FM Spotlight

Mark Freda – Soros Fund Management

Published on July 14, 2014

This month’s Facility Manager Spotlights is focused on Mark Freda, Global Head of Real Estate & Facilities Management at Soros Fund Management. Mark has had quite an impressive career working with companies such as Commodities Corporation, Goldman Sachs and Pfizer.

“I worked closely with Mark for almost 12 years. We worked together on a wide variety of projects including building trading desks, building/moving data centers and constructing a 150+ seat building addition. Mark is a consummate professional. He is always prepared...closely manages scope, cost and schedule...and allows for/anticipates contingencies.” - Ken McGuire, Chief Operating Officer at Altegris

Tell us one fun fact that no one knows about you!
“Some people may know some of this; but I ride a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Not as often as I would like. But one of my best rides was riding the bike out to Milwaukee for the 100th anniversary of HD. A great trip, a long ride but well worth it!”

Tell us how you became a Certified Facility Manager (CFM).
“While I was at Commodities Corporation I decided to become a CFM. The process way back then involved a very long questionnaire covering every aspect of the facilities management spectrum. You had to provide detailed information on your projects, your experience, and your knowledge and so on; all with lots of confirming backup information. I think it took about three months to complete and gather all the information that had to be provided. This was before electronic versions of applications, so the application had to be printed out and filled in. But I earned my CFM in June of 1993, which I am proud of.”

Tell us about a project that you are proud of.
“In my early time with Goldman Sachs I was involved in the build out of multiple floors for our expanding division in 1New York Plaza and 32 Old Slip. Some of this was already started when I first took over working in New York City for Goldman Sachs. So there was a lot to learn right away and a lot to be responsible for right away. But being the person making the final decision at project meetings was great fun. Building floors to Goldman Sachs’ standards, working with the high quality teams that were assembled for these projects made this a terrific time in my career. What our teams were able to accomplish, both design wise and schedule wise was very impressive. My initial few years with Goldman Sachs revolved around these build outs. The best part was building relationships with people inside and outside of Goldman Sachs. There was a lot of pressure, high end product expectations, unrealistic schedule expectations (no surprise) at times; but all that is what makes our careers interesting and rewarding.”

What is your greatest success story?
“This is a good question, I have been fortunate to have been involved in a number of challenging projects. But one that ranks up there was being involved in the creation of a new company that was going to be headquartered in Hamilton, Bermuda. This was a truly from scratch to finish project. It started with “Mark, we need to start a new entity, it will be in Bermuda, go find space, lease it and build an office”. Funny, how the handing over of many of our projects sound simple but the execution isn’t so easy. The huge plus to this project was the amount of time I spent in Bermuda. After a business plan and growth projections for the business and staff were initialized off to Bermuda I went. Leveraging off some contacts in other firms already there potential real estate brokers were identified and a selection made so the site visits could start, and the lease offers could be evaluated. This was followed by the architect selection.

The only way to accomplish a project in Bermuda at that time was to use local resources, bringing in someone from elsewhere would not work. A pretty good professional team was put together to design the project. The biggest challenges were that so many of the items that were needed for the project that had to be shipped to the island, you bought through a local contact of course. But the import fees were significant, so managing the overall cost of the project was not the same as it was here. And the pace of the work was very different from here. It was much slower, and there were a limited number of resources to pull from. So many of the techniques we would use here to get the GC’s attention and move the project along did not apply there. Learning totally different methods to motivate the work force was something that had to be learned quickly. And with so much of the project materials being shipped in schedules were hard to keep.

HVAC engineering was very different at that time from what we did here. Where we would look for a single unit to do an entire floor, the contractors there at the time could only support using multiple small split units. This was a different way of thinking!

One example of how different things were there versus here at that time. On the first day of one of my trips I had my luggage sent to my hotel and seeing the schedule slippage I worked until about 2am pre-staging furniture components for the next day. When I walked back to my hotel there was no one at the desk, it fact the lobby was closed. So I had no access to my luggage or a room. We were sending our people to two different hotels for this project depending on room cost and availability, so I walked over to the other hotel. When I walked in at 2:30am, fairly worn and dirty they looked at me with great reservation; but since I had stayed there before I was able to get a room; without that I would have been sleeping outside that night. Lesson learned, be careful what hotel you pick!

Of course the project was completed, the office built and furnished and people hired. A nice office opening was held and a project that created a lot of challenges was accomplished. What a great learning lesson! No matter how much you think you know there is always more to learn.”

What are some challenges or obstacles in the facilities management world?
“Communication seems to be a challenge in many projects and day to day tasks. Learning to listen so you hear what people mean versus what they are actually saying is a great skill. Don’t take everything literally.

Some people will be off track. A project I did in Seattle involved a design agency that never worked for my firm before. Yet they had a set image of what our lobby should look like. So have that difficult discussion, politely, pointing out why someone may be mistaken, share the facts they need to understand. Without doing that this project would have incurred significant cost and schedule over runs. Not all the professionals we deal with like being corrected; but they work for you, not the other way around.

We are all surrounded by challenges, too much to do in too little time. Set priorities, reset them often. Feel overwhelmed, just do something, each small accomplishment moves you forward and will get you back in your groove. Just keep moving forward.

A big obstacle is assuming a solved problem is finished. Every solution you come up with you should come back to and see what you can add to it to improve it more, to anticipate what the next related problem will be so you can address it before it happens. One thing we were always reminded of at Goldman was to never sit tight. Every process and every procedure you have can be further improved. The world is not static, what works today may not work so well tomorrow, always review and improve everything you do.”

What is your best learning experience?
“Always be honest, never misrepresent anything.

Be totally accountable and responsible for your work. If you mess up, admit it as soon as you become aware of it. The sooner you address it the better the resolution will be and you will contain how bad it gets. No one is perfect no matter how good we think we are.

Act professionally at all times, don’t take things personally. Most times how people react to you or act to you is driven by something totally unrelated to us. While I will never be a punching bag for someone, I don’t see the need or object to argue with someone that will not listen to you. End the discussion, walk away, and come back later. Everyone around will know what is going on, don’t let a sense of false pride cause you to act unprofessionally.

Treat everyone the same. No matter what someone’s position, role or whatever may be. Everyone you deal with should be treated as you want to be treated. You will feel better and you will have many more positive exchanges with people. You are much more likely to get people to help you when you need it. If the culture of where you are demands a different behavior I would find a position elsewhere.

Don’t neglect your family for work, find a real balance. Work hard so you can make the time for family; you will regret it if you don’t. While many companies talk about work/life balance they may expect something different. Accomplish your goals, set your limits, and enjoy both work and family.

If you don’t understand something, raise your hand and ask that question. Most of the time there are others who will not ask even though they don’t understand either. Never feel intimated about asking questions or getting more information. You need to accomplish something; you better understand what it is before you start.”

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