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William Jones: Boosting profits with all of the right moves

William Jones loves a challenge.
He embarked upon the biggest challenge of his life just over a decade ago when he left Eastman Kodak Co. to start FM Technologies.
The facilities-management company develops cost-saving strategies for companies through four main services: site acquisition, project management, office/interior design and move management.
FM Technologies helps companies going through consolidation or expansion capitalize on existing work space, as well as find the right furniture and equipment for that space.
After spending a decade of designing and managing space for two local corporations, the 52-year-old entrepreneur saw a niche: becoming an outsourcer in the facilities management industry.
The gamble paid off. After years of steady growth, the 45-employee firm has outgrown its office space and this month moves to new offices overlooking the High Falls.
FM Technologies has seen steady growth of roughly 10 percent annually since it began in 1987, logging $3 million in sales last year. Its goal is to continue at a 10 percent to 15 percent annual growth rate, Jones says.
The company handles roughly 300 projects a year. Most are small, ranging from 1,000 square feet to 120,000 square feet. Some take a week, others more than a year to complete.
Jones is known in the industry for his attention to quick and accurate service. For example, a dot-com start-up in Virginia recently called Jones on a Thursday. FM Technologies faxed a proposal the next day. The client reviewed the deal on Monday and approved it on Tuesday.
By that night Jones was aboard a plane to start the project.
“Time was the currency of the 1990s and will be even more so in the new millennium,” he says.
Speed is driven by clients who want their space up and running faster to stay competitive, Jones says.
The company’s nimbleness was put to the test with a job for Xerox Corp., an FM Technologies client since the mid-1990s.
At the time, Xerox was growing rapidly, adding tens of thousands of square feet of space annually. One project that required blistering turnaround speed involved relocating the contents of an 80,000-square-foot computer warehouse from Webster to Henrietta.
Jones remembers the details of that Xerox job well.
“The lights burned all night,” he recalls. “It took six days. We found out about it on Tuesday and it was vacated by Monday.”
The project failed to get on the document company’s agenda until roughly a week before its deadline, says Jack Bowman, former director of corporate real estate at Xerox and now senior vice president of property management services for the Pioneer Management Services Co. LLC.
“It was one of the times I truly valued (Jones’) personal involvement,” Bowman says. “We got it done, on time and cost-competitively.
“The one thing that everybody says about Bill is that Bill understands the importance of performing a high-quality job on time. He understands the need for clock speed (getting a job done really quickly).”
Meeting deadlines means clients get a faster financial return. The quicker a company has its space ready, the quicker it can start generating profit in that space, Bowman says.
“Bill understands that, and that is why his business has grown to the extent that it has,” he says.
Another client, David Crowe, Citigroup Inc. vice president and senior asset manager, says Jones understands being fast and efficient. Crowe has worked with Jones for the past year through the sale of the 99 Garnsey Road facility.
Harris, Beach & Wilcox LLP bought the $9.25 million site last month.
Jones provided square-footage calculations of usable and common space, and reconfigured consolidated space for Citigroup employees on the first floor. The financial firm plans to lease 43 percent of the 160,000-square-foot facility.
Jones and Crowe plan to work on renovating the facility through mid-November.
“We’re happy with the results (Jones) has given us,” says Crowe. “He can take a significant-size project and can turn things around quickly for us.”
He credits the quick response to FM Technologies’ resources and talent.
Just a few years back it would have taken four firms and many months-not weeks- to accomplish what FM Technologies does.
“We’ve migrated into and formed a niche that no one does directly,” Jones says.
Roughly half the firm’s staff members have design degrees, and the company’s services overlap with those of architectural firms and interior design firms. But generally, neither of those types of firms do project management, he says.
In 1998, FM Technologies purchased the Pearce Basinger & Associates interior design firm to expand its design services and add five staffers.
A recent project requiring all of FM Technologies capabilities occurred when the American Red Cross Blood Services unit moved its Upstate New York blood supply to a new headquarters. Jones calls the move one of his company’s most interesting projects.
“(FM Technologies) had a very good team,” says Ann Saunders, chief operating officer of the American Red Cross Blood Services for the New York-Pennsylvania region. “They took the time to learn the business and the importance of regulatory issues (with the blood) and our time frames.”
FM Technologies was hired for the job more than 18 months ago to coordinate the logistics of consolidating and relocating people, equipment and blood from Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany and Rochester to a new $16 million facility in Henrietta.
The American Red Cross managed the project in-house to ensure the proper handling of its perishable commodity.
“(He) worked well within the confines of the Red Cross organization, doing as much or as little as (we) needed to get the project done,” Saunders says of Jones.
Consolidation helps companies cut costs. Jones estimates that asset management ranks as the second largest cost to a company, trailing only labor. His firm helps companies save money by reducing the size of facilities and creating more efficient space.
When FM Technologies is given full access to a project, rather than only a portion, the client saves an average of $3 for every $1 spent.
The company has a proposal out that would save a multibillion dollar, national organization in excess of $1 million through more efficient use of its space, Jones says. The company has 10,000 employees and encompasses 30 locations.
