After getting started in the military, Marc Liciardello says his business acumen evolved along with the facilities management industry.
Today, Liciardello is an accomplished business leader with more than 25 years of industry experience. Since July 2006, he has led strategic and tactical facility and real estate programs for Philadelphia-based ARAMARK’s corporate office portfolio. He also volunteers with the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), serving as IFMA chair and chief elected officer. He has also participated in and led numerous IFMA Philadelphia committees since 1997.
While he was busy working for ARAMARK and volunteering with IFMA, he was also earning his engineering and MBA degrees at the same time.
Liciardello never stops learning and networking, which is key piece of advice he shares with new facilities professionals.
Q: How did you get started in commercial real estate?
A: Facilities management is still a profession where the majority of people come in from complementary professions. After I graduated from high school, I went to the military and worked on non-nuclear munitions. I did everything from maintaining and arming to disposing. I’ve always gravitated toward the technical field. My business acumen evolved as the profession evolved. As late as the ‘90s, facilities management was generally called “maintenance management.” Before that, it was viewed as “boiler room maintenance.” From the time I was very young, I was fixing things – making things better was intriguing. Challenges were an opportunity. And I loved to work with my hands. I still do. It never feels like I’m getting up and going to work.
Q: What are some of your biggest career accomplishments?
A: Being the chair of IFMA is one. I’ve actively participated with the association for 14 years. Under my leadership as chair, the association has been focused on elevating the perception of the facilities management professional and empowering people to realize their potential.
Two noteworthy successes include a symposium called “ReTh!nk The City,” which I established a vision and goals for. The symposium was held at IFMA’s Facility Fusion conference, and focused on the role that facilities management will play in the future of cities. The other accomplishment is leading the formation of accredited facility management degree programs at undergraduate and graduate institutions.
I also implemented the industry-first intelligent building system, which won International Recognition in the Network World & International Communication Association’s Call for Innovation awards program. Based on what I learned, I’ve written several publications and given numerous presentations on integrated and intelligent building systems.
I’ve also been driving an emergency preparedness program at ARAMARK. Many organizations craft plans that are filed in a drawer where they gather dust until an emergency strikes. In partnership with ARAMARK’s head of global security and global risk management, we developed and implemented an annual emergency preparedness exercise called APEX. Now in its sixth year, we bring everyone together in a simulated environment to practice, validate, and improve our plans. This ensures that internal and external responders – as well as employees – understand each other’s roles, the external environment, and expectations during a critical incident.
Q: In your decades of experience, how have you seen the industry change?
A: Over the past 30 years, the industry has rapidly evolved. Back then, aside from skilled tradesmen, people who performed facilities management tasks weren’t normally viewed as professionals with particular subject matter expertise; they were considered tactical executors of operational, maintenance, and janitorial functions.
Now, thanks to professional organizations like IFMA, this multi-disciplinary profession is more widely recognized and valued by organizations – and many of the people who work in the industry are professionally certified. As a result, many facilities professionals are viewed now as strategic business partners, and are intimately involved in the creation and execution of key organizational goals and strategies.
A good example: At ARAMARK, our employees are on the road a lot. When they returned to the office, they were working in an environment that didn’t support or have space for collaboration, social connection, or innovation. By partnering with functional and business leaders, we found opportunities to create a different workplace with a smaller footprint (and a smaller carbon footprint) that better supports the new ways people work, which gives our employees the tools to be more productive and successful.
Q: What advice do you have for facilities management professionals based on lessons you’ve learned?
A: Keep your core technical skills current, and increase your business acumen. Continually engage with leaders across your organization, and align all of your real estate and facilities management programs with organizational priorities. And don’t forget to nurture your network. Don’t just call someone when there’s a fire and you need help.Strong internal and external relationships are essential to successful outcomes.
Q: What does the future hold for the industry?
A: As facilities management professionals act as stewards of the built environment, we will continue to gain prominence in driving value. Facilities professionals, as trusted partners with CEOs and senior leaders, will be sought out for thought leadership and team-oriented solutions. I also believe the demand for educated and certified FMs will continue to grow. Facilities management is the perfect fit to support the workplace of today and the future.