IllumeTALK, Episode 4: An Interview with PRSM CEO Bill Yanek in Scottsdale, AZ

Thursday, October 18, 2018 By Kate Reynolds

IllumeTALK host Aaron Woloszyn had the pleasure of sitting down with PRSM CEO, Bill Yanek at the Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association’s Mid-Year Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.
In this podcast episode, Bill gives an insightful overview of the state of the retail industry, how the organization is adapting to meet the needs of its members and a few of his favorite podcasts.
Listen to Episode 4 of IllumeTALK now:

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IllumeTALK, Episode 4:
Aaron Woloszyn (AW): Hello everyone and welcome to a special podcast episode of IllumeTALK. Today, I'm at the PRSM Mid-Year event in Scottsdale, Arizona.
PRSM stands for the Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association. We've been partnered and attending the show now for a little over five years. The show brings together retailers, material suppliers, and strategic partners like Illumetek, in order to find new partners to help each other advance their missions and goals.
If you remember from our first podcast, the idea to start a podcast was spark at the PRSM National conference this past spring.
Today I have the pleasure of sitting down with CEO of PRSM Bill Yanek, and we are at the Mid-Year Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona right now.
Bill, good afternoon!
Bill Yanek (BY): Great to be here, Aaron! Great introduction.
AW: Thank you. You know – I'm really glad we're doing this because this is this was very surprising to us. I know a bunch of people back in the office are super stoked about what's happening today.
BY: Cool, cool. Yeah. Who doesn't want to hear about PRSM?
AW: I can't tell you. I can't tell you…
So, Bill for those listening who aren’t familiar with PRSM give me the quick 30 second elevator pitch – what is PRSM?
BY: PRSM is a trade association. We have about a thousand members – 300 retail companies, 700 suppliers to those retail companies. And we are the home for what we call multi-site facility management professionals. So, it's facility management with that specific characteristics where your FMs – or the suppliers – deal with a body of facilities that go everywhere from the dozens to the hundreds. And most of the time it's in a very large number. So that's where we came from.
We were formed by a group of individuals that didn't think their needs and other associations were quite being served because of the unique character characteristics for the suppliers. You know the contracts and the business relationships that you all have with FMs that manage a bunch of buildings or a bunch of facilities, is very unique
AW: It is.
BY: As well as the needs of someone who might have a portfolio of buildings it's very large. So… that's where we came from and that's our mission in life. We're headquartered in Dallas, we have about 25 people on our team, and we do everything from marketing for the association; tools and resources and education for the association; certainly our marquee events; and then we have membership development. We're always looking for more members.
AW: So, I hear you're a pretty big fan of podcasts...
BY: Yes!
AW: What are your favorites. Can you name a few?
BY: Gary V, of course!
AW: Oh, Gary V…
BY: Yeah, Vaynerchuk has one. And there' s a relatively new one. Well, we're both from the East Coast – Dennis Miller.
AW: You know I have heard of that.
BY: Yeah, he has a podcast; and he's had a couple of different sports one for a while and now he has one where it's more the traditional Dennis Miller stuff. Yeah, his humor is awesome. And then I listen to this stuff – the Freakonomics guys – have another one.  I do a lot of driving – as a lot of us do. It's a great way to pass time and learn something.
AW: Well, you know… I'm assuming you know why we started this podcast.
BY: I may have a hint. Yeah.
AW: So, yeah… for those of you listening and, I know we've mentioned it a few times in past episodes but, Gary Vaynerchuk was the keynote speaker at the PRSM National event.
BY: PRSM 2018.
AW: Yep, and we sponsored him and he talked a little bit about getting out there and trying new things and doing podcasts and just getting your voice out. So we thought it was a great idea to put something like this together and to just shed some light on the lighting world, as they say. And that's where it kind of came from.
BY: Yeah. Well those who had heard his keynote – he literally told our crew that you need to do this.
AW: He did.
BY: If you've heard Gary you know how blunt he is. You know he says I know 99% of you won't do this.
