#59 Greg Christensen: Host of CMMS Radio

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Episode Summary

Back in 2003, Greg co-founded NETFacilities and has been immersed in the CMMS space ever since.

After their acquisition in 2018, Greg has worked extensively in the FM space, consulting with clients during their CMMS journey.

On this episode, Greg and Griffin deep dive into the importance of a client centric strategy, and his pursuit of the elusive win/win scenario.


Episode Transcription

Intro  00:10

Welcome to another episode of the modern facilities management podcast, brought to you by flow path. I'm your host, Griffin Hamilton. This is the show where I interview industry experts who share their stories, strategies, and insights into modern-day facilities management, from hospitality to commercial real estate, and everything in between, we'll learn what it really takes to succeed as a facilities manager. 

Griffin Hamilton:

Welcome to another episode of the modern facilities management Podcast. Today, I have the pleasure of having Greg Christiansen of CMMS radio, join. Greg, how're you doing?

Greg Christensen  00:51

I'm good. How are you doing Griffin?

Griffin Hamilton  00:53

Hey, I can't complain, I can never complain whenever I'm getting to talk to folks like you. 

Greg Christensen  00:58

Thank you. 

Griffin Hamilton  01:01

A fellow podcaster here, which is, it's always unique having someone that actually does this as well and I always get a little paranoid with my questions. Am I doing a good enough job or what, but I guess that'll be for the audience to decide, but before we jump into it all, why don’t you tell the audience who you are?

Greg Christensen  01:21

All right. My name is Greg Christensen, I host CMMS radio, which is a podcast for everybody out there that's going on some form of a CMMS journey. And my background was originally in lots of different sales and business development, but lots of facilities management type activities, building maintenance, grew a pretty large company with my partner, the founder of that company, and that spun us off into a software solution in the CMMS space. So way back then, the early 2000s, I had to really get into the industry and learn about it. So we'll kind of get into that, I suspect, but that's my background.

Griffin Hamilton  01:59

Absolutely. And I mean, with my background, eerily similar, I know, we're gonna have a long conversation here down the line. But again, I appreciate you coming on and bringing your expertise to the show. But again, yeah, interesting backstory, so, 20 years back 20 some odd years ago, you kind of started teaching yourself or getting more into the industry. What's the evolution been like over the last 20 years? Because I imagine it's been quite a difference from where it started and where it's at now.

Greg Christensen  02:32

Yeah, so my first exposure to things like work orders and work order management was from building maintenance and management. So I was part of this company that started on a shoestring like 400 bucks, and it was built into a multimillion-dollar company. And a lot of people would say, hey, how did you guys do that? Well, the founder and, we come from the Midwest, and we were looking at that industry saying, how can you make a difference? Well just do what you say you're going to do, but really, really lean in hard on the service side of it, meaning, check on people and make sure everything's gone. All right, well, we needed to track this, so we're doing old school work orders, you know, treating them with paper meeting with your crews reaching out to your tax. And then the next day, you might not get some of them back, well fast forward a little bit, we start using technology. And the technology was was good for things like bidding and build not your jobs but I wanted to leverage it for work orders. I said, let's stop the paperwork orders and let's put them in here, we'll print them in the paper for the teams. And then we fast forward a little bit more, we get into 2000, 2001, 2002 and we start building our founder starts building this platform, that was the net facilities platform. So starting in 2001, I was aware of it, I came back in to help bring us to market and had to figure out who and what we were. So through that whole journey, leading up to now, I'm working with all these different clients, it starts with work orders, then we start rolling in asset and preventive maintenance management, the things you and I have talked about before, where you can really drive value. And we made the platform within our original environment to solve all of our problems and the problems for our clients and the client said, well, we'd like to use that for everything else. So that's how that company was born and then we just stayed the course. And the evolution that I've seen is, you start with that old school work order process, then people start kind of web, enabling it in ASP is not to say that CMMS didn't exist before that, it comes from the 60s really. But in this case, you know, relative to my experience, we then start looking around seeing who and what we are, how are we going to bring this to these people in the right way and we start adding in the technology but we didn't go crazy. So the evolution that I've seen is, you get work orders that become an asset and preventive maintenance management, then you start tying in inventory and that's when it can really spin out and you become these overblown ERPs, and we didn't want to be that. So the biggest thing that I saw in the early phase was, it was difficult to get user adoption, early adopters were kind of scared to move on to platforms that were now purely web-based. And then, I can see my cameras tricking out sorry, and then, you start to see that adoption take place. And then people are really feeding you what they need, what's missing, what do they want it to do in their work environment, and you have to follow that evolution, but at the same time, stay who and what you are. And I think you have some experience with that as well when it comes to software delivering technology, you want to listen to the masses, but you still want to stay tight on what you're trying to deliver and then we get to modern-day right here, right now. And I see a lot of this massive consolidation going on out in the market, people are buying up all the property and facilities management solutions and packing them in as a way to grow their business, which is fine, but that's probably my biggest concern now. And then there's this other thing when it comes to losing sight of what's happening with the actual workforce out there when it comes to maintenance tax. building engineers. So I hope people start paying more and more attention to that you've heard of things like facilitation, of course, I think you're involved with that. And that needs to really culminate and be cultivated as we move forward into these next 10, 20 years.

