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Episode 88

Facility Management Inspiration and Career Opportunities for Future Workplace Leaders

with Bobby LaRon, M.S. of OPB & IFMA

Bobby LaRon, M.S. is Director of Administrative Services at Oregon Public Broadcasting and also serves as a volunteer and an active member of IFMA. Mike Petrusky asks Bobby about his FM story and learns what he most enjoys about serving the people at his workplace. Bobby is passionate about elevating the FM community through IFMA and he encourages the next generation of FM leaders by helping to make them aware of the great opportunities available in the facility management profession. The future of the built environment will require workplace leaders to leverage the expertise of others and Bobby discusses lessons he has learned from Dr. Dean Kashiwagi about the best value approach to facility management. Mike and Bobby share stories from their time together at IFMA’s World Workplace and also chat about movies and music making this episode informative, inspirational and a lot of fun!

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Discover free resources and explore past interviews at: https://www.workplaceinnovator.com/

Connect with Bobby on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bobbylaron/

Learn more about IFMA: https://www.ifma.org/

Connect with Mike on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikepetrusky/

Share your thoughts with Mike via email: podcast@iOFFICECORP.com

Learn more about iOFFICE’s workplace experience solutions: https://www.iOFFICECORP.com/

Read the full transcript:

Mike P. (00:02):

Hi everyone. Mike P. here and I have two big announcements for you. First, I am thrilled to tell you that we have just launched a new website to serve as the home of this podcast. You can check it out now at www.workplaceinnovator.com. There you will find not only the latest episode of the show, but a link to our complete searchable archive of interviews. Plus the new site has available for free download research reports and white papers about the latest industry trends and available technologies.

            Also, I'm excited to announce that registration is open for the annual iOffice User Conference. Our Summit 2020 will take place April 14th to 16th, and I really hope you will plan to join me there. We will bring the future to life with amazing speakers, educational content, and you'll have the chance to interact with our community forward thinking workplace leaders. So join us in Vegas baby, Vegas, where you will be inspired to create connected workplace experiences for your organization.

Bobby LaRon (01:05):

Recognizing expertise will be the big shift in the future. At a certain point, we're all just information workers and it's how to identify that expertise in others, will propel you in your career beyond your wildest dreams.

Mike P. (01:21):

This is the Workplace Innovator Podcast, where we talk with corporate real estate and facility management leaders about the industry trends and technologies impacting your organization. This show is powered by iOffice, the leading employee experience focused IWMS software that delivers real time data and mobile tools to help you intelligently manage your digital workplace.

            Welcome to the show. This is episode 88 of the Workplace Innovator Podcast, and we have another fun one for you folks. My guest today is Bobby LaRon. He works with Oregon Public Broadcasting. He's an active member of IFMA, and he has been a strong supporter of this podcast for many years now. I've been hoping to have Bobby on the show for quite a while, and it's finally time to make that happen. We had a lot of fun recording this conversation, many interesting stories and plenty of laughs, and since this is of course, the most wonderful time of the year, I thought it would be appropriate to share it all with you. So here we go.

            Joining us today from Portland, Oregon, it's our friend Bobby LaRon. Welcome Bobby.

Bobby LaRon (02:36):

Oh, hi Mike. It's really great to join you.

Mike P. (02:38):

It's been a long time coming.

Bobby LaRon (02:40):

It has. I've been a fan since you first started rolling out the podcast and been following you ever since.

Mike P. (02:46):

Well, I appreciate that. That's awesome. We just had some time together at IFMA's World Workplace in Phoenix. Wasn't that great?

Bobby LaRon (02:54):

It was great. I thought my part time job was your hype man.

Mike P. (02:58):

Hype man. That's right. We walked around the convention center and all the parties and Bobby was there next to me saying, "DJ Mike P."

Bobby LaRon (03:08):

Or some variant thereof, "DJ Mikie P."

Mike P. (03:12):

We had a good time.

Bobby LaRon (03:12):

We did.

Mike P. (03:14):

Those events are always a lot of fun and I always encourage people to go because you can't replace that face to face human interaction, right?

Bobby LaRon (03:22):

Absolutely. Yep. You got to form those relationships.

