What Do They Want?

Trying to guess what property managers or potential clients want from you can be a daunting task. After working so hard to win a bid, you want to make sure that you keep it. We talked to former property manager Adam Teckman, current co-owner of Cobalt Real Estate Services, to get the inside scoop on how to keep those clients happy.

NAS: What do you look for in a vendor?

Teckman: Communication. We are in a business that can be subjective and property managers want a vendor that will respond quickly to questions or concerns. Someone who doesn’t respond to emails or calls, fix problems quickly, or argues with the property manager is going to get replaced.

NAS: When choosing a vendor, what was your biggest concern?

Teckman: Whether or not I trusted them. Sweepers and the cleanliness of a property represents how well a property manager is doing their job. In big corporate property management firms, manager performance may be graded by how well the property looks and a basic part of that is if it is clean. Property managers have to trust the sweepers, porters and landscapers with a part of their job that can determine if they advance, how they get paid and graded by their superiors.

NAS: What was the worst example of something a vendor did?

Teckman: Having consistent problems. When you communicate problems to a vendor and then there is no evidence that those concerns were addressed, that’s a big problem. It makes property managers feel like you are getting one over on them. They think that you are trying to take advantage of the situation. We are in the service business, and if you aren’t ready to serve, then you are in the wrong business.

Vendor relationships typically fail when the vendor argues with the property manager over problems and by not taking responsibility for the work they do. Some managers feel like they are getting nickel-and-dimed or subpar service.

NAS: What was something that stood out that a vendor did?

Teckman: There was one property that we worked on in Central Texas that was large. It was a special situation, but they hired a guy that just managed the relationships. He was able to give us clear, honest, up-to-date information and respond quickly to our concerns. Vendors aren’t always able to do that. If you are sweeping for someone a couple of times a week, that isn’t going to make financial sense. But, you need to make sure that you have someone that will answer the phone when property managers call and that can react to comments and concerns.

We liked that guy so much, we ended up hiring him when we started our sweeping company.

NAS: What are property managers looking for in a vendor?

Teckman: More and more property managers are looking for that one-stop shop. Sweeping, pressure washing and portering are things that are contracted frequently.

At Cobalt, we have a whole department for work orders. We install new stop signs and handicap signs. We do new tenant construction and when things break or there is a problem, we handle those things for the property manager. It’s great for them because it’s just one phone call and it makes every relationship more profitable.

Typically, property managers like to develop good relationships with great vendors so that they can spend more time on important things instead of worrying if the parking lot is clean. It allows them to spend their time on higher level issues. There are managers out there that micromanage everything, but they tend to go through vendors pretty quickly.

NAS: What do property managers want in a bid?

Teckman: The best way to get good bids is to be specific with what you want. Most vendors use QuickBooks or a nice simple formal proposal. A lot of managers will tell you exactly what they are looking for. It’s difficult when a manager says “I don’t know, tell me what you think.” That makes it harder to compare bids. A good management company has an idea of what service they want. But, if they ask for feedback, then give them an honest appraisal of what you think needs to be done.

NAS: Did you ever throw out the highest and lowest bids?

Teckman: As it relates to sweeping, probably not. If there are bids that are much higher or much lower that can be red flag, but I was looking for quality. Bids needed to be competitive, but I wanted to get great service. A lot of times, some bids combined services and that was a plus.

Personally, I like to talk to everyone and get a feel if they are a good vendor and someone I would be able to work with. If it was the person with the lowest bid, then great. If it was one that was really high, but would give Mercedes-style service, then I might go with them.

Here in Dallas, we have a lot of small groups opening up that are combining services, but they don’t have sweeper trucks. Some of them have a Billy Goat that they will send out one time to the property and call it sweeping and portering. Of course, their bid is going to be a lot less than someone who is sending a guy out during the day for portering and a truck out at night for sweeping. You can’t sacrifice the service because the property will deteriorate over time and decrease the value of someone’s investment.

NAS: How have you applied your inside knowledge to your sweeping business?

Teckman: Our mantra is that we are in the service business and are totally “yes” men. We have kept good customer relationships by responding quickly to what property managers want. We try to figure out how to make it happen and bring them a solution even if that means bringing in another company. It doesn’t always make you money, but on the flip side, it’s what managers are looking for—a group that is wanting to take care of their needs. They don’t want to juggle vendors. We try to be customer-minded, professional and attentive.

Story by Jennifer Taylor