Griffin Hamilton  06:30

Yeah, I think it's interesting that you bring up going from paper-based to digitizing that and then adding asset management, inventory management, etc. and it's funny, we're still seeing the same things occurring, right? Not everyone listening has a system in place, which to you and I, it's, you know, our worlds, this is what we're doing on a day-to-day basis, but in reality, there's a lot of people that are still printing out a work order and handing it out to their technicians. And it's interesting to me that over, you know, 20 some odd years, that still hasn't changed, yet, the end goal is still the same, right? Where you want to be a lot more efficient, you want to make sure that your wrench time is maximized for your technicians and that you're doing it with the least amount of overhead possible. So the end goal is their processes are slowly but surely, digitizing, but it's still not across the industry, which I find that fascinating.

Greg Christensen  07:30

I agree with you. And I've thought about it over, those 20 years leading up to now were kind of wondering why so I have at least two theories on this. So one, when a company, small, big, school system, single school, manufacturing, they're working, they're doing things, so they get going so fast, they can't stop and say, hey, we need to fix this, because they know when they fix it and select an integrated platform that's going to bring them to a more digital process, they're gonna have a short period of time, that's very painful and that feels very risky and it is. Now, if they'll go through that pain and actually implement a system, even a basic system, they're going to be better for it and that's essentially very provable. The other thing that happens is, there's so much out there, they don't know which way to go, they're not getting the right kind of advisement. They don't have trusted advisors that actually can meet them where they are, so to speak, and adopt their perspective and go, well, here's this client, here's their problem, how do I solve their problem rather than how do I sell software? Because one naturally follows the other in my view, that's my second philosophy on how and why that really happens. There's too much information and they don't know which way to go and the people that are trying to help them, might not be actually helping them as much as trying to sell their solution if that makes any sense.

Griffin Hamilton  09:03

Yeah, no. And that's where selecting, it's a partnership, where it's not a vendor, it's not a supplier, and it's a partner in my mind. And so that is something where you have to have that relationship where it's, I know, the person I'm talking with, and that's consulting me, they are okay with turning me away as a potential buyer, knowing that, their solution isn't right for me. And that is hard to find. And I think that goes back to the other thing that you mentioned that really stood out to me, is it being very much client-centric, and making sure that you maintain that relationship and you're looking for that win-win?

Greg Christensen  09:40

Yes, yes. It's one of my favorite topics. So I tell people, I am a client-centric problem solver. In constant pursuit of the elusive win-win and I say the win-win is elusive in that, it means that we are going to come together and make that whole thing, kind of circular, right? And it sounds grand and it is because, to chase that, you would have to be able to tell a client that you can't help them, and that, there might be a better way for them. And then when you do secure that client, you're securing that client in pursuit of solving their problem so that they benefit, therefore, you get to benefit, of course, you get your top line, your bottom line, and the corporate process and all that and that kind of muddies it up. And what I'm saying is, I want to stay a little more focused on that client-centricity to get them winning, because I get to win. That way, I don't have to wonder, am I delivering? Are they getting benefits? I don't have to question that anymore.

Griffin Hamilton  10:42

Yeah, and I think it's amazing with the industry and facilities where it's such a big world and it seems as though everyone at the same time knows one another, you're at least one phone call away from having a recommendation. And I find that another interesting part of the world that we're in is, how tight-knit of a group this is and as a supplier, you have to be aware of that knowing that going after that, being pennywise and pound foolish and going over going after a single customer, it's going to come back and haunt you. And so it truly is looking after the prospect and their best interest, hopefully, your solution aligns with that best interest. But having the ability to say no, this isn't the right fit, I think is that much more important, especially nowadays.

Greg Christensen  11:31

Oh, yeah. And the other thing I might add to that is when you gain a client, and you're working with them, and you do run into some problems, or you see something that you couldn't see before, it's much better to approach that in a very aboveboard way because clients just want you to help them. And at the end of the day, the client, your prospect, your contact, the person you're forming this relationship with, they're moving through the world based on what they see, and do, they want what they want. And then you want what you want as an organization that delivers a great solution, but the only way that's going to work is if you step into their shoes, so when a problem comes up, once you've onboard somebody, or if you have a misstep on the engagement, handle it on the spot and bring it up, they're going to appreciate that a lot more. And it's going to put you in a better position as the vendor to actually solve the problem, instead of, what we typically see out there is, oh, yeah, we'll get to you and three weeks later, they haven't got had a phone call or something like that, just get in there and handle it. That's all you have to do, it's what you did in the beginning, so just keep doing it.

