Gold Circle Award Profile: Mary Pat Bitner with ABM Business & Industry

Mary Pat Bitner with ABM Business & Industry was named 2020 BOMA/Chicago Affiliate Member of the Year.

Mary Pat BitnerTell us about your involvement with both the commercial real estate industry and the local community.

I started in the Commercial Real Estate Industry in Chicago 35 years ago.

In 1995, I began volunteering my time at CARA, an organization which provides workplace training to individuals struggling to break free from a cycle of homelessness and poverty.

Since that time, I have been an active member in several organizations. I have been an active participant in BOMA/Chicago, and I always try to make sure ABM is represented and supporting their events throughout out the year.

I have also served as a board member of the Commercial Real Estate Network (CREN) for over 12 years.

What are some of the services your company provides?

ABM is a leading provider of facility solutions in urban, suburban, and rural areas through stand-alone or integrated solutions. We provide comprehensive, custom facility solutions to properties of all sizes – from schools and commercial buildings to hospitals, data centers, manufacturing plants and airports. ABM’s solutions include janitorial, facilities engineering, parking & transportation, energy, electrical, landscape & turf, HVAC & mechanical, and mission critical services.

We are also capable of delivering full site management and self-performing multiple lines of service along with offering clear, concise reporting, safety and operational training programs, and client focused technology solutions. Furthermore, expertise and knowledge gained from self-performing services allows ABM to cross utilize labor and re-engineer services to increase efficiencies and reduce costs.

Given the changes to cleaning techniques in response to COVID, what are some of ABM’s new practices and procedures that have been implemented this year?

ABM is uniquely positioned to help clients prevent exposure and curb the spread of pathogens through a three-step approach, backed by experts. Our EnhancedClean program entails return safely services to build trust that it is safe for clients to return to their workspace, frequent high touchpoint disinfection to instill confidence that a recurring cleaning and disinfection program is in place, and broader disinfection using electrostatic sprayers to reset an entire facility to higher standards.

We have established an Expert Advisory Council in partnership with leading infectious disease experts and industrial hygienists to guide the development of our program and training processes.

To promote consistency in execution and effectiveness, the EnhancedClean training program educates our employees on proper program delivery, whereas our program certification validates ABM is using the right processes, supplies, training, and communication.

We have access to purchase high volumes of EPA registered disinfectant chemicals, employee PPE, and specialized equipment to reduce potential exposures. Furthermore, our EnhancedClean program features visual assurance through occupant signage to reassure occupants that their wellbeing is important and being cared for.

What are some of the challenges your industry is facing related to COVID?

A clean facility is no longer enough. During these unprecedented times, there is a heightened sense of scrutiny for facility owners and managers to demonstrate that they’re doing their part to provide clean, healthy, and safe environments. We also understand that building occupants are hyper aware of the appearance of cleanliness and will expect more transparency and visibility into the cleaning process.  As an industry leader, ABM is positioned to help educate facility management teams on the necessity of incorporating disinfection protocols to provide a healthier space and maintain occupant trust.

As an industry veteran, what are some takeaways or lessons learned you have experienced over the years working in the CRE industry?

While teaching classes at Cara, I developed many skills that would help me later while working at ABM. At Cara, I learned if I was going to train someone else, I needed to make sure I was well trained myself through research, webinars, and/or classes. This is important whether I am developing training for new technologies like the i-mop, teaching customer service, or explaining business models to new ABM executives.

Resolving issues quickly is a major skill I have learned, whether it is related to personnel, equipment, or methods. Particularly with human resource issues, I want to be sure the problems are addressed within Union guidelines and in accordance with the client agreements, but also while maintaining the dignity of the individual. Respect for everyone involved is essential.

I am always trying to adapt to the needs of every individual situation. Whether that is the needs of an individual client request for something specific like a response plan to meningitis, for example, or the cleaning requirements of an entire building, listening to my clients and my employees is part of what helps build relationships that last for years.

Things are always changing in the commercial real estate environment, so you must always be ready to adapt to the next new thing—a lesson we are all learning this year more than ever.

Working at ABM and with our members, what are some of your proudest moments?

Within the industry, I have been proud to help with several charity organizations. While on the board at CREN, for example, I was able to organize and solicit donations for the CREN Silent Auction. The proceeds, up to $8,000, are given to the American Cancer Society.

At ABM, I created Earth Day programs at properties to help support environmental awareness. Those have been duplicated by many other account managers.

However, outside of the commercial real estate industry, ABM has also allowed me the opportunity to work for a variety of charity organizations that are important to me. In addition to my volunteer work at Cara, I also volunteered with Wings which aids battered women. I organized drives to collect clothes for women and children seeking help with that organization. I have also worked with the Shriners to help raise donations for their Haitian and Jamaican poverty program. 

I am a strong believer in giving back to those in need, and I am probably most proud of the work I have done for these organizations.

What do you like to do for fun?

I enjoy cooking, entertaining, and dancing.

Would you like to nominate a deserving industry professional for the Gold Circle Awards? We are accepting 2021 nominations for the Gold Circle Awards through Friday, October 23. Head over to our Gold Circle Nomination Process page for nomination guidelines and forms.