Val Peterson is director of facilities management at Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, and a past APPA President. He writes the Focus on Management column for Facilities Manager and can be reached at

Accountability in a facilities management organization is a must. As a service organization we are fiscally and organizationally accountable to the governing board or regents, to the administration, to the chief business officer and perhaps others. It stands to reason, however, that those to whom we must be most accountable are our customers. The providing of satisfactory services to people within our institutions--administration, faculty, staff, students and visitors--is the primary reason for our existence. Selling the customer is part of our accountability.

Joe Girard is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's greatest salesperson. Joe is a car salesman. He maintains that customers "don't buy Chevrolets--they buy me." In today's marketplace people making major purchases must "buy" the person selling the product before they'll purchase the product. In other words, salespeople must sell themselves to their customers. In most cases, the services provided by the salesperson are as important as the product itself. Facilities management organizations can learn important lessons from the world of sales.

While we in facilities management organizations do not sell a product, per se, we do provide a service and in many cases we literally "sell" this service to our customers as chargeback work. Irrespective of whether or not customers pay for our services, we must, in effect, sell ourselves as individuals and as a service department in order to earn their respect, trust, confidence, and approval for the services provided.

Here's how to be successful in this area: