Monday, November 29, 2010


We are at a very interesting crossroads, where today’s realities intersect with and influence our ability to achieve our vision for tomorrow.  This sort of intersection is not rare, of course, as it happens on an ongoing basis.  Every once in a while, however, the constantly shifting nexus undergoes a fundamental or at least notable shift.  And that is where I believe we find ourselves now.  The economic challenges of the day affect virtually every government, business and family around the globe and each must independently decide how it will best respond to protect itself and enable its future. 

In one sense this seems a bit like watching the never ending dance of cells through a microscope as they circle, collide, combine and divide.  What results may be predictable or exciting, depending on the conditions that have been established.  As we begin to work our way back to a “new normal” on the back side of the global economic trouble I expect we will agree that we have experiences that fall into both categories.  Out of this, however, emerges a few noticeable trends, or in some cases a new emphasis on old patterns.

Economic Constraints Will Continue to Shape FM
As noted above, the financial realities of the day will continue to influence governments and organizations for some years.  Said another way, it may not have taken long for us to dig the hole we are in, but it is going to take a while for us to climb out.  In this environment not everything is as it seems on the surface and a discerning eye is needed.

We are living in an era of capital ambiguity where interest rates are historically low yet access to money is not the given it once was.  That said, many of those who can get it are, taking advantage of low rates to stockpile capital.  Not all who do so are using it, however.  This may simply be opportunistic behavior, in some cases it may be preparatory to later moves.  Intel offers a good case in point, having stockpiled capital to the tune of $20 Billion U.S.  For nearly two years Intel sat on its growing reserve before recently announcing a set of acquisitions and large capital projects.  In this case, Intel appears to have been taking advantage of the low cost of money while waiting for the market to signal appropriate deployment strategies.[1]

That is the key isn’t it?  Hoarding cash (as some companies still appear to be doing) is not a good thing, but doing something wrong with it can be even worse.  Prudence suggests waiting for the market to declare need before committing capital to projects and initiatives.  Given the consumer-driven nature of many large economies, that serves to complicate the recovery equation. Only time will tell if those still sitting on the sidelines with cash are actually in the game, or if they will be content to sit and count. Those decisions, however, contribute to recovery speed, momentum and force, which in turn have a direct effect on FM. 

A key question remains:  How will the capital environment affect FM development, technology capitalization, and ability to meet business needs?  For those who have resource and opportunity the answer is likely to be positive and possibly even energizing.  For those without access to capital, however, the realities of today are a cloud over the visions for tomorrow.

Today, “low cost” is a serious advantage in virtually all respects.  Buyers of FM services are on the hunt for value at aggressive price points and this emphasis is driving changes in the supply chain.  For several years globalization was feeding a business model that relied on a smaller number of provider alliances which aggregated services under one alliance partner, as opposed to multiple providers and contracts.  While this trend has been in place for some time the financial pressures of the day have allowed FM’s to improve the value proposition in these relationships.  Maintaining quality in the face of cost and revenue pressures is the daily regimen of these providers.  Smart buyers understand the pressure on their suppliers and require ongoing quality audits and performance benchmarking.

This is the first installment of a multi-part post covering FM trends. 

[1] PBS Nightly Business Report, October 25, 2010, Intel CFO Stacey Smith on the Company Cash Stash

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Working My Way Back to Work

The thing about taking time away from work is that eventually you have to go back. That’s where I am today, too few hours separating me from a wonderfully refreshing break and my return to “normal” life. The break has been good and it gave me a chance to muse about a few FM-related things. I know…really? Yes, really. You didn’t think I was daydreaming the entire time up there on the mountaintop, did you?

