World FM Day: Behind the scenes with Centuria's Thomas Jacmenovic

May 7, 2023

Our Q&A series for World FM Day rolls on, as we continue shining a spotlight on the hardworking Facilities Managers keeping the built environment running smoothly. In this article, we hear from Thomas Jacmenovic, a Senior FM from Centuria Capital Group, based in Melbourne, Australia. Thomas has more than 15 years experience in facilities management spanning a number of leading property groups. We heard from Thomas on his career trajectory, what he loves about facilities management, his thoughts on this year’s theme and much more in this insightful chat.

Building a professional foundation

Q. Can you talk us through your career progression so far?

A. I began my FM journey while working as a Site Manager for Hoyts Cinemas, when the company established a national facilities branch. At the time, there was no dedicated facilities management department within the corporation, so they appointed in-house employees who were keen on training and building a career in Facilities Management. I managed the Victorian and Canberra sites for Hoyts between 2002 and 2006.

This first sparked my interest in Facilities Management, drawn to both the technical aspects of managing site equipment and interacting with landlords and other stakeholders. I gained valuable insights into lease operations and moved into a commercial role with a small agency. From there, I transitioned to managing industrial sites for Stockland in Victoria before becoming an Operations Manager in retail.

My goal was to gain experience across various asset classes, and from there, develop a more specific interest in one property type. That brought me to roles with Colliers and now Centuria, where I’ve been for more than four years.

Q. What initially attracted you to choosing facilities management as a career? And what has kept you here?

A. I was initially drawn to the technical aspects of the role, like understanding how different plant and equipment operates within a building, as well as managing procurement. This later evolved into an interest in people management - having direct reports and managing a network of contractors. Facilities Management has offered me a multitude of opportunities throughout the years, and now I’m using it to embrace my interest in management.

Getting to know FM as a discipline

Q. What’s something interesting about facilities management that most people probably wouldn't know?

A. Many people may not realise the complexity involved in keeping a building running, including the plant and equipment required for its operation. There's a significant investment of time and resources needed to maintain the various systems in place, upgrade assets, and implement automation.

In essence, Facilities Management is about prolonging the life of an asset and improving its value. The role has evolved from merely ‘fixing lights’ or ‘unblocking toilets’ to consistently investing in maintenance and upgrades that often go unnoticed by building users. In a nutshell, there's a lot more complexity to it than many people might realise.

Q. What are the top few things that you love about facilities management?

A. In addition to the technical side of maintaining plant and equipment, I also love the customer service aspect of facilities management - keeping tenants comfortable, happy and engaged.

Sustainability is also a big part of it. And I’m fortunate enough to have great tenants who also care about the sustainability of the building. They’re genuinely interested, rather than seeing it as purely a box ticking exercise. They don't just want reports. They actually want you to talk to them about what you've done.

It's moved on from just wanting to keep costs down to a point where people want to know everything - how do you source your power? Is it green? Where does the waste go? Do you have grey water recycling? They're quite interested in all of that, which makes my job a lot more interesting and rewarding.

Q. How do you drive sustainability and operational efficiency in your role as a Senior FM?

A. I engage with various stakeholders frequently, monitor plant performance, and participate in networking opportunities to learn about different sustainability initiatives that we can implement. For instance, we're currently installing solar panels on our buildings and have introduced waste tracking systems for our NABERS waste rating.

I prioritise collaboration with the right people to help me develop and implement what we need and what they can offer.

Q. You have extensive experience in FM roles across numerous leading property companies. What more do you think the industry can do to create buzz and encourage greater participation in this field?

A. We should promote the industry's achievements in sustainability, innovation and best practice. One thing that I’ve implemented for exposure and transparency are directory boards that display scrolling messages about our energy and water savings, as well as our current ratings.

When people see a building functioning in the most efficient manner and utilising best practices, they become more engaged in what we do. We also keep tenants informed about our initiatives, such as how we manage car parks, contractors, and safety processes. Engaging with tenants is another way to demonstrate that their workplace is a great environment, and that what we do is important.

