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An Inspirational Facility Management Story

Darrell Rounds, FMA, C.E.M. is Operations Group Manager at General Motors in Detroit, MI where he is a leader of all things Facilities Management for GM’s World HQ at Renaissance Center and 30 regional sites across the U.S. Mike Petrusky asks Darrell about his career journey in facilities operations and asset management which leads to … Continue reading "An Inspirational Facility Management Story"

An Inspirational Facility Management Story

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Darrell Rounds, FMA, C.E.M. is Operations Group Manager at General Motors in Detroit, MI where he is a leader of all things Facilities Management for GM’s World HQ at Renaissance Center and 30 regional sites across the U.S. Mike Petrusky asks Darrell about his career journey in facilities operations and asset management which leads to a broad-reaching discussion around “starting with why”, strategic decision-making and recognition of the fact that people are the greatest asset in our organization. Darrell offers recommendations for music and books and shares inspirational quotes to help FM and asset leaders navigate the unprecedented times in which we now live while delivering practical advice that is relevant for both today and into the future!

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Read Darrell’s most recent article on FMD:–18916

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Read full transcript:

Darrell Rounds (00:01): Emotional safety, because I wanted to talk about what it meant to feel safe coming back into the workplace. And that was birthed out of some of my own personal feelings, but it was also birthed out of a business need to ensure that our occupants had everything they needed in order to be effective. MIke (00:21): This is the Asset Champion podcast, where we talk with facilities, maintenance and asset management leaders about the industry trends and technologies impacting your organization. This show is powered by the I Office asset division, delivering easy to use maintenance management software tools to help you drive powerful asset performance.             Welcome everybody to episode seven of the Asset Champion podcast. My name is Mike and I am so glad you’re here because this episode is a great example of what I believe this show is really all about. My guest today is Darrell Rounds of General Motors. And while I have been connected with Darrell for a little while on LinkedIn, we really didn’t get to know each other until earlier this year, when I came across an article that he had written for an FM industry publication, I remember I was researching and planning the launch of this new show, and I found this multiple part series that Darrell had written about creating buy-in for maintenance and making the case to executives to support maintenance programs financially, which I found to be really interesting, and of course relevant to what I was trying to do with the new podcast.             So I reached out to Darrell. I invited him on the show. He was so gracious and he accepted right away. We looked at our calendars, saw that he was coming to DC for a conference, and we made a plan to meet in person right here in our nation’s capital. Well, that was March and we all know what happened next. So after everything was canceled and Darrell was called into action to respond to the COVID-19 crisis at his workplace, we promised that we would find a way to get together to chat whenever that became possible again. Well it happened, folks. Just a couple of weeks ago, I got Darrell on the phone and we had a conversation about many things. So regardless of your particular role in the world of asset management or facility management, I really feel confident that you will be encouraged and inspired by hearing Darrell’s story. So here we go.             Joining us today on the Asset Champion hotline from Detroit, Michigan, I’m excited to welcome Darrell Rounds to the show. Hi, Darrell. Darrell Rounds (02:43): Hey Mike, how are you, sir? MIke (02:45): I am great. Thanks for joining us today. Darrell Rounds (02:48): Thank you for having me. MIke (02:49): Darrell, you are the Operations Group Manager at General Motors Company. GM, right there in Detroit. Darrell Rounds (02:55): Yes, sir. MIke (02:56): Awesome. Darrell Rounds (02:56): Yes, sir. Actually, I’m responsible for facilities operations at our world headquarters and also about 30 sites across our great United States of America. MIke (03:10): Well, this is exciting for me and exciting for our audience to be able to hear some of your stories and learn about all that’s been going on. The challenges that we have faced over the last several months around COVID-19 and managing our facilities during this pandemic has been an unusual time to say the least, wouldn’t you say? Darrell Rounds (03:30): Yeah, these are truly unprecedented times. MIke (03:33): Absolutely. And we could go in so many directions with this conversation and we certainly will, but before we get too far, Darrell, I want the audience to get to know you a little bit as I have had the chance to get to know you these last few months. And I always like to start with my favorite question. What kind of music gets you inspired? Darrell Rounds (03:51): Oh, that is a tough one because I like all types of music. MIke (03:57): Sure. Darrell Rounds (03:57): But it ranges from gospel and Christian to classical to jazz. Yeah. I don’t know. MIke (04:05): A little inspiration first and then a little jazz to get your feet moving. Darrell Rounds (04:08): Yeah. Or work out. I don’t think you can work out to Mahalia Jackson. But as far as motivational gospel it’s the go-to. MIke (04:16): Great. Is there a favorite song in there that you could share with us? Darrell Rounds (04:20): I don’t know if this is a gospel song, but it might have a gospel connotation it’s actually a song that I grew up on. I had to be about four or five years old and I can remember my mom playing this when she was cleaning the house. And it was entitled, Ain’t No Stopping Us Now. MIke (04:41): Oh yeah. Darrell Rounds (04:42): By McFadden and Whitehead. And I think that is very appropriate for the times in which we’re dealing with right now. MIke (04:55): (music). Darrell Rounds (04:57): I’ll leave that to you. I’m going to keep my day job, Mike. MIke (05:01): Ain’t no stopping us now. We’re on the move. Darrell Rounds (05:06): Yeah. We’ve got the groove. We’re on the move. MIke (05:08): We’ve got the groove. Darrell Rounds (05:10): Yeah. MIke (05:11): I love it. I love it. That’ll get everybody jumping. So good stuff to get things started here. So Darrell, I like to recommend books that can help our audience achieve their goals. Do you have a favorite business book you could share with us? Darrell Rounds (05:23): I think if I had to give you a favorite, and the only reason why it’s my favorite business book is because I like the title. MIke (05:32): All right. Darrell Rounds (05:33): And it’s called Start With Why by Simon Sinek. MIke (05:36): Oh yes. One of my favorites too. Darrell Rounds (05:38): I think if we can start with why and find the root cause or the purpose of why we’re doing, it just takes a lot of the noise out of the system if you will. And we can get to the execution phase more quickly. MIke (05:54): Indeed. It helps too motivate all of us when we’re on board and understanding the mission that is behind what we are asked to do each day. Great, great recommendation, Darrell. Thank you. How about an inspirational quote for us, Darrell? You got something you can share? Darrell Rounds (06:10): Well, I actually have a couple, but like one of my favorite quotes is, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and moments of convenience, but where he stands in moments of challenge and moments of controversy.” MIke (06:28): Wow. Darrell Rounds (06:28): And that was my brother, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. circa 1963. And the reason why I say brother is because he is a member of my fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated founded 1906, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. And that was just a shameless plug. ’06. MIke (06:54): You got to do it. You got to do it, man. Shout out to everybody out there. Alpha Phi Alpha. Darrell Rounds (07:00): Yes, sir. MIke (07:00): Very cool. Where’d you go to school? Darrell Rounds (07:02): I went to Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. MIke (07:07): Awesome. Darrell Rounds (07:07): I studied electrical engineering there, and when I completed my coursework, I ended up taking a summer internship with GM at the local plant in Lansing, Michigan. MIke (07:21): Really? Okay. Darrell Rounds (07:22): And I guess five years, five or so years into my career at General Motors took the opportunity to go back to school, and ultimately received my master’s in construction management from Eastern Michigan University. That’s the system. MIke (07:39): Yeah. That’s awesome. What is it you do these days? Darrell Rounds (07:41): I am what we call an operations group manager within our Facilities organization. Our Facilities organization at General Motors is called Sustainable Workplaces because we create places you want to be so that people can come into our spaces and be their best or actually even become their best if you will. MIke (08:03): Is that the part of your job you’re most passionate about, what you enjoy the most? Darrell Rounds (08:07): Yeah. I enjoy FM. I did have a stint on the engineering side where I was responsible for the design element, some of the electrical and mechanical systems that went into all of our major renovations in our construction projects. But when it comes down to what my baby is, as they say, it’s Facilities Management. I like it because of the interaction with the people. I pride myself in being a people person. Other people might not attest to that, but I think I’m a good people person. And one of my mantras is the fact that people are the most important asset of any enterprise, and if you take care of your people, you take care of your business. So I try to live by that not only in the business realm, but also in how I conduct myself outside of business, because if a person is going to be great among you, let them first become your servant. MIke (09:08): Absolutely. The fact this show is called the Asset Champion podcast, we want to talk about asset management and facilities maintenance and facility management. The people are what’s behind all of that. Well, at GM you’ve been through some pretty interesting times these last few months. You’re at the headquarters building, right?, Darrell, so in the manufacturing facilities, you guys for a while