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How to select the best service contractor.

Outsourcing has become an imperative strategic option for property managers to consider due to the challenges of increased competition and exorbitant operating costs. A building service contractor provides a multitude of services to assist property managers in their duties of running a well-maintained building. When presenting to a property manager, various service contractors have a tendency to submit proposals emphasizing their company's dedication to quality, commitment, and performance. However, if all the companies are promoting the same qualifications, what gives one company the competitive advantage? Short of a coin toss, how is a property manager expected make a decision?

In choosing the right firm for your needs, a manager should follow stringent parameters to make certain the decision he or she makes is reasonable and well-founded. The property manager also must decipher the sales pitch from the substance. The next time you are interviewing a possible service contractor, the following checklist will prove to be an invaluable tool.


If the contractors claim to have experience in the field, call them on it. A long history of work experience and success stories are key indicators of a company's work ethic. Ask for a current client list with phone numbers of references. If the company has been in )nc Harvard Street existence for 30 years or more it's likely that they have had some success and established a viable track record. Reference accounts and client testimonials can provide you with an invaluable road map to finding the right service contractor for your company. A strong portfolio will illustrate the competence and compatibility of a good contractor. It will also provide an indication of the direction and business strength of the company. Try to get a sense of what they have learned from both successful and unsuccessful relationships. Throughout their experience, a vendor should have obtained the understanding of the facility manager's role as well as a sensitivity to the unique requirements of the various markets.


Does the potential service contractor have a strong reputation for managing both large and small accounts? Has it maintained a respectable client retention rate? Can the company effectively manage unskilled or semi-skilled labor? If the company is aligned with credible industry organizations such as the Building Services Contractors Association and the Building Operating Management Association, they are most likely a viable contender for your business. Don't hesitate to verify these affiliations. Take a very close look at the company's commitment to maintaining quality standards and increasing the value of your investment.

Client Satisfaction

References will be the driving force to the selection process. Can your contractor provide the proper case studies that will give you the criteria with which to judge them objectively? Look for contractor that has provided a variety of services to companies in varying markets.

Attitude and Philosophy

Ask yourself, "Will I fell comfortable doing business with this potential company?" When selecting a particular vendor, examine their philosophy of doing business and evaluate how well it matches your own. The closer the match, the higher your expectations of the company's performance should be. Expect your contractor to give your facility the attention it deserves by internalizing each building's needs as special and unique. You want a company that never treats your account as routine. Complacency from a contractor could be your most costly expense yet. Your contractor should establish a relationship in which you are partners joined together to increase the strengths of your operations. A partnership of this type will improve your services, reduce costs, add value to the operation and allow you to concentrate more fully on your own objectives. Another important issue to consider when analyzing potential outsourcing vendors is their philosophy toward your existing maintenance personnel. Do existing personnel have to be terminated once the outsourcer is hired? Does the outsourcer have any plans or possible employment opportunities for these existing personnel? These are important questions to consider, especially from a moral standpoint.


Make sure your potential contractor has proactive account managers assigned to every account. These managers will be your point of contact. Get to know them as well as, if not better than, the company's president, though the involvement of senior level management is also an important factor in the selection process. Will the on-site managers anticipate and solve problems to make your job less stressful? Will this contractor go the extra mile to service your needs? If it is important to you that the new service contractor has a presence in your area of operations, it is also necessary to inquire about the existence of a regional or satellite office.

Integrated Services

One of the advantages of "one-stop shopping" is that many services are provided by one contractor. These services consist of emergency response, employeetraining, supervision, replacement, uniforms, etc. Does the service contractor cover these areas during their pitch? Property managers feel more confidence if they can rely on a contractor that can manage its people and practices independently. If integrated services are important to you, make certain that the contractor has the capabilities to meet the requirements of your building. Some companies offer emergency and special service divisions that should be considered during the interview stages. Outsourcing can and should provide you with more services from fewer vendors.

Human Resource Practices

Does the contractor offer dedicated, capable employees to service your facility? A comprehensive training program is indicative of a strong company. Are the employees well trained? Are they offered career advancement opportunities? When interviewing the potential contractor ask about their training programs. Take a close look at the human resource programs currently in existence. It is important that employees of the service contractor feel excited about their company and envision a possible path of advancement. It is also important that the contractor has a competitive benefit program in place. Is there also a means by which employees are recognized by their company in forms other than monetary compensation? Employee morale leads directly to lower turnover rates, so it is important that these are looked into.


Will your new contractor be available 24 hours a day to handle any crisis? It is important that the contractor has great responsiveness and knowledge in handling devastating experiences. Ask the contractor if they have a emergency response team in place to handle potential disasters. Will the contractor also be able to provide for more common occurrences like snow clearing services and removal of graffiti and paint?


It is also important to investigate the financial position of the potential company by reviewing both their previous annual reports and statement of earnings. Will their current financial condition allow them to continue to provide the services your require for years to come?


Pricing is last on the list by design. The importance of cost, more often than not, is grossly overrated. Keep in mind, the bottom line can be reached in various ways. What your need to know is whether or not the service contractor provides a premium product at reasonable rates. Certain service contractors position themselves as problem solvers: an added value service for the clients. It is important to search for this type of quality and commitment versus cost. By simply going to the lowest bidder, you'll end up getting what you paid for. Strive to get the best value for your limited resources.

By using this checklist, many of the contenders will not make your short list. There are numerous building service contractors available these days but only a select few have the experience to provide the quality service your property deserves. You need to hire a contractor that will provide your facility with a competitive advantage in the marketplace, and will consistently satisfy your needs as well as those of your tenants.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Hagedorn Publication
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Building Management & Maintenance
Author:Froelke, David
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Oct 6, 1993
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Next Article:Computers & your building: a match for the 90's.

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