Some 75 percent of the firm’s work is done in the Rochester market; the remaining 25 percent involves local companies with operations in 15 states nationwide.
Jones plans to expand the company’s geographic reach over the next few years. The first expansion efforts should occur in upstate, including Syracuse and Buffalo. Initially, the company would serve the new markets from here.
“We think (a nationwide expansion) is good diversification for stability and growth. If the local market turns down, ideally others won’t,” Jones says.
As a result of FM Technologies’ current and expected growth, it has outgrown its office space at 339 East Ave. The firm plans to move this month to the High Falls Building, formerly known as the Gorseline Building, in the High Falls District. At nearly 9,000 square feet, the leased space is 25 percent larger than the firm’s current home.
The offices also overlook the High Falls gorge-a view that sold Jones on the space.
“I see this as a critical employee recruiter and retainer,” he says. He believes the space encourages creativity.
Another bonus is that the building serves as a test lab for design concepts and new furniture products-another part of the firm’s business.
The company tests furniture from four vendors before it sells the pieces. Office furniture rapidly changes, and not all of the changes work, Jones says.
An adjustable workstation is one example of a product the firm is testing. Employees can raise or lower it, depending on whether they want to sit or stand. Another product being tested is a modifiable, project-team area that can easily adapt to seat from four to eight people.
The company also ranks among the largest furniture specifiers in the upstate region. Specifiers purchase and install office furniture.
FM Technologies is able to acquire furniture at better rates because it buys in large quantities.
Another service the company offers involves site acquisition for cellular, paging and PCS sites. Jones has roughly six clients for this particular service, including some of the major carriers in the wireless industry.
Over the last 14 years, he has acquired more than 500 sites throughout the Northeast.
He is considering changing the firm’s name from FM Technologies, which stands for facilities management, to better reflect what the company does and where its main value lies. The company has surveyed its customers, and could change its name in the fourth quarter.
Jones was raised in Seneca Falls. He acquired a strong work ethic from his parents. His mother worked as a dental hygienist, and his father as a newspaper reporter. Jones remembers his dad spending many hours typing stories on a teletype machine.
In the late 1960s, Jones started college at Alfred University in the Southern Tier. He originally planned to become a ceramics engineer, working with high-temperature glass and ceramics, which are the basis of today’s fiber optics industry.
He wound up changing majors and schools, however. Jones graduated in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree from the Syracuse University School of Architecture.
His senior thesis featured a campus bus system that would connect to off-campus housing. Jones studied where students lived and the surrounding traffic patterns, and then designed a system.
“I had something very practical and didn’t want to see it put on a shelf,” says Jones, who was hired by the university to implement his plan.
The move was a huge coup for the recent graduate, and gave him hands-on experience his contemporaries lacked.
In 1972, Jones married his high school sweetheart, Christina, who later became a speech therapist in the Brighton Central School District. The couple has two daughters: Darcy, 23, who is in graduate school, and Elizabeth, 20, an undergraduate. Their son, Christopher, 14, is a freshman at Brighton High School.
Jones worked briefly in the early 1970s as a facilities planner at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. There he implemented a computerized space-inventory system.
He was hired in 1973 as a facilities planner at the University of Maryland in College Park, where he developed campus renovation and construction programs.
Three years later, Jones joined Harris Corp. R.F. Communications Division as supervisor of facilities planning. He managed the expansion and renovation of the division’s facilities, as well as its administration and engineering building.
Between 1979 and 1987, Jones managed up to 30 employees as supervisor of facilities design and drafting for Kodak at its Elmgrove campus. Those were big growth years at Kodak, and Jones installed and upgraded thousands of offices.
Elmgrove peaked at more than 20,000 employees; Jones touched all of that work space, in some fashion.
During those years, office design went through a conversion from metal and glass partitions to open-plan offices.
In the 1970s, companies often employed a designer and space planner on staff. But by the early 1980s, the outsourcing trend had begun to take over.
Jones was intrigued by the outsourcing phenomenon, setting his entrepreneurial gears in motion. He started to think about leaving Kodak in 1986, and formulated a business plan to start his own facilities management company.
By the next year, the entrepreneur was on his own. The company’s first major contract was to manage Rochester Telephone Corp.’s headquarters. He continues to work with that first customer.
By year’s end, FM Technologies will have worked in two dozen locations with its successor, Global Crossing Ltd., to configure and reconfigure office space in 15 states.
Jones is on the road frequently, but when in town, he volunteers on the board of directors of the Lewis Street Center Inc. He recently came off of the board of trustees at the Third Presbyterian Church, were he had served as president.
He also finds time to jog, read business books and articles, and occasionally throw clay to make handmade pottery-an art he learned from an old potter in his hometown of Seneca Falls.
With his own wheel, Jones has made a variety of mugs, vases and bowls. He calls the hobby therapeutic.
As in his business, he enjoys the challenge of creating a new form from a raw ball of clay.

8/11/00

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