Aligning Facilities Management and Construction

One of the most important and impactful trends that we are seeing in the facilities management business is the increased awareness of the value of coordination and cooperation long before a building or a business even opens its doors. As a matter of fact, before there even are doors. I am speaking, of course, about the value of bringing in facilities management professionals to assist with the design, development and construction process.

What’s exciting to me is that this is a trend that seems to be on the upswing, with more organizations bringing facilities management professionals—from management staff, to representatives from housekeeping, maintenance and more—on board to solicit their insights and real-world experience and expertise to the design and development process. Facilities teams working together with construction is one of those things that seems so obvious in retrospect that you kind of wonder what took everyone so long to figure it out.

Instead of a handful of architects working in a vacuum, the design team can benefit from the practical feedback and end-user contributions of those professionals who are actually going to be working in the space. Because while architects, developers and construction teams may be working on the building for a year or two, maintenance professionals will be working in and maintaining the building for much longer. Representatives from facilities and maintenance can work with architects and designers to identify potential design problems and contribute important information about optimum layouts, materials, fittings and fixtures.

Especially in specialty facilities such as the heavy-use health care facilities that we here at Powerlink are so familiar with, the extra expense needed to install high quality materials and fixtures is the kind of design decision that will pay for itself many times over throughout the life of the facility. Facilities professionals can also contribute valuable information about the design and functionality of the spaces, as well as special considerations to account for cleanliness or patient care priorities. Considering the fact that organizations routinely spend tens, or even hundreds of millions of dollars to build or renovate a facility, the savings that can result from a more collaborative process are significant. Any additional up-front costs represent a relative drop in the bucket and make facilities consultation a wise investment.

The last thing any organization wants to discover is that operating and maintaining a new facility is unnecessarily difficult or unreasonably costly. With design elements attuned to the needs and standards of those who will be using, working in, and caring for the space every day, the facility itself becomes a powerful maintenance and management asset—making these design synergies a potentially important part of a long-term facilities management solution.

Categories: The Industry

Entrepreneurial Participation

I thought I’d take a few moments today to share some of my perspectives about an organization that has meant a great deal to me both personally and professionally: The Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO). I am an active and enthusiastic longtime member of EO, a global organization that unites a network of close to 10,000 business owners in 131 chapters and 40 countries.

Since 1987, EO has been making it easier for “small and large business owners to learn from each other, leading to greater business success and an enriched personal life.” The stated goals of EO, to “build the world’s most influential entrepreneur community” and to further its mission of “supporting entrepreneurial education and engaging entrepreneurs to learn and grow” are admirable, and I can speak firsthand to the value of those principles, as I have benefited from them myself. From leadership development programs to education and resources, EO offers an abundance of opportunities, tools and training for both aspiring and established professionals.

To me, one of the single most important features of EO is simply the opportunity to learn from and engage with fellow entrepreneurs and business owners from across Detroit and Southeast Michigan and from around the world. As someone to whom diversity has been important throughout the course of my professional life, I think it’s also important to focus on how minority entrepreneurs and business owners can promote the principles of diversity simply by expanding your professional relationships and connections in organizations like EO.

While Powerlink is an enthusiastic supporter of and member in a number of urban-focused and minority-based organizations, we also recognize the value of creating diversity by participating in groups such as EO. I feel strongly that seizing opportunities to expand your business horizons and (in the process) adding a new measure of diversity and fresh perspective to entrepreneurial organizations is a powerful and important way to promote diversity, increase minority representation, share your experiences and continue to grow your business as part of a strong and vibrant regional business community.

Categories: Business Success, The Industry

Affordable Care Act: Not so affordable

With the Affordable Care Act (ACA) now online, the unfortunate reality we’ve been wrestling with is this: there is no way to get around it, the changes wrought by this bill will result in significant cost increases—both for us as a company, and, ultimately, for our employees, who are almost certainly going to end up with higher premiums. No matter how anyone might feel about the motivations or intentions behind this legislation, it is tough for us to conclude that it makes sense.

