New Year’s Resolution #1: New Exterior Maintenance Master Plan

New Year’s Resolution #1: New Exterior Maintenance Master Plan

Help to make this resolution a reality.

Holiday Hustle . . . or Hassle?
It’s hard to believe it’s already that time of year again…The season when Jack Frost nips at your nose, the thrill of the holidays fills the air and, of course, your master plan sits on your desk, still far from perfection. As 2007 draws to a close, so does the amount of time you have left to prepare next year’s plan for your exterior maintenance, which is a daunting task because the seasons never stop. While a thorough and well-organized plan is the first step to ensuring a successful new year, the plan alone may not suffice. Each year, thousands of companies spend countless man-hours and excessive amounts of money attempting to self-manage their exterior services. Unfortunately, the business’ personnel tasked with this responsibility, from the regional facility manager to the checkout clerk, are being diverted from their primary responsibility – customer service. Consequentially, monetary and value-oriented costs begin to escalate, ultimately causing both the customer and the bottom line to suffer. The most efficient and cost-effective method of avoiding these pitfalls is centralization of your exterior maintenance needs with a professional Exterior Services Management® (ESM) company. Regardless of your particular position or title; if your responsibilities include exterior facilities management, this article is intended to help you prepare for 2008 by outlining the tools and assistance these service providers can deliver.

A Better Choice
A specialized ESM company offers numerous advantages for maintaining your exteriors. Foremost, these professionals are specifically trained to manage the myriad of responsibilities involved with exterior maintenance, while simultaneously providing a safe and aesthetically-pleasing environment for your valued customers. Managing individual service contracts can significantly drain a site manager’s time, but these service providers will be able to provide cost-efficient management of your landscapes, irrigation systems, parking lots and snow and ice removal. Furthermore, an experienced company will be able to minimize your costs, liability and provide valuable location specific data, thereby allowing you to dedicate additional time and resources to your customers.

Managing the Myths
Although many companies are aware of the various benefits presented by centralizing exterior service delivery, just as many choose not to make the switch because they believe the challenges are too great. This belief is the number one myth facing facilities management today. In fact, a professional management company makes the consolidation process easy and stress-free and provides immediate benefits and savings. These experts work with you every step of the way to guarantee a successful master plan, quality assurance and customer satisfaction.

Having been in the industry for over 30 years, I’ve seen and heard numerous reasons why national and regional facility managers believe they can’t consolidate all their exterior maintenance needs. Switching to an exterior facility management provider can be an enlightening experience for most companies, but unfortunately there are many incorrect perceptions concerning the often fragmented exterior services industry, which can impact a customer’s decision.

These seem to be the most common perceptions:

Perception #1
Logistical: “I can’t get all my people and departments in synch in order to make the transition smooth.”

ESM Solution: One of the greatest benefits provided to customer personnel who are involved with exterior services, is the freedom to focus on core tasks and customer service. A management company will provide communicative tools and developed models to aid in compiling the necessary data and minimize the distraction to customer employees. Any consolidation initiative needs to be supported throughout your organization. The implementation is most successful when communicated from the senior management down.

Perception #2
Seasonal: “It’s not going to snow for the next two months, so we have more time to decide.”
ESM Solution: Planning, Preparation, and Persistence. Exterior service impacts your customers’ first impression of your business and decisions regarding its management should not be made hastily or at the last minute. These professional service providers can complete any needed site assessments, develop budget comparisons, and project an action plan to avoid unpreparedness and potentially costly adjustments. Early decisions and commitments for snow removal will provide you with superior service. The best snow removal professionals are in demand and their resources fill up quickly. Logistically, they must have a cut off date.

Perception #3
Contractual: “I don’t know what my current contracts entail, so I guess we will just wait until the contracts are over. Although I’m not happy, how can I make a change in the middle of the landscape season?”

ESM Solution: Most contracts allow you to terminate with a 30-day notice. Identify your under performing providers and send the notice. One of a management company’s primary functions is assessment of current site conditions and specification development that addresses the deficiencies that are damaging to your exterior. However, a pioneering management company will offer a Mid-Season Action Plan, or MAP, to guide their customer through a smooth transition and resolve exterior service issues that can damage sales and your customers’ perceptions. A MAP can get you on the road to cost savings and enhanced curb appeal.

Perception #4
Fiscal: “We are so caught up in budgets right now, we can’t even think about a change. I’m afraid to even guess what our budget is for exterior services.”

ESM Solution: In addition to providing a MAP to ease customer transition, a professional management company can provide a detailed cost analysis. Site assessment models will detail exterior costs allowing the customer to make informed decisions about their landscape, irrigation, hardscape, pressure washing, or snow removal. A budget analysis will often result in cost savings from streamlined processing and specified service detail. Working with an ESM company you will not find yourself “in the dark” for capital and maintenance costs come budget time. They can provide you with detailed location condition reports along with maintenance and capital budget numbers for your up coming fiscal year.

Freedom of Internal Resources
So, it’s the fourth quarter and you are facing the goal. The quick tips below will get you into the end zone. Refer to these when making the exterior service decisions that will impact the next year or when your current exterior service plan is failing you.

  • Logistical considerations can be eliminated through implementing a Mid-Season Action Plan, MAP, and thorough site assessment.
  • Contractual concerns can be addressed through portfolio analysis, specification development and liability assurance.
  • Budgetary impact can be alleviated by a professional service provider through cost analysis, service selection and often result in savings.
  • Seasonal considerations are eliminated by a MAP and allow for a smooth transition that provides seamless customer service.

Making Your New Year’s Resolution Come True
For the facility manager, the New Year will definitely bring new and continued challenges for your exterior services. You can continue to devote your valuable time and energy to multi-site contract management while processing hundreds of invoices and not be assured of liability, or you can rely on an ESM company to eliminate your exterior service concerns and allow focus on some other New Year resolutions.

How Do I Choose?
When searching for a professional company to manage your exteriors, ask for an action plan that not only details how consolidation and centralization will work for your company, but also provides you with the tools to ease your transition. From location assessment to contract development and management, look for a service provider that offers innovative solutions and an infrastructure that supports their claims. Make centralization of your exterior services your new year’s resolution and reap the benefits of cost savings, effective management and a streamlined operation.