This month’s FM spotlight is John Barrie, Facilities Manager - Global Real Estate & Facilities at the privately held US Family Office – Soros Fund Management LLC.
John oversees 125,000 square feet of new office space and the day to day management of real estate / facilities services at Soros’ global headquarters located in mid-town. Additionally, he assists in project management and contract management in other offices. Here in NYC he oversees all the external vendors and in house staff which include; housekeeping, HVAC, moving, office site storage, painting, plumbing, exterminating, mailroom, foodservice, reception / conference services, copier services, electrical, fire safety, and other specialty services that are required to maintain the Soros space.
“John Barrie is a true facilities professional. He is knowledgeable, resourceful and knows how to make a timely decision. And John has the type of personality that allows him to work extremely well with his clients and vendors. John Barrie represents the facilities world very well.”
-Mark Freda, Global Head of Real Estate & Facilities Management, Soros Fund Management
What is one thing that no one knows about you?
“My best record in solitaire is a minute and three seconds.”
How did you get into the Facilities field?
“I attended Johnson & Wales University in Providence Rhode Island where I majored in Financial Service Management with concentrations in Real Estate and Management. While I was attending JWU, I interned with a firm named Dynamic Investments which specialized in converting large single family homes in multi-unit condo buildings in the college neighbors throughout the city. This is where I had my first taste of real estate. Soon after, I purchased my first investment property in Providence as well.
I graduated college in 2007 and moved back to Long Island, NY; where I grew up. I was unsure if I should pursue a career in Real Estate or Finance but it became clear when the economy crashed in the beginning of 2008. With minimal options, I took a position as an assistant project manager with the Tortorella Group in Southampton, NY. Then before I knew it, I was selling and managing my own projects. I enjoyed this role very much but after four years I wanted to try Finance because this is what I studied at JWU. I took a position with JP Morgan Chase and knew right away this was not for me. I stuck it out for a year then left without having a position lined up.
Soon after, I was contacted by Tishman Speyer to work as a facility manager for NBCUniversal. After I started I knew I made the right choice and would always stay within the facilities/real estate industry going forward.”
Tell us about a favorite project highlight.
“Most recently I had the opportunity to be a part of Soros Fund Management LLC’s new headquarters build out. This was a very exciting project, the team was exceptional and the amount of attention to detail throughout the project was incredible. The space was comprised of about 125,000 square feet. Corian, terrazzo, engineered white oak, travertine, high quality carpets and a unique art piece are some the finishes and features we incorporated into the space. The move was scheduled in two phases over the summer of 2015 to accommodate the construction schedule and lease end dates at our old building. The decommissioning of the old space was an undertaking in its own. We closed four internal stairwells, relocated the data center, liquidated all the furniture, and left with a month to spare.”
What is your greatest success story?
“The end of July 2013 was when we had to be out of multiple leased space NBCUniversal had throughout Manhattan. This added up to over 300,000 square feet of space that had to be returned empty and broom swept. We had to relocate all the groups to newly built space or swing space, but because the new construction projects were behind schedule it forced me to squeeze all the moves in at the last minute. Once everyone was moved we then had to liquidate all the furniture, technical equipment, AV equipment and all the other miscellaneous items left behind. With the help of all parties involved we met the deadlines and incurred no fines or penalties that were going to be extremely hefty.”
“John is a facilities professional who represents his clients with great integrity and grace under pressure. He treats the service providers he partners with respectfully and leads them with confidence to deliver challenging projects on time.”
- NYU Real Estate Development professor and consultant Brian Schwagerl, former SVP of Facilities NBC Universal
Tell us about a challenge or obstacle that you face in the Real Estate/Facilities world.
“Challenges are a part of a facility manager’s career and the better ones will overcome these obstacles time and time again. Most of the challenges I have faced always had to do with deadlines for large projects, deadlines for large moves, and managing people who didn’t have the same interest or goals as I did.
When it comes to large moves and projects you have to prepare your team for last minute changes and also have a plan B if something detrimental occurs. During the first phase of the Soros move, a sheet of metal fall down the elevator shaft and severed the elevator traveling cable. The elevator was out of commission for a few days so the building allowed us to install protection in some of the passenger’s cars to get everything upstairs.”
What learning experience would you pass onto future FM’s?
"Empathizing: To understand and share the feelings of another. In the world of facilities there is always someone who is not happy with a choice or direction a company has decided to make. Empathizing with people helps solve these problems but may not always be the only answer.
If you don’t know an answer to a question the best answer is that you do not know but you will find out. Be kind to everyone you interact with because you never know where you will see them again as this industry can be a small world at times.”
Interviewed by Sonya Verny of IA Interior Architects, IFMA NYC Secretary.