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[PODCAST TRANSCRIPT] Episode 8: Facility Management Partnerships | Don Rogers - Director of Facilities | Hillwood Estate

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Hillwood Estate - FM Innovator

Do you have what it takes to truly be a "partner" with facility managers? Mike Petrusky talks with Don Rogers, the Director of Facilities at Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens about FM industry collaboration. Don has developed trusted business partnerships to help manage the challenges he has faced and leveraged those relationships to generate innovative solutions for his facilities. He shares his insights through real life stories and tells us about movies and songs that inspire him.


Show Transcript:

Don: A partner is somebody that's truly concerned about my property, about me, about what we have to do to make it happen. That's a partner! That’s somebody that is here to make my property work.

This is “The Facility Management Innovator Podcast” where we talk with FM industry leaders about workplace trends, challenges, and the future of the built environment. This show is brought to you by Kayrell Connections, providing information, consulting and marketing expertise to help organizations deliver workplace innovation to the facility management community.

Mike: Hey there and how's it going everybody! It’s Mike Petrusky here welcoming you to Episode 8 of “The Facility Management Innovator Podcast”. Wow, what can I say? It's been just a little over one month since we launched this program and your support and your response has been amazing! Thank you so much for listening and for reaching out to me with your kind comments and interest in the show. Because of you, we are super-energized to keep cranking out these podcast episodes and I'm very happy to report that we have an incredible list of future guests lined up for weeks to come. So get ready for more fun and excitement! I do appreciate all of you…what I like to call, “The FM Innovator Nation” and I thank you very, very much. Now, I know it's a lot to ask, but if you've enjoyed our time together so far and if you have taken anything of value from this podcast, even if it's only a chuckle from my bad jokes and out of tune singing…I mean really… Did you listen to the last episode…Episode 7? Wowzers! But seriously, if anything good has come from this show, would you please take just a few seconds, head over to iTunes, and click on the stars to leave us a rating and maybe even write out a really quick review? That would be awesome! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Now, we are eight episodes in and we did not plan for it, but just by asking our guests to describe their experiences in the facility management community, we're certainly seeing a number of themes starting to develop during these interviews. My guest today is another experienced FM practitioner, Don Rogers, who I have had the honor of getting to know over these past few years ever since I got plugged in at IFMA. He has taught me so much about facility management, the importance of industry partnerships, and really, it's just been great getting to know him personally. I have had the privilege of hanging out with Don, and his delightful wife Louise, at the past two World Workplace conferences in Denver and San Diego. It's what it's all about here in the FM community folks! It's just been a lot of fun. But back to the themes: what's cool is thinking back to our last episode, where Geoff Snavely gave us some advice for approaching FMs from the industry-partner sales perspective, and now, we have on this episode Don, who told me he didn't listen to Geoff’s episode, in fact, he hasn't listened to any of the podcast yet, so get busy Don! But, he's been sharing his philosophy with me about the practitioner-perspective and guess what? His views totally mirror what Geoff was saying last week. It's so cool to see! You may notice a couple of other things like the phone ringing in the background, just as it did during my interview with Steve Patterson a few episodes back. I mean, we all knew these FMs were busy, right? And everyone's been talking about how important our personal networks are and how these connections are just essential for success in today's workplace. And another theme, of course, I found a way to mention “Star Wars” once again in this interview. Shocking, I know! Finally, please make sure you listen all the way to the end of this interview where Don gives his funny analogy about how industry-partner relationships have a lot in common with dating and marriage. Such good stuff coming up from Don here… so without further ado, let's go!

Mike: When I think of facility management professionals who have really embraced and truly support our “culture of collaboration” in the FM community which, as you know, is what I am very passionate about and what this podcast is all about, I think of my guest today, my friend Don Rogers, welcome Don!

Don: Well, thank you for having me.

Mike: Don is the Director of Facilities at the Hillwood Estate, Museum, and Gardens here in beautiful northwest Washington, DC, and for over 30 years, he has held positions of responsibility in the facilities, construction, and maintenance arenas.

