One of the most common complaints I hear from Facilities Management professionals is that they aren’t included in strategic discussions about their buildings. Decisions get made without their input. This can often lead to unnecessary expense e.g. costly maintenance being undertaken on a building that is about to be sold.
To be included in strategic discussions you need to be able to demonstrate that you have something to contribute. However, it can be difficult to think about the bigger picture when you are overwhelmed with day-to-day issues. To overcome this difficulty, you need to prepare yourself. Do your homework beforehand so that when the opportunity arises you are ready to demonstrate and apply your insight.
How to contribute to strategic discussions
The idea is to understand your company and your customer’s company, their drivers and the markets in which they operate. To gather this information you need to ask lots of questions, read widely and drill into the websites of both businesses. You will be amazed at what information you can find. If you can’t find the company’s strategy or vision on the website, ask if you can have a copy of the relevant documents. I am often surprised at how little information some Facilities Management professionals have on their customer’s business, even at the level of knowing their employee numbers, share price, or total revenue and expenses.
What do you need to know?
Here are some key questions you should be able to answer about your company and your customer’s company:
- What is the management structure of your company?
- What is the management structure of your customer’s business?
- What is the vision and purpose of both companies? What are their values?
- How is your company’s budget put together? What percentage of the revenue are your fees?
- What is in your customer’s property budget? How do your costs contribute to this? What percentage of the total costs of your customer’s business are the property costs?
- What are the short- and long-term plans of the customer’s business?
- What internal and external constraints face this business?
- What are the risk factors?
- How are your customer’s competitors performing?
- What is the state of the property of these competitors?
Once you have gathered the information about both businesses and their broader business context, spend some time reflecting on it. Ask yourself:
- What themes are emerging?
- What are the implications of these themes?
Try to see things from a different perspective – be imaginative! This will help you think more strategically about your role and the impact of your actions on your customer’s business. Just as importantly it will enable you to demonstrate to your customer and your manager that you are aware of the bigger picture and that you can make a valuable contribution to strategic discussions.
There is no magic about strategic thinking, it is just about seeing the bigger picture and opening your mind up to different and creative possibilities.
Jane Hamilton is a former European Head of Corporate Real Estate at HSBC and leads RICS Executive Education’s Strategic Facilities Management Masterclass.
Find out more about RICS Executive Education and how we are supporting professionals across the built environment position themselves as leaders in the industry here.