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For small business, facilities management is often viewed as a luxury that must be foregone. The fact is, every business, large or small, needs effective facilities management; and small business facilities management is of critical importance in order for them to be competitive. Although today, small business is able to take advantage of Fortune 1000 facilities management as tenants of large serviced office and industrial centers.

Depending on the business type, different businesses will have different facilities management needs. Whereby a service-oriented business may only require nighttime janitorial support, a manufacturing operation would need a wider range of services.

Facilities management refers to the coordination and maintenance of a physical workspace allowing the staff of an organization to carry out their work in an efficient and cohesive manner. It comprises the conventions of administration, architecture, and engineering. Fundamentally speaking, facilities management involves activities related to keeping a site operational. Such facilities include supermarkets and groceries, auto repair shops, sports stadia, prisons, office complexes, hospitals, hotels, retail organizations, and other revenue-generating enterprises, as well as government organizations.

Small Business and Their Special Needs

Small business facilities management has similar responsibilities, but may only be required to perform a limited slate of services depending upon the type of business. Traditionally, facilities management is charged with performing a broad range of services, including accounting and records management, mail/messenger services, engineering, janitorial and landscaping services, site security, property management, space planning, telecom, computer and information systems, safety, and various other support services. The job of the facility manager is to maintain a working environment that supports productivity, is safe to work in, is pleasing to customers, and complies government regulations.

In this context, the term "facility" refers to a wide spectrum of buildings, complexes, and other physical structures. The common thread among these entities is the fact that they are all physical places. Facilities can be warehouses or an office space or suite of offices, a whole floor or group of floors within a building, a single building or a group of buildings and structures. These structures can be situated in an urban locale or standalone in a suburban or rural backdrop. They may be a part of a vast commercial complex, office park, or school campus.

It is imperative to classify the facility as a site where a specific type of business is conducted, and to develop a management plan that corresponds with the business’ activities. One must consider that the needs of a theatre, an art gallery, a restaurant, an auto parts manufacturer, and a stock brokerage will differ greatly. This is true, though there will be some fundamental needs that will be common across the full spectrum of business types (furnishings, HVAC, lighting, etc.). Professional facilities management focuses on a business’ needs in the most efficient and economical means that are feasible. In reality, facilities management embodies many responsibilities, including the following:

  • Track organizational effectiveness - Productivity is best measured by time, cost, quantity, and quality.
  • Assure the business get the most bang for its facility-related buck.
  • Real estate acquisition, rental, and disposal.
  • Guarantee that different processes, procedures, and standards complement each other.
  • Monitor the full spectrum of maintenance and upkeep issues ensuring the business functions at full efficiency.
  • Monitor and respond to health & safety, and security issues.
  • Guarantee compliance with relevant jurisdictional codes and regulations.
  • Anticipate future needs in topics such as lighting, expansion, robotics, and IT networks.
  • Continuing workforce education in all manner of relevant disciplines.

The Changing Face of Small Business Facilities Management

Facilities management has long been linked to janitorial, mailrooms, and security services, but today it encompasses far more. The reasons behind the new dynamic of the facilities manager's job are myriad. One such example is facilities have grown to be massive population centers rivaling small towns and far more complex, so much so that even small business is impacted by this phenomenon. As tenants in these environs they often must rely upon automated support networks that require expertise to operate and repair. Telecom networks and other high-tech systems have dramatically amplified the demands of tenants. This tendency has manifested in manufacturing sectors as well with the advent of industrial parks that house small-scale manufacturing.

Over the past 25 years many other factors have impacted the challenges of facilities managers. The shift toward corporate cost-consciousness that developed in the 1980s has resulted in a greater focus on efficiency across the spectrum of operations. Facilities specialists are being tasked with streamlining processes for the sake of cost containment while still delivering peak performance; in short, to do more with less. There has also been a change in philosophy relying more on teamwork, cross-functional capabilities, and telecommuting have brought about revised infrastructure demands. Such as the trend toward tasking facilities managers with responsibility for regulatory compliance in areas such as ADA matters, HAZMAT management, and other "OSHA" issues.

New technologies, demands for greater efficiency, and onerous government regulation have resulted in the broadening of the role of facilities managers. In recent years, companies have sought out facilities managers with broader skill-sets and education, in order to handle the myriad of duties that come with the job. If a large complex is populated with small and medium-sized companies, the facilities manager will be charged with both the management and maintenance staffs. Moreover, depending on the size and nature of the business being conducted at the complex, the manager may also be responsible for providing mail, security, engineering and architectural services, as well as arranging subcontractors, maintaining IT and telecom networks, and even leasing real estate or office space.