When people think of facilities management, they often picture a person working inside a building, fixing some piece of equipment with a wrench. However, facilities management is so much more than that. In fact, FM doesn’t even have to be inside at all. Landscaping, snow removal, and other forms of grounds management play a pivotal role in maintaining the overall look and safety of facilities. Some FM teams perform these exterior duties in-house, while some outsource them.
Joe Arias works at ONE Grounds Management, a third-party provider of exterior solutions for multi-site facilities managers. The Idaho-based company currently manages over 170 million square feet of property in 180 cities across several states. Arias serves as the operations support manager for the headquarters team, which includes the estimating, sales, marketing, client coordination, and partner services departments. Under his direct supervision, the HQ ops team oversees a portfolio of about 1,300 locations.
Prior to joining ONE Grounds Management, Arias worked for a paint and stucco subcontractor in Southern California. He is a proud member of BOMA, the Meridian Chamber of Commerce, and the Boise Chamber of Commerce, the latter of which named him a 2023 Young Leader of the Year Finalist.
To learn more about Arias and his take on industry issues, please read the “Faces of Facilities” interview below:
How did you get your start in the field?
Straight out of high school, I was recruited after testing to be a commercial airline pilot in the United Arab Emirates. After a slight midlife crisis in my early 20s, I decided to quit the airline industry and try to find something in a field of service to others. Management was my first choice since my father, a lifelong retail manager, was my biggest role model. All I knew I wanted was to have a direct impact on others’ lives. It took six years of soul searching and debating with myself before I realized there was never going to be an answer to my future; my future was not set in stone. Who would have known the nights spent pondering my life’s direction were in vain? Because I was exactly where I needed to be. An accumulation of past experiences gave me the necessary tools to succeed in my current role.
Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry, and why?
My biggest influence in the industry would have to be my COO, Kahla McCurdy. If it wasn’t for her trust in my judgement and understanding of my commitment to the company, I wouldn’t have been thrown into business-critical situations that have given me the experience and knowledge needed to lead our team. There are too many variables in this world for everything to always go smoothly. She taught me it’s not about the situation but how you handle it that matters. Those words couldn’t be truer in today’s FM world! Her unwavering commitment and passion towards the company make it really easy for everyone from the top down to have her back and love what we do!
What’s your best mistake, and what did you learn from it?
I would say the biggest mistake I made can be said in one word: sales. I know some eyes will roll, but let me explain. The truth is in today’s environment, your “old-school” traditional salesman will have a hard time being and staying successful. From constant conversations with national clients, property managers, and facilities managers, the consensus is clear everyone is tired of dealing with salesmen who will say anything for the contract. Overpromising and underperforming is running rampant in client services. They are even more tired of having to deal with hundreds of subcontractor salesmen for each region! We hear the same complaints across the board when onboarding new clients: Prices are up and quality is down, with no reason or explanation of why this is happening!
The biggest thing I learned from this was to know the client prior to offering the client anything. Everyone has unique needs and requirements. As a service provider we must be flexible enough to meet those. I don’t want to be the guy with a great product or service; I want to be the guy with a great product or service for YOU. Communication is key!
What are some of the biggest or unique issues at your organization?
As a company that facilitates and performs facilities management/services, we are faced with more variables than your typical FM or contractor. Some of the biggest challenges we face are coverage areas and pricing. We are looking at a time in facilities management where bottom-dollar deals have become the “new norm” while quality expectations remain. Comparing apples to apples has become harder than ever, and as most know, the lowest price usually comes with baggage. This takes a toll on the industry, causing smaller landscape or snow removal companies to go out of business and creating an overall shortage of subcontractors, which affects the cost.
What’s your favorite part about working in the industry?
Variables. This must be the most exciting part of working in the industry. What does monotony mean when we live in a world of Murphy’s Law?! Every day is something new and with that comes a new opportunity to show up and show out. Our industry is very simple in the way that our success directly correlates to the effort we put into our work.
What changes would you like to see in the FM industry?
Value over cost. This change is not an easy one, especially since it means changing the way things are viewed in the FM world. First steps come from understanding your own business, knowing how pricing gets worked out, and knowing the “why” for how we do things.
In instances, some clients might stop at the upfront cost, disregarding all other requirements. While hiring at lower costs may seem appealing initially due to potential cost savings, it often leads to compromised quality and slower response times. These decisions often require the client companies to pay more fixing issues, or lose money due to slower response times that negatively impact the facility’s operations. Not to mention the additional stress and inefficient use of the facilities manager’s time.
How can company leaders make facilities management a value within their organization?
They can communicate the importance of facilities management and how it directly contributes to the success of the organization. Make sure everyone understands the role of the facilities management team in creating a safe, efficient, and productive working environment for employees. Then link facilities management to business objectives. Demonstrate how facilities management supports the core business goals.
Whether it’s cost reduction, employee satisfaction, sustainability, or compliance, show how effective facilities management directly impacts the bottom line and overall performance of the company. We need to change the stigma of FM being the first budget to get cut during times of cost savings.
Where do you see the industry heading in five years? Are you noticing any major trends?
In the next five years, I predict the use of data analytics and predictive maintenance will become more prevalent. Facilities managers will rely on data-driven insights to make informed decisions, optimize resource allocation, and proactively address maintenance issues, leading to cost savings and improved asset performance.
The health and well-being of building occupants will gain more attention. Facilities managers will explore ways to improve indoor air quality, enhance sanitation protocols, and create spaces that promote the physical and mental health of employees and visitors. This is the boom in landscaping I’m waiting for!
Companies may increasingly opt to outsource facilities management services to specialized integrated service providers. These providers can offer comprehensive solutions that cover various aspects of facilities management, allowing organizations to focus on their core business.
Facilities managers will need to keep up with evolving regulations and standards related to building safety, accessibility, and environmental requirements. Compliance will be a crucial aspect of facilities management practices.
What are you most proud of?
I work in an industry of service; it’s what I wanted all along. Exterior facilities management plays a significant role in impacting lives by creating and maintaining safe, functional, and aesthetically pleasing outdoor spaces. While most times this can be one of the first things overlooked, it has a much larger impact than most may think. Whether it’s creating enhanced safety and security, improved accessibility, positive first impressions, boosted employee morale, environmental benefits, cost savings, or compliance with regulations, there is much to be proud of! If the company prospers, we all prosper!
Do you have any advice for people entering the industry?
Joe’s Top 5 Tips to set yourself apart in a saturated industry:
1. Educate yourself. Gain a solid understanding of facilities management principles, practices, and industry trends. Consider pursuing relevant education and certifications, such as the Certified Facility Manager (CFM) designation, to enhance your knowledge and credibility.
2. Develop soft skills. Facilities management involves working with diverse teams and stakeholders. Develop excellent communication, leadership, problem-solving, and negotiation skills to effectively interact with employees, vendors, and clients.
3. Think strategically. Facilities management is not just about fixing things; it’s also about aligning operations with business objectives. Think strategically and demonstrate how facilities management can contribute to organizational success.
4. Be customer focused. Treat building occupants, users, and vendors as customers. Understanding their needs and providing excellent service will foster a positive and supportive work environment. Are you more likely to help someone you like?
5. Document EVERYTHING! Keep comprehensive records of maintenance activities, repairs, and vendor contracts. Clear documentation will help you track progress, plan for future improvements, and ensure compliance.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’d like to share sentiments my grandfather used to tell me that have helped me get through many hard times (loosely translated from Spanish): Like the resilient oak that stands tall through storms, those who work tirelessly and persistently will not be bound by failure forever. Every setback is but a stepping-stone towards greatness.
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.