In no particular order here are a few thoughts from the break:

  • There is no good time to take a vacation. Once you are away, however, there is no bad time to take one. That statement is about priorities and perspective, I think. Funny how a few days of clear air can clear your mind and rearrange your priorities. That’s a good thing.
  • This vacation happened to occur as the year is coming to an end, all too soon if you ask me. It is a good time to reflect back on the achievements of the year and look ahead to next year’s slate. Evaluating the past and re-setting personal priorities is an important activity. I’ve done that and already begun making changes in how I allocate time.
  • Many of us are too focused on the immediate crisis, meaning that we are consumed by the “tyranny of the urgent” and do not engage enough on broader issues with a broader audience. Guilty as charged, I’ve made that one of my reality checks for the coming year.
  • There is an interesting dialog in the profession about the maturation and/or decline of the FM industry as we have known it over the last thirty years. Some say that FM is finally getting its seat at the Board table while others believe FM is being commoditized as a transactional activity. I suspect that both are true depending on individual organizational dynamics. On the whole, however, I am enthusiastic about the trend toward FM’s elevated role.
  • At the recent WW2010 in Atlanta a spotlight was placed on the average age of the practicing FM. On one hand the graying of the profession is an issue to be dealt with. On the other hand this talent gap represents opportunity. New blood is coming into the profession with new passions, ideals and energy. That’s a good thing. My mentors trusted me when I was learning the ropes, and I think the new batch of “kids” will do just fine, thank you.
  • That said, the old world can still teach the new world a thing or two. Organizations need to do more to ensure that hard learned lessons of the past are not lost. There is great value in the war stories we all have from our careers. One of the “gray beard’s” most important functions now is to build bridges and mentor younger FM’s.
  • Sustainability is well on its way to being normalized. The hype about “green” continues and can still sometimes verge on the laughable, but the fact is that smart sustainability is just plain good business. Good sustainability practices are now expected as the norm and FM’s are most often on point.
  • The effects of our recent financial history are going to be with us a while. It didn’t take long for the hole to be dug, but getting out of it is going to take a while. The realignment of economies as they work their way back will create positives and negatives for FM’s. Make sure your eyes are open and be prepared to take full advantage of the opportunities.
  • Alternative Workplace Solutions (AWS) are gaining in prominence but must be tailored. There is no “template” that works for all. FMs who undertake AWS programs must address it as a significant change management initiative, complete with all of the support systems for staff you would expect with any other large change.
  • Many CEO’s will look to reposition and grow their companies during the economic recovery without adding significant real estate and operating liability, especially in service sectors. This will put increased emphasis on space efficiency and AWS programs, and may further complicate the commercial real estate outlook.
  • I have been impressed of late by the number of FM’s operating as independent consultants at a high level. With each economic downturn some have been forced into “free agency,” but this time it seems to have much greater positive results on the whole. It is a trend to watch.

That’s it for this week. Those of you in the U.S. enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday and take a few days to relax. Hunker down with a bit of egg nog, a fireplace and some of grandma’s turkey. I will be back next week with a new post and maybe some news about a new site.

Friday, November 19, 2010

In Case You've Been Wondering . . .

The blog is still alive and well.  Since WW2010 in Atlanta I've been on hiatus, taking in the beauty of the high Sierra.  To prove it, here are a few of the photos from last week's visit to Yosemite.  The blog will resume later this weekend.  Thanks to all who offer encouragement, and a "I have no idea" smile to those who ask where I find the time.

Enjoy the pics, I sure enjoyed taking them.

Yosemite Falls

El Capitan

Half Dome at Sunset

Mariposa Grove Sequoia's

Mariposa Grove

Olmstead Point at Sunset

Lake Tenaya

The Valley from Tunnel Viewpoint

Yosemite Falls from the Valley Floor

Monday, November 1, 2010

IFMA WW2010 Wrap Up Images

Bill Conley and Pam Kalmus

The new way to work??????

One way to draw attention to your product

All I want for Christmas

Serious daily commute enhancement option

Pam Kalmus and Bill Conley at Atlanta Chapter's "peach signing"

A new look in workplace seating

Francis Kuhn, IFMA Chair with Cathy Pavick, IFMA's VP for Education

Press conference - Francis Kuhn, IFMA Chair announcing IFMA's upgraded Facility Management Professional (FMP) credential