Case Studies

Kristine Fisher – Sleep Number

Real estate and facilities director doesn’t sleep on comprehensive approach

After starting her career in construction project management and then getting into real estate and facility management, Kristine Fisher realized the areas are often segmented at companies.

She noticed that some organizations only focus on repairs and maintenance rather than taking a comprehensive corporate real estate approach. She says this approach creates more efficiencies, higher quality and cost savings. Also, the consistency ensures that knowledge isn’t lost as seasoned team members retire.

“It’s often an area that organizations don’t focus on,” she says. “It can be very piecemeal and very reactive. I enjoy the challenge of creating an effective, strategic solution for organizations.”

Kristine Fisher | Director, Real Estate and Facility Management | Sleep Number

Kristine Fisher | Director, Real Estate and Facility Management | Sleep Number

After building a corporate real estate and facility management function for several companies, Fisher has found herself at Sleep Number Corp. A s the company has grown, leaders realized they needed someone with Fisher’s high-level approach to focus on corporate real estate and connect it with an overall facility management program. In June 2021, she was hired as the director of real estate and facility management.

“They had this gap in the organization, so it was an exciting opportunity to build something new and something that will be crucial in the company’s future growth,” she says.

Planning ahead

Sleep Number, based in Minneapolis, manufactures “smart beds” designed with technology meant to improve sleep quality. When hired, Fisher began working closely with the company’s business leaders to assess the portfolio of corporate and industrial sites to see where there were gaps. Previously, this had only been done with retail locations, she says.

By understanding the established distribution routes, volume and where there are high concentrations of customers, she provides real estate data and helps business leaders determine where to add more facilities.

“With the early needs analysis, option evaluations and balanced lease language that we are starting to do, we’re getting better solutions with better terms and function of the space,” she says.

Kristine Fisher | Director, Real Estate and Facility Management | Sleep Number

In addition to working on real estate strategy, she’s been building a team that leads facility operations and emergency management, as well as workplace and office services.

She and her team have also been developing a preventive maintenance plan for Sleep Number’s 13 corporate facilities, including manufacturing, assembly and distribution. Many of these buildings have had minimal maintenance, Fisher says. So, she and her team are determining scope, priorities and the best approach to make repairs for lease compliance and to prolong the life of the assets.

“We need a plan to ensure minimal disruption to operations, compliance with insurance requirements and long-term cost avoidance” she says. “It also creates consistency with facility operations and a healthy environment for the company’s team members.”

Fisher has also worked closely with service providers and the IT team to integrate more technology. For example, she and her team are optimizing their use of site analysis tools and their lease administration system. They’re also evaluating more ways to use an energy management system, a computerized maintenance management system and integrated workplace management software.

Changing perceptions

Fisher believes more people should be given the chance to learn about and develop careers in her industry. In 2013, she helped create a degree program in facility management after the University of Minnesota came to her with the idea.

She says the university recognized that more professionals are needed in the industry and that younger generations were less familiar with the field. She developed coursework, helped hire faculty, taught courses and now acts as a consultant.

“When I first started in this field, there was no degree program,” she says. “You just kind of landed in it.”

Kristine Fisher | Director, Real Estate and Facility Management | Sleep Number

Fisher also creates internship opportunities, mentors young professionals, gives presentations at high schools and colleges, and has served on education committees for a local facility management association and a Midwest corporate real estate association.

“A lot of times FM is thought of as janitorial services and maintenance only, rather than as a position of leadership and strategy,” Fisher says. “Over the years, I have worked with other CRE/FM professionals to change the perception from the boiler room to the board room.”

Making her own way

Fisher earned a bachelor’s degree from North Dakota State University, is a Certified Facility Manager and earned a certificate in leadership from the University of Minnesota – Carlson School of Management.

After spending several years in project management and facility manager roles, she took her first role as director of facilities management in 2001 with The Hartford, a financial services company. She later became the director of facility management and real estate at the Andersen Corp., a Minnesota-based window and door manufacturer.

Kristine Fisher | Director, Real Estate and Facility Management | Sleep Number

Fisher then oversaw global projects and facilities management for Johnson Controls, which specializes in smart buildings. Next, she became the U.S. head of real estate for RBC Wealth Management before becoming the director of facility management and real estate  for Be the Match, the National Marrow Donor Program.

Throughout her career, Fisher has also worked as an informal consultant, helping companies with their real estate matters. She had assisted Sleep Number a few years before joining the company when it was relocating to its new headquarters in Minneapolis. The company recruited her for her current role in 2021.

“I’m excited to build this new function here to support the company’s continued growth,” Fisher says. “The people truly believe in the mission and it’s great to be part of it.”

View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. III 2023 Edition here.

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