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A successful facility manager's daily duties and necessary skillset

This is an excerpt from Managing Sport Facilities-3rd Edition by Gil Fried.

The Facility Manager

A facility manager is the person responsible for coordinating all the employees and entities involved in the facility to ensure that they work on behalf of the facility and help meet its short- and long-term goals and objectives. Many people are in fact facility managers in their daily lives and do not realize it. The person who is the head of a household is really a facility manager. That person needs to purchase the house, pay the mortgage, paint the rooms, install new equipment such as air conditioners, maintain existing systems such as the roof, manage facility "subletting" (as in determining who is going to get which room), interact with government entities to pay taxes, and employ tradespeople such as plumbers and electricians.

The term facility manager is often used in the context of general facilities such as office buildings, but most of the same duties and responsibilities also apply to sport facility managers. Facility managers for big and small buildings face the same daily concerns. A facility manager's role is affected by the facility size and the workforce available to the manager. In a small facility, the facility owner may be the manager and can be responsible for opening and closing the facility as well as painting the walls and cleaning the restrooms. A facility manager for a large facility may have several dozen full-time and possibly hundreds to thousands of part-time employees handling everything, from cleanup crews to ushers and ticket takers. Because of the diverse duties each facility manager faces, facility management can be considered both an art and a science.

Specific duties need to be undertaken to ensure that a building can be opened for a planned event. From making sure there are enough hot dogs to monitoring indoor air quality, facility management has many facets. Managing all these tasks can appear to be onerous. Smaller facilities often rely on one individual to undertake all facility management activities. In many instances, a smaller facility has only one person who serves as the owner, manager, custodian, and secretary. The manager of a small health club has to find an appropriate location to build or must lease an existing structure (chapter 4). Part of the location identification process focuses on choosing the proper area (chapter 5), sales and marketing opportunities in the area (chapter 11), and financing options (chapter 12). Managers must work with outside vendors and government entities to secure necessary permits and complete any needed construction or renovations. The facility manager may have to design the facility, choose appropriate color and material schemes, and purchase and install all necessary fitness and office equipment (chapters 5-8). Once the facility is completed the manager will need to maintain it (chapter 9), consider strategies for addressing sustainability and environmental concerns (chapter 10), make sure the facility is operating within the law and in accordance with contracts (chapter 13), and then focus on planning for future needs and marketing to increase income streams. Smaller facilities that start to grow will often need to add employees, and then the facility manager must apply basic human resource skills (chapter 3) to appropriately manage the employees. The job is even more difficult when the facility needs constant attention, forcing the manager to spend time on keeping the facility clean and running rather than on generating revenue.

Larger facilities may have several different crews responsible for different functions such as ticketing, marketing, game operations, mechanicals, and janitorial responsibilities. Thus, facility management for larger facilities involves orchestrating the work of employees and volunteers to help accomplish the facility's goals. Because a PAF is dedicated to attracting events that will generate income or indirect economic activity (ripple effect; see chapter 4), PAF managers must always examine the facility's best use and determine what events will produce the most positive outcome to the bottom line consistent with the facility's mission. A manager for a larger facility has some duties similar to those of a small-facility manager, such as marketing and financial management. The general manager of a minor league baseball team may have to sell tickets, groom the field, move furniture, and undertake tasks involving both team and facility management because the budget typically does not allow the hiring of others. In contrast, a manager for a large facility typically has a staff that can undertake marketing, maintenance, renovations, and numerous other functions. This gives the manager the opportunity to work on broader issues such as long-term planning, developing strong constituent relations, and making sure the right employees are doing the various jobs.

Even though the duties undertaken in facility management may be fluid and can change according to the facility size, a facility manager has some well-defined expectations. According to the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), facility managers are critical for implementing any facility management plan and need to understand and appreciate several distinct functions. The latest study conducted by the IFMA (International Facility Management Association, 2007) highlights that the future competency of facility managers should entail the following:

  • Operations and management
  • Facility function
  • Real estate
  • Finance
  • Human and environmental factors
  • Quality assessment and innovation
  • Planning and project management
  • Communication
  • Technology

Furthermore, to prepare properly for the future, facility managers should develop their skill sets in regard to some of the following major current concerns:

  • Linking facility management to strategy
  • Emergency preparedness
  • Change management
  • Sustainability
  • Emerging technology
  • Globalization
  • Broadening diversity in the workforce
  • Aging buildings

Numerous activities occupy a facility manager's time:

  • The facility manager needs to plan all facility activities, control schedules, manage contracts, develop work standards, and evaluate both employees and external contractors.
  • Managers need to hire and organize all personnel, develop work schedules, and implement appropriate policies and procedures.
  • Facility managers need to develop short-, intermediate-, and long-term plans, with a strong focus on financial ramifications for each option.
  • The facility manager needs to develop an inventory of available space and manage that space by allocating it as needed and obtaining additional space for future growth.
  • A facility manager needs to have a strong appreciation and understanding of building design and planning, architectural design, engineering design, code and zoning compliance, construction costs, and building systems and their maintenance needs.
  • Workplace planning and design entail procuring and managing furniture and equipment for such areas as concessions, locker rooms, and press box.
  • Facility managers need to focus significant effort on budgeting, accounting, and economic forecasting.
  • Managers need to be involved in managing construction projects or moving from one area or facility to another.
  • A facility manager will need to spend significant time on operations, maintenance, and repairs. These activities can include exterior maintenance of the building and aspects such as trash and pest control.
  • Since 9/11, facility managers have been forced to deal with security and life safety concerns to a much greater extent than ever before.
  • Last, managers have to supervise general administrative departments such as food service or a mail room (Cotts and Lee, 1992).

