4  FM quick reads on Facility management

1. Facility Managers Can Educate Tenants To Reduce Complaints


One effective strategy for minimizing the number of complaints is to educate building occupants about the situation that is generating the complaints.

Consider this story from Joan Woodard, president and CEO of Simons & Woodard Inc. Canada geese can be pests, so you'd think a story involving them would be about complaints around the noise, their waste, or how aggressive they can be. But Woodard has the opposite problem. Her tenants love their geese and ducks, almost too much. A series of five man-made lakes at one of her properties in northern California has become a very popular stopover for migrating birds, with a pair of geese and some ducks routinely using it as a nesting ground. In their concern and exuberance for their wilderness mascots, Woodard's tenants have had rather unusual requests. The lakes have a bulkhead that's about six inches above the water, and the tenants get distressed that the babies will not be able to clear the barrier. One tenant even went as far as standing in one of the lakes with his pant legs rolled up, attempting to scoop the ducklings onto dry land, which of course would not do — for the ducklings, himself, or the property management firm.

One strategy Woodard uses to try to stem the seasonal requests is to issue a newsletter to the tenants educating them on the importance of leaving the wildlife undisturbed. Using the newsletter, they distributed information about little ramps and small stone steps that had been constructed for the ducks after the wading incident, so they might navigate the lakes with ease. Of course, the birds don't actually use the ramps or the steps. "The tenants were happy we took that extra step, but then they wanted management to instruct the ducks on how to use the ramp," she says.

Though they declined that request, Woodard says they were happy to try to accommodate the requests around the geese and ducks. "From the moment they become tenants, we're trying to make them feel this is their daytime home and that they're part of a community," she says.


2.  Facility Managers Should Tackle Complaints Head-On

For facility managers, complaints are a fact of daily life. Tackling them head-on is usually the best strategy, rather than ignoring them and hoping they go away.

A good example of why that's true comes from Larry Virts, local president of BOMA Corpus Christi and property manager with REOC San Antonio. Sometimes Virts says he feels more like a high school principal. He inherited a tenant mix with glaring differences in work and life styles. In one corner, a call center making up about 25 percent of the building's population, filled with very young employees who are loud, brash, and often not used to working in a professional setting — at least as evidenced by their behavior. In the other corner, everybody else.

And worse, the call center was clogging the elevators. The tight scheduling typical of a call center was causing this set of employees to enter and leave the facility in large groups. Where other tenants had been always been able to get on an elevator in 40 seconds, now they were waiting two, three, or more minutes — an eternity. The complaints rolled in. When Virts hired on, he resolved to improve the situation.

"The tenant had assumed that complaints made about them were because of their appearance and their loudness, their unrestrained youth," Virts says. "I think they just assumed that it was a personality clash, never realizing they could make it better."

After first cultivating a relationship with the call center's management, Virts says he approached them in a calm manner to find a reasonable solution to the issue. They were very receptive and a compromise was found in staggering start times and break times to relieve long waits for the elevator. It has helped the situation, some, he says.

3.  Report Back To Management On How Approved Facility Projects Are Performing

Facility managers should report back to top management on how approved facility projects are performing.

Getting a "yes" on a facility funding proposal is one part salesmanship, one part public relations, and one part stick-to-it-iveness. 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.

One common mistake facility managers make is failing to report back on an approved project, even if nobody asked for data. "We remind everyone when we have a successful project," says Jim Cooke, national facilities operations manager for Toyota Motor Sales, USA. "Give updates. That provides the personal touch."

John Balzer, vice president, facility planning and development for Froedtert Health, agrees: "Facility managers can make themselves more noticeable by sending quarterly reports on how their initiative is working. It's a great way to build credibility. You're saying, 'Look, I stuck my neck out and I'll report, even though you're not asking, because I'm confident enough in this initiative.'"

Doing such voluntary reporting completes the credibility loop, which again, is one of the biggest factors in getting a "yes." Your personal relationship with the financial folks making the decision on your proposals is just as important - perhaps more so - than the numbers themselves. As Jim Cooke, national facilities operations manager for Toyota Motor Sales, USA, puts it, "Your credibility and personal relationships are the keys." The question to ask, he says, is this: "f I call them, will they give me the time of day?" If the answer is "yes," you've got much better odds the answer will be "yes" on your proposal as well.

4.  Get Help From Finance On Proposals For Funding Facility Projects

Today's tip from Building Operating Management: Get help from the finance department when preparing a proposal for funding facility projects.

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.

When it comes to actually building the meat and potatoes of the proposal, there's no better idea than to get financial folks to help you with the proposal. That way, your numbers are vetted and in the appropriate form before upper management lays eyes on them.

Regarding the proposal itself, the exact format will depend on the organization, but again, experts suggest a few best practices. The most important thing: Keep it short and sweet. Provide two to three alternatives, e.g., the benefits of the proposal if it is accepted, the risks of doing nothing, and what would happen if the proposal is delayed for a year or two or if a less costly option is chosen.

The problem, solution and benefit to the company should be made clear in the first 90 seconds, says Alan Whitson, president, Corporate Realty, Design & Management Institute.

Use PowerPoint because that's what executives are used to, says Stormy Friday, president of The Friday Group, but dress it up a little. Use photos, or "if you're extraordinarily clever, create a simulation model or things that move and circulate. Anything's better than just a flat presentation."

The actual hard copy of the presentation must be equally short and sweet. "I'd strongly recommend, and this is not easy with people with engineering backgrounds, one page or less and using bullet points," says John Balzer, vice president, facility planning and development for Froedtert Health. "That's the only way the CFO will look at it."

The biggest mistake to make is to assume more data, pages and spiffy charts will help your cause. "Leaders have a nanosecond attention span," says Friday, "So so you can't overwhelm them with blocks of text or charts and graphs that are hard to decipher."


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Facility management , complaints , communication









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