AW: Yes, I remember that!
BY: But it's a thing you need to do. And that's part of why I love about Gary because he gives his stuff away for free. And he tells you what works for him and what could be a very successful thing. Obviously I'm stoked that you're doing this. I think it’s great.
AW: We're having a good time with him to be quite honest with you. We're really enjoying it. I think it's going to bring a lot of cool information to a lot of people.
BY: Yeah.
AW: So let's talk a little bit about this year's PRSM – this Mid-Year.
BY: Yeah
AW: You gave a speech at the keynote session.
BY: Yeah.
AW: For those who weren’t there, can you kind of give me a wrap up of what you guys were talking about.
BY: Yeah, I came on board as CEO two years ago at this event, and at that time our board was just gearing up. Obviously, if you have a change in leadership it's a good time to chart a new path.
The association – financially, membership wise – is strong, but just like retail and the FM industry you can't wait until circumstances force you to change, you need to be proactive your changes. And so our board about two years ago we were at the end of a four year planning cycle and determine we need a new strategic vision, and that was the start of what we're calling PRSM 2023. We're already into it but it's a four to five-year strategic plan.
AW: Cool, Okay.
BY: The first part of that though was we went out we had a consultancy come in and take a look what we did and where we're spending our money, or our members’ money, and our members time to make sure we were serving them. And it quickly became obvious that we had some infrastructure issues to take care of. Right off the bat it's our technology – and you'll be shocked to hear it was our web site and associations run off a database platform and that's the lifeblood of our association because it collects the data of the members and tracks their history. So we had to fix those two problems first. And so we've done that and we just released a new at this event.
AW: Yeah, I got an e-mail – I checked it out. It looks great!
BY: Thanks. Yeah. And it was an interesting look at our website too. So when did a new website four or five years ago, the thought was that PRSM was going to be a news site for the FM industry.
AW: Right.
BY: And as time has gone on, that's not what our members asked of They want from our website access to our tools and resources – of course they're going to go there for our event materials and the like – but more of a tool to help them do their business. And a portion for news, but not lead with the news like a New York Times type thing for the FM industry.
So we had to change all that of course, freshen up the look and incorporate some new technology and videos and podcasts, so we can host those types of things.
That's kind of the infrastructure piece.
Now the exciting part is we're going into the meat of our PRSM 2023 strategic plan. A couple of different pillars there – one is to continue to increase our effectiveness as an association. The middle piece is, as I called it during my keynote, is “PRSM on demand”. If you think about how the Netflix's and Hulu’s of the world are changing how we consume media how association members like yourself or other companies are consuming association resources. They want it on demand. They want it in their neighborhood, in their state, in their region, and not necessarily wait around for mid-year conference or national.
AW: You mentioned some regional stuff…
BY: And so we're going to still have our marquee event, which is what we call PRSM National in April that's going to be our…
AW: The big one!
BY: …plant the flag, we're always going to have it. And then instead of having a mini national event like we're at now, we're going to split it into three or four regional events.
We're definitely going to have one in New York City, definitely in Southern California and Chicago, and probably a fourth one either in the Southwest near Dallas where our association quarters is, or in Atlanta. But it will be a shorter event. This current mid-year it's a three to four-day deal. There's going to be a one to one a half day. They'll be education certainly networking and resources, for both suppliers and the retailers, and so we're really excited about that. Delivering so that PRSM local is a piece of it and then a third piece of it is as well as looking at how do we define retail multi-site, because that's changing.
AW: It is changing
BY: And our membership… we have a great foundation of traditional multi-site retail the retailers that you think about everyday – the Targets, the Walmart's, the Best Buys, you name it. But there are other verticals, whether it's medical testing, or lifestyle where you got gym facilities, or the Dave and Busters the experiential stuff there. There's multi-site FM needs and potential members out there and so moving into those new verticals is going to be part of this PRSM 2023 as well.
First we had to get our own house in order, and we're there with the website and the database.