Mike P. (03:26):

Bobby, I know a little bit about you and I learned a lot more about you during our time together in Phoenix. I was reminded I had to have you on the show. So for the benefit of those listening, tell us just a little bit about who you are and what you do.

Bobby LaRon (03:40):

Yeah. I'm the Director of Administrative Services for Oregon Public Broadcasting. We're one of the larger regional players in the pub media system. So we do a lot of our own local content as well as take content from PBS and NPR as well. We broadcast to our Oregon and Southwest Washington based audiences, but we have programming that goes nationwide as well.

Mike P. (04:07):

Wow. See, now this is dream time for me. NPR quality, Bobby. If I can have that said about my podcast, I have reached the pinnacle.

Bobby LaRon (04:17):

One day.

Mike P. (04:17):

This is pressure. I wish I was in the studio there with you. We could probably do some magical things.

Bobby LaRon (04:22):

Yeah I think we could. I think we could.

Mike P. (04:25):

Your role as a facilities professional, a practitioner helping to manage the workplace and the built environment, tell me about that.

Bobby LaRon (04:32):

Yeah. Well, I started with OPB about a decade ago now and I actually started as a production resource manager within the content department, so I'm the quintessential unintentional FM three years into that. Yeah exactly.

Mike P. (04:47):

Classic story of how we end up in the world of facility management, right?

Bobby LaRon (04:51):

It's true. It's true. I never knew about facilities up until seven years ago and there was a retirement and basically raised my hand and said, "I'll do for the entire organization, what I did for this department," and it's really just taking care of people in place.

Mike P. (05:08):

There you go, at its core. That's what it's all about.

            Well, let's get to know a little bit more of the personal side of Bobby. I learned that you have served in the military and have traveled the world, right?

Bobby LaRon (05:19):

Yeah that's right. I was a broadcast journalist and public affairs specialist for the US army. My first duty station was with the 101st Airborne in Fort Campbell. I did a command station, command information products out to the troops, media on the battlefield with the general staff, how to interact with the press while you're out in theater. And then when I went to Korea in '02, to South Korea, I was stationed at Camp Walker where I was a broadcast manager for American Forces Network Korea. And so I told the soldier's story both on radio and TV as well as helped the English learning abilities for a shadow audience of about 2 million South Koreans in the Daegu area.

Mike P. (06:07):

Wow. Fascinating stuff. This is the type of thing I learned during our time together at World Workplace.

            First of all, thank you for your service. Great to get to know that side of you. Does that background in the military and your experience as a journalist help you in your current role as a facility management professional?

Bobby LaRon (06:24):

The ability to communicate to diverse audiences has always served me well in all things outside of broadcast specific work, and I do that constantly as an FM type because you always have to give people that just in time information to keep them safe, out of construction zones, knowing what to do in certain scenarios, et cetera so it served me well, that's for sure.

Mike P. (06:48):

Fantastic.

Bobby LaRon (06:49):

But I will say Mike, that the reason I really wanted to make the jump is I was tired of being judged on subjective criteria in my career because you can do great work in the creative space, but then ultimately somebody will say, "Oh, you know, that was great, but," and then insert opinion here.

Mike P. (07:08):

Tell me about it. I just got the feedback from one of my speeches. And it doesn't matter, there could be a hundred people in the room they all loved it, they all had a great time, got value from what I said, but if there's one person whose opinion was, "Yeah that DJ Mike P he's not for me," it just crushes my soul. I don't know what it is.

Bobby LaRon (07:28):

Well, because you're so invested in and you really want everybody to enjoy what you're sharing. So I totally hear you there. I will say that with FM and the metrics and data kind of related to it, when you can just deliver results and those black and white metrics, for me there's a lot more job satisfaction in that.

Mike P. (07:48):

Awesome. Let's inspire our audience with some music. What kind of music gets you fired up?

Bobby LaRon (07:54):

Well, I will say one of the more motivational songs I've listened to since high school, it was my high school fight song, Eye of the Tiger.

Mike P. (08:01):

Yes, Rocky III.

Bobby LaRon (08:03):

There you go. That's where he took out Mr. T. right?

Mike P. (08:06):

Clubber Lang, that's right. It's survivor [inaudible 00:08:09].

