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How to choose a facilities manager: what to ask and what to look out for

August 21, 2019

Facilities managers work hand in hand with strata management to help keep your development in great working condition. They might work on site or off site, but their role is to oversee the ongoing maintenance and upkeep of your development. If you aren’t familiar with facilities managers, hop over to our article on what they do for a detailed look.

Craig Gavin, General Manager of Laing+Simmons Facilities Management, gives us some insight into what to look for when you're choosing a facilities manager for your strata title development.

1. The services they provide

Today’s facilities managers aren’t just caretakers. As well as completing general maintenance, facilities managers:

  • Perform management and business services
  • Liaise with contractors
  • Make high level recommendations to the strata manager
  • Are aware of the development’s budget
  • Carry out security services
  • Keep abreast of legislation and compliance requirements
Question: What services can we expect from you?

A facilities manager coordinates the ongoing upkeep and maintenance of residential, mixed use and commercial strata title developments. This might include some or all of the following:

  • Letting visitors in or out
  • Ensuring compliance with the building code and various legislation
  • Cleaning and general maintenance
  • Concierge services
  • Gardening and grounds maintenance
  • Maintenance planning
  • Security
  • Liaising with tradespeople and strata management
  • Making recommendations about preventative, ongoing and reactive maintenance
“Make sure you understand what services are included in the facilities management service, and that they align with what you really need. Ask if there will be someone on site, and whether the company provides a dedicated person or a rotating team of personnel. Ideally, you want the same person or couple of people assigned to your building at all times. They get to know the building better and will be a familiar face to residents.”

 

2. Good communication skills

A good facilities manager must have good communication skills. They:

  • Provide services, information and reassurance to the residents of the development.
  • Deal with contractors and suppliers
  • Manage staff in larger developments
  • Liaise with strata management and the owners corporation
“If your facilities manager is onsite, they will become a familiar face to residents and will have to field a range of queries - some of which will be outside their official wheelhouse. Dealing with these takes tact, friendliness and a customer-centric approach."
“It’s a good idea for your executive committee to meet with the facilities manager ahead of time and assess whether you are compatible. Good relationships between owners, strata and facilities means a harmonious living environment for all residents.”
Question: How often can we expect to hear from you and how?

Make sure that you are all on the same page early on in terms of your expectations. Nothing is more frustrating than expecting to hear from a contractor and getting zip. Their response should cover things like:

  • Flexibility – will they communicate with you in the way you want to be communicated with?
  • Regularity – how often will they come to you with regular updates not related to a specific situation
  • Availability – is there an afterhours phone line for emergencies
  • Response times – how long can you expect to wait after calling/texting/emailing them
“There aren’t necessarily right or wrong answers to some of these questions. It’s more a case of whether or not their answers align with what you want and if they don’t, are they willing to change their practices to suit you?”

 

3. Experience

Different developments require a different approach to maintenance and upkeep. Check that your proposed facilities manager has experience with buildings that are like yours in:

  • Size
  • Age
  • Location
  • The lifestyle amenities they provide
  • The types of services required: for example, onsite concierge services
Question: What is your experience and track record with similar developments?

Large developments have different needs from small ones. Old buildings differ from new. Ask:

  • How many developments does the company handle?
  • What type of developments do you specialise it?
  • Do you have a proven track record in comparable developments?
  • Can you give us references from those developments?
“Look for an answer that is backed up with data. It’s not enough to hear that your potential facilities manager ‘has experience’. You want to know the numbers. More experience isn’t always better. Ask the facilities manager to give you some referees to speak to. Strong word of mouth recommendations are the best sign that you’re making the right choice.”

 

4. Good relationships with trade specialists

One of the most valuable roles a facilities manager plays is to act as translator between trades and owners. As building specialists, they know what needs doing and can consult with the relevant trade. They can then take recommendations back to the owners corporation to get the works approved.

Check that your facilities manager has good ongoing relationships with trades and suppliers in the local area.

Question: Do you have a good network of suppliers and technical specialists?

With their background in building and maintenance, facilities managers add real value by liaising with trades and specialists. Ask:

  • Do you have a network of suppliers?
  • How do you appoint suppliers?
  • What quality control measures do you have in place?
  • Do you receive commission or other benefits from contractors?
“If they answer yes to the last question, it might be a red flag. You want to be assured that they use the best quality suppliers, not contractors who give them a kick back. Look for answers that explain their screening progress, quality control measures and whether they review those relationships at regular intervals.”

 

5. High level knowledge of the industry

One of the dangers of working without a facilities manager is the exposure to financial and legal repercussions if the complex, or contractors performing services on the complex, fail to adhere to building and work safety legislation. A facilities manager should be on top of all of these and be actively ensuring compliance.

Question: How do you keep up with industry practices?

It’s essential that facilities managers keep up with legislative requirements and building compliance. A large part of their job is to make sure that the building is up to code, including fire safety and safe work practices. Ask:

  • What are your training and qualifications?
  • Do you and your staff undertake continuing professional development?
  • How do you keep up with industry best practice?
“A good facilities manager should have a set policy in place to ensure that all staff keep their knowledge up to date. Look for a policy that sets out further training as a requirement, rather than just encouraging staff to do so in their own time.”

 

Your strata manager can give you recommendations for trusted facilities management companies. If you’re with Independent for your strata, you may be eligible for a free facilities management building audit.