This month’s FM spotlight is John Vazquez, the Sr. Vice President of Global Real Estate for Verizon. He is responsible for over 110 million square feet of real estate, 30,000 properties which includes 6,000 buildings, 1,700 retail stores, 400 garage work centers and 700 leased technical centers, in 56 countries.
Considered an innovator in workplace transformation, John has developed a multi-year strategic plan to improve Verizon’s real estate asset performance and proactively optimize the portfolio. In the last two years, he has reinvented over 3M RSF and positively impacted the workplace experience for the first 20,000 employees.
John’s extensive resume includes executive level positions at MetLife, JP Morgan Chase and IBM. His recent appearances and interviews include Bloomberg, the WSJ and American Builders Quarterly. In 2017 he was elected CoreNet Global Corporate Real Estate Executive of the year. He will be featured on the cover of Hispanic Executive Magazine’s January 2018 edition.
"John is a progressive and visionary executive who has set the standard by transforming the workplace into a collaborative and innovative work environment enabling business growth. He is a futurist, leader, a mentor and a partner who makes everyone around him better at what they do." John C. Santora - Vice Chairman, President, New York Tri-State Region at Cushman & Wakefield
What is one thing that no one knows about you?
“I worked for the New York Mets in 1986, 87 and 88 as a Private Parking Lot attendant after graduating in 1984 and while I was working my day job at IBM. It was one of the most fun jobs I have ever had, and it could not have been at a better time for being a Mets fan. I met all of the baseball players, management and staff reporters and TV personalities.”
How did you get into the Facilities field?
“I studied Mechanical Engineering at Manhattan College which I am sure was encouraged by the fact that my father had owned a automotive garage in Little Italy in Mulberry Street for years and I developed a love for all things mechanical. During my Junior year summer break at Manhattan College, I was accepted into a position at IBM as a "Blue Shirt" intern working in the boiler room with the IBM building engineering staff at 1133 Westchester Avenue in White Plains NY. I performed equipment maintenance, went on hot and cold calls, and performed inspections right alongside the building engineers, I loved it. Prior to graduation I was accepted into a position in the IBM Engineering Department and started by designing and performing HVAC projects. I have never looked back.”
Tell us about a favorite project highlight?
“Too many to have one favorite highlight. I have managed projects and programs all over the world in the past 33 years. My first project was to build IBM's first Videoconference Room. Talk about groundbreaking, it cost $147,000 in 1986. I have completed three major Corporate Headquarter relocation or renovation projects, relocated and rebuilt a 100-year-old Boardroom piece by piece, managed over $4billion in projects, and been responsible for operating more than 300 million square feet of portfolios.
My favorite highlight though is managing teams through incredible cultural and physical change and seeing their personal growth. Pushing and pressing the limits of what has been and focusing on what needs to be is very fulfilling.”
What is your greatest success story?
“Managing large corporate real estate organizations and transforming the perception of our practice from expense management to a P&L contributor and shareholder value creator. The transformation of the groups has been about focusing on business objectives and speaking the language of the business. I challenge my team to never use real estate words when developing our strategy or when explaining the change management processes with the business. The focus has always been about elevating the role of Corporate Real Estate to a valued contributor who adds shareholder value through expense management, cash creation, waste elimination and exceptional service at a valued price. I don't talk in dollars per square foot but instead I talk in cents per share delivery. Speaking in terms of creating business synergies versus consolidation or defining core talent labor markets with the business versus talking low cost real estate options make all the difference in the perception of CRE. Managing that with the teams that are already here has been a great success story.”
Tell us about a challenge or obstacle that you face in the Real Estate/Facilities world.
“There are many and the current expansion of Real Estate As a Service is probably the latest challenge. However, I see it as a huge opportunity to add even more value. Short term space agreements, coworking, centrally amenitized properties etc are parts of the real estate as a service transformation that is occurring right now. The role of the CRE organization has taken on the need to become an experience manager and a hospitality provider. The need for big data and analytics in space and portfolio management is more important than ever.
Our understanding of business behaviors, space utilization, property valuations, labor and talent markets, monetization strategies, real estate development etc is increasing at a very quick rate. Directly managing the physical real estate is less important than the need to be the center of delivering all things workplace. This trend will only continue to grow to facilitate moving quickly into and out of those talent markets that are so critical to the business.
If we maintain focus on the business goals and the true needs of the business, we will be able to manage this expanding area.”
What learning experience would you pass onto future FM’s?
“Partnerships matter. This is a marathon and who you have with you on the side lines supporting you, running next to and leading the pace are critically important to your individual and organizational success. Have leaders in your organization that push you to do better things. Develop a team where trust is the foundation, the rest will come.”
Interviewed by Sonya Verny of IA Interior Architects, IFMA NYC Secretary