AW: Glad to hear it, glad to hear it.
BY: As well as fix some of our events – fix Mid-Year and make sure that we're delivering on that. Make sure that our PRSM National is as popular as its always been – we had a record attendance at PRSM 2018. I think Gary V had part a part to do that…
AW: Probably, probably. He was very entertaining.
BY: Yeah, and then hopefully again evolve as retail's evolving so that we're not caught as an association looking – say three or four years from now – and say "The thing passed us by! Holy cow.” We're going to… we're going to hopefully be leading that.
AW: That's awesome. Yeah. And you guys are on track, so that's great.
BY: And, it's one other piece of that I didn't mention – which is really neat for an association board is – we call policy governance, but our board has become very disciplined on staying strategic and get out of the tactical. A lot of associations, the boards run the day-to-day of the association or get involved too much. Our board has done a great job of being disciplined and we take advantage of their strategic outlook and they let the PRSM team, led by their CEO, run the operational side of it – and that's worked really well, certainly in my two years here.
AW: Awesome.
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AW: Let me backpedal a little bit – how long has PRSM been around? I know we've been coming to/attending and been a partner for a little over five years I think. But how long's PRSM been around...
BY: Yeah, the first grumblings of PRSM, way before I was here, was in the early to mid-90s.
BY: Well over 20 years…
BY: And we're going to be celebrating our 25th anniversary year in a year or two, too. But yes it's the early 90s. PRSM started and we were part – “we” being the PRSM members back then – facility managers for multi-site retail were part of a couple of different groups. Whether it's was IFMA (International Facility Management Association) or BOMA (Building Owner Management Association) but they weren't getting their specific needs met for facility management for multi-asset retail – a unique category.
And so it started… it's a real neat story. I'm told by the founders of our association our first events were 30 people in a classroom. And now our biggest event is a couple of thousand!  Even looking at our regional events would be larger than any PRSM event 20 years ago – so it's just taken off. The growth has been fantastic.
AW: That's great to hear. So, I know we just talked about the four to five-year plan and those three to four parts. What are you most excited about for PRSM – for the retailers, for the members – what are you most excited about?
BY: Well, one is we have an association that's financially and membership strong. And so when you see – and I've been in association work for about 20 years now and been through some turnarounds; and normally when you go through changes as robust as what we're looking at, it's an association that needs fixing. Or, might need – whatever the deal is – either the money's running out, or the members are going away and you start flailing. That's not the case at PRSM at all.
So the neat thing is – we have the resources, and I think our membership over the next two years you're going to see that, we're going to roll out and use those resources to benefit our members.
The second part of it is -- even though we've had this little blip of the retail apocalypse here about all that stuff – it's an exciting time to be in retail, as long as you go with the change, right? In your experience, on your side… the energy issues that are involved, but if you embrace that and you're part of that change there's a lot of great going on with bricks and mortar retail. And we're right there.
And we also have a very strong position vis-à-vis our competitors. Kinda the next step of our PRSM 2023, now that we have our house in order and we're starting down this path, is we are looking at where are our market position is. And by every indication talking to our members and working with some s consultants that are looking at that the association marketplace nobody does retail multi-site FM like PRSM. Nobody does.
We have that market cornered which is a challenge in some way because we need to maintain that. But we're coming from a position of strength, and I'm very excited that we're just going to sit here in a couple of years and to look back and say we… we did the right thing to get us in front of it. Yeah.
AW: That will be great. I really hope to be around – at least still in this area you know doing this kind of stuff in a couple of years – looking back and saying, “Hey, remember we did a podcast together? We talked about this…” and then now it's all real life. It’s all happening.
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AW: What else? Give me some final thoughts on your time and – I know you have only been with PRSM for a few years but – what's been the most eye opening thing in your point of view about this organization, and its members, and the retailers, and everything?
