Thinking like a coach

Jim Arca is his father’s son. Growing up, he watched his chemical engineer father work with tools doing handyman projects around the house. Before long, Arca was doing the same. Once at Texas A&M, many of Arca’s friends made the common switch from engineering to less-demanding majors, but Arca—initially an architecture major—did the opposite, graduating with a degree in civil engineering. Arca is content spending the weekend watching sports in his garage and keeping busy with woodworking projects. This innate love of engineering and construction serves him well in his role as managing director of facilities for FedEx Office. Arca has been with the company for seven years, the longest tenure of his career so far, and he brings a unique perspective with his varied background. Here, Arca shares how he got to where he is today and how he cultivates a winning team capable of tackling any problem.

FedEx OfficeWhat past experiences, work related or otherwise, really shaped your career?

I started my career as a project manager for Mobil, bouncing around the country and taking on different positions. While living in Dallas and working as an environmental engineer for Mobil, an opportunity became available to build service stations in Peru and it was a life-changing opportunity. Not only was I able to get back to my family roots—both of my parents are from Peru—but those two years abroad is where I experienced the most professional growth of my career. We didn’t have the resources we do in the US, so I was forced to think outside of the box; I often joked that I had to “MacGyver my way out” of situations.  It was the hardest I’ve had to work in my life, but it was rewarding professionally and personally. The 80 service stations we built changed the face of the country and my daughter was born in Peru, so I feel like it completed the loop.

Can you describe the most important thing you’ve learned over the course of your career?
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There was a while after leaving Exxon Mobil that I did freelance work as a project manager. I was successful at freelancing and it taught me that I could make it on my own or if I stop loving what I do, I could go back to working for myself. This realization helped me make clearer business decisions, never fearing I might lose my job. I have an entrepreneurial spirit, but I’m a corporate guy deep down; I function well in the corporate environment. So while I like this structure, I don’t have to depend on it and I think that makes me a better boss because I have the big picture in mind. I know what’s important in the grand scheme of things and I don’t sweat the small stuff.

What attributes do you think are necessary to be an effective facilities director?

You have to be a problem solver and you need to be able to deal with day-to-day pressures without taking it personally. My leadership style is that of a coach; I figure out how to utilize those on my team to best solve a problem. If an operator calls you with a problem, you have to be able to offer a solution—quickly. My team focuses on keeping the FedEx Office centers in good condition. We handle the work with landlords and our vendor base; allowing the center teams and managers to focus on customers and the business. Whatever it is you’re in charge of, it’s your job to make sure it runs smoothly and that requires thinking on your toes, being proactive, communicating well, and being really good at solving problems.

What do you wish you would have known before starting in this industry, and by extension, what advice would you offer a young person looking to enter your field?

You have experts at your disposal with contractors and vendors; leverage them for their knowledge and never be afraid to ask questions. You have to be able to take constructive criticism and understand you can’t be an expert at everything.