How Proactive Facilities Managers Spend Their Time

You probably hear this idea all of the time. The modern facilities manager needs to shift from being reactive to being proactive. But what does it look like to be proactive? In this article we are going to cover ways to make the transition.

The modern facilities management professional has to perform their job like they are an integral part of both customer and employee experience when it comes the facility and its assets. This is a different mindset than the traditional belief that FM professionals are responsible for managing repairs. This elevated level of thinking will lead effective modern FM’s to work on core issues that cause poor customer and employee experiences.

Create processes and standards for their department.

This is the most important job a FM leader has. They must create a set of systems and processes for their team and the stores they serve to follow. This includes

  • a workflow for repairs from start to finish
  • clearly defined expectations for what data needs to be collected through the process
  • service level standards for the maintenance team and their contractors
  • facilitiy condition standards for their company along with a reporting process for subpar conditions
  • a budget review process
  • a goal setting and review process
  • a one-on-one meeting process with direct reports

The modern FM will work with operations to create better processes.

Nearly all unnecessary maintenance costs stem from operational inefficiencies. It’s the FM’s responsibility to notice these unnecessary maintenance costs and repeatedly ask themselves why they are happening until they come up with a root cause of the problem.

Next, they must create two to three solutions and bring them to operations to work on a plan to implement the best solution.

Notice that the FM should not stop at discovering the problem. They must also design solutions.

Finally, the FM should track performance of the solution and work with the operations team to hold them accountable for executing the new plan. If adjustments need to be made, they should work with the operations team to make those adjustments.

Establish a proactive maintenance program.

The modern facilities manager should have a plan in place for proactive maintenance. There are parts on equipment that wear out over time as well as routing maintenance recommendations by equipment manufacturers. The FM should understand these requirements and create a budget and execution plan for keeping expensive equipment running well through making repairs before they are needed.

Repairs cost more money and time when they are a result of a breakdown than they do when you make them proactively. When the HVAC system goes out, it costs sales, does brand damage, and negatively affects employee moral. When you change out a condensing unit over night because your data shows the life of the unit is ten years and you are at nine-and-a-half years, you get to avoid the negative consequences of it breaking down.

The modern FM will look for ways to keep their facilities and equipment operational and avoid costly breakdowns.

Identify trouble areas and create solutions.

The modern facilities manager connects dots and sees trends. They arm themselves with data to identify trouble areas. This data may show them they have a greater amount of plumbing issues in a particular store than any other store. Or perhaps a particular brand of equipment performs well in one region, but performs poorly in another.

If the pipes are freezing in some midwest stores, introducing a program to install heat-tape or heaters in all of those stores could save multiple locations from major damage.

A proactive approach to facilities management will lead the FM to identify these trouble areas early in the process and create solutions to solve them before they become major problems.

Build relationships with vendors.

This is a very important area. The best facilities maintenance programs will be the ones who work for with best maintenance contractors. As the the skilled tradesperson gap grows over the next decade, it will be increasingly important for facilities managers to to position themselves as a great company to work for.

To do this, they have great relationships with their contractors. This involves holding regular meetings with their contractors to understand their businesses, challenges, and invite feedback on how to strengthen the partnership between their companies.

They also need to be proactive and have these relationships in place before they need them to make a repair. They must avoid hiring a contractor on the fly because they were not prepared ahead of time.

Work with purchasing

FM’s have a unique perspective which they should leverage to help the purchasing department make better purchasing decisions. Because they are responsible for fixing things, they get to see what holds up to wear and tear, and what doesn’t.

Accordingly, they should use the data they gather to work with the purchasing department as well as store planning to help them avoid choosing materials and equipment that are prone to premature failure and instead select items that hold up longer.

Work with marketing

This is last because it is the most important. Modern FM’s should meet with and work with their marketing leaders to understand how they want their customers to experience their stores. Once they have have a solid understanding of this, they need to create solutions to help them create this experience through the facilities maintenance department’s tools and resources.

The modern facilities managment professional should not settle for simply fixing what is broken. They must work to be an integral member of the operations and marketing team by working with a proactive mindset and becoming indispensable to the whole organization.

How To Lead A Facilities Maintenance Department

Whether you are an experienced veteran or new to your role, there is always room to improve as a leader. This article lays out foundational advice for leaders in the facilities maintenance industry.

Accept responsibility for the outcome.

Strong leaders have many attributes, but I would say there is one that uniquely defines and informs a great leader: leaders choose to accept total responsibility.

Everything that happens under their leadership is their “fault.” I am intentionally using the word “fault” to illustrate a point. Fault carries a negative connotation. It’s used to assign blame. It’s associated with problems, and those problems are the leader's responsibility to solve, and they must face these problems with positivity and confidence.

