Some people are put in leadership positions; others take ownership of the role. Tom Ripley is one of those individuals.In 1985, after three years of teaching industrial plant maintenance at a local vocational community college, Ripley joined the Seattle-based Fisher Properties as its chief engineer. His goals were high but achievable, and his dedication unwavering. Buildings were getting taller and more sophisticated in Seattle, and Fisher Properties was looking for a person to design and develop a professional in-house engineering enterprise. Ripley delivered. In his 18 years with Fisher Properties, the team has grown from two to 17 engineers. “The program that I have in place today is so much bigger and better than it ever would have been, than I imagined – because of the very innovative and futuristic-thinking people that I’ve worked for,” says Tom Ripley, now vice president of engineering, Fisher Properties.Talk to Ripley and you’ll realize the man is a dynamo, a person that believes all things are achievable, and that teamwork and customer service are paramount in the management and operation of facilities. During Ripley’s career, the company has managed and renovated owned facilities and most recently developed new properties for Fisher Media Services, including Fisher Plaza, a two-building complex in Seattle that combines Class A office, data, and retail space with 21st century communications and media services. The Plaza makes claim to provide “Every Business Advantage.” Management by Ripley’s team certainly makes this mantra a reality. The company is once again in transition – evolving into a third-party property management service provider. “We sell services to our owned properties, we sell services to properties we manage, and we sell services to properties that are in no way affiliated with us. It really works well because our people are multi-disciplined,” says Ripley. Seamless customer service, support, and proactive maintenance provide smooth operation – a goal Ripley’s team strives for daily. “Our job is to make the facility disappear for the customer, so the tenant doesn’t see the facility as an impediment to doing business,” Ripley explains. However, customer service skills are not innate. “In teaching people to not only be technically superior in every way, you also need to teach them to be customer service minded,” stresses Ripley.No one can underestimate the influence of Ripley and his teaching capabilities. Successful operations, low employee turnover, and loyal tenants are proof of his effectiveness.Jana J. Madsen ([email protected]) is senior editor at Buildings magazine.