• Jamie Leeper

12 skills required for retail facility maintenance professionals

Updated: Mar 25, 2019


What does the perfect facilities maintenance manager look like?


Facility management is a very interesting position that is always evolving. There are so many moving pieces that it sometimes becomes extremely difficult to manage everything. With over 20 years of experience in the facilities maintenance and project management industry, we have seen a massive evolution in the qualities needed for success in this field.

In this piece we take a look at the 12 most important factors that an individual needs to succeed as a facility maintenance manager.

1. An ability to deal with emerging issues

We live in a very fast paced world, and the retail industry is without a doubt one of the fastest moving categories. Current initiatives such as environmental and social stability, urban developments, the switch from swipe to chip and pin, and more popularity being placed on lifestyle centers over malls will all have an impact on your job. Make sure that you are in the loop with the latest trends to make sure that you don't get left behind. Some ways to do this are joining your local Chamber of Commerce, gaining membership to a national organization such as IFMA or PRSM, or subscribing to magazines and newsletters about these matters.

2. An ability to think strategically

As mentioned above, there are so many moving pieces, and dealing with things as they come your way is going to be exhausting and overwhelming. Chances are, most people have felt like the guy below before. I believe that most facility managers have experienced this feeling much more than many other professionals. For some reason, FMs tend to be the catch all department and can be relied upon to pick up the slack on any tasks that are behind schedule. While this shows the strength of people in this position, it is exhausting and is one of the causes for the very high turnover rates in the FM world.


3. Holistic thinking

Due to the nature of this position, you need to be able to take a step back and look at things from a distance so that you can see the big picture. Integrated pieces such as an overflowing toilet and the damage it causes to flooring, or the incorrectly installed under carpet power that leads to life safety concerns need to be looked at. If you have an external pipe at home, there is a chance that it could freeze, despite all of the preventative measures you took. If the pipe broke, the chances are that there is going to be a water leak internally as well as outside of the house. Do you have a sump pump in place to take care of the internal water? Do you have a battery back up for the sump pump in case the power goes out? You need to see how all of these items are related if you are to have any luck with minimizing the damage caused by these events. None of these items are mutually exclusive and an FM is required to connect all of these pieces and get everything working in harmony, as well as dealing with all of them when things collapse.

4. An understanding of the associated financial pieces

As with most jobs you will be working with a budget and your numbers must look good to the CFO at the end of the year. This places a lot of pressure on you, as you are looking to get the job done well, on time, and within budget, and unfortunately these three cannot coexist. You will need to get creative, prioritize, and use your bargaining power to achieve this goal. However, beware of potential pitfalls along the way and remember that you get what you pay for. There is a reason why someone's service is much cheaper than the rest. Be sure to look at total cost and total value, instead of initial cost as this is where people will destroy you. You have a choice between one vendor at $30 per hour, and another at $120, who do you go with? If your immediate thought is number 1, then you should probably start looking elsewhere as this isn't the way that we operate. We take a holistic approach and look at the bigger trip. Total cost and total value are more important to us than initial cost. In the above example, the $30 per hour vendor might take 5 hours, to his competition's 1, which would actually make him more expensive overall. Be sure to look at total cost, as well as the quality of workmanship provided by the vendor. The old saying of you get what you pay for normally doesn't let us down.

5. Trade knowledge and understanding of the core competencies

In any field that you are working in, it is definitely going to help if you have experience and knowledge of the trade in question so that you can communicate effectively. This will also give you more bargaining power as the technicians in the field won't be able to pull the wool over your eyes and charge you for unnecessary work. The knowledge should also allow you to get work done more quickly and in fewer trips. The downside of this is that it takes a lot of time to complete all of these tasks and if you have a large number of stores something is going to have to give.

6. Excellent communication skills

You are going to be working with multiple people, who all rely on different forms of communication to get the job done. It could be through the phone, via email, text message, IVR, USPS, or even fax. Yes, believe it or not, some people still use the archaic facsimile machine. The most important thing here is to make sure that you have one place where you can keep track of everything. Some people still rely on Excel spreadsheets, but the majority of facilities managers now use sophisticated CMMS systems.

7. Diligence

So many aspects of facility management deal with very precise measurements or requirements. All of these need to be taken into consideration when overseeing an entire portfolio of properties. The trouble that a lot of FMs get into is that they get overwhelmed and find themselves continually putting out fires, instead of getting more specific and conducting root cause analysis. This is a very slippery slope, and once you start on it, it's hard to regain your footing.

8. Innovation

All aspects of your facilities and the regulations governing them are constantly changing. If you become content with the current way of doing things, and are not prepared to try something new every now and again, it is going to be a very long road ahead of you. New technology and research, as well as books and internet posts, provide us with ideas that can be tweaked to meet our jobs. You always need to be on the look out for better and more efficient ways of doing things. New technologies, new systems, new approaches, different employees, and input from external sources all have the potential to help you with this matter. As the famous saying goes "if you're not moving forward, you're moving backward".

9. Problem solving

There are going to be numerous issues that you have never experienced before that find their way to your desk. Do you have the ability to think outside of the box to create a solution or do you just bury your head in the sand and hope for the best?

10. Patience

As an FM you are going to be interacting with many different people who all have very different agendas. The store manager wants the store back up and running quickly so that they can meet their quota. The parts supplier has his hands tied by the manufacturer. Your CFO is watching your budget, which means you might not be able to get the speed of service you are looking for. All of these issues create a very tough environment for you to work in, and at times you will feel like you are being pulled in 50 different directions. Prioritizing, communicating, and being patient are all necessary to get through these moments.

11. Decision making abilities

In the fast paced world that we live in, things need to be done yesterday. If you are ever indecisive, you will get left behind and will be forced to spend time spinning your wheels trying to catch up. Be confident in your abilities and have the courage to make big decisions in a timely manner.

12. Planning ahead

As with most things in life, facility problems are going to occur at some point. Frequently it is at the most inconvenient and disruptive time to your store. However, the impact can be somewhat controlled by having a plan in place. When your air conditioning unit stops working on a blistering hot afternoon, how do you respond? If your answer here is along the lines of "I'll cross that bridge when I get to it", all I am going to say is good luck. There is also the option of working with a project management company to create a scheduled maintenance program for your facilities, which won't prevent, but will hopefully reduce the chance of a problem occurring.

As you can see, the modern day facilities manager is faced with an ever increasing and evolving list of responsibilities. If you are struggling to stay afloat, give Royal Services a call today at 1-800-728-1155 and find out how we can help get your buildings back under control. You can find out more about our retail facility maintenance solutions by clicking HERE.


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