Griffin Hamilton  12:40

Yeah, and I think the irony in a lot of the customer support that's provided is that the tool that we are pitching, it's being proactive, it's having preventive maintenance plans and strategies in place and having a tool to do so. And being proactive is such an important crucial part of facilities, yet, the tool and the supplier of that tool, are very much reactive with that customer relationship waiting for problems to be brought to their attention, as opposed to getting ahead of it and saying, hey, how can I help you, how can I help you make the most of this investment that you've made? And so, I find it a little ironic, there, where that is very much a reactive strategy, if you want to call it that, for many of the suppliers out there.

Greg Christensen  13:25

I think I see that as well. And one of the challenges, so for me in my past, and when I have to, let's say deal with those things, I have to have the willingness to pick up the phone, send out an email, check in on somebody, go in assess an account, when sometimes, you think once they're done and onboard, you just keep going. And you have to be prepared that when you do reach out to them, they might tell you something, it could be ah, everything's great, cool, we'll talk to you in a couple of months, usually, that's going to be the case, because they just want to hear from you. They don't want to yell at you or anything like that. Now, every now and then you might say, well, we've had a couple of problems, but I'm really glad that you call because I can share them with you and maybe you can do something about it. If you keep some part of that because the company gets going as you're growing and onboarding clients, then resources become a challenge. And then you have to say, well, how do I maintain this level of connectivity to my clients, the people that actually got me where I'm at, you have to have a strategy for that. So it's not all day, every day, but the right kind of account management process that allows for that little bit of extra yep, we're going to spend an extra 10, 20 minutes here. We can't sacrifice that because the client was there for us last one, two, five, I've had clients on the platform I used to represent that are still using it to this day, 20 years later. And if you care for people, and you have a little bit of bandwidth for that, they've got customer success and all that have a process and stick to it, don't neglect it. That's my opinion, I know it costs money but that's going to make the difference.

Griffin Hamilton  15:06

Yep. And I want to go back to your experience with net facilities. And so, from the get-go, and the two decades that you've been in the industry, you saw the growth of that company talking to the elusive win-win, the other part of that is on the client side, of getting the most out of that investment, like I mentioned earlier, from your side of it, what did those clients do differently to make the most out of that investment? Were they more or were they partners reaching out more frequently? Were they interacting with you more? I mean, what did that look like from the client that you saw that got the most out of their CMMS? 

Greg Christensen  15:47

It's interesting. So there's a wide array of different types of clients, some clients don't need much in the way of hand holding, and they actually don't want to be bothered, they kind of know what they're doing. So they want to get the basics, and then they want to run with it, you should still check on them, but what I really noticed when we see the most successful clients being successful with their platform, net facilities or otherwise, is there's a little bit heavier immersion and there's a lot of dialogue on the part of both the providing company and the client using that solution. Getting together on that forward view, how are we going to deploy? So what I typically tell people, at least when I was there, even now is when you select your solution, now it's time to deploy it. So be very careful what causes clients to fail when they select their CMMS and it happened at net facilities as well. They would go through the engagement, select the solution, and they would start to fall down on the implementation and the user adoption. And I'm not saying you have to go full-blown, everybody in the company 1000 users, but the top level primary beneficiaries, when it comes to getting control of our assets, our work order management, gathering data, that's going to give us a past, present, and opportunity for a future view to what happens in what's going to happen. If they start to let go of that because they just cut the PIO and it starts to fall down, then they're going to be changing systems a year or two down line and they didn't have to. So I would say right there on the implementation, and then the training of at least the primary group, so a facilities manager, a general manager, some of the engineers, and some of the techs, just a nice little group of people, that can just start getting in there and cover over those first two to six weeks, the general basic use of the platform and actually use it, that's where they will succeed and thrive. Now, the other thing I would add to that is, there's a theory in all things in life that you have to kind of go back and train on things that you've done, right, if I'm not reading and thinking about the things I did in college, they might dwell a little bit. And it's the same with your CMMS platform, you want to make sure you're using it the way you use it, but if there's something new or something you haven't been using lately, go back and revisit that spent 15, 20 minutes looking at something that you looked at two, three years ago, and just sharpen yourself up on it. And you don't have to do that for your boss, you don't have to do that for anybody, you do that for yourself, and then it helps everybody on your team, so those are some of the ways. The other thing is they get really afraid, I think maybe that's a pretty harsh word afraid, it's really hard to think, I have to go gather all this data now that I bought this system and I have to set it up, who's going to help me, I don't even know where to start. So companies out there, try to have a general plan, that has some flexibility, listen to your client's concerns, and maybe even allow them to partner up with even a third party that's going to help them with that deployment when it comes to something that I've often called asset commissioning, someone that can come through, and in two days, cover a facility, tell you what you have in the way the big rocks, those will get people over that hump. So hopefully, I answered your question, and I didn't get too far off track.

