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Talking Points: Communications Key for Project Support

Ongoing lighting system upgrades and structural expansions at the Mall of America in Minneapolis keep the facility in a state of change, so communicating clearly with upper management is critical for Charley Brantl, the mall’s technical service manager for electrical and HVAC systems.

“Budgeting is always a challenge because some of the stuff you budget for, you actually need to educate them on why you’re budgeting for it,” Brantl says. As an example, Brantl helped top management understand his thinking behind a significant investment designed to help the mall avoid possible economic disaster.

The massive retail facility contains 4.87 million square feet and attracts 42 million visitors annually. Several years ago, he submitted a capital budget that included funds to buy additional backup transformers at $250,000 apiece — a significant investment.

“They wanted to know why we needed two spares,” Brantl says. “I basically said, ‘The transformers are 20 years old, they are spec-made, and (it) can take up to six months to get one. If one goes down and within six months another goes down of the same type, this mall is closed. How much is that going to cost per day?’"

“My job was to show them what it would cost to do that before we get a new transformer. It would have been a ridiculous cost — millions of dollars, rather than just a quarter of a million dollars for two spares. In the end, they agreed I was right. We ended up getting it, but that was almost a two-year process. Budgeting is easy. Getting them to go with it is hard.”

Brantl says he understands the reason top executives would question such a request before approving funding.

“You have to sell it, but you also have to have facts that make sense,” he says. “I don’t blame them. If we’re going to spend this money, we want to make sure we’re spending it wisely.”


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