Published on: October 5, 2020
John Rich is the Facilities Director at The Webster Apartments. Founded in 1916, The Webster Apartments is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a focus of fostering the success of professional women in New York City by addressing one of their biggest practical challenges – living accommodations.
“John is truly an indispensable part of the Webster team. Many would say that running a 120,000SF, 100-year-old residential building with 400 guest rooms would be challenging for any Facilities Director, but it’s not for John. He understands the capabilities of our building and always finds a solution to meet our needs. No matter how big or complex the project or how many times the scope of work may need to be adjusted, John delivers exceptional work and service with a smile – every single time. Webster and the hundreds of guests we serve every year are very lucky to have him!” – Siobhan McManus, Executive Director at The Webster Apartments
What is one thing no one knows about you?
“I own a hairless cat. Most people find them creepy, but my wife and I have loved the breed ever since we saw one on an old Friends episode.”
How did you get into the Facilities/Workplace field?
“My father was a general contractor who ran his own business, and he taught me much of what I know from hands-on experience. When I got older, I was undecided on a career path, so I joined the military and received a degree in Business Management from a local college. My Facilities Management journey began when I took a job as a Maintenance Technician at a local non-profit that ran group homes in the county. That position led to other tech and coordinator roles in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, which gave me the experience to become the Business Services Manager for Sotheby’s and then the Regional Facilities Manager for The American Red Cross. I became the Facilities Director at the Webster Apartments in 2016.”
Tell us about a favorite project highlight.
“While I was the Business Services Manager at Sotheby’s, I was fortunate enough to work on many creative projects that pushed my team to think outside the box. These projects required more than the typical HVAC, electrical, carpentry and plumbing work. One of my favorite projects was for Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, where we had to create the illusion of a man breaking though the floor of an art gallery. To achieve this, the carpenters on my team built a stage to look like a concrete floor, and the painters and electricians created effects to make it look like a man was coming up through the floor of our gallery. It was both a challenging and fun project to work through and complete.”
What is your greatest success story?
“I have been very lucky to have been surrounded by many great tradesmen, team members and supervisors throughout my career. All of these people have contributed to many successes. One great success that stands out is the what we termed “The Refresh Project” here at Webster. The Webster Apartments were built in 1922, and the building has great character and architectural detail. The management team wanted to update and modernize the interiors without sacrificing the building’s character and charm, so we took our time updating one space at a time over the next few years and refreshed everything from the guest rooms to our dining room and lobby. We were able to update each space with new furnishings, paint, lighting, mechanicals and machinery. In the end we created a beautiful and more modern space that supports the original architectural details. The project made Webster an even more enjoyable place for both employees and guest alike.”
Tell us about a challenge or obstacle that you face in the Real Estate/Facilities world.
“A challenge that we face in the Real Estate/Facilities industry, like all other industries, is encountering differing personalities within an organization and learning how to adapt to differing points of view to get the job done. Within our field specifically, we touch every aspect of the business. This requires us to have strong communication with both our internal and external clients so we can run the most efficient and effective team possible.”
What learning experience would you pass onto future FMs?
“All of the team members who have worked with me throughout my career, from my first jobs as a Maintenance Technician to my current job at Webster, know that my favorite word is “clarity.” The best advice I can pass on is to not be afraid or intimidated to ask for clarity if you don’t understand a request or if some part of the project was not delivered to you clearly. You cannot deliver successful results if you do not have a clear goal and a plan of how to achieve it.”
Interviewed by Sonya Verny, MCR, Operations Director of Business Development in the Americas at Mace Group, IFMA NYC Secretary & Executive Committee Oversight for the Communications Committee