4 FM quick reads on Facility management
1. 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.
2. 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."
3. Facility Managers Offer Advice About Winning Approval For Facility Projects
Today's tip from Building Operating Management: Follow these facility managers' advice about winning approval for facility projects.
- Tim Pennigar, project manager, engineering and operations, Duke University Health Systems: "Get the accountants to become roofers." Pennigar recommends going beyond simply putting proposals in the language of finance. That's a must, but you should also get the financial folks to help you write the proposal and vet your numbers before you ever think about walking into the boardroom.
- John Balzer, vice president, facility planning and development, Froedtert Hospital and Community Health: "Do not assume that more is better." Balzer says he can guarantee you that is not the case, when it comes to handing in a proposal. "The biggest piece of advice I can give, especially to those starting their career, is to be very specific and to the point, and to focus on measureable data," he says.
- Bob Holesko, vice president of facilities, HEI Hotels & Resorts: "Show a project's curb appeal and do your own PR." Holesko tells a story about how an article appeared on the front page of a local newspaper with a photo depicting a crane delivering a new HVAC rooftop unit to one of his hotels. "Now, I can say to the financial people, 'Remember when we had that crane on the front page of the paper?' That's free advertising for the company. Anytime you have a crane showing up, get photos. It makes you look good."
- Jim Cooke, national facilities operations manager, Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc.: "Don't go back for more money until you can prove your last project is successful." Cooke says that, even if a project demonstrates more modest results than you expected, don't hide those results. Instead, explain the specific reasons why that project wasn't as successful as you might have thought, why it's actually still a success in the grand scheme of things, and the specific reasons why this proposal is different.
4. Make The Financial Case For Additional Facility Staff
Today's tip from Building Operating Management: Facility managers can boost their chances of getting approval to hire new employees by making the financial case for additional facility staff.
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 building 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."