I recently attended a presentation by the owner of a local chain of fitness centers, which had just acquired the club where I occasionally teach group exercise classes. The meeting was scheduled to give the staff a sense of what to expect under new ownership. As I found my seat, the owner approached me and introduced herself. "I'm Kay," she said. "And I love this industry."
Kay's remarks to the group clearly revealed the passion she has for the fitness world. But more than that, her presentation demonstrated a clear understanding that a well–run facility is the bedrock upon which a thriving organization is built.
Kay shared her growth–through–acquisition philosophy and highlighted some of the major renovations and additions over the company's 25–year history, including a 35,000–square–foot expansion in the middle of a recession. Willingness to invest in the facilities, she said, is key to business growth.
And then she said something that really made my ears stand up: "It breaks your heart to spend $50,000 on air conditioning units that your members can't see, but they definitely feel the effect if you don't put money into certain things. So please, feel free to tell them what we're doing here."
She went on, urging staff to tell members about the new AC units that will make their court time more enjoyable, the new laundry machines that will get their towels cleaner, and about the plans to completely renovate the lobby in 2014 so the building is more welcoming and user friendly.
I couldn't recall the last time a connection between building systems and occupants had been emphasized to such extent. And when a staff member asked Kay why funds were being primarily directed toward capital improvements versus new weights or treadmills or bikes, she smiled and responded, "It needs a woman's touch."
It begged the question: Was that really the reason? Is there an advantage to having a woman's perspective on a building's capital improvements? Are women more in tune with big picture occupant needs, and how the facility can help meet them? Or is it about having someone who truly is passionate about the role the facility plays in the organization's overall mission?
I'm not sure I know the answer to those questions just yet, but I do know that I'll be looking for additional insights into the subject at the "Women in Facilities Management" session taking place at the NFMT 2013 conference in Baltimore next month.
This session is entering its fifth year and has consistently provided excellent food for thought for all who attend. This year's panel, which features Teena Shouse, senior FM consultant at Facility Engineering Associates and Gabriela Stephenson, vice president, Brand Management Facility Solutions and CTM at Sodexo Healthcare, is poised to explore a variety of topics, including global trends, mentoring and work–life balance. The session is always among the most interactive and attended by people who — just like Kay — love their work and their industry.
The Women in FM 2013 session takes place Wednesday, March 13 at 3:10 p.m. You can register for it and a host of other conference sessions at www.nfmt.com/baltimore.