Faces of Facilities

Faces of Facilities: Bobby R. LaRon from CBRE

As the immediate past chair of the International Facility Management Association’s (IFMA) Americas Advisory Board, Bobby R. LaRon remains passionate about advancing the FM industry. He calls for collaboration, encourages high-tech solutions, and promotes the invaluable role of facilities managers.

LaRon has about 14 years of industry experience and currently serves as senior commercial property manager at CBRE, where he oversees the western Oregon account for major healthcare provider Providence. Specifically, LaRon manages a portfolio of approximately 700,000+ square feet across 42 locations, including off-site surgery centers, medical office buildings, and urgent care facilities.

Prior to joining CBRE, LaRon spent 10 years working at Oregon Public Broadcasting and served as the director of facilities and administrative services. Throughout his career, he has held various leadership roles at regional and national IFMA groups. He has also earned a Master of Science in Management degree and an IFMA Facility Management Professional (FMP) credential.

To learn more about LaRon and his take on FM issues, please read the “Faces of Facilities” interview below:

How did you get your start in the field?

I am the quintessential unintentional FM, a mid-career professional who transitioned into facilities management 13+ years ago from military broadcast journalism and public affairs. There was a retirement that occurred within my previous organization, and I raised my hand and said allow me to do for our organization what I’ve done for this department and the rest is history.

Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry, and why?

I cannot say who but rather what. The Oregon and SW Washington Chapter of IFMA has been the bedrock that I’ve built my FM career foundation upon. The close, trusted cadre of advisors that I have formed around me have given my work purpose and pleasure. Many have become like family.

Can you talk about your ongoing experience on IFMA’s Americas Advisory Board?

Having served as chair, and now as the immediate past chair, I can confidently say that the experience was incredibly meaningful. This role allowed me to contribute to the advancement of the facilities management profession and shape the direction of the industry within the Americas region. It provided a platform to collaborate with industry leaders, share insights, and address challenges collectively.

The opportunity to influence strategic decisions, foster professional development, and advocate for the value of facilities management was both rewarding and fulfilling. Being a volunteer leader in IFMA allowed me to make a lasting impact and be part of a community that is dedicated to elevating the practice of facilities management.

What’s your best mistake, and what did you learn from it?

I supported cultural change at Oregon Public Broadcasting through a historic multi-year major facility renovation effort that changed how OPBers came to work. I knew that from the beginning of that effort that it should be a design-build project because there were many unknowns within the facility that hadn’t had any major renovations from when it was built in the late ’80s.  However, our board of directors needed cost certainty and a number to approve, so GMP (guaranteed maximum price) contracting was selected. 

There were unknown conditions discovered in the roof that significantly impacted the bottom line. My mistake was not advocating strongly enough for design-build. This was my best mistake because it really helped me to remember in all projects moving forward that design-build offers the best option for potential cost savings through early collaboration, efficient decision-making, and the ability to ID cost-effective design solutions.

What are some of the biggest facilities management issues at your organization? Are there any unique FM challenges (or benefits) compared to some other organizations?

The biggest facilities management issues at our organization revolve around ensuring compliance with healthcare regulations, maintaining a sterile and safe environment, and optimizing the patient experience.

Our unique FM challenges include maintaining specialized areas like operating rooms and pharmacological facilities and coordinating with various healthcare professionals.

However, our organization also enjoys unique benefits, such as the opportunity to enhance patient care through facility design, implementing advanced technology for efficient operations, and the satisfaction of contributing to the overall well-being of our community.

What’s your favorite part about working in the industry?

My favorite part about working in the facilities management industry is the opportunity to make a tangible impact on people’s lives. Whether it’s ensuring a safe and comfortable work environment for employees, providing well-maintained and inviting spaces for visitors, or implementing sustainable practices to protect the environment, FM directly influences the daily experiences of individuals.

I find great satisfaction in problem-solving, optimizing operations, and creating spaces that enhance productivity, well-being, and satisfaction. The dynamic nature of FM keeps me engaged, constantly learning, and collaborating with diverse stakeholders, making every day unique and rewarding.

What changes would you like to see in the FM industry?

I would advocate for increased recognition and appreciation of the strategic value that facilities management brings to organizations. It’s important to highlight how FM contributes to business objectives, productivity, and employee well-being. This would start with an FM’s strong understanding of how to influence the C-suite.

How can company leaders make facilities management a value within their organization?

First and foremost, it begins with a shift in mindset. Leaders must recognize that facilities management is not merely a cost center but a strategic asset that can enhance operational efficiency, employee productivity, and customer experience. Embrace the concept of FM as a value driver, not just a necessary function.

Next, foster a culture of collaboration and cross-departmental integration. Break down the silos between facilities management, operations, HR, IT, and finance. Encourage open communication, and establish regular meetings to discuss facility-related matters and align goals. This collective effort will help unlock the full potential of FM and leverage it for the benefit of the entire organization.

Finally, lead by example. Incorporate sustainability practices into the company’s core values. Implement energy-efficient solutions, promote waste reduction, and embrace green building initiatives. This not only showcases environmental responsibility, but also attracts environmentally conscious employees and customers, enhancing the company’s reputation and brand. 

In these ways, you move FM from cost center to strategic value!

Where do you see the industry heading in five years? Are you noticing any major trends?

Overall, facilities management is becoming increasingly technology-driven, with a focus on sustainability, occupant health, and data-driven decision-making.

Digital transformation and data collection in facilities management are set to bring significant changes in the next three years, as artificial intelligence (AI) continues to play a crucial role in the way facilities management works.

The space where this is most evident is within predictive maintenance. AI algorithms can help analyze data collected from equipment and sensors to predict when maintenance is needed, reducing downtime and improving asset performance. This will help facilities managers save time and money by proactively managing equipment maintenance instead of waiting for equipment to break down.

What are you most proud of?

The fact that I have built strong and lasting relationships within CBRE, my client, IFMA, my previous employer, and the caregivers I serve demonstrates to me that I have been acknowledged amongst these groups as someone they can rely upon for not only service excellence but delivered with genuine empathy.

Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?

Develop a strong foundation of knowledge via IFMA credentialing. Also, seek out opportunities to gain practical experience and learn from seasoned professionals in the field. On the owner/occupier side, many FMs are siloed within their organizations and may be the only people doing their work at their company. This is where IFMA membership pays dividends. Shadow an FM colleague for a day and you’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn! Do this over and over. No two workplaces are alike.

Anything else you’d like to add?

My passion for FM is unrivaled. I believe it to be a profession that can lift people out of poverty and is recession-proof, as everyone needs preventive maintenance of capital assets, as well as cultural alignment of their physical spaces.

Are you or a colleague an FM professional interested in being profiled for the “Faces of Facilities” series? Please contact Editor Joe Bebon at JBebon@BLR.com.

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