In an industry that has long lauded visionaries, it's not enough to know only what the marketplace wants. Even more important, according to Subodh A. Kumar IFMA Fellow, CFM, is to know what it needs.
For Kumar, president of the strategic consulting firm Chartered Facility Management Group Inc. (CFM Group), such discovery has been a life-long destination. His personal voyage may have begun with an innate curiosity about people and diverse cultures and a mentoring father who was a renowned expert in international trade, as well as a wife who has consulted for the United Nations. Along the way, the exploration was fine-tuned by a formal education in Architecture, Construction Engineering/ Management, Facility Planning and Management, and Accounting and Finance. However, it was the 25 years of work experience in architecture, engineering, planning, facilities management, and transportation that truly set Kumar on the course he presently travels. Modestly, he calls himself a "problem solver." Those who have reaped the benefit of his expertise know better.
CFM Group consists of an informal coalition of former facilities directors of large companies who come together, where needed, for different projects. "We've become a nation of too many specialists, so there has always been a need to consult with people who cross multiple disciplines - those who can put together information from lots of different pieces," explains Kumar.
"Wearing the various hats of experience is one aspect that differentiates us from most other organizations," says Kumar. "Like other management consultants, we consider organization, finance, and technology within a company. Then, we add space to that mix.
"The results have been tremendous."
In counseling his clients, Kumar uses his diverse background to communicate in a professional "language" each member of the team understands. While this ability speeds each step of the process, Kumar jokingly notes, "Architects and engineers have a hard time with me because I'm constantly talking about things from the user's perspective."
He advises end-users to look for value on a constant basis, and defines facilities as "everything that is not a company's core business. Don't, for instance, dismiss finance as a non-facilities problem," he says. "Many facilities professionals have not made the link between stock values and their facility budgets. Look for big picture strategic issues [to maximize value], rather than focusing solely on day-to-day-operations."
Pointing to the speed of industry changes effected by technology and the Internet, Kumar says, "Your competitors of yesterday are your collaborators of today. Multiple generations at various levels in the workplace are challenging the old business models. People need to think in terms of the fusion of the new and old knowledge and create hybrids between the two. Relearn a lot of things, harmonize them, and continuously seek to innovate."
Strategic vision with bottom-line results: For Kumar, the journey constantly changes. Clearly, however, it is never boring.Up Close and Personal
Subodh, what is your personal motto?
Don't look for something that is inexpensive, but look for things that will add value.
What do you consider career highlights?
Technology affecting change. Managing a billion dollars worth of design work in my 20's with some prominent architects, like I.M. Pei, and doing it without the Internet in multiple locations around the world. Recently, becoming an IFMA Fellow.
Do you have a least favorite buzzword?
Probably the most misused word is preplanning. That's a misnomer. Planning, by its very nature, is what you do prior to the event. The other phrase, to some extent, is development strategy or strategic work. Too many people are just using the word without engaging in strategic thinking.
Do you have any particular pastimes?
I enjoy traveling internationally and exploring new lifestyles. New ways of living - new ways of looking at the same problem. Almost every manager is solving the same types of problems in different ways. By seeking out these situations, we can change our paradigms and address them differently.
What is your most important tool?
I would think it would be the computer, the telephone, and, possibly, The Wall Street Journal.
Is there another occupation you would like to pursue?
I'm not sure I would have done anything differently, but I probably would have gotten into [consulting] earlier.
Linda K. Monroe ([email protected]) is editorial director at Buildings magazine.