go from zero to flush with cash in 30 seconds. As Jim Cooke, national facilities operations manager for Toyota Motor Sales, USA, says, "This isn't rocket science, but it sure isn't easy either."
Indeed, for many facility managers, presenting a funding proposal is the bane of their professional existence. Folks with engineering or operations backgrounds often struggle not just with the soft skills, like public speaking, marketing and campaigning, but also the financial expertise required to construct a proposal in terms that will resonate with those holding the organization's purse strings.
Getting a "yes" on a facility funding proposal is one part salesmanship, one part public relations, and one part stick-to-itiveness. Successful facility managers are the ones who have developed a system that works consistently, and successful facility management organizations are well-funded ones. So understanding all that goes into a successful facility funding proposal — from laying groundwork to campaigning to understanding the difference between a smooth, quick presentation and one that will get you laughed out of the boardroom — is a career must for any facility manager.
Long before you even consider putting pen to paper on a formal proposal, there are several steps to be taken that can help stack the deck in favor of getting the money you need. Basically, success or failure comes down to credibility. Stormy Friday, president of The Friday Group, gives a succinct summary of what needs to be done to begin earning that credibility: "Be out and about. Build relationships. Be visible. Build bridges. Know who the upper managers rely on and trust, and go to them first. Campaign. Get friendly with their administrative assistants — they'll be the ones who get you on the calendar."
At first blush, that may sound overwhelming, but if you really think about it, those are all strategies that should be standard operating procedure for facility managers, regardless of whether or not they're about to ask for money.
Friday says she thinks the key to stacking the deck in favor of a "yes" is simply having a personal relationship beyond presenter/listener. "I really believe in the 'accidental bump-ins,'" she says. "Have a sense of when executives will be in the elevator, and literally have your one-minute elevator speech ready."
The "accidental bump-in" is a good time just to plumb top managers' opinions, says Cooke. In other words, you shouldn't even mention you're about to propose something formally. "Talk to them just to get their opinion without any pressure," he says. "Ask them, 'Hey, what do you think about renewable energy?' Find out what they're passionate about. Try to understand them. Find out what makes them tick."
Friday suggests finding out if senior executives have their own role models or organization they've modeled parts of the company after. And then research what those other organizations are doing and how you can incorporate some of those strategies into your own plans.
But most importantly, facility managers must have confidence in their worth to the organization. "Sometimes people in facilities get too involved in the day-to-day activities to realize how critical they are to the organization," says Alan Whitson, president, Corporate Realty, Design & Management Institute. So understanding how much value facilities adds to the organization, and putting that into numbers at proposal time, is critical.
Part of knowing facilities' importance is gauging where you stand compared with other departments. When you're competing against other departments, the feeling can be at best, awkward, and at worst, contentious.
"You can feel the tension in the room when our chief engineer is pushing for money for new roofs, and another guy is asking for bell carts," says Bob Holesko, vice president of facilities for HEI Hotels and Resorts. The important thing to remember, though, is you're all on the same side, and therefore, be forceful, but not greedy. Only asking for what's reasonable is important for enhancing your credibility anyway.
"If you know there's about $1 million, and you normally would get $200,000, don't go in there with $1 million in projects," says Holesko. "Have history on your side."
It's also important to be patient. All these soft skills take time. "A lot of stacking the deck takes time to develop your professional reputation for being a straight shooter," says Tim Pennigar, project manager, engineering and operations, Duke University Health Systems. "You're competing with a lot of other departments for money, so if you've got a reputation for fudging the numbers to create an emergency, you're always going to get the leftovers."
Making the case for an increase in staffing is one of the more difficult proposals facility managers may have to write. That's especially true in a down economy. But it's not impossible and the case should be made on a financial benefit basis, just like any other facility proposal.
>> "In the case of staffing, you make the case that adding a body will save us X," says John Balzer, vice president, facility planning and development, Froedtert Hospital and Community Health. To do that, though, you have to have pretty detailed numbers of how that will happen. Will you be able to complete a higher percentage of preventive maintenance, which allows equipment to stay in service longer? Will you be able to offer better facility customer service to make building occupants more productive? Will you be able to start a new service or make an existing one (like a BAS) more efficient? It's important to build the answers to those questions out of data.
>> Another tip is to compare your organization to others, especially those you know your financial folks admire. "This is why your network is important," says Stormy Friday, president of The Friday Group. "Show what other organizations have done and what's working for them in regards to staffing."
>> Increased staffing may be a back-up plan if a facility equipment proposal doesn't pass or if a facility is aging. For example, Bob Holesko, vice president of facilities, HEI Hotels & Resorts, says that for hotels that haven't been renovated for a while, and thus need more maintenance, "that's when I have a good shot at getting another body."
— Greg Zimmerman
Cover Story: How to Get a Yes on Facilities Funding Proposals
Part 2: Working With Financial Department Will Show How to Get Funding Approved
Part 3: Emphasize Benefits When Making Pitch for Facility Projects
Part 4: How to Prepare Better Proposals for Facility Projects