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Friday, 6 December

Taking Charge In Underserved Local Markets

If we are stronger together, what does a facilities professional do when they cannot find an organised means to make local connections that will benefit them in their responsibilities? asks Jon Isaacson from Eugene, Oregon.

Option 1 – The locally underserved facilities manager can take it upon themselves to travel monthly to larger cities where national organisations are active. The FM may make some local connections with other professionals who have taken the same interest and investment but the likelihood that they find local peers or even local vendors is low.

Option 2 – A local facilities professional who has expendable resources or the support of their organisation may be able to make the more costly investment to travel for annual regional/national conventions. The FM will have exposure to a broad range of resources and organised activities but the likelihood for localised connections is decreased the greater the distance from their centre of operations.

Option 3 – The local professional who wears multiple hats in their organisation which may or may not be exclusively facilities maintenance can assume that they are primarily alone, this is the way things are in their smaller market and they just have to do the best they can on their own.

 

Local Facilities Managers Connection

While national organisations have national resources to draw from, are well organised and provide educational/certification options, they also are much larger engines which typically are addressing facilities issues from the macro perspective. Even in larger cities there exists a need for local facilities managers to be able to connect with each other to address specific needs within their market sector and share localised resources.

In Eugene, Oregon, a group of local facilities managers decided to fight against the status quo of the locally underserved smaller market, taking matters into their own hands and forming a group that met their needs. After several iterations with professional organisations and members either travelling to Portland (larger market) for monthly meetings or quarterly spin-off meetings in their region (smaller market), a core group of facilities professionals began discussing creating their own networking group.

Currently Local Facilities Managers Connection (LFMC) has been serving local facilities management, maintenance and risk professionals for over a year.

 

Obstacle One – Meeting Space

As any networking group understands, location is important but it can also be a significant cost burden. Many locations require a minimum payment to meet and for a start-up group that is in the infancy of their organisational structure this can be prohibitive. Does the group meet for breakfast, lunch or in the evenings? What day does the group meet? For LFMC the agreement was that rather than paying for a conference space, this group would minimise location costs by hosting their meetings in alternating member locations throughout the area. Self-hosting, in addition to cost reduction, generates a freshness to the meetings by exposure to new locations each month. Self-hosting allows members to show-off their facilities, displaying a new project or a tour of the facilities also helps create context when discussing facilities challenges with other facilities professionals in the group.

 

Obstacle Two – Meeting Structure

The most common structure for professional organisations attempting to create value is to bring in a speaker to lecture on a topic and inform the membership. While this educational structure has a lot of value, the purpose of Local Facilities Managers Connection was to connect local peers so that they could expand knowledge, network and access to local resources, the value of the group was found in being able to share experiences. Rather than hosting a lecture from a presenter, the bulk of LFMC monthly meetings are centred around a specific topic relevant to facilities management and the local environment. By focusing on a topic, facilities professionals are able to share their experiences, stories and resources related to addressing that topic. As the group has grown, guest speakers and presenters have been integrated into the meetings where the guest brings perspective and value to the group but the emphasis remains on interaction between peers.

 

Obstacle Three – Cost

When organisations have a limited facilities budget, annual dues and fees per meeting can be prohibitive for some facilities and maintenance professionals. By self-hosting, self-presenting and meeting in the mornings, this LFMC has significantly reduced costs typically associated with professional networking groups. Because cost and revenue are important structural components of most professional organisations the introduction of vendors and sponsors becomes an emphasis and a resource for lowering the burden on members. When revenue is a factor in the decision making process, the sponsor selection becomes quite broad and many professional networks become flooded with vendors, often disproportionately to practitioners within the industry served. Local Facilities Manager’s Connection has made it a core value to review vendors on a case-by-case basis and emphasize value for the group over revenue. The first significant expenditure for LFMC has been creating and hosting a website, which is the first venture that the group has opened to vendor sponsorship at a formalised level.

While Local Facilities Managers Connection is just entering its sophomore year of serving the local facilities management, maintenance and risk professionals primarily in the combined Eugene, Springfield and Lane County areas of the Willamette Valley in Oregon, the group has created a strong core of peers that are expanding knowledge, network and access to local resources.

You can find the LFMC group on www.localfacilities.com, on twitter @localfacilities as well as Facebook page and LinkedIn group. LFMC would love to hear stories of other groups that have taken networking into their own hands and found value in localised peer-to-peer advancement.

By Jon Isaacson

Article written by Jon Isaacson

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