The job of the facility manager can be challenging, and not much recognition is given to it from the world. Many more people are now realizing how important this figure is and having a knowledgeable and reliable facility manager can make a big difference in the day to day operations. But what he or she does is still a mystery for many people. It is more than just a custodian of the facility; it is the only person that knows the in’s and out’s of the building and how to solve the problems where other professionals fail. The facility manager knows its facility and its challenges. In my years as a facility manager, a lot of people told me “it cannot be done,” or “this would cost a lot of money,” or “you cannot do it”, and so on. Every time, I managed to prove them wrong. Professionals might have more experience and degrees than you, but you know your facility better than them. So, what does a person need to be a good facility manager? Here are the 10 tips for a person who wants to be a good facility manager or to any person that wants to achieve something in life.
1. BE ALERT FOR YOURSELF AND FOR OTHERS
Many people walk looking at their phones, and some people work with their headphones in listening to their favorite music. Don’t be one of them! You are the facility manager and you have to notice the problems as soon as they appear, or even before. Even if you are having a friendly conversation with your coworker, keep listening to the noises around you, and keep watch of your surroundings. You have to be alert even for that person who is walking looking at their phone. So be alert, always!
2. USE ALL YOUR SENSES
You have five senses, use all of them… and don’t forget the sixth one too. Sometimes you can see a problem (such as when there is a leak in the building), sometimes you can hear a problem (when a generator is not functioning properly), sometimes you can smell a problem (if an appliance is burning), sometimes you can taste a problem (when the food your facility is serving is spoiled), sometimes you can touch a problem (when something is not secured properly, you may not see it, but when you touch it you can tell that it is insecure). And, sometimes, you just know that there is a problem. People will tell you there is no problem, but don’t listen to them. Every person has different motives and perspectives. But they are not in charge of the facility, you are. Trust your gut, and if you feel there is a problem, then trust that there is a problem.
3. KNOW YOUR COWORKERS AND THEIR MOTIVES
Even if you are a facility manager, your main challenges often don’t come from the facility, but from people. Sometimes, you need to get something done, but perhaps you can’t do it by yourself, or perhaps you need everyone’s approval in order to move forward. Know your coworkers, know their strengths, know their pet peeves, and know their limitations.
Sometimes, to be a good facility manager, you have to first be a good psychologist (but don’t make it obvious to them!). Sometimes, your coworker is not against your proposal because it is a bad idea, but because your idea might trigger a negative memory from their past. If you know who are you dealing with, then you know how to deal with their reactions. And, finally, sometimes you just need help, and you need to know who to ask. Trust me, not all tall men are comfortable standing on a ladder to replace a lightbulb.
4. LISTEN TO EVERYBODY, TRUST NO ONE
Way before I started my career as a facility manager, I heard someone (or many) telling me, “you cannot do it”. Why not? Never be afraid to ask, “why not?” You have to listen to everybody. Everybody can have a good idea, and everybody might know something that you don’t. Listen to them. Ask them why. Learn from them. If it makes sense, take it into consideration. If it doesn’t, don’t be afraid of being considered a stubborn person. You are not. Prove to them that they are wrong! For example, a while ago a critical part of my facility broke down. Experts told me that it would cost $30,000 to fix it and that it would involve a multiple day job, a crane, a city permit to block the street, and a lot of labor. It wasn’t simply true. I got a colleague of mine to help me (remember, know who your coworkers are), and with determination, we fixed it with just the use of a wrench and a car jack in one hour.
5. THINK ABOUT THE BIG PICTURE, BUT DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE SMALL ONE
Every person has their own motives. Your coworkers included. They will tell you that it’s ok to do something, or that it’s ok to do it just this time. All of the time, I hear people saying, “what can possibly go wrong?!”. There is a simple answer to that: a lot. Most people around you cannot see the big picture and often cannot predict what the outcome of something can be. And, because it is not their job, they don’t worry about what the possible consequences can be, they just care that their personal interests are satisfied. You, on the contrary, are in charge of something very important: the safety of all of the people in your building. Because their lives are important, you have to take charge and think about the big picture. Always ask yourself: what can go wrong?
6. NO PROBLEM IS TOO SIMPLE
I see this all the time. People come in to fix something in my building, and they think that it will just be a three-minute job. As a female manager, people often underestimate me and think that I am calling them to fix a simple problem just because I am a woman. But oftentimes, as soon as they approach the problem, they change their minds. It never is as simple as they think it is. There is no problem that is too simple. New problems will always develop after you fix your old ones. Every building has its own personality, and no building is the same as another one. If you approach a problem thinking that it will be too simple to solve, you will fail. Don’t underestimate small problems, treat them with the same attention as larger ones, and you will succeed further.
7. LEARN, LEARN, LEARN and BE CURIOUS
A facility manager is a plumber, an electrician, a gardener, a janitor, a painter, an architect, an engineer, a psychologist, and so on. Learn as much as you can, you need as much information as possible to be able to do your job best. You don’t need to be an expert in all of these subjects, but you do need to know a little about almost everything. Even if you don’t do it on your own, and you hire someone, you need to be able to talk to that person about their job and to direct them. And often, you will have to help the experts to find the best way to solve a problem. So, if you have knowledge of what they’re doing, you’ll be in charge of them, and them not in charge of you.
8. IF THEY DON’T SHARE THEIR KNOWLEDGE, THEY ARE NOT THE RIGHT PEOPLE
I’ve had to deal with many contractors throughout my career and I’ve learned something from it: recognize when someone is good or not. The good contractors (or coworkers sometimes) are those that don’t keep their knowledge for themselves, but they share it with you. If they don’t share their knowledge with you, it’s because they are afraid that if you know too much, then you will understand when they are cheating you. You don’t want that. You need to be able to trust the people around you and make sure that they will always do their best for you and for your building. So, ask them questions, ask them what are they doing, why are they doing it, and especially, how something works. If they are willing to educate you, you will benefit twofold. You will learn something more about taking care of your facility, and you’ll know that you’ve found a good partner in maintaining the wellbeing of your building.
9. EVERY PIECE OF INFORMATION CAN BE IMPORTANT
Have you ever seen the movie Slumdog Millionaire? Every piece of information you acquire throughout your life is important. When I was in high school, I did a one-month internship at an architecture firm. It seemed like they were too busy to teach me, and they gave me CAD blueprints to reproduce. I felt like they were giving it to me just to keep me busy. Little did I know, one day I would become a facility manager, and knowing how to draw a blueprint would help further my career. In the same way, it helped me to be a pizza delivery girl and to understand inventory management. It also helped me when my dad taught me how to weld the beams of a warehouse. Everything helps, and even if you don’t think you remember something, don’t worry. Your brain will remember, and it will bring back the memory as soon as you give it a try.
10. JUST BE A GOOD HUMAN BEING
Listen to people, care for people, and treat the people around you with respect. Everybody has a bad day every now and then, and some people more often than others. Some people like to have their bad mood broadcasted worldwide, and some people try to hide it from the world. This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect them or their work. Don’t take it personally. Be there for the people, not only for the building, and you will see that even your building will benefit from it. It’s OK to lose five minutes of your precious job to try to make someone else’s day better. Every now and then, allow yourself to disrupt your job in order to help someone in need. You are more than the manager of a building, you are the manager of everything inside the building. Value the humans around you. Everybody will benefit.