15 Tips for First-Time Facility Managers
Editor’s Note: Some comments from this post have been edited for clarity or brevity. Thank you to our amazing online community for their contributions and their commitment to knowledge sharing.
New to being an FM? Every facility manager has been there. The good news is that you are never alone. With the power of IFMA's online community, no problem is too big or too small for our members to tackle together.
We recently asked on our LinkedIn page, "What are your tips for first-time facility managers?" We poured through over 200+ comments to curate the best tips and tricks for those starting out in the built environment.
Have an open mind & never stop learning
1. “This is how I’ve always done it.” Lose that mentality. Be open to new approaches and new strategies. Listen to everyone, no matter what their background and experience is.
—Jonathan Gendron, CFM • Senior Manager of GxP Facilities/Engineering
2. Have an open, teachable mind. What worked in one facility may not work in another. Take time to learn and analyze the culture, processes and people so as to make a long-term plan and you will be good. Also, have fun while at it with your team.
—Muchiri Nkari • Facilities Supervisor at Janus Continental Group
3. Facility management is an ever-evolving process. Every day is different, and procedures grow and change to match daily demands. Stay up-to-date with facilities management best practices. Be prepared to learn every day. Most importantly, consult with your counterparts and IFMA team as experience will not be found in a book.
—Joy Washington, FMP • Facilities Coordinator II at Centene Corporation
4. Knowledge AND competence are your biggest assets in this industry. Be open to learning no matter your depth of experience, sharpen your iron and learn from challenges, create community with your peers and SMEs.
—Sarah Sims • Senior Director of Workplace Experience at Earthjustice
Don’t underestimate the power of regular walks through the facility
5. A very simple one that often gets overlooked. Physically walk the facility, including mechanical rooms daily. It will help you identify what is a normal noise, smell, temperature etc, and what is not. I discovered a water main break using this method. I am so familiar with my mechanical rooms that I identified a noise that sounded like water was running. I was the only one in the facility at the time. No toilets or sinks running etc. Ended up being a water main break that was filling the drain tile around our foundation, and then slowly filling our sump pump pit. It was a week-long adventure to get it resolved.
—Jim Horan • Building Maintenance Manager at Crystal Lake Public Library
6. Walk the property, in and out - continuously. Visit plant rooms, walk floors, walk roofs, visit tenants, walk basements, identify as much information from the property as possible! Work from the property, identify hard and soft services, procedures, documents etc!
—Tyron Jones • Facilities Manager at Feenstra Group
Make a strategic plan
7. I always start with a ground-up compliance review/audit of my entire footprint to get the ball rolling including general building maintenance processes/protocols, safety, security, business continuity, real estate, depending on how large or small your purview is.
Understanding that most of your FM policy updates, justifications and enforcement potential will be spearheaded by local, national and possibly global safety-related governing bodies (e.g. Federal, OSHA, NFPA, building/construction code) will give you a strong foundation to stand on upfront when you publish your audit findings with cited, validated reasoning and potential punitive consequences behind your recommendations.
Especially in older facilities, where detailed compliance in all areas may have fallen by the wayside, this can be low-hanging fruit to outline in your initial facility compliance corrective actions report for your company stakeholders to stare at with a glazed look and give you the green light (and budget) to "FIX EVERYTHING!"... and off you go!
—Alex Matthews • Regional Facilities Manager, Project, Safety & Security at Panasonic Automotive Systems
8. Start with finding out about the current situation and condition compared to where your organization wants to be and work out a plan to make it happen. Identify your mission and share your vision. Engage your team. Make them realize their value and their contributions and make them make a difference.
Standardize, make sure the team is continuously learning and evolving. The technical language adopted is unified.
Your help desk or customer support is key to your success starting with logging issues, planning inspections or PPM, arranging for RM. The communication, the records, the data analysis. Create a heat map. Identify areas with troublesome issues to tackle first. It's needless to mention that you should also know your budget and if there is a deficiency what mitigation you'll have. Also, safety cannot be mitigated. Safety is a priority. Make sure this is how you operate.
—Ali Eldin ElKasaby • Program Project Manager at Amazon
Invest in your team
9. Understand your team. They're the ones who not only deliver at ground level but are also responsible or implementing your ideas. Motivate them to give their best by supporting them in day-to-day activities. Arrange materials on time, timely admin support, and technical instructions where needed. You take care of them, and they will take care of everything.
—Asrar Ahmad Ansari • Estimation and Contracts Engineer at Khidmah
10. The efforts of the facilities management team are often not readily apparent, and others may not recognize their hard work if everything is running smoothly. Therefore, it is important to periodically highlight and showcase the team's efforts to ensure that their contributions are acknowledged and appreciated.
—Abduallah Mustafa • Facilities Engineer at Mumtalakat
Have a people/occupant’s first mindset
11. I am fortunate in that I have talked to many facility managers over the past decade. I’ve noticed that the best facility managers focus on one thing: Occupants. They are obsessed with ensuring the occupants are comfortable and they ideally don’t even know all of the hard work it takes behind the scenes to keep them at that comfort level.
—Kurt Thomas, PE • Ambassador at Category Thinkers
12. Don't trivialize occupant requests or complaints, no matter how minor they seem. You are directly responsible for another person's hierarchy of needs.
—Gary Knapick, PE • Director, Global Maintenance & Reliability at Takeda
13. Client satisfaction is KEY in this profession. Always remember you are providing a service, and every little detail counts!
—Ogagaoghene Usor • Facilities Manager at KingMakers
You get what you pay for
14. You get what you pay for. If you consistently select the cheapest vendor don’t be surprised when you constantly have unexpected expenses with said vendor. Quality work costs money and cutting corners in Facility Management is dangerous.
—Elias Lemon, FMP • Director, Facility Management and Real Estate at Be The Match
15. On major projects, don’t always go with the cheapest. Instead, go with the best for the job. Building infrastructure all over Detroit is aging. In many cases, the capital budget does not match with the work needed. With budget restraints building owners tend to go with the cheapest option to complete a project while saving money. This sometimes backfires due to low budget unqualified contractors poorly performing; which in return, causes change orders and overall, an unfinished and unfulfilled project. Go with the best, not the cheapest to get it done right the first time.
—Marcus Weldon • Director of Facilities at Grosse Pointe Yacht Club