Another major drawcard that could encourage greater participation is the variety of the job. No two days are the same in Facilities Management, and the constant change keeps things interesting. It's common to visit two or three properties in one day, and there's always someone to talk to, a problem to resolve or something to accomplish.

Making a real difference

Q. This year’s theme is ‘Making a real difference’. Why do you think your role is impactful and important?

A. Our role as Facilities Managers is highly visible since we're often the first point of contact for tenants. It's crucial for us to provide exceptional customer service and uphold the core values of the business in everything we do. We are always available when tenants need assistance and have systems in place for them to log jobs, work requests, and anything that's a priority. We represent the company at the building, so it's essential for us to demonstrate capability.

Q. Can you talk me through any examples in your current or previous Facilities Management roles where you’ve made a real difference?

A. We’re always acting on things that are important. We help tenants understand the technical aspects of their issues and resolve them as quickly as possible. This often involves identifying faults, checking air balances, and ensuring the fit-out has been done correctly. Additionally, we address water leaks, which may not seem significant but can be particularly problematic around service areas. It's important to respond quickly and maintain a good relationship with tenants to keep them safe.

Skills to shape a successful Facilities Manager

Q. What skills do you think are most important to be successful in facilities management?

A. Time management and the ability to think on your feet are essential skills. You need to be able to react quickly and work well with others, like specialist contractors, to achieve the desired outcomes. Financial discipline is also important, as it's necessary to understand budgeting and ensure value for money. Investing in the right equipment and resources is crucial to making this happen.

Q. How do you think these skills will evolve in the next 5 or 10 years?

A. Facilities Managers will need to develop new skills as systems and processes become more automated. With systems like the BMS and advanced analytics, manual onsite monitoring will be less common. Facilities Managers will need to ensure they invest in the right systems so everything works by design, allowing these automated systems to perform their functions effectively.

Q. How do you and your team make sure you are always developing as Facilities Managers and keeping up with the latest trends, developments, and technologies?

A. We seek out networking opportunities and attend industry conferences. For example, I attend the Honeywell Conference each year. We also participate in short courses through the Facility Management Association (FMA) and other industry bodies, and complete safety and compliance training. Engaging with other stakeholders for training opportunities is essential for our professional growth.

Q. You've worked across retail, office and industrial. How do Facilities Managers skills and responsibilities differ between property types?

A. In retail, customer service is the primary focus. With office, although customer service is also critical, there is typically more complex plant and equipment to manage, and a lot more assets to maintain. So you need more people around you who also understand how everything works.

With industrial, there's the safety aspect and traffic management. It generally requires less time onsite than in a retail environment, where there are more people around.

Again, it's all about time management, understanding your building, what it does, who uses the property, understanding the operations and making sure that everything is running so that tenants can get on with their job.

Q. Is there one property type that you prefer?

A. I find office environments more interesting, as there's a wider variety of tasks and opportunities to make a visible impact. Focusing on sustainability and asset upgrades in office buildings can significantly increase the value of an asset. Investing more time in these areas allows for greater improvement and innovation.

Embracing technology

Q. How important is technology in helping you fulfil your role?

A. Technology is vital to enhance my skills and to understand the potential of our plant and equipment. By investing in advanced technology, we can push the boundaries of what we can achieve. Continual learning is essential, and technology plays a significant role in that process.

Q. The PEAK Platform is currently being onboarded at your site. What role has analytics played in the day-to-day management of your current or previous roles?

A. Analytics have been crucial in helping me understand how our equipment operates, our energy usage, trends, and potential areas for improvement. It allows us to make informed decisions about the maintenance and upgrade of assets, as well as maximising an asset’s lifespan before replacing them. In short, analytics helps us gain a comprehensive understanding of our operations to drive improvements.

Discover how the PEAK Platform can facilitate a smarter and more collaborative approach to your facilities management. Request a callback from one of our experts today.

Chris Joannides
May 7, 2023