Although these functions are numerous, the primary function and the overriding concern for any facility manager should be employee and patron safety. After safety, legality is the next most important concern for facility managers (Cotts and Lee, 1992). When surveyed in 1988 about the most frequent managerial activities, facility managers indicated that maintenance absorbed the greatest amount of their time (17%), followed by space management (14%), interior design (11%), and budgeting and forecasting (9%) (Cotts and Lee, 1992). It could be assumed that managing people and human resources and administrative responsibilities consumed a large portion of the remaining 49%. A more recent survey would probably show that facility managers are now spending more time on security, air quality, compliance with laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, and workplace violence issues.

Not every manager is an expert in each area. However, working with competent employees, receiving training from good mentors, working with management teams, and getting direction from an educated advisory board can help managers effectively balance their various roles.

The various highlighted roles show that managers first and foremost must manage the various stakeholders associated with the facility. This means that before a manager can open a facility's doors, or even plan to build a new facility, she must understand who will use the facility. Constituent analysis helps define who the manager must interact with to positively affect the facility's long-term success.

Top Management Skills

What are some of the top skills a facility manager needs to master? The following list highlights some of the skills that will help a facility manager meet the most important objective - ensuring the highest degree of customer service.

  • Infuse pride in everyone in your organization. If all the employees have pride in what they are doing, they will work and provide services at a much higher level.
  • Delegate to others. It is sometimes very difficult for a manager to delegate to others, but to be successful a manager needs to empower those around him and then give them meaningful assignments.
  • Understand what the fans want. A manager needs to know what the customers want and how to deliver the best fan experience.
  • Communicate with a sense of purpose. A manager needs to develop a vision and then communicate that vision to everyone around her.
  • Track and measure success. A manager needs to judge those around him, and if a known and identifiable measurement standard is developed and utilized, employees will know what they need to accomplish and how the manager will evaluate them.
  • Give unique rewards that people will remember. To be effective the reward needs to be given immediately in a public manner and needs to be personalized. A reward can be a trophy, bonus, pay increase, or a favorable parking spot, among other things. Some of the most effective rewards are not monetary and can include two close colleagues being able to share an experience (e.g., traveling to a conference together), a sincere "thank you," or a donation to a favorite charity.
  • Understand what organizational structure will be the most effective. Organizations have shifted from traditional organization charts, which have a top down structure similar to a pyramid with the manager at the top, to more of a matrix structure in which an employee may be accountable to two or more functional areas or departments. Thus, in the past a custodian might report to the director of custodial services. Today, a custodian might report to the director of operations and vice president of facility management and be shuttled between the two departments based on need. This can cause significant friction, which requires more managerial oversight.

Management is not all about directing others. Employees want to be led and look for guidance from a true leader. Some of the key traits employees look for in their manager include the following:

  • Decisiveness. The manager makes quick decisions and does not waver afterward.
  • Understanding. The manager remembers how he felt when he was managed by others and shows understanding for employee needs and concerns.
  • Consistency. The manager is consistent in how he deals with issues and employees. He treats everyone the same and does not play favorites.
  • Trust. The manager shows true trust in his employees.
  • Happiness. The manager allows employees to be happy by giving them time to exercise or meditate during the day, write a positive workplace journal, or post a happy message to their social support network.
  • The manager and the employees both give their best effort. The manager asks employees on a regular basis if they have the opportunity to do what they do best on the job.

It is often easier for people to claim they can manage, but what does management mean? Management is the art of getting things done through using people and equipment (as highlighted in chapter 3). Management entails developing appropriate strategies to help accomplish desired goals. This often entails putting best practices into action. If a best practice already exists, it is often wiser and easier to attempt what has been done before rather than to try something that has not been attempted. The following is a 10-step process for putting best practices into action.

  1. Review current business practices and develop appropriate benchmarks both from inside a facility and from industry sources (e.g., publications, associations, mentors).
  2. Connect with other facility managers to study their best practices, share ideas, and help garner different opinions.
  3. Identify one task that needs improvement. Start small, but make sure it is a visible project so that, if successful, the improvement can be promoted throughout the facility.
  4. Examine how the task is currently being completed and determine ways in which it could possibly be improved.
  5. Decide who in the organization should follow the best practices (hopefully everyone).
  6. Establish a team for final review and approval so that others have a say in the process.
  7. Decide how you will implement and evaluate the change. Will there be flexibility if roadblocks are encountered and the solution needs to be tweaked?
  8. Ensure that the procedure chosen is accessible and is recorded in a way that lets others know what to do and how to do it. Some organizations videotape everything from meetings to job interviews to the decision making process. This serves as a training aid for employees.
  9. Verify the success of the best practice. Numbers, such as cost reductions or increased efficiency, provide a tangible measurement.
  10. Start all over again with a new task (Garris, 2006).

The second step in this list might be the most important part of the process. The industry of sport facility management is very small, and those in the industry are often willing to share what they are doing, discuss what has or has not worked, and provide guidance to other managers that can help them do their job more effectively. Managers must realize that managing is not simply a random bunch of actions but rather a process that involves numerous stakeholders. A manager could be likened to a conductor who needs numerous instruments (stakeholders) in order to create music.

Learn more about Managing Sport Facilities, Third Edition.

More Excerpts From Managing Sport Facilities 3rd Edition