The leader’s attitude sets the tone for the entire team. The leader drives performance—or doesn’t. And this applies not just to the most senior leader of an overall team, but the junior leaders of teams within the team.

Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

The point the authors make is when a leader demonstrates a high level of ownership and responsibility and chooses to own the outcome, their attitude and actions shape the attitudes and actions of those whom they are leading.

A leader who blames others creates a dysfunctional team. A leader who accepts blame develops more leaders. An ownership mindset moves a leader from trying to avoid blame to proactively looking for problems and weak points so they can address and correct them. This action inspires those they lead to do the same.

Understand your company’s expectations and define your goals for the department.

Great accomplishments start with clearly defined goals. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey says the first step towards effectiveness is to begin with the end in mind. You have to know where you want to go, or you can’t create a plan to get there.

A leader must clearly define the result a team is working towards and communicate it often. Otherwise, the entire team, including the leader, will waste time by reacting to work that comes their way.

There is a fallacy in the facilities maintenance industry that a facilities maintenance department’s role is to manage repairs and work orders. This is not true. Managing repairs and work orders is merely a component or function of a greater goal. A facilities maintenance leader must know or define what the greater goal is, and their team must also know.

Ashley Lawrence, Vice President Facilities for Inspire Brands, says her best advice for new FM leaders is “Understand the objectives of your organization so you can be best positioned to lead your team to maximize the value of a facilities management program. Many organizations view facilities management as an expense and don't realize the potential benefits. I'd encourage them to have a clear vision and articulate how facilities can benefit their organization within the context of the organization's overall objectives.”

Create a list of everything that needs to get done to achieve those goals.

Productive people know how to break down a goal into action. This is often referred to as reverse engineering. Once you have decided where you want to go, you work backward to create the directions on how to get there.

Maybe your goal is to decrease repair completion time from 7 days to 3 days in the next 12 months. This is a very clear and measurable goal. The next step in the process is to get your most talented team members in a room and ask this question: “If this is going to be true, what also must be true?”

Your team may determine that you need

  • a better way to manage repairs, so work orders don’t fall through the cracks.
  • two vendors for each of your major trades.
  • to create new processes altogether.
  • to design a role that is accountable for monitoring progress and processes to improve towards this goal.
  • to experiment with NTE’s.

The list your team comes up with should be an exhaustive list. Resist the urge to edit or critique an idea while you are brainstorming. When an idea or suggestion comes up in the conversation write it down. You don’t want to miss a gem because someone keeps a thought to themselves because they thought it would be shut down.

Order your list from what’s most important to least important.

Now that you have your list of steps to get to your goal, it’s time to pare down and focus on one or two areas. Why choose only one or two? In their incredible book, The 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX), Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling write:

If a team focuses on two or even three goals beyond the demands of their whirlwind, they can often accomplish them. However, if they set four to ten goals, our experience has been that they will achieve only one or two. They’ll be going backward! If they go after eleven to twenty goals in addition to the whirlwind, they’ll lose all focus. Confronted with so many goals the team members will stop listening let alone executing.

Focus increases your odds of accomplishing your goals, but what is the best way to figure out what to work on first? The 4DX authors offer a great question to help people clarify what is most important: If everything else stays the same, what is the one thing that will make the most significant impact in moving your team towards the goal?

You should expect to have differing opinions within your team, especially if they are talented people. Resist the urge to use your authority to make a decision. Your job is to ask clarifying questions and challenge the thought processes of those whom you lead. You never know what you will learn by asking questions and listening. Besides, great leaders develop great leaders. Don’t rob your team of the experience of healthy debate which grows their deep thinking and decision-making skills.

Determine what resources you need to accomplish your goals.

Great leaders put together strong teams and assemble the resources those teams need to get their job done.

Akira Bryson, Director of Design and Construction at The Meatball Shop says when hiring for your team, “[It is] important to look for problem solvers and people who can delegate but are eager to roll up their sleeves to resolve an issue.”

And once you have great people, you have to make sure everyone is clear on their role and what needs to be accomplished. “You can never over communicate. Your team's performance will benefit from the visibility you can provide to the big picture. It will help them better understand where they fit in, and they will know what is expected of them and be motivated to exceed expectations.” This is the biggest lesson Ashley Lawrence, Vice President Facilities for Inspire Brands, has learned in her career as a leader.

Once you have the right people on board, you need to make sure they have the right tools to get their job done. You want to avoid being a bottleneck. One of these tools is a decision-making framework.

On The Rich Roll Podcast, Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and Square, says that his job is to create systems that allow decisions to be made and action to be taken without his direct involvement. He might ask questions to determine why a particular decision was made and offer new perspectives for the future, but he aims to create an organization that can run in his absence.