This is turn of events is especially frustrating for us, because Powerlink has always done the right thing by our employees by offering high quality health benefits. At the moment, we project at least a 10% cost increase, much of which is simply money down the drain: cost increases and obligations focused on compliance and adjusting to a regulation that mandates the kind of coverage and care that we were already offering. Extra work and extra cost for the same result—as a company who focuses so much on efficiency, that’s even tougher to swallow.

I suspect that a number of other companies are going to be even worse off and will have to significantly increase their costs, largely because they haven’t done a great job of focusing on creating ways to retain their employees through strong benefits. As all Powerlink employees have experienced firsthand, that’s something that we have always done. Essentially, this will make it harder and more expensive for us to do the right thing, all so we can subsidize a broken system with a legislative Band-Aid.

As more details emerge, we are going to continue to monitor and reevaluate the situation to ensure that we are providing the best-possible health care solutions for employees. For the moment, however, it’s tough to find a silver lining in a law that adds cost, adds complexity and does nothing of substance for our employees. We don’t support things that make things worse for our employees, rather than better, and unfortunately the ACA seems almost certain to fit into the former category and not the latter.

Categories: The Industry

A Magic Day at Powerlink

It’s not every day that we have the opportunity to do something truly special for our employees: to bring them inspiration they’ll never forget. We had that opportunity when Ervin “Magic” Johnson visited our Detroit headquarters—bringing with him the energy, passion and drive that have made him a basketball legend and an extremely successful businessman.

The lessons he shared with our team were about the importance of building relationships—one of the core values of our Powerlink P.R.I.D.E.—as well as the need to over-deliver for all of our clients. Ervin told the story of how, after he retired from the LA Lakers, he invited every season ticket holder to lunch to ask them about their business success. These conversations not only gave him great insights and leadership advice, but led to some of his earliest ventures.

He spoke about how every contract—from the largest to the smallest—is an opportunity to deliver a great client experience. In an industry such as ours, where service is paramount, this message clearly resonated with our team and reinforced the work we do every day.

The day was also about giving back: This spring, Ervin made a $123,000 donation to support the Saginaw Promise scholarship program. During his visit, Powerlink presented him a check for $10,000 to the cause. The funds will give even more area students the opportunity to pursue higher education.

While we may not all have the size and athleticism that Magic has used to his advantage in college and the NBA, we quickly learned that his success came from a much deeper place: his commitment. Focusing on leading winning teams means bringing intensity to every practice, being the first to show up and the last to leave, and, when the game is on the line, wanting the ball in your hands. In basketball and in business, we learned why his work ethic continues to drive his success and how his example can help each and every one of us achieve our goals.

Categories: Business Success, Corporate Social Responsibility, The Industry

Diagnosis: Uncertainty

In a recent blog post, I talked about the uncertainty that remains an integral part of the hiring landscape. But economic uncertainty isn’t the only variable: The needs of customers are changing very quickly, and expert staffing can help companies meet those needs while providing them with the workforce flexibility they need to adapt to a changing professional/regulatory landscape.

This is especially relevant now, at a time when the impact of the soon-to-be-implemented Affordable Care Act (ACA) has introduced some large variables into the hiring equation. For many companies, preparing for the ACA and making hiring decisions in the current environment has been akin to an exercise in reading the economic and regulatory tea leaves. Needless to say, that’s not a fun way to run a business.

While some have speculated that the recently announced one-year delay in implementing the employer mandate portion of the ACA would lead to more hiring, there is scant concrete or anecdotal evidence that that is the case. If anything, the change almost seems to have added to the general sense of uncertainty. Whenever possible, it seems like more companies are looking at hiring options that meet their needs without taking on the burden and additional commitment of managing the new healthcare burdens. The last thing any employer wants to do is make hiring commitments now and turn around in a year or two and have to cut back because the health care costs were higher than anticipated.

Layoffs don’t look good to investors and the media, and they can be corrosive to employee morale. The bottom line is that many companies are concluding: unless we have a true long-term need for a particular position, do we really want to take on that risk?

Categories: The Industry