Bobby LaRon (08:21):

[inaudible 00:08:19]. (singing).

Mike P. (08:22):

There you go.

Bobby LaRon (08:29):

Now you just need to be a-washed in blue light with artificial rain coming down on you and you'll be right there.

Mike P. (08:36):

I love it. I love it. Rocky. In fact, any Rocky music is inspiring to me.

Bobby LaRon (08:41):

Same, yeah. Rocky's the best.

Mike P. (08:43):

Hey, are you a Star Wars fan?

Bobby LaRon (08:45):

Ewoks were kind of cool. Return of the Jedi, I liked that. But beyond that, no, I'm much more of a historical fiction guy. So I like your Braveheart. Last of the Mohicans would have to be my favorite movie in that genre.

Mike P. (09:00):

Yes, great song in that movie from Clannad. Do you remember the song, I Will Find You?

Bobby LaRon (09:06):

I remember the quote, "Stay alive no matter what occurs. I will find you."

Mike P. (09:12):

Perfect. (singing) That was a big hit.

Bobby LaRon (09:21):

Well, that whole soundtrack was that whole melancholia kind of interspersed throughout that movie?

Mike P. (09:27):

Yeah. I love it. Got to go back and listen to that again. Good stuff.

Bobby LaRon (09:30):

For sure.

Mike P. (09:30):

Bobby, is there a business book or a leader that has influenced you?

Bobby LaRon (09:34):

Yes, Dr. Dean Kashiwagi. He wrote a book called How To Know Everything Without Knowing Anything. I highly recommend it.

Mike P. (09:43):

Oh yeah. Dr. Dean from our very own FM community.

Bobby LaRon (09:47):

Yeah. He's one of our IFMA fellows and a retired professor from Arizona State, that's gone off on his own teaching about the best value approach and information measurement theory. If you haven't looked into any of those concepts, I think you should, it would pay dividends.

Mike P. (10:04):

He does his annual Best Value Conference each year in Arizona, I believe, right?

Bobby LaRon (10:09):

Yes. They're in Tempe, January 13 to 17. I attended two years ago and really it's changed my whole thinking on procurement.

Mike P. (10:18):

With that in mind, what are you most passionate about? What do you enjoy most about your job?

Bobby LaRon (10:22):

Honestly, how you bring in the services and how you perform that maintenance and where it touches the folks in your organization, I think that's where you can get the most satisfaction from the work.

Mike P. (10:34):

Are you seeing the role of the facility manager changing, evolving and in what ways?

Bobby LaRon (10:39):

Yes, I do. I feel like it used to be even in just this seven year period where I was more heavily focused on the preventive maintenance of capital assets and the whole fire, life, safety element, really the first two tenants of FM in my mind. But we've gone through a major renovation right now and it was phased and we were occupied at the time, so communicating with staff, staying in front of any issues, alleviating stress points and just kind of meeting them where they are and helping them get through this massive amount of change is something that I hadn't anticipated would take up so much of my time in the renovation. I thought I would be more like sharpening my pencil. How am I going to cut out more of these change orders? How am I going to be much more tied to delivering on schedule, under budget and the whole project management concept? That all played a role, but working with people was a much stronger piece than I ever thought it would be.

Mike P. (11:44):

Interesting. Yeah, so it's not an either or. Those fundamentals of FM are still essential.

            Bobby, what are some of the trends you're seeing in the world and what gets you most excited about the future workplace?

Bobby LaRon (11:56):

What gets me very excited is hearing everything I heard about We Work at World Workplace this past year, just the We Work model and space as a service and how that's disrupting the marketplace. I had never really peeked behind the curtain of We Work before and what was being offered at World Workplace to understand that model a bit better was very eye-opening. But I also feel that recognizing expertise will be the big shift in the future. At a certain point, we're all just information workers and it's how to identify that expertise in others will propel you in your career beyond your wildest dreams. Because it's the FM, especially in the owner occupied space, that feels they need to be expert in all the different aspects of FM and realizing you can't be expert in everything so you need to leverage expertise whenever possible.

Mike P. (12:56):

Absolutely.