Don: Been a long time and been in it quite a while.

Mike: Now, I have had the privilege of talking to you Don many times before and we actually sat in this office not too long ago where I dug into your past and asked you about your FM journey, and the whole story, and it was a fascinating one. I wish we could share the whole thing here with our audience, but it's only a 20 minute podcast, so can you give us the CliffsNotes version or the ESPN highlight package of how you ended up where you are today?

Don: Sure. I started in a family business and I was raised up as an electrician, as part of the family business and quite a few years ago, over 30 years ago, while I was working on heavy construction, I got sick and was out of work for two years in a row, for four months each year. With no money, I started looking around to find something that would have benefits and decided to go into the maintenance fields. So, it's been an interesting journey and I’ve tried to be as varied as I could, I didn't want to get tied into education, or museums, or whatever, so I’ve tried a little bit of everything, because basically the field is the same, it’s just different parameters that you have to live with at each facility.

Mike: Well, you've been Hillwood, which is a beautiful museum, for quite a while. For those who don't know, the Hillwood Museum and Gardens, I pulled this from Wikipedia… Let's see how accurate their story is about what your museum is all about. The Hillwood Estate, Museum, and Gardens is a decorative arts museum in Washington, DC, The former residence of businesswoman, socialite, philanthropist and collector Marjorie Merriweather Post. Hillwood is known for its large, decorative arts collection that focuses heavily on the House of Romanov. Included in the collection, are Fabergé eggs and 18th and 19th century French art, and one of the country's finest orchid collections. How did they do?

Don: They hit it pretty good! It's a very larger estate, 25 acres, which is the largest private piece of property in D.C. Twelve and a half of it is gardens, but the gardens draw a lot of people here besides just the estate itself.

Mike: Cool, alright. So, we want to get to know our guests a little bit personally. Do you have a favorite book, movie or TV show?

Don: It might be a little strange, but I like “Shrek”. It took probably about a year and a half for my wife finally to get me to watch it. Then when I watched it, I got the entire series at the house. I thought, “Okay, we're going to look at a kid’s program”, but it is so much more than just a kid’s program. There are the adult themes in it, and that and “Avatar” both. I love both those movies because you're watching this character, and both of them, work their way through the problems and issues, and how to deal with people, and that's kind of what I do on a day-to-day business. So, it kind of resonates with me.

Mike: You mentioned a certain type of music gets you hyped up, gets you fired up. What is that?

Don: “Rocky.”

Mike: “Yo, Adrian!”

Don: I hear “Rocky” and I’ll use that if I'm getting stuck on something. I’ll take and play that a few times to get my head space to clear out a little bit, and get hyped up, and it kind of gets me revved to where I can start thinking about out-of-the-box and what I'm going to be doing and all. So, I kind of like “Rocky”.

Mike: Awesome! Soundtracks get me going, too. I love all the John Williams soundtracks from “Star Wars”… You know I’m a huge “Star Wars fan”… Just listen to Episode 2 folks! I’m a big “Star Wars” fan! But the soundtracks to those movies, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and then even some modern, you know, sci-fi movies… the music just is awesome. Let's talk more about your role in facility management. When we sat down a few years ago, you told me that you are an outside-the-box , creative thinker. And I know you must be, to handle the day-to-day of facilities role, right?

Don: Yeah, I mean, there's jobs out there that you can use the same solutions over and over and over, but I’ve gotten to the point, and it is something I pride myself on, is I don't just take a standard answer. I try to look at it so what is best for my facility, what is best for the guest, what is best for our staff, what is least amount of cost to make it happen and how to go about making it happen. I kind of like coming up with innovative solutions to different problems, to try to solve the problem and also to keep them from happening again.

Mike: So where do you go to get that kind of support, that education, the understanding about what it takes to run your facilities and where do you find connections in the FM community?