stopped making cars and started making ventilators. And that’s now again shifted to where you’re doing it all I think. Right? But are you involved at all with the manufacturing facilities? Darrell Rounds (09:42): Not in this current role. A couple of assignments ago. I was involved with the manufacturing, but I’m just proud to be part of a company that was able to be agile and nimble enough to flip the switch in order to meet a need within our communities and within our society. To think that we would go from making Vets to ventilators. MIke (10:09): Yeah, that’s pretty crazy. Darrell Rounds (10:11): We went from making sedans to face masks, and to do that in quick fashion, not only for the benefit of our business, what the benefit of our communities. And I’m just very proud to be a member of this team. MIke (10:25): As you should be. That’s really great stuff. Darrell, can you share any stories about how your career path has led you to where you are today that may be helpful to someone who’s up and coming in the world of FM or asset management? Darrell Rounds (10:38): Yeah, so like about year 15 into my career and I’m in 23 years. So about a year 15, I had a conversation with one of my mentors because one of the colloquialisms that’s used, especially in automotive industry, is 30 and out. So I was at the midpoint of my career and I had to make a decision as to whether or not I was going to make some lateral moves to further my career, or if I was going to really try to make the best out of my career within the facilities management, building management realm. So I went and had a conversation with one of my mentors. And to make a long story short, I basically made the decision that I was going to become the best facilities person that I could be. So then with that, I ended up reaching out to organizations, because at that time I was responsible for maintenance and industrial cleaning and asset management for our business, and I was looking for opportunities to benchmark with other entities.             So I reached out to National Institute of Building Science because they had the Facilities, Maintenance, Operations Committee, not knowing when I reached out to then that I will ultimately become the chair of FMOC. And I’m currently a board member of the Institute itself. So that presented another opportunity for me to get involved with the NFMT Conference, and as a result I had the opportunity to present and speak at the NFMT conference. I feel like I’m giving a lot of shameless plugs. MIke (12:20): That’s okay. I’m good with that. Darrell Rounds (12:23): Anyway, and then from that, I was invited to become a member of the Pro FM Commission, where I contributed to the body of knowledge for the Pro FM credential. And then from there began to get involved with BOMA at the local level. Actually, I was named this past year as the BOMA Metro Detroit Facility Manager of the Year. MIke (12:48): Wow. Wonderful. Congrats. Darrell Rounds (12:51): Yeah. I mean, so all of these different experiences, basically they cascaded into my current experience today, a very busy person trying to evangelize this profession of facilities management. MIke (13:07): Wonderful. Wow. So you’ve also been quick to share information through articles in our industry. I saw a recent one you wrote for Facility Maintenance Decisions Magazine FMD, right? Darrell Rounds (13:21): Yes, that’s correct. MIke (13:22): And it was called the FM’s role in providing an emotionally safe work environment. What prompted you to write this article, Darrell? Darrell Rounds (13:29): Yeah, so. Well, am I able to confess on that on the show? MIke (13:36): Confess. Okay, sure. Darrell Rounds (13:37): So I’m going to make a confession. When they’re told COVID thing hit, I was very, very paranoid to the point where my wife actually like pulled me to the side, but I still maintained social distancing. MIke (13:53): With your wife? You’re social distancing with your wife? Darrell Rounds (13:57): Yeah. That’s how paranoid I was. MIke (14:00): Oh, wow. Okay. Darrell Rounds (14:01): And I mean, it just got to the point where she was like, “Hey, you need to make a decision that you’re not going to allow this to make you afraid.” And you know, I said, “You know what? You know, she’s right.” And I think wives are usually always right. MIke (14:16): That’s for sure. Darrell Rounds (14:17): And I put myself in some of them our tenants and our stakeholders shoes. It’s like when they come back to the building, will they come into a place where they feel safe emotionally? Because a lot of people confuse psychological safety and emotional safety. Psychological safety speaks to being able to work in an environment where you can express yourself freely without any fear of retribution or retaliation. MIke (14:50): Right. Yes. Darrell Rounds (14:51): But more fundamentally, how do you feel even before you get to that point? I termed it emotional safety because I wanted to talk about what it meant to feel safe coming back into the workplace. And that was birthed out of some of my own personal feelings, but it was also birthed out of a business need to ensure that our occupants and our stakeholders had everything that they needed in order to be effective. MIke (15:21): See, absolutely. I agree with you, Darrell. I have dealt with some of those same anxieties and fears. Certainly it’s part of all of us. It’s our human