You must also work to provide the right technology for your team. This includes computerized maintenance management software and computing devices that allow your team to be as mobile as possible. Your team needs high visibility about the state of work orders and ongoing projects as well as the ability to drill down into data for better decision making. Mobile computing devices (I love the iPad Pro) allow them to be in the field, visiting the facilities for which they are responsible while still being able to access all of their information and get their work done.

You must provide training to your team and set expectations that they continue to learn and grow. This should be a combination of company culture training, industry training, as well as other skill development. Check out resources like the Professional Retail Maintenance Association, the Restaurant Facilities Maintenance Association, the National Association of Convenience Stores, LinkedIn Learning, Lynda, and leadership development conferences.

Work with the best vendors.

The maintenance contractor landscape is changing. More people are retiring from skilled trades than there are entering into them. This is creating a hiring problem for maintenance contractors. Wages are increasing. The number of quality contractors is decreasing, and larger firms are purchasing smaller firms.

The days of reverse auctions and driving down rates are coming to an end. Great leaders in the FM space will focus on working with quality facilities maintenance contractors instead of the least expensive ones and will have a plan reducing costs through proactive management and reducing the number of break downs.

They will work to understand the challenges their vendors have in delivering services that meet their company’s needs and work with them to create mutually agreeable solutions. They will understand that to attract the best vendors they need to be the best customer.

For more information on working with vendors, check our How To Hold Your Maintenance Vendors Accountable Part One and Part Two.

Get the budget you need.

A great facilities maintenance department leader fights for a substantial budget to meet their goals. Facilities maintenance departments are traditionally seen as a cost center within businesses. I argue this is a short-sided ideology for companies that have public facilities and want people to come to them.

The physical space is the first thing with which customers interact. It should be high on the list of well-funded departments, and there should be a clear plan with both tremendous support and accountability to carry out the plan.

You have to create an experience for people to entice them to come to your physical location and spend money. Otherwise, they will order products online, cook at home, or choose another place that has a better experience than your company can provide.

Companies are intentional about

  • training their people to deliver excellent customer experiences.
  • product development and market research to make sure their offerings are consistent with what people want to buy.
  • design, marketing, and advertising to get people into their stores.

They should also be intentional about developing a facilities maintenance program that works to protect the physical components of their brand. They should focus on making their locations look as great as possible instead of spending as little as possible. This doesn’t mean facilities maintenance departments should spend recklessly, but it does mean they should be treated as equals to the marketing department.

Wrap up

Your ability to affect change in your organization is a direct correlation with your ability to lead. Spend time learning leadership, practicing what you learn, and growing your ability to influence.

The quotes used in this post by facilities maintenance professionals were used with permission by people who want to help others learn to be great FM leaders. Their opinions are their own, and in no way does the inclusion of their quotes infer endorsement or association with Envoy Facilities Maintenance, LLC, and its products or services.

How To Hold Your Facilities Maintenance Contractors Accountable Part Two

This article is divided up into two posts. This first post is about how to set up the right mindset for your company, your team, and your contractors. You can find that here.

This post is about creating a system for managing expectations and developing strong relationships.

On this blog, we share actionable advice and give away free tools for fro Facilities Maintenance Professionals. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss anything.

The three things every facilities manager wants.

Back when I managed a large self-performing maintenance company, I used to ask my customers, “What are your biggest frustrations with your current set of contractors?” or, “What can we do to become your favorite maintenance contractor?”

Their answers could always be boiled down to three main frustrations. First, they wanted better communication. Facilities managers hate sending a job to a contractor and then not finding out what was done until they received an invoice weeks (and sometimes months) later. They wanted to be kept in the loop every step of the way.

Second, they wanted follow through. The contracting industry has a reputation of not showing up, being late, and being non-commital. Maintenance management professionals are accountable to their leadership and they need to work with maintenance contractors who show up on time, complete work quickly, and stand behind their repairs.

Last, and it’s always last, is fair pricing. Facilities managers understand that hourly rates and markup have less to do with the cost of doing business with a contractor than do completion time, turnaround time, and quality of repairs. They are not looking for the cheapest price. They are looking for contractors who get the job done, charge a fair price, and don’t needlessly nickel-and-dime them to drive up an invoice.

These top three things every maintenance manager wants are not exhaustive, but they are the most important. From my experience in the industry, when these three things are managed and measured well, maintenance contractors perform well on other items too.

This is a principle that we believe in and teach. In order to make something better, decide on the top three most important things and create systems which focus on those things.

Vetting new maintenance contractors.

Since the three most important attributes of a great maintenance contractor are communication, follow through, and fair pricing, create a new contractor interview process designed to uncover whether or not a contracting company has these attributes. This can be done over the phone on a call that is about 45 minutes long. Your job on this call is to ask questions and listen. I always say it’s hard to learn when your mouth is moving.

Start the call by thanking them for their time and asking them to tell you about their company. Remember, let them talk. Avoid telling them what you want or talking about your company. You are listening for evidence that they put processes in place to deliver on the three things you need from your contractors.

Next, ask them to explain their process for managing a repair from beginning to end. Is it well thought out? Do they state what and when they communication updates. A red flag here is if they tell you they customize that they do for each customer. This sounds nice, but it’s difficult and problematic to operate with different processes. Of course, there may be things they will do specifically for you. There still needs to be a foundational set of processes they follow.

Ask them about who you will be working with on a regular basis and for them to explain that individuals role. You are are listening for evidence that there are clearly defined roles and that the individual as freedom to make decisions without having to consult their superior every time. It’s impossible to provide excellent customer service while being limited from making decisions. I find that when an organization does not trust their front-line people to make decisions, there is something wrong with they way they treat people, or something wrong with the person they are putting in the role.

Ask them about how they incorporate technology at their company? How do they automate repetitive tasks? Are they willing to interact with your software in order to provide a higher level of service and convenience to you? Is there someone responsible to learning and training their team on technology? This area is important because as your company grows, you are going to implement software to make your job easier. You will need to partner with contractors who are able to keep up.

Finally, ask for references. You absolutely must follow up with references. You will get more quality information about what it’s like to work with a company from other customers. Ask about what this prospective contractor does well and what they do poorly. Especially ask about times when they messed up. How did they respond? If everything checks out, send the contractor your company’s vendor on-boarding documents.

Create vendor on-boarding documents.

You absolutely must have vendor on-boarding documents. At a minimum they need to included:

  • A service agreement
  • An expectations agreement
  • A contractor information page

Your service agreement needs to be created by your companies legal counsel. It should be simple and outline the following along with any other terms which are important to your company.

  • The contractor relationship between you and your contractor
  • The fact that each work order is viewed as an independent contract for services performed
  • Payment terms
  • Insurance requirements
  • How conflicts will be handled
  • Points of contact for legal correspondence
  • Service rates along with an expiration time so rates can be adjusted if necessary

Your expectations agreement should outline just that: what you expect from your contractors. If it is in this document, you should also have a system for measuring and reporting on compliance. This will be important during routine reviews which we will cover later.

  • Communication guidelines: when, what, and to whom
  • Repair turnaround timelines
  • Invoice turnaround timelines
  • Required information for invoices
  • Warranty expectations
  • Work order workflow expectations
  • Software compliance expectations

The contractor information sheet is used for your team to reference when they need to discuss something with the contractor and will include the following.

  • Main point of contact with title, email, and direct phone
  • After hours point of contact with title, email, and direct phone
  • Escalation schedule (who to call next if you can’t get a hold of someone) with name, title, email, and direct phone

    Have a kick off call

Once you get all of the paperwork back, schedule a kick off call with everyone who will be working together on repairs. This call should take about 45 minutes. You will use this time to walk through a work order from beginning to end allowing each party to stop and explain what needs to be performed or communicated at each step. Take extra care to understand the roles and responsibilities of the contractor’s representatives. Take notes. Ask questions. Make sure everyone understands the answers to questions.

At the end of this call, everyone will have clarity around what a successful business relationship will look like. If everything goes well, and you are ready, give the contractor a trial for 3 months to see what it’s like to work with them.

Use not-to-exceeds (NTE’s).

If you are unfamiliar with this term, please go read our post on using NTE’s and then come back to this page.

In the early days of a new vendor relationship, set the NTE lower than you would normally set it. This will create more points of communication during a work order process and will give you opportunity to address questions and clarify expectations. Once you are comfortable, increase the NTE back to a normal range.

It is incredibly important that you hold your vendors accountable to obtaining NTE increases prior to performing work. Do not get into the habit of approving after the fact price increases. NTE’s are your most effective means of cost control. Be fair, but hold a firm stand. There will be situations where it will be unavoidable to approve pricing ahead of performing the work, however, these are extremely rare occasions.

Have regular review meetings.

At the beginning of each year, schedule one review meeting per quarter. Do this in advance, prioritize it. One week ahead of the meeting, pull reports on how the contractor is performing compared to the expectations. There should be one report per item on your vendor expectations agreement.

Start the meeting by asking your contractor for honest feedback on how things are going. Ask where they feel they are performing well as well as poorly. Ask them what they feel your company could be doing better.

Next go through each item and the report. Restate the expectation and how they are performing against the standard. For areas where they are performing poorly, ask them what challenges they are facing which keep them from being able to deliver according to standard. For easier where they are performing well, ask them what they are doing to perform so well.

Keep an open mind. If you see trends between your contractors performance, especially in areas where they are not performing well, and the reason are similar, the problem may be on your end. Revisit the expectation and determine a better way to solve the problem, or consider whether the expectation is necessary to begin with.

Distribute work