A Day in the Life of Chris Saunders

June 2, 2003
Another Day in Paradise

“If you ask the average person on the street would they like a chance to live in Hawaii, the answer would be yes,” says Chris Saunders, CFM, CID, CFMJ, director of corporate facilities, CB Richard Ellis (CBRE)/Bank of Hawaii, Honolulu. Saunders has worn many hats over the course of his career. Formerly with Harrah’s Hotel/Casino’s Corp. and Southern California Gas Co., Saunders established a solid relationship with the Bank of Hawaii (BOH) while acting as managing director for the CBRE FM line of Business and responding to the Bank RFP for Outsourcing. He eagerly accepted their offer to head the FM account and relocate to Hawaii in 1999.

CB Richard Ellis, its facilities management division headquartered in Los Angeles, is a premier outsourcer of facilities management services. Entrepreneurial and aggressive, the FM line of business specializes in the banking industry. Responsible for the management of the client’s 1.5 million square feet of commercial space in the Pacific Region, Saunders draws heavily on his extensive background in design/construction and facilities management. Saunders has a Master’s degree in International Business. He also relies on professional organizations.

Though exotic and beautiful, the Pacific region is uniquely challenging because of remote locations. “The state of Hawaii is not Iowa; if you go 30 minutes in any one direction, you are going to be in water,” states Saunders. In remote areas, travel can be time-consuming and expensive. Arduous travel makes it difficult to find vendor partners who can provide service to complete areas. “The Hawaiian Islands sound romantic, but they are a nightmare when it comes to getting consistent vendors. We are always reviewing our vendor partners’ level of services to see if we are getting the best value for the client,” says Saunders.

Varying time zones also present scheduling challenges. Saunders’ time zone is three to five hours behind the continental United States, and in some of his territories, it is already tomorrow. Because of cultural differences, Saunders and his team strive to be sensitive to each area’s unique character while maintaining a consistent image of the client’s facilities under management.

Extreme weather conditions are another major factor, as typhoons and earthquakes plague the region. Last December, a super typhoon destroyed two bank branches the team manages on Guam. “Winds were over 160 miles per hour. The winds disrupted everything; the fuel storage facilities, airport, water service, and power were all knocked out,” says Saunders. The BOH/CB Richard Ellis facilities management team assisted in providing immediate relief, sending much-needed emergency supplies. Adds Saunders, “We had staff running through local hardware stores quickly buying towels, mops, disinfectant, bedding, matches, propane stoves. It was like a game show where you have five minutes in a grocery store.”

CB Richard Ellis is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the insurance companies to restore the lost facilities. Currently, Saunders’ Guam FM Team has organized furniture manufacturers and architecture firms with the plan to have the destroyed facilities back in operation by late this December.

Saunders enjoys the thrill of the trials of his position and delivering on his firm’s promise of quality service. He is looking forward to the next series of challenges, noting, “We are all on our own road; I think the life map is very exciting.”

Regina Raiford Babcock ([email protected]) is senior editor at Buildings magazine.

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