The phrase “There is no ‘I’ in team” may very well have been coined to describe the operations at facilities of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and their Assistant Director of Operations Kimberly G. Cowherd. Located in Frankfort, KY, Cowherd is charged with overseeing approximately 100 employees, 32 facilities (almost 3 million square feet), and the delicate balance of tenant/landlord relationships. “It’s a pretty big monster we deal with here,” she says, jokingly.
So just how does a woman promoted from landscape branch manager in the Division of Building Services thrive in facilities management? Like most good managers, she relies on her team, delegates work when appropriate, and was schooled in facilities by an excellent mentor. Four years post-promotion, Cowherd notes that business practices have become more professional: leaner – without being meaner. “We’re trying to be more efficient and run our operation a little bit tighter than we used to,” she says, a statement that echoes the challenges many facilities professionals are dealing with during the weak economy.
Following the devastation of 9/11/01, the Commonwealth’s 32 facilities experienced rapid changes. “We had just started to put in electronic card access systems (card readers and manned visitor entrances) in some of our buildings. It was going slow. And then, of course, 9/11 quadrupled the pace of that installation. We were going to target certain high-profile buildings; now, we’re targeting every building,” she explains. Working with tenants to improve building security, troubleshoot problems, and address concerns has kept Cowherd busy during the last year. With many of the Commonwealth facilities requiring public access, resulting challenges have involved dealing with disgruntled visitors and maintaining top security when it is challenged by tenants and guests. “We have the state capitol and the governor’s mansion and dealing with those high-profile state people and our legislature is a whole different realm. We also have a lot of public that comes in to visit the elected officials for the Commonwealth – [we are constantly asking ourselves] ‘how do we deal with those people without making them feel they’re not welcome?’,” Cowherd states.
As a liaison between tenants and the Commonwealth’s Division of Building Services, Cowherd prides herself on helping tenants understand new security procedures. “I’m responsible for getting those [protocols] in place with the tenant base to make it meet their needs,” she says, “[instead of] us just coming in there and saying, ‘You will do this and you won’t do that,’ because each building is unique and they all serve different kinds of clientele.”
Relying on every resource she can get her hands on (including the valuable expertise of team members), Cowherd expresses nothing but pure enjoyment for the profession and gives credit where it’s due. “We’ve tried to hire the best people and I’ve learned a lot from them,” she explains. Providing advice to her peers, Cowherd relays the following tips: “Build a good team and be able to use that team. Allow them to do their job and make sure you are fully utilizing their skills.”
Jana J. Madsen (firstname.lastname@example.org) is senior editor at Buildings magazine.