Put the “M” Back in FM

Lobby area collaboration space building hallway facility lobby

“The type of building and local amenities often contribute to revenue opportunities,” explains Geoff Williams, general manager at CHSI. “For example, the Centre for Health & Safety Innovation has parking, but we don’t charge for it. It could be a revenue opportunity in the future, but given our more suburban location, it would be unreasonable to charge for parking. If you’re in an area where there are a lot of local food choices, it may not be a wise decision to operate a food service in the building.”

Each one of those revenue opportunities is like a separate business that you’re about to launch, Williams continues. That means your next step is to develop a strong case for why your organization should back your efforts, including revenue projections and potential risks and liabilities.

“The C-suite is typically most concerned about time, risk, and money, and both time and risk relate to money,” says Theriault. “The FM needs to ask the CEO, CFO, or COO, as well as the IT person and the financing person, what they need to see in order to make decisions. Different organizations have different ways of representing financial analysis, so investigate what they would like to see – sometimes that means digging deeper into benchmarking information or talking to colleagues to find out what they’ve done.”

Steps to Implementation
Now operating as a business within a business, the facilities team at CHSI was charged a few years ago with expanding the reach of the organization’s Corporate Event Centre. Business grew nearly twofold in three years thanks in part to these steps.

1) Creating a strategy for growth. Starting with CHSI’s vision, mission, and values, the team focused on strategic marketing for the business, aiming to make the event center a “unique meeting place for applied learning and innovation and to inspire prevention in the community” per its mission. This goal statement closely mirrored the overall corporate objective: “Create a unique meeting place that advances and promotes the mission of CHSI and supports its partners and stakeholders.” The alignment between the organization’s goals and the event center’s goals ensured that the end result furthered both parties.

4 Questions for FMs

Building your plan to operate as a profit center starts with these four questions, say Geoff Williams and Nicole Lobb of the Centre for Health & Safety Innovation.

1)   How well do you understand your corporate strategic plan?

2)   How does the FM strategy fit into the strategic plan?

3)   Can you demonstrate FM successes against corporate goals?

4)   What can the FM do for the bottom line?


2) Developing a team that matched the size of the Corporate Event Centre’s requirements to ensure adequate services. This involved adjusting the responsibilities of some staffers to align each position to the corporate strategy. The former facility director became the general manager and is now tasked with managing the event center’s business, while the facility manager’s title changed to client services and facility manager, encompassing both managing the building and maintaining the relationship with the internal tenants who use the facility.

A new role, the guest services manager, was created to match the growth of the venue; this team member focuses on marketing the business, staying competitive, and maintaining relationships with event center clients.

3) Aligning the product to the customer. CHSI determined that three core groups were using its event space and tailored its approach accordingly.

Resident clients included paramedical clinics, health and safety associations, and other businesses headquartered at CHSI, which mainly played a landlord role for this group. Serving resident clients required an understanding of unique businesses and special attention to customer surveys and quality guest services.

Corporate Event Centre clients represented multiple business types (which required the venue to remain flexible), but the team decided to target corporate institutions as the venue offered a plug-and-play corporate meeting environment. Wooing these clients meant ensuring competitive pricing for rooms, free services (such as Wi-Fi), and on-site catering in order to compete with other meeting spaces. To meet that goal, CHSI re-evaluated its pricing strategy and invested in re-branding, targeted marketing, and collateral.

Finally, the community event clients utilized the organization’s health, safety, and wellness resources to benefit the surrounding community. Serving them required keen knowledge of community needs and the ability to satisfy multiple market segments at once. Here, CHSI focused on building its brand, defining its market, and increasing its own value in order to drive sponsorships from industry partners.
“A lot of the success was built on understanding both the product and the client,” explains Lobb. “With these tools in hand, CHSI grew our business nearly two-fold in three years.”

Build on Your Successes
The transition from cost center to profit center won’t happen overnight, so it’s vital that you keep pushing for change even after your first successful initiative as a small business. That attitude can make all the difference, Theriault explains.

“What I see is a dichotomy of facilities managers who are just treading water because they’re doing it the old way and the successful people who have been able to implement change, get money for resources, and have the ear of senior management,” adds Theriault. “When I look at where that comes from, the difference between those two people is business leadership and strategic skills.”

Continue improving that skill set through training and outside education as much as you can, Theriault recommends. In addition to general business training, consider looking into classes on communication or writing to help you polish your message.

“Start doing things differently,” Theriault urges. “Don’t keep doing it the same way. Don’t do it the way your boss used to do before you took over the job. Don’t do what all your colleagues did. Learn from people in other departments who are successful and have climbed up the ladder.”

Janelle Penny janelle.penny@buildings.com is senior editor of BUILDINGS.

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