Don: As far as the FM community goes, I reach out across the community and talk to people when I have a job coming up. Last year, we did all the roofs on the mansion and I reached across to Daniel Blemke at the Baltimore Museum of Art and actually got his consultant, who came over here, set it up for us, took in brought our contractors in here, helped me get it all set up, and we did a fantastic roof job in a third of the time that it was supposed to take. So, you have to be not afraid to tell people you don't know. That’s the first one. I meet so many people who say, “I don't tell somebody I don't know that”. Why not? There's too much out here that happens that people don't understand what's going on.

Mike: So, you must rely on some industry-partners to make that happen, right?

Don: Absolutely! I have some really good partners that I’ve developed here at Hillwood. I have phone numbers for my major contractors to their homes and stuff that I can call. I have called at four o'clock in the morning and had trucks rolling on the property at five-thirty in the middle of a snowstorm. So, when you can build that kind of relationship with your partners, and you trust your partners, and they trust you, then there’s nothing that can’t be solved.

Mike: Absolutely. It’s a mutual respect and it's a relationship that’s really built over time, and what I tell industry-partners is they have to prove their value and they have to demonstrate their commitment level. Talk to those folks out there who may be new to the business, new to the FM world, and they're interested in becoming a trusted partner. What would you recommend they do to be better at that?

Don: The biggest thing is communication. If I call one of my partners, if I don't get him on the phone and I leave him a message saying, "I need to talk to you, I have an issue", I expect a return call and expect a return call fairly soon. Now, I know there are times that I’ve missed somebody being on vacation, and I’ve called them, didn't get anything. But I have other numbers that I call to follow up. But the biggest thing is to be a true partner, don't come in with your bottom line on your mind. Come in with the idea of what does this person need? How can we help them? What can we provide for them? Do we know of anybody else? I’ve gotten two of my major partners from the companies that I used to begin with, that have brought their partners in to work with me. So, like I said, it’s mutual respect. Come in not with your bottom-line, but come with the idea about what do you need? What you're going to have to have? How we can help you? Then, your bottom line will get it in the end, when you become a partner.

Mike: And that's so important and that's what's great about our FM community is we have this back-and-forth collaboration that takes place between our FM practitioners and our facility partner companies and we try to facilitate that through IFMA. We have an event called “Collabor8” (with a little “8” at the end). Pretty clever, huh? “Collabor8” and the theme was “What's the difference between a vendor and a partner?” How you find out who your partners truly are? When problems happen, right?

Don: Well, you find out what they are when problems happen, but you also find out with the day-to-day. A partner is somebody that's truly concerned about my property, about me and about what we have to do to make it happen. And to become a partner for me, you have to, like I said, you have to be able to respond to me, you have to take and be honest with me, you know, not everybody can do everything, and if I call one of my partners and say, "Hey, I have this issue and what I need to do about this and is something you can help me out with?" I don't expect someone to come out here and fumble around with it, I expect them to say, “You know, that's a little bit beyond us, but here's somebody we think can help you with.” That's a partner. That’s somebody that's here to make my property work.

Mike: What do you most enjoy about your job?

Don: I enjoy the challenges. I mentioned it earlier… Calling one of my vendors at four o'clock in the morning in the middle of a snowstorm because I had a six inch water main burst and it was coming out of the ground. Those are the kinds of things you can't think inside the box. You’ve got to be able to say, "Okay, what I got to do, what I have to have" and make it happen. And be ready to have your partners know that that's what's going to happen.

Mike: That's awesome and that's really amazing to hear those types of stories and I’ve heard them from you in the past. Because nobody wants to get up at four in the morning having to deal with a problem, but there's something satisfying about solving that issue and at the end of the day, you said sometimes you work 18-20 hours in a row to get things done, but there's something truly rewarding about that, right?

