What is it about being in the U.S. Army that forms strong business leaders? Perhaps it’s the Army’s attention to communication, respect and teamwork for all personnel. Regardless of rank, experience or assignment, soldiers “get the job done.”

The Army is where Dom Ruggerio, CFM, learned the contracting cleaning trade, and how to manage its people. Ruggerio, who has been managing cleaning and maintenance teams and contracts for 40 years, is the president of Ruggerio & Associates Inc., a facility-operations consulting firm in Chicago, and also is a chapter president of the International Facility Management Association (IFMA).

Ruggerio began his career in the military right after college graduation. Assignments included commanding combat soldier; paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Division, Pentagon operations and facilities leader; and Chief of Staff for the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee for President Reagan, which involved planning, organizing, and managing the event.

When Ruggerio retired with the rank of Colonel in 1990, he was immediately recruited by private industry—a ‘Big Six’ accounting firm—as a facilities manager. Today, the entrepreneur provides the principal for his own operation, but still insists respecting human capital ultimately drives the bottom line.

“It’s all people,” says Ruggerio, who operates by the axiom: “management by walking around. “

“You take care of your soldiers, and they’ll take care of you — and if you don’t take care of them, they’ll take care of you, but in a different fashion!” he laughs.

“I had 8,000 in my brigade and every single day my goal was to talk to 25 soldiers at a minimum—I’d start my morning with a run with a group, then shower, and sit with ten soldiers at breakfast and listen to what they had to say. It’s hard, but I made it my business. I knew them by name.”

At the ‘Big Six’ firm he managed, many older women were Polish immigrants and didn’t speak English very well. Ruggerio took it upon himself to learn some of their language, and their rapport improved dramatically.

“The ladies were always willing to do their work, but someone had to tell them,” he says, adding, “It’s incumbent upon the supervisor to be bilingual.”

As an illustration of the personal touch, whenever a member of the cleaning staff at the accounting firm celebrated a birthday, Ruggerio took it upon himself to personally write them a note.

“I go back there today, and they still wave and say hello. They remember me,” he says.

In addition to communicating with cleaning workers, Ruggerio insists consistent BSC communication with facility managers is key.

“We used to walk through every three months with the head of the cleaning team and the building liaison to discuss issues,” Ruggerio says. “It’s communication. We establish all goals and objectives every year, then every 90 days we talk about strengths, weaknesses and what they should be working on. So, at the end of the calendar year there are no surprises. Those people know exactly where they stand.”

Likewise, he says, facility managers also have a duty to keep the lines of communication open — customer service is a two-way street.

“Something that gives a big boost to morale is when cleaners find the client has an interest in what they’re doing” Ruggerio points out. “You’ll find that they’ll go the extra mile for you!”

Lori Veit owns Veit Communications, LLC, a writing and public relations firm in Madison,Wis.