If you have a wealth of experience in facilities management, you've no doubt built up a deep collection of ideas about how best to go about space management. There's no better way to learn than the hands-on approach, and over the years, you've probably built up a great deal of knowledge about how to manage space, maximize productivity and keep costs down.
That doesn't mean you can't benefit from getting out there and soaking up some advice from others.
One of the most important things you can do as a facilities manager is network with other people in your profession and absorb their wisdom. Because you work in such a specialized field, you likely don't come across like-minded professionals on a daily basis - not a lot of office buildings have dozens of facilities managers wandering through the hallways.
On the contrary, if you want to network with other FMs, you have to actively seek them out.
The International Facility Management Association recommends doing just that. According to IFMA, you could greatly benefit from going to a conference or meeting and making professional connections. IFMA fellow Mark Sekula points out that even busy FMs with hectic family lives make an effort to stay involved.
"Many of them are the same age as you with two kids, a mortgage and the same amount of time - maybe less," Sekula stated. "How do they find the time? Here's an idea. Go to a meeting and ask one of them. But don't ask them how they find the time. Instead ask them why they make the time to attend chapter meetings or to join a committee."
You'll find out there are many reasons to network with facility managers. To name just a few:
Discovering new trade secrets
By meeting up with other people in the FM community, you might discover a lot of insights on how to better do your job. Are there other strategies that you're not considering - either for budgeting better, designing the workspace more effectively or making the office more productive? Maybe, but you'll never know unless you talk to colleagues and find out. You may discover new approaches, motivational tactics or facility management softwareto help your department function better than ever.
Broadening your perspective
One great way to learn and improve your facility management skills is to talk to people who manage facilities for different companies. A large company has a dramatically different workspace than a small one, for example. Or compare and contrast an office building in a crowded big city with one in a rural location. People from different offices have varying perspectives, and by talking with these individuals, you can develop a more nuanced viewpoint on your profession as a whole.
You never know when you might find yourself needing to hire an additional employee to help your department operate effectively. Luckily, attending conferences with other FMs is a great way to find talented people who might make valuable employees sometime in the future. Smart managers in any department, not just facilities, know that they should never stop recruiting. It never hurts to know talented individuals.
Aside from all of the above professional reasons, on some level, it's nice just to have friends in the same industry as yourself. If you ever want to casually bounce some ideas off of someone, or seek moral support during a time of crisis, the best person to talk to is a like-minded manager who has the same professional concerns you do. Making friends in the FM community is a great way to have a healthier social life.
Everyone in the professional world is networking these days. They do it in the office, on the Web and at corporate gatherings. Facilities managers should be no different.
Editor's Note: This blog post was originally published in November 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and relevance.