Don: It is, you know, so the one of the worst ones I’ve had since I’ve been here was we had an eight inch water main go off in the middle of the road at eleven o'clock in the morning while we were open and we were pumping water across the roads. But we were so crowded with people, we were not going to shut the property down, and if you cut the water off then people have to leave. So, we sandbagged the water to go into our storm drains and wait till five o'clock to shut the water off. And we had the property back online enough for people to come back the next morning. I was actually on the property working for fifty-six straight hours with my partners.

Mike: 56 hours?

Don: Fifty-six hours to dig it up, get it fixed, have the asphalt people come in, redo the road and put it all back together took fifty six straight hours. So, never left property for that time, but when it was done, our guests were not affected, our property state up and running, and we got the job done.

Mike: FMs are the unsung heroes in so many ways, and you've mentioned this, that the way you can tell you're doing your job right, is that no one knows you exist, right?

Don: Exactly, the other thing that we have is if you do it right, nobody knows, and if you do it wrong, it's on the front page of The Washington Post. And, you know, and it comes to that our job is to do it right, we're the behind the scenes, we're the people that, you know, the art could not exist without us and we can't exist without the art. So our job is to make it happen but not to affect anybody whenever possible.

Mike: You talked about partners have an opportunity to educate FMs because of this need for constantly staying on top of so many technologies and new resources out there and talk about how you decide, you know, who to trust and who to lean on when it comes to being educated with the new products, services that are available to you…

Don: It's kind of like a marriage. You know, you date for a while and you see, do they want to popcorn or do they not want popcorn? And do they want the butter popcorn because you want the butter popcorn? It's, you know, when you first start out with a group, with a new vendor or new partner that you hope is going to become a partner, it's dating. You see what's going on, you see what's happening, and you go through that phase. Then after you get through the dating phase, you say, "Well, okay we're kind of compatible". You know, that they understand your needs, your financial worries and they’re willing to work with you on that. Then, you end up getting married, and, you know, if it's a successful marriage, then it's something that's ongoing for a long time, you get to understand each other and you can make that phone call that says, "I need somebody now" and they will drop stuff to get somebody to you. Does it happen 100% of time? Absolutely not. Companies have other businesses besides us, but, they also know for me that they are going to get my business, that I am going to watch their prices, but they also know that I'm going to pay their bills and if I pay their bill in a week or ten days versus somebody that takes 45 to 50 days, guess who's going to get the first call? You know, marriage for me going on 48 years, is a job. It is nothing else but a job. If I don't work at my marriage every single day and look for the changes that happens as we get older, it's the same thing with my vendors. You know, I expect them to come to me and go, “Oh, by the way, we have this new camera that we can do yours storm water systems with; it will map them out for us”. Absolutely! I need that. And I look for them to bring me those new technologies and will I pay a little bit more, if he gets my job done, and gets it done quicker? Absolutely!

Mike: The marriage analogy when it comes to industry-partner relationships is a good one, Don. New territory there! But there are also benefits to marriage… it wasn't just a job…Louise, it's not just a job! He did not mean to say that! [Laughs] There are lots of wonderful joys, too…
Don: Absolutely!
Mike: …that go along with it. So great stuff, great stuff!

There it is. Thank you, Don Rogers, for a really wonderful and insightful conversation… and maybe I should also say, “you're welcome, Don”? I mean, I think I may have just saved the man's marriage there at the end, right? Yikes! Crisis averted! It looks like Don and Louise will certainly make it to their 50th wedding anniversary, after all, and I’ll only take part of the credit.

So, that will do it for another episode, thanks again for listening, keep on rocking and rolling and collaborating and elevating the FM community. I will talk with you all again soon, and until then… Be an FM innovator!® Peace out!

You’ve been listening to “The Facility Management Innovator Podcast”. We hope you found this discussion beneficial, as we work together to elevate the FM community, by building partnerships that lead to innovative, workplace solutions. For more information about facility management collaboration and marketing resources, visit www.kayrellconnections.com.

LISTEN TO THE EPISODE: http://kayrellconnections.com/episode8

SUBSCRIBE ON ITUNES: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/facility-management-innovator/id1154571864


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