            Well, let's talk about your involvement with IFMA. I know you were a past president of the Oregon Chapter.

Bobby LaRon (13:03):

Yeah. I am a past president of the Oregon and Southwest Washington chapter of IFMA. We're about 211 members strong. I started with them almost immediately when I started my new role at OPB, knowing that as a mid-career professional transitioning into FM work, I needed to get industry best practice quick, fast, and in a hurry. I did that through engagement with my local IFMA Chapter. I became a programs committee member the first year, and then I became treasurer on the executive committee the second year, then I became president elect, and then president, and then immediate past, and now I'm a director at large and I'm their communications chair as well as their foundation liaison. Additionally, I'm the corporate facility, council's communication chair. I've also just been tasked with becoming the treasurer again, so I'm back on the executive committee. And I'm in the succession planning for another run at president.

Mike P. (14:11):

You are committed my friend. Tell me why do you do it all? It's a lot of work. I know I've been involved here locally in DC, and it's very rewarding. What would you say to someone who's maybe hesitating about getting involved with IFMA or volunteering? You've certainly done a lot, but I'm sure there's a big payoff in the end.

Bobby LaRon (14:29):

Well, so I get all that just in time knowledge that I need and I'm learning from industry experts, who may be doing work very different than my own. A lot of us in the owner occupied space can feel very siloed, so reaching out to people in different sectors is always very invaluable and I get that from member meetings and IFMA interaction. But why I keep involved with IFMA leadership is because I really feel like the global workforce initiative coming out of the IFMA foundation and making FM a career of choice for young people is a real strong passion of mine. I grew up in poverty. The media and FM income in the nation is about 77K and that's great money. Facilities work is recession-proof as well. So it can really lift people out of poverty because you always have to maintain the built environment.

Mike P. (15:28):

That's inspiring too, because there's a lot of work being done to help the next generation of facility management and workplace leaders. Do you have any advice you could share with those future FMs.

Bobby LaRon (15:42):

Depending on where they are, if you're in high school and considering college, consider a dedicated FM degree program, because that will really start you off on the right footing. But say college isn't for you and you want to go into one of the trades, great, because you can always transition back into FM work and then you have that kind of where the rubber meets the road knowledge as well, which will serve you very well as an FM leader. What I'm saying is there's more than one way to get at FM, and depending on who you are and what you succeed at, you could get there in many different ways.

Mike P. (16:22):

I like that; try different things, explore many paths, different options, and you never know where it may lead you. That's certainly been my experience.

Bobby LaRon (16:31):

That's so true. You could work for NASA as an FM. You could work for OPB. You could work for a mom and pop down the street

Mike P. (16:40):

Or a fortune 500. You could work for a huge corporation that you could be running a major campus for a fortune 500 company. It's really limitless with this essential need for managing the built environment today.

Bobby LaRon (16:53):

Yeah. I couldn't agree with you more. Someone who's on the fence about a career in facilities should just check out the essentials of facilities management offered by ifma.org, because that gives you the primer that you need to go, is this for me?

Mike P. (17:08):

Perfect. Awesome.

            Bobby, this has been fun. It's been formative, inspirational. Thank you so much for being on the Workplace Innovator Podcast.

Bobby LaRon (17:17):

Well, thanks for having me, Mike,

Mike P. (17:20):

There you have it everyone, Bobby LaRon inspiring us all and leading by example, serving the people at his workplace and those in the FM community at IFMA, while also encouraging the next generation of workplace leaders by helping to make them aware of the great opportunities available in the facility management profession. Awesome.

            Well, I hope you found this episode to be informative, inspirational, and enjoyable to listen to. And as approach the end of another year together on this show, I trust you have received some value in these podcast discussions. If you have, please drop me a note, let me know what you think. It's always nice to hear from you. As we head into the new year 2020, I will continue to do my best to bring you more interviews with the amazing, kind and insightful people that are passionate about helping you be a workplace innovator. Peace out.

            You've been listening to the Workplace Innovator Podcast. I hope you found this discussion beneficial as we work together to build partnerships that lead to innovative workplace solutions. For more information about how iOffice can help you create an employee centric workspace by delivering digital technology that enhances the employee experience, visit iofficecorp.com.