The Art of the Brand

by Nate Hunter

Can a facilities department make the brand better? A vendor’s opinion about the future of facilities.

Where do we go from here? What is the vision for the future of the industry and what have the past 12 years (my experience) taught me? If it has taught me one thing, it is this: Customer service never goes out of style, but the styles do change. What I mean is this: My company’s future depends on our ability to deliver service by thinking with both sides of our brains. The net result is empowerment. I’m dizzy already…

picassoI had a grade school art teacher who instructed us to replicate Picasso’s drawing of Igor Stravinsky by turning the image upside down (see image) and drawing it upside down. The idea behind it was that by flipping the drawing you would lose the familiarity with the image and it would force your brain to work differently and potentially more focused on the drawing at hand. I must say my drawing was a decent replica, and in fact, I still use this method today when I sketch my kids’ faces on a weekend afternoon. It’s funny the things you remember.

What I learned then is that both sides of our brain work differently, but in harmony with each other. The right brain controls the left hand and the vice versa and voila, our hands work together to build things. I have found that there is a distinct parallel in this understanding of the human body and have found a tenet in what I would term as the “Art of Facility Maintenance,” which I believe is the future of the industry.

The framework for the “Art of Facility Maintenance” is built around two perspectives: (1) store level visibility and (2) brand level planning. Each of these perspectives can be described by the following two questions:

1. What are my customer’s experiences in this store as it relates to my brand’s image?

It is understood that a store’s design is intentional, in fact strategic. The answer to the question requires the ability to view items that are out of line with the strategy and those which are out of line with the brand’s image. After all, it is retail. This idea of “brand” is often the most difficult to capture in words. The right brain processes things that are emotional and creative; a brand’s image is found here. Often, CEOs and upper management shape and define the image and intended customer experience through design — it is a facilities department’s responsibility to protect it. This is store level thinking and critical to the longevity of the brand. The ability to visit a store and pick up on brand- negative nuances requires a unique skill set gained by a thorough understanding of the brand.

Meanwhile, back at the office, another question is being asked:

2. How can my budget have its greatest impact?

Ahh, finally something I can put on a spreadsheet. Left brain thinking: linear and analytical. Objectify, identify and clarify. Inspect, reflect and project. I have learned that data is the most powerful tool (yes, more powerful than cash) you can give a facilities department. This is brand level thinking and critical to the life of the brand.

I believe that facilities departments actually make their brands better when they have the resources to explore and answer both questions. By doing so, these departments can actually provide the platform to ponder the thought: Where is our store design not worth its financial impact? Or perhaps: What is the financial impact when our brand experience is compromised?

What all of this means to me

The new reality is a lean facilities department with a reliance on technology. Also, it has been my experience that facilities departments are subject to turnover, forfeiting collective learning of the department over time. As a vendor, I have experienced the turnover within a client’s department and remember the need to fill in the gap during the transition. Many vendors have a longer experience within the brand’s facilities departments than the client’s staff, and that will continue to be the case. The partnership between vendor and client has gone from an ideal to a necessity.

What I have learned over the past 3 years is that the needs of clients continue to change. Lean facilities departments have only amplified the need for data, visibility and consistency. The need for creative thinking and shared learning have become extremely valuable in the marketplace today. An empowered vendor is the solution. One who is capable of thinking with both left and right — being the eyes and ears of the FD, able to discern brand-negative items, implement best practice solutions and play a supportive role in developing a standard of care for the brand.

An empowered client is the future.






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