What's the Right Background For Facilities Managers?

The last few posts talked about the 5 qualities of great facilities managers: service, action, solutions, growth, and teamwork. These qualities set the foundation for values a great facilities manager should have, but what about experience? What is the right background for facilities managers?

The mistake multi-location companies make when hiring for a facilities role is they hire someone who has worked in the field. The hope is this person knows maintenance and repairs because they performed maintenance and repairs. They will know what needs to be done with each repair request that comes up. A maintenance and repair background certainly won’t hurt, but it is not a background that translates into being a great facilities maintenance manager.

Facilities maintenance managers have to be great at…managing. They must understand processes, goal setting, creating plans, and execution. They must be technologically savvy, excellent researchers, and strong critical thinkers. They don’t need to know how to actually perform repairs. They need to be excellent and managing the vendors and people who do perform the repairs.

Businesses make this promotion and hiring mistake. When someone is proficient at a skill, they assume they will be proficient and managing others with that same skill. But management is different than performing the actual skill. Sure, a person can be a proficient manager and skilled worker, but the latter does not necessarily translate to the former. Great maintenance and repair technicians don’t always make great facilities maintenance managers.

The best facilities maintenance managers come from positions that have been served by maintenance and repair technicians or departments. Former store managers and district managers make excellent facilities maintenance managers.

The first reason is they are more empathetic to the people they are serving. They know what it is like to have a fryer down, and HVAC unit not working, or a broken window on their store front. They have experienced a loss of income because of a loss of sales from a maintenance event. They have waited for contractors who never showed up, stayed overnight for repairs, and walked to a nearby store to use the restroom when their toilets were not working. They are more likely to care and serve than someone who has not been in any of these positions before.

The second reason is they have broad experience. They have skills in managing people, setting schedules, hiring, firing, managing budgets, ordering merchandise, etc. They have worked in multiple roles. They are used to doing the work and managing the work that is done. Store managers are generalists which is a great skill for maintenance management. 

Finally, someone who has managed a store and wants to move up is already bought into your company’s vision, your brand, and understands the big picture of the value their role will serve. They aren’t fixing things. They are maintaining and improving your brand. They are contributing towards executing on company goals and plans.

There is nothing wrong with a maintenance background, but if your facilities manager lacks the experience of being the “customer’s” shoes, they are less likely to be a great facilities manager.

This post is part of a larger series on setting up a facilities maintenance management program for multi-location companies. Make sure you sign up to receive updates from this series so you don’t miss any of the valuable information and training we are giving away for free.