FM Spotlight

Joe Russo

Published on: December 1, 2016

This month’s FM spotlight is Joe Russo, former Executive Director of Corporate Administration at Conde Nast.

As Executive Director, Joe was responsible for all Corporate Real Estate, Capital Projects, Facilities, Cafe Operations, Risk Management and the Corporate Fleet Program. He was the key management team leader for overseeing the planning, logistics and operational execution of the company’s ground breaking move to One World Trade Center. He successfully moved 3,000 employees on time and on budget into the iconic building while simultaneously managing the ongoing daily operations throughout the country.

“The best thing about Joseph Russo is not only is he a great boss, but he is an even better leader. Joe's ability to guide his staff through major projects while juggling multiple personalities and processes speaks volumes to his leadership. As a teacher, Joe’s dedication to the growth and development of his staff is beyond that of any boss I have ever had. Joe's patience and commitment is greatly admired and emulated.” - Alexis Dunbar, Business Director of Real Estate and Administration, Condé Nast Publications

What is one thing that no one knows about you?
“I am a music lover and enjoy going to the Metropolitan Opera. I’m a big fan of Puccini and see La Boehme every year! As the husband of a Pianist/Teacher, I have been exposed to many types of music and this has expanded my appreciation of different styles. I’m also very active in donating my time to animal charities and most recently, volunteering for the Red Cross.”

How did you get into the Facilities field?
“I started my career in personal lines insurance and then moved to corporate insurance risk management. This led me to a company called Jet Aviation in Teterboro NJ, where I added Aviation Insurance for a Fixed Based Operation to my skill set. After Jet Aviation, I landed at Random House as their Manager of Insurance and Real Estate administration. While at Random house, I was promoted to handle their auto fleet operations and then facilities operations. This began my adventures in the facilities arena!

I have spent more than 20 years in the New York City corporate environment. I am an experienced executive director of operations, real estate and risk insurance who has handled and overseen multiple projects to completion in NYC, as well as California, Connecticut, Illinois and Delaware. Thus, I have a wide network of relationships in the field and that plus my expertise allows me to solve problems and challenges in an exceptionally efficient manner. I refined my executive and managerial skills while overseeing many unique and varied projects for Conde Nast as Executive Director. Those projects included interior build outs and relocations, re-stacks, insurance risk management and facilities operations, which called for interaction with outside professionals of many different areas of expertise. Internal clients in the Conde Nast publishing community relied on my skills and leadership to solve problems for them, allowing them to focus on their professional lives.

During my 16 years at Conde Nast, my responsibilities increased from risk management/lease administration/purchasing/auto fleet operations to include facilities, project management, food service-event planning oversight, build out/office relocations and managing an extensive art collection. My most recent achievement was the build out and relocation of Conde Nast from Times Square and several other NYC locations to One World Trade Center in 2014/2015.”

Tell us about a favorite project highlight.
“My favorite project highlight was the successful completion of the World Trade Center project. The logistic orchestration of completing the construction on time and moving 3,000 people from multiple locations in New York while simultaneously managing two capital projects in California was a high point in my career. The picture of me walking on an outside open staircase from the 93rd floor to 103rd floor of One World Trade Center was a thrill.”

What is your greatest success story?
“Once again, managing and directing my staff to multitask to the best of their abilities for the World Trade Center project. Everyone was at his or her peak performance levels and no additional hiring was necessary. Our staff handled their normal duties at the same time as significant additional duties related to One World Trade Center. This all came together under my supervision, motivation and direction. Interfacing successfully with internal departments, third party vendors, Port Authority and site security to complete this project on time and on budget is my greatest success story.”

Tell us about a challenge or obstacle that you face in the Real Estate/Facilities world.
“An ongoing challenge in the real estate/facilities world is motivating staff to treat their jobs as if they are owners of the company rather than employees and to take pride in everything they do. Not everyone has the same work ethic, and coaching and mentoring staff takes time. Personality conflicts in a diverse workforce are always a challenge, but one I believe can almost always be successfully resolved.”

What learning experience would you pass onto future FM’s?
“It’s always a team effort. You can achieve almost anything with motivation, dedication and hard work and you are only as good as your weakest part, but you can’t succeed without the teamwork. Everyone is important and must be dealt with in a courteous and respectful manner. If the following adjectives are part of your personality in your business and personal life, you will always succeed because people will trust you. Nothing is more important than trust.”

Interviewed by Sonya Verny of IA Interior Architects, IFMA NYC Secretary.