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Ask the Expert: Scott Salmirs, CEO, ABM

It’s often said that presentation is key. This is true for many things, including the presentation of buildings. The first things we notice about a place is its splendor, but seldom do we consider the work that occurs behind the scenes to maintain that polished look. Whether it’s window washing, floor mopping or space heating, buildings create an impression that’s rooted in their upkeep, and expert Scott Salmirs, CEO of ABM, understands this best.

From small office spaces to large airports, ABM is ever-adaptable, and has left its mark on more facilities than we can name. After over a decade of experience, Scott became only the seventh CEO, and has embraced it with grace.

We sat down with Scott to talk about the role of facilities management in real estate, and to get his perspective on how facilities management providers like ABM support property owners in effectively and efficiently maintaining their buildings.

How do the services that ABM provides substantially impact the everyday life of the city dweller? Why does ABM’s work matter most right now?

ABM plays a critical role in keeping the environments where we spend most of our time comfortable, safe, clean and running smoothly. Whether it’s a stadium, office building, university or airport, our team members are the faces that you see and interact with every day. They could be parking your car, cleaning the restroom in your office, providing wheelchair services in an airport or fixing the lighting and air conditioning in the stadium where you watch your favorite teams play.

I like to say we are the most important company you’ve never heard of, because what we do truly makes a difference. For example, when snow storms hit, we make sure that there is a clear and salted path to the building; when the April showers come, we make sure the lobby floors have mats covering slippery areas at all building entrances. While that seems like something small, keep in mind that 25,000 slip, trip and fall accidents occur daily in the U.S. and that there are over 40,000 workplace injuries and illnesses involving ice, sleet or snow every year. The janitorial and cleaning services we provide also play a role in the prevention of health problems, such as allergies and the spread of contagious diseases like cold and flu viruses. This is especially critical in densely populated cities like New York, where hundreds, in some cases thousands, of people will come and go from the same lobby turnstiles, elevators and bathrooms on any given day.

How are facilities services helping cities reach their sustainability goals? 

Facilities management directly impacts the environmental performance of buildings and helps drive green building certification. Cities can see extensive environmental benefits through changes made to existing facilities management processes in buildings, including reduced air and water pollution, energy conservation and decreased use of toxic products requiring disposal.

As a member of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), we work with building owners to offer specific products and processes for their buildings that allow them to achieve LEED certification. We have helped enable more than 480 million square feet of building space to become LEED certified. Our ABM GreenCare program has been implemented in over 1,000 buildings across the U.S., and, through our Energy Solutions program, we have reduced clients’ energy use by over 23 percent on average and installed more than 8,000 EV charging ports in buildings country-wide. Just as with our entire line of services, ABM is utilizing technology to upgrade its sustainable offerings. This includes innovations such as electrically-activated water systems that allow us to produce safe, non-toxic cleaning solutions onsite and reduce packaging, transportation and storage issues associated with traditional chemicals.

Explain why smart cities cannot exist without smart facilities services.

I recently visited the National Robotics Engineering Center at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University to see some exciting innovations. There’s no doubt that smart cities will change the way facilities run. Whether it’s the IoT (Internet of Things) delivering real-time, actionable information from machines to devices; predictable analytics that will help better support decision making; or artificial intelligence in the form of connected guided transport or service robots, the evolution of smart facilities is just a matter of time. Facilities of the future will become beacons that emit continuous information and adjust in real-time based on that information.

Imagine this scenario: You’re leaving your building, and, as you get in the elevator, your building notifies your car to start up and come pick you up out front. At the same time, another employee is pulling up and their car is notified of the parking space availability. The car drops them off in front, and parks autonomously. Sound too sci-fi? This future is closer than you might expect, and buildings will need experts to help them navigate our future.

Anyone with a property should understand the importance of working with a facilities services company—why?

The day-to-day management and upkeep of any real estate space, whether it’s a commercial office, co-op, condo or residential property, is an extremely complex undertaking. Facilities management services exist to oversee the interior and exterior of a real estate property and keep it running smoothly and efficiently.

The scope of what every property needs will vary; it could include anything from janitorial to landscaping to lighting. That’s why ABM offers its clients integrated services with a large, national footprint. We also spend a good portion of our time creating and adopting innovations that will benefit or bring added value to our clients. For building owners, having a partner they can trust with the expertise and scale to support them, as well as a focus on innovation, is critical to attracting and retaining tenants, customers and employees.

What advice do you have for young New York professionals who are contemplating a drastic career move into a competitive industry like real estate?

When I left my career in investment banking, everyone thought I was crazy to move to a janitorial services company. While it was indeed a bold move, more than anything else I saw it as an exciting opportunity for problem solving, something I love, and a skill that I think is critical to success in fields like real estate and property management. I’ve often heard leaders give advice such as “fortune favors the bold” or “no risk, no reward,” and I would caution people on this type of guidance. I think you should have a passion and focus for what you do. That’s the most important thing. If you care about what you are doing, and you are trying to truly solve a problem, then things will fall into place for you.

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