"Larry worked in Purchasing and Retail Operations before entering the world of real estate, store planning and construction at Tiffany. As a result, Larry possesses a unique set of business skills that helped to make him a top Facilities Management professional in this industry." – Phil Bottega, Head of Real Estate and Facilities – Americas, Société Générale
This month’s FM Spotlight is Lawrence Palfini, VP Global Facilities and Project Management at Tiffany & Company. Tiffany, the world's premier jeweler and America's house of design, has been lucky enough to have Larry work for their company for 25 years! Larry has been a member of IFMA since 1991 and in 2006 received his IFMA CFM designation. In 2012, Larry and his team won the IFMA Project of the Year Award for best new project (200 Fifth Avenue) over 100,000 SF.
Tiffany’s New York Headquarters was designed by Ted Moudis Associates. Here’s what Ted Moudis has to say about Larry Palfini: “I have had the pleasure of working very closely with Larry Palfini during the Tiffany project. Larry is a great team leader. He was not only able to lead his in-house group, but was able to manage the user groups, and all of his consultants. He is very organized, extremely company oriented, and really knows Tiffany inside and out. All of these things led to a successful project.”
What is one thing that no one knows about you?
“Before working at Tiffany and Company, I was a partner in a party fishing and cruising business operated out of Staten Island called Ocean Motion Incorporated. At the time in 1983, I was one of the youngest captains to receive his United States Coast Guard license. During my first day operating a fishing charter, I happened to be in the right place at the right time and rescued two fishermen from the frigid March waters of the Raritan Bay saving their lives! I was deemed a hero by the local news as the daring rescue made the front page of the Staten Island Advance.”
25 years with Tiffany! That’s impressive. Tell us how your career started.
“I am an alumnus of City University of New York and graduated in 1987 with a bachelor's of science degree in business administration with a double major in management, economics and a minor in marketing.
I joined Tiffany & Co. in 1989 as a Supervisor of Merchandise Operations. I jokingly tell anyone who asks, that I actually did start my career with Tiffany and Company in the basement of our Flagship store, which was also our corporate headquarters location.
In 1991, I was promoted to the Manager of Facilities, in which I had the pleasure of working with another esteemed fellow IFMA member: Phil Bottega. Phil and I worked together until 2008 when he left Tiffany to join Société Générale. Phil Bottega was my mentor and will always be my close friend.
I have been fortunate to support Tiffany and Company serving in the following positions of increasing responsibility: Manager of Facilities, Director of Facilities, and Group Director Corporate Real Estate Services. In 2007 I was promoted to Vice President of Global Facilities Management, Real Estate and Store Planning. I currently serve Tiffany in the capacity of Vice President Global Facilities Management.”
25 years of projects … What are some that you are the most proud of?
“While I am proud of all of my projects, if I had to pick some they would be:
- 1995-1997 - 347,000 SF Retail Service and Distribution Center. I was involved in the ground up design and construction project on 40 acres of the Mack Cali Campus in Parsippany, NJ. It houses finance, data center, distribution, call center, security and support functions for the global retail portfolio. This facility supports retail replenishment to over 300 locations around the globe.
- 2001-2003– 275,000 SF ‘State of the Art’ Customer Fulfillment Center. I was involved in ground up design and construction project of 38 acres situated on a brownfield site which we redeveloped. This facility processes all of our direct to customer orders through our e-commerce and direct marketing channels. This facility features robotic picking and material handling equipment and over 5 miles of automated conveyors. This was the single largest facility capital investment project in our history.
- 2006-2007–I installed a 1.8 Megawatt solar system on the roofs of our Retail Service and Distribution Centers. At the time, it was the largest solar installation in the state of New Jersey! This project had a return on investment of less than 3 years and reduced electric utility spending on average of 30% each year. As a result of this strategic initiative, we received a Climate Leaders Award from the EPA for this important corporate social responsibility and greenhouse gas reduction project.
- 2009-2011 - Corporate Headquarters Master Real Estate Strategy – We consolidated our midtown corporate offices spread over (4) different buildings and (15) floors into a single new corporate headquarters location at 200 Fifth, which we occupy 7 contiguous floors. This strategic initiative has dramatically improved efficiency, collaboration, productivity, employee engagement and yielded millions of dollars in annual operating expense savings. My team received the prestigious IFMA Project of the Year Award for best new project over 100,000 SF in 2012.
- 2011-2012 - Developed the Strategic Sourcing function and team to support our store planning procurement strategy which continues to drive the cost of our construction down year over year.”
What is your greatest success story?
“One of my greatest success stories occurred when I was working with the senior management team to determine the new location for our corporate headquarters. As you can imagine, as part of our due diligence process, we looked at many different locations. All of the potential locations had their pros and cons to be considered.
The only building and floor configuration that achieved our space program requirements and had more positives than negatives was 200 Fifth Avenue. I was extremely excited about this location as I felt I had discovered a "diamond in the rough" but I was also concerned that not all members of the senior management team would agree with my recommendation. We all know that building consensus and obtaining agreement can be difficult to accomplish.
Our corporate headquarters had been located in midtown since 1940 so relocating to any other neighborhood was a big cultural change for the company and our employees. To my surprise, after just one site visit I received unanimous support to proceed and execute a deal for this location, as they say the rest is history. I received public accolades from both our Chairman of the Board and Chief Financial Officer for my leadership in successfully executing this important project on schedule and within budget.”
What are some challenges that you have come up against?
“As facilities professionals we are all continually challenged to be more efficient and productive with less human resources and budgets. We must continue to demonstrate the value we add to the organization each and every day. As subject matter experts, we all need to figure out how to accomplish more with less.
To accomplish this you must continuously think out of the box and stay current on industry trends and best practices. We must make the right hiring decisions and effectively leverage the talents and expertise of our consultants and outsourced service providers. With the trend in our industry to continue to reduce staff and overhead, we must form strong strategic partners with outsourced vendors to supplement our organization, so we can continue to provide outstanding service and support to our internal stakeholders.
Additionally, we must continue to develop key performance indicators that measure the effectiveness and value that our Facilities team provides in support of the strategic goals of the corporation.
We must also market and promote the value and success of our teams to continue to build credibility of our facilities organizations.”
What learning experience would you pass onto future FM’s?
“I have learned over the past years one of the most important skills a Facilities Manager can possess is listening before responding to a suggestion, complaint or receiving constructive or not so constructive criticism. If you practice the skill of active listening and allow others to share their point of view you begin to create an environment of mutual trust and respect and you indicate to others that what they have to say and contribute is important and valuable. This skill of active listening and demonstrating understanding of a situation is the foundation for strong communication and relationship building and this is a very strong soft skill to possess.”
Interviewed by Sonya Verny of IA Interior Architects, IFMA NYC Secretary.