All facilities groups – no matter what industry – have direct performance and financial impact on expense control/profitability, productivity, staff welfare, and delivery of products and services. Unfortunately, many senior managers don’t understand or appreciate the importance of facilities management until something goes wrong.
While they may see an increase of 5 percent in sales as something that should be highly rewarded, a 5-percent decrease in occupancy cost, for example, is often lost, even though it may deliver more profit to the bottom line. As facilities management professionals, you need to tell your story. You need to translate the benefits of the work you do into the language of those who run the business and evaluate your abilities. You need to market and sell the importance of your work to the success of your company, and ensure that you and your staff are rewarded for the work you do.
So how do you sell facilities management? You must understand this: The "rest of the organization" consists of your customers, and great customer service is the key to your success. And great customer service must be defined by your customers and not by you. You must always act, communicate, and execute your projects and your day-to-day services in an efficient, cost-effective, and professional manner. What some facilities management groups forget is that they must look professional as well. If you want to be considered professional in the eyes of senior management, you must look and act like senior management.
You interact with all staff levels within your organization on a daily basis. So, you must demonstrate why you deserve to have a seat at the table. If you’re not letting management know how good your internal facilities management group is, and letting them know about your staff’s expertise, knowledge, and utilization of in-sourcing, shared sourcing, selected outsourcing, and smart sourcing, someone will come along and show them just how inefficient your team might be. And that’s why it’s imperative for you to market your team and your department.
Some ideas and ways to do so:
- Add "profiles" of staff members in various forms: intranets, newsletters, bulletin board postings, etc. These profiles should highlight accomplishments, offer exemplary examples of customer service, talk about the projects he or she has completed, and list any community involvement.
- Hold brown bag informational lunch meetings with customers to answer questions, explain initiatives, and receive input on various policies/procedures.
- Attend the team meetings of other departments to understand what they do and how, as a facilities group, you can support them. This demonstrates a true team spirit, which will help foster more understanding, recognition, and respect throughout the rest of the organization.
- During executive presentations, invite managers to present their own projects and/or initiatives in order to demonstrate their expertise in, passion for, and commitment to their respective areas to the next level of management.
- During team meetings, have gift cards, plaques, etc. to give out in order to recognize accomplishments (in essence, very "public" recognition).
Glin Jay, who provides leadership for the Dallas office of Sebesta Blomberg & Associates, describes the need for marketing a facilities management department: "Among today’s FM professionals, there’s a growing awareness that we must develop, implement, and maintain the best practices and workable business plan. We must continuously demonstrate to management that the internal FM group can provide a competitive value-added service while maintaining a positive impact to the corporation’s bottom line. In addition, we must demonstrate that the internal FM program can be as good as, or better than, an outsourcing solution."
In other words – if you don’t take the lead in creating an appropriate operations environment that management recognizes, understands, and believes supports the corporation’s business plan, management will take it upon itself to develop alternative facilities management solutions. If this happens, an important facilities perspective is lost. As facilities management professionals, you must realize that there’s an urgent need to develop your marketing skills along with your ongoing facilities skill set. Remember, you’re selling a professional service: facilities management.
Just look at what firms like Jones Lang LaSalle have done in this industry. Jones Lang LaSalle has shown medium to large corporations why it is better at facilities management than the in-house staff members of those corporations. The reason Jones Lang LaSalle is so effective is that it understands how to speak the language of senior management, act professionally, understand internal customer services, and deliver on a well-articulated, valued array of services – the same things you and your team should be doing. If a third-party facilities management firm can do it, why can’t you? Your goals should be the same as the goals of firms like Jones Lang LaSalle.
Credibility is essential to creating a positive impression among senior managers. One critical example is in budgeting. Facility managers are obliged to "sell" their budgets to senior management like a sales manager must sell his or her forecast. Reasonable budgets must be proposed, and that represents a challenge that you can always justify through a strategic business plan. Never ask for too much or too little – too much creates a tendency for overspending, which is often discovered at the next planning session; too little leads to frustration, poor quality, and under delivery on your promises.
Senior management, in most organizations, is usually very bottom-line oriented. Obviously, you need to maintain profitability – no matter what industry you’re in. Therefore, the language that needs to be spoken should involve the terms "cost efficiencies," "improved productivity," etc. Some specific examples:
- I was able to align a facilities group’s work order system with IT’s "Sharepoint" system (essentially a project tracker communication tool that enhances the communications between the support groups and the end-user) after communicating that the results of doing so would include a more efficiently run project, fewer labor hours, and cost savings.
- In several tenant improvement projects, I was able to set moveable wall systems as a standard to reduce the cost of churn by demonstrating the cost of the product investment vs. the cost of refurbishment construction costs, along with lost productivity during extended downtime during construction.
- Build short, to-the-point business cases. Of course, not all projects/initiatives will be best served by shorter and less in-depth business justifications, but you only have the executive’s attention for a brief time. Presentations should go like this: project statement, goals, investments, tools and resources, ROI, timeline, conclusions.
The effort to market your facilities management group will reap constant rewards in terms of recognition and promotion. When marketing is combined with consistent high performance and constant visible support of the business plan, everyone wins.
William (Bill) Bancroft is vice president of corporate property services and director for Sterling Savings Bank in Spokane, WA.