Small Market Sports Teams Hold Lessons For Facility Managers

With pro basketball season approaching, things are looking pretty good for small-market teams. The defending NBA champs — the San Antonio Spurs — are the sport’s long-running small-market success story, with five titles under the current head coach. And this year’s title favorite is another small-market team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, which lured the league’s biggest star, LeBron James, back from the big-market Miami Heat. To top it off, new owners paid a then-record price for a third small-market team, the Milwaukee Bucks.

What’s interesting about good small-market teams like the Spurs, or baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals, is that they’ve been long-term successes even though they don’t have the same amount of money to spend as big-market teams.

Hmm. Not having a lot of money to spend. Where have I heard that before? Sounds a bit like facility management. A couple of lessons from winning small-market teams seem relevant to facility managers:

• Don’t make bad investments. What teams are buying, of course, is athletic talent, not a generator or carpet. But in both cases it’s essential to get a good return on investment. A roof that fails prematurely or an energy management system that isn’t used properly is just as much a drain on resources as a high-priced player who turns out to be a dud.
In a sense, FMs have it worse than the GMs of sports teams. Team owners don’t expect every player to work out, so they cut the general manager some slack. Top executives seem to want facility managers to get it right every time.

• The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In the sports world, a collection of big names is no assurance of a winning season. Well, neither are new products or systems a guarantee of good building performance. An older building that is well operated will outperform a new building where operations aren’t a top priority.

Whether in sports or in the business world, more money generally makes things easier. But even on a small budget, a facility manager can be a big-time success.