Griffin Hamilton  19:11

Now that certainly does. And I think one of your main points there, is just changing management. It is the basics of change management. And you know, the classic ad car model there that reinforcement, right, just making sure that you know, once you're on board in your life, doesn't mean it's over. That's just the beginning and making sure that not only use of leadership as a leader in the leadership organization, but the actual technicians on the team are using it on a day-to-day basis and they're using it properly. Because you want to make sure that, you're starting out with a clean slate, you want to make sure that you are using it as it should be used and not just kind of cutting corners, and that's going to have that snowball effect where you're not going to make the most out of it.

Greg Christensen  19:51

Oh yeah, for sure. And there's something I learned recently because I've touched on a few other industries over the years and something that I was exposed to has to do with this concept of maturity. Now, I've heard it on your podcast even, where we talked about this idea that you're changing behaviors, and it's not going to happen overnight but if you wait for it to happen, it's not going to happen at all. So you go with, you have to crawl before you walk before you run before you leap and that's how it works. So it could be a couple of months, it could be a full year of really good work order management and some general asset and preventive maintenance management and it could be later in that eight to nine-month range, you're starting to pull in the things about inventory and all that if somebody goes about this, I'm gonna get the system, I'm gonna roll this whole thing out, we're going to be good to go, that won't work, either. So it's kind of a balancing act, if that's fair to say you've seen it, would you agree? 

Griffin Hamilton  20:49

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, couldn't have said it better myself. But, I think these are all wonderful points there and I think that's something where this can be such a powerful tool, you got to make sure that you've got the right partner, and you've got the right plan from day one. And knowing this is a long-term investment, you're not going to snap your fingers and be a fully mature facilities organization, you're not going to get that return on investment in a week, it's going to take time, it's going to take patience, and just making sure you stick to the plan there. But great, I got one last question for you and I ask everybody. So who or what has had the biggest impact on you and your career?

Greg Christensen  21:32

Wow. That's a great question. And I know everybody probably says that first trying to buy a little bit of time. 

Griffin Hamilton  21:39

So I was about to say, it's always just trying to buy a little time. I don't think it's a good question, I think they just don't have an answer. 

Greg Christensen  21:45

Well, because I have a lot of different answers. So I've had a lot of different influences and I've had a lot of different exposure, but a lot of times when I think back and I go, what's something that has stuck with me since the day I was exposed to it, there is a book, and it is called the goal. And it's really about process improvement, it's by Goldratt and it's this great story about a consultant that goes out there, and he's consulting in these manufacturing environments, one in particular, where he helps them. And it's where I learned about bottlenecks, it's where I learned about all this stuff, because someone that worked with my mother, wide open here, everybody, heard that I was interested in business as a teenager, a young teenager, and he sent it home with my mother with a little note, thought you might like this. And I read it in one day, maybe two, something like that, it was crazy and it made a really big impact because it was a fun story, it was a real story. And it was teaching me all these incredible things about what to look for, what to be open to, and all these other concepts. So the goal was very impactful for me as a teenager, and then, from there just spins out all kinds of different people and different things, I just don’t want to crush your audience with a long story. But I would say the goal is a really great read for anybody that wants to learn about process improvement, whether it's in manufacturing or anything else. Timeless classic.

Griffin Hamilton  23:13

And I've added that to the reading list, for sure, so I will certainly take advantage of that. But Greg, I really do appreciate you coming on. I know, I mean, you and I have gone back and forth quite a bit. I would certainly recommend if anyone hasn't listened to the podcast, I'm going to have that in the show notes linked there, so I would certainly recommend that as a great podcast to subscribe to. And, again, I appreciate you taking the time to come on and explain your background and dive into your expertise in the CMMS world. But until next time, be good.

Greg Christensen  23:48

All right. Thank you, Griffin. I really appreciate being on and have yourself a great day. 

Griffin Hamilton  23:53

All right, take care, Greg. 

Greg Christensen  23:54

You too. Thanks. Bye.

Outro  23:55

Thanks for tuning in to another episode of the modern facilities management podcast. Make sure to subscribe for future episodes and follow us on LinkedIn for more facilities management content.

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