nature to want to control things and want to be safe. How do you get yourself into that building each day? With your wife’s encouragement certainly, but how else do you get yourself going each day to kind of face the challenges that not just the pandemic, but just the fast moving world around us presents to us. It’s something that we can inspire others by telling those stories. Darrell Rounds (15:50): As I was saying earlier, this particular time in our history is filled with a lot of uncertainty, a lot of ambiguity. So one of the other quotes that is near and dear to me comes from a very wise person. And it says, “Anyone who hears and obeys these teachings of mine is like a wise person who built their house on solid rock. Rain poured down, rivers flooded, and winds beat against that house, but it did not fall because it was built on solid rock.”             So anything that you want to be successful at, and for the sake of this example, our processes and protocols around entering the building and being in the building has to have a strong foundation or solid rock, as the quote says. And we have a good system. We’ve organized and plan according to that system, and we’re operating and executing according to that system. I’m a firm believer in organization over execution. So if you spend the time in organizing and planning, it just makes for the execution to be that much more simpler and seamless. And we’ve been successful so far. Then when we have some anomalies where we need to tweak, we make the adjustment for continuous improvement and we learn from it. MIke (17:23): Yeah. That sounds like some good wisdom. Who’s behind that wisdom? That’s Biblical wisdom, right? Darrell Rounds (17:28): Yeah. That’s Biblical wisdom. Jesus Christ said that. MIke (17:31): Awesome. So Darrell, I want this podcast to be a place where people can learn, certainly be inspired, but also we want to motivate everyone to continue to do what you’ve done, set a goal and achieve great things in their career and by helping others, that’s part of it. Do you have any final words of advice for future asset and FM leaders? Darrell Rounds (17:52): I think number one would be to start with why, find out or establish why it is you’re doing what you’re doing. If it’s developing a new process, if it’s carrying equipment, you need to start with why. And then because of the ambiguity and uncertainty that we’re dealing with, we have to make sure that we’re nimble and agile enough to connect the dots fast if you will. I think a lot of individuals fail because they have a hard time dealing with ambiguity and those things that are in the gray area. But if leaders develop that ability to connect the dots fast within their tool set, it’ll make them that much more effective in getting the business done. And then also, I guess the third point is just to make sure that we keep people as the most important aspect of the business, because without people none of this would exist. And as I said before, if you take care of your people, you’ll take care of your business. MIke (19:02): Excellent. That’s right. People are the greatest asset an organization has. I love it. That’s awesome. Well, Darrell, I wish we could have done this in person. We had plans to meet here in DC. But next time you come to town, when we get back to a normal travel schedule and you find your way back to our nation’s capital, or if I find my way to Detroit, let’s make sure we get together. Okay? Darrell Rounds (19:23): Yeah. We need to connect, Mike. MIke (19:24): Darrell, this has been great. Thank you so much for being on the show today. Darrell Rounds (19:27): Thank you. And God bless you MIke (19:30): There you have it, everyone. Darrell Rounds of GM sharing just a bit of his FM and asset management story. I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. If you’d like to learn more about Darrell, the work he is doing, and if you’d like to read the article we discussed as well as some of the many others he has contributed to our industry via FMD magazine, just check the show notes as I have left several links for you that you might find helpful.             If you found value in this episode of the show, please share it with a friend or a colleague and leave us a rating and a review over at Apple podcasts. That helps so much as we continue to spread the word and build this podcast community where we can encourage and inspire each other to be an Asset Champion. Peace Out.             You’ve been listening to the Asset Champion podcast. We hope you found this discussion beneficial as we work together to elevate asset management success by improving efficiency, reducing costs, and building best practices. For more information about how the iOFFICE asset division can boost the performance of your physical assets by providing comprehensive enterprise asset management software solutions, please visit

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As the host of both the Workplace Innovator Podcast and the Asset Champion Podcast, Mike's role at Eptura is to share thought leadership with CRE, FM, and IT leaders in the digital and hybrid workplace. As an in-demand public speaker, Mike engages audiences with his focus on the human element of workplace and facility management at International Facility Management Association, CoreNet, and other industry events.

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