Past, Present & Future with Joanne Cole

Thanksgiving has past and Christmas is just weeks away.  That can only mean one thing; the IFMA Atlanta Holiday Party and Awards ceremony is coming up soon.  In this time of year marked by tradition, it is only fitting that I have saved this interview for this special time of year.  As is tradition, it is the former president’s great joy and responsibility to host the last official gathering for our chapter.  I am meeting with Joanne Cole to highlight this momentous event and take a look at IFMA past, present and future.  While I don’t think we will be visited by three ghosts I’m sure this interview will be nostalgic, reflecting and insightful.  To all our IFMA Colleagues may we wish you Happy Holidays and prosperous blessings.


Joanne, with WWP behind us, what were you most proud of for the Atlanta Chapter?

I’m incredibly proud of our chapter and its members for several reasons.  That we were the first chapter to ever work hand in hand with International to host World Workplace and to have a real strong presence on the Expo floor showed how dedicated our WWP committee was to making 2010 the best WWP in Chapter history.  It was quite the accomplishment.  Although we didn’t win chapter of the year we were highly recognized for our accomplishments.

What did you learn as president of IFMA Atlanta? In hind sight, what do you wish you had known prior to holding this position?

I feel I was pretty well prepared to serve as president.  I had served many years on the board as the Community Service Chair, then as Chapter Secretary, and then as Vice President.  Over those years of service I learned how important it was to have the right people in the right jobs and that leadership needs to be cultivated.  What surprised me most was how hard it was to choose my board and to convince those individuals that they were the best person for the position; that they could do it.  I made it my mission to implement Succession Management.  We needed a strategic plan for going forward to continue on the past years momentum.  It’s important to identify those individuals that are going to be our future leaders and to help cultivate their growth and encourage their participation in the chapter.  We have developed a different way to nominate the next board.  In the past the board was hand picked from a small, five member nominating committee.  We changed that; now we have two years of nominating committees (the past year and the current year).  We meet quarterly to identify future volunteers and leaders.  The goal is to always be two years ahead and to have each year flow into the next seamlessly.

One of your pieces of art was auctioned off at the Foundation Gala; can you tell us more about it?

I’d love to.  It was a stained glass mosaic and sold for $220 to an IFMA member from Chicago.  I have always used art as a creative outlet.  I stumbled into stained glass crafting by accident.  I enjoy trash to treasure art projects and have a friend who flips houses.  One day he offered me some old windows.  At first I just painted ‘faux’ stained glass. Then I learned the art of working with glass and started crafting mosaics using the windows as my canvas.  It’s my escape.  I really love to give handmade gifts to friends and family.

Part of the former President’s responsibility is to plan and host the Holiday Celebration and Awards Ceremony; can you give us a preview of what to expect to entice us to come?

Let me give a little background first on why we do this.  The original purpose was the Annual Awards of Excellence, but almost a decade ago we expanded the program to honor our non-profit partners.  Every chapter has a community service committee but none have one like ours.  We wanted to give back to our community using our time and talents, not just through money and gifts.  The Community Service Committee has developed a program that empowers our non-profit partners and encourages their growth through Facilities Management.  This is the third year of the Non-Profit Facilities Summit which offers courses taught by our chapter’s members and vendors.  These courses help to educate the non-profit staff in best practices and allow our own members, professional and associate alike, to give back to the community, grow the profession of FM and support the Chapter’s mission and goals of education and stewardship.

 This years’ program is going to be a Bob Hope USO themed party with lots of laughs and surprises.  We will honor our outstanding volunteers for Excellence in Service, our Sustaining Patrons and our non-profit partners.  Food, music, entertainment and the Driving Club; I’m not going to give anything else away.  You will just have to come and don’t forget to bring a donation for our community partners.  Check the website at for the Wish List!

As this year of service comes to a close what aspirations do you have for IFMA Atlanta’s future?

We have achieved so much and have many things to be proud of; especially the balanced score card and establishing much needed procedures to help increase volunteer participation.  We have set in place new ways for committees to divide tasks and responsibilities so that members can participate in a meaningful way that doesn’t cause them to feel overwhelmed.  We want our members to continue to volunteer and through divvying up the work we have made it easier for them to fit it into their already busy lives.  I hope to see this momentum continue and for our members to see that everyone can contribute even in small ways. 

For the future, I would like to see the next board address the roles of past board members.  As it stands currently, after the past president is removed from the board they are to take a one year sabbatical from board participation.  As the past has proven, this policy is detrimental to the chapter.  We lose so much knowledge and talent when we eliminate a way for the past president to participate.  We run the risk of disengagement of these valuable members and sometimes it takes years to get them to participate again.  Addressing how to keep past presidents engaged in the Chapter would be a valuable asset to the future.

Joanne Cole has lived in Atlanta since 1971 and began her career in Facilities when the position was created at Unisys.  Since that first Facility Management position Joanne has worked for Ivan Allen and Heery.  Joanne is a Project Officer/Interior Designer for the CDC, lives in Alpharetta and has two grown sons whom she enjoys spending time with.

 -Chris Sanders