This month I had the opportunity to interview IFMA member Rod James — Facilities Manager at Allstate. Interviewing Rod gave me insight into how Facilities Managers job responsibilities may differ depending on the organization.
Rod has been an employee at Allstate for 24 years. He began his career in accounting and managed the accounting division at Allstate, which included the property management and telecommunications departments. When he was promoted, 12 years ago to manage the entire division he was cross trained to gain knowledge about the property management role which enabled him to transition into his current role as the Facilities Manager. Over the past 10 years the property management role was centralized to the corporate office in Chicago, which now includes Facility Managers in several regions. Around the same time frame all the metro Atlanta offices were consolidated into one office building where Allstate leases 5 out of 6 floors, which is where Rod is housed.
As the Facilities Manager at Allstate, Rod maintains the interiors of facilities (excluding phones and computers) in ten states throughout the southeast region. Travel has been reduced because of the economy but he typically travels twice a month unless there is a major project taking place. The relationships he has built with the property managers and building engineers are important because they help him maintain the buildings when he is unable to visit the sites. The buildings that he manages are all leased spaces. Most of his work is generated when a lease is about to expire. If the lease manager decides they will renew the lease then they may be just touch up the paint and clean the carpet. When the lease ends and the lease manager makes the decision to move to a new location, the first step is to find a new facility. Once the location has been determined, the process may include completing new construction, space planning, moving or buying new furniture and moving employees to the new facility. As the Facility Manager, Rod is responsible for putting these plans into place and maintaining the space until the lease renewal. He must also ensure that the old building is in workable condition and meets the landlord’s move out standards.
Managing facilities in 10 states may be demanding at times but Rod loves that things never stay the same and that there are daily changes. As he stated, “Every building has slight nuisances depending on the location.” In colder climates he may experience issues with pipes busting and in warmer climates there may be issues with the HVAC system.
Some of the most challenging aspects that he notices in the FM industry are the frequent changes such as going green and finding new ways to save money for the company. In order to deal with these challenges his advice is to provide the best service while showing your value, create innovative processes, and think outside the box. This advice is also good advice for some one starting a career in the FM industry. Other advice he offered to someone wanting to start a FM career included, 1. Get involved with IFMA
2. Pursue education to take you to the next level and seek training within the field to become knowledgeable and 3. Be a go getter and be able to change w/ the job.
Since becoming a member of IFMA, Rod began serving on the community service committee and serves as the lead contact for Atlanta Day Shelter for Women and Children. He sees IFMA as a perfect fit for his career because the organization embodies the day to day activities an FM experiences. He stated, “IFMA offers an opportunity to learn from the best and learn how others at various facilities incorporate and improve new processes.” Being an IFMA member has also helped him create valuable bonds with others with in the industry.
Overall I gained knowledge about what my future role as a FM would be like if I decide to pursue a similar career path. Rod’s involvement in IFMA has proven to be beneficial not only in his career but also in his personal life. Every company needs someone to manage their facility even if the responsibilities and titles differ. With his willingness to resourcefully deal with new challenges and changes, Rod exemplifies what is to be a successful Facilities Manager. I would like to thank Rod for his willingness to share her experience and knowledge with an emerging FM.
Written by Arletrice Green (RIT Grad Student)