BY: Well, I came out of commercial glass – so I was in commercial construction to some degree –  Commercial Glass Association. It's been fascinating for me to learn more about retail because, like most people, I always used to seeing the front end of retail. The customer side.  When I thought of retail I thought of the stores and maybe the supply chain that gets the stuff to the stores and what we buy. I didn’t know a whole lot about the FM portion of it, and I know our FMs wrestle with that because they don't get the credit they deserve.
AW: They definitely don't. They definitely don't.
BY: And even you know that the types of services you provide to the retailers, whether it is energy or lighting, all of the moving parts, and glass is part of that. I love that – greatest material in the world still, I believe! But learning about that has been fantastic.
I’m managing and leading a little bigger team than I did before – before I had about a 10-person team. We (PRSM) have about 25 people spread out across the United States. Most of us are in Dallas. So, that has been neat. And it's also really – it’s comforting in some ways – but a real benefit to our association that we had such a strong national event to hang our hat on. And that event, it gets the ratings it deserves; it's popular with our members; it is a revenue driver for the association, of course; it allows us to do things because it is such a strong revenue driver for the association.
It allows us to do other things to serve our members and definitely, even financially now, we can look at doing things. It's not all about making money for our members at all. We can invest in things and platforms. We mentioned our web site and AMS. We don't have to go the least cost route right. We were able to go after the best the board pushed us to do that. So that really helps too and that's unique for an association. and it's a great, great place to live. And, you know, the only negative probably being in the Dallas area is the darn traffic!
That's what our team has to do well, we have to have a lot of flexibility because Dallas, Texas is growing like mad. We're in the right place there. And in speaking of our place, one of the other areas that I unveiled at Mid-Year is our headquarters right now is on the northeast corner of Dallas. And so, we're about 20 to 30 minutes – depending on traffic – from the airport. Later next year in 2019, our lease is up and we're going to be moving closer to the airport and we're going to configure your headquarters / our headquarters as a co-working space for our members – hopefully very conveniently located with the airport.
I don't know what the percentage is that – has to be greater than 90 percent – come through DFW. Everybody comes through DFW, but we rarely get visits and we know we're a half hour drive away. And so we really want to be more convenient. I've been to the We Works of the world, and how cool that is, we're going to do something like that for our PRSM members as well to give them that.
So as you're coming through, or as your listeners come through DFW, that'll probably take place third quarter of next year. We'll have a new home for PRSM headquarters.
AW: That'll be great! Illumetek has a number of clients that are all headquartered in Dallas so…
BY: There you go!
AW: …when we're visiting we could swing by and say hi to you guys over the PRSM HQ.
BY: Yeah, absolutely.
AW: Bill this has been… this has been great! I wasn't sure what to expect coming into this but I think this has been very eye opening. I think a lot of people going to like listening to what you had to say, and I want to thank you for giving us at the time. I know how busy you guys are with PRSM and running these events; everybody's running around and I know it's wrapping up today, but I want to thank you for sitting down with me.
BY: Yeah, well they can’t see it, but I mean you can't beat the visage we have here the beautiful mountains of the desert.
AW: Oh, yeah it’s gorgeous! My room had the Mountain View and it was – you know an East Coast time when I'm up at 4 am I to watch the sunset. It was beautiful.
BY: I'm so glad you invited me and it's an honor to be here. Great to talk with you and record. Well, we'll see again I'm sure very soon
AW: Absolutely. We're already talking about planning for next PRSM, so good that'll be great. Bill thank you very much.
BY: Thanks Aaron.
AW: And thank you all for listening to another IllumeTALK. As always you can reach out to anyone here at Illumetek on LinkedIn, or by going to our web site – That’s I-L-L-U-M-E-T-E-K. And to stay on top of the latest IllumeTALK podcast news, follow us on Instagram @illumetalk. Spelled I-L-L-U-M-E-T-A-L-K.
IllumeTALK is a production of Front Porch Media. I'd like to thank our producer Brigid Coyne, audio engineers David Douglas and Eric Koltnow. To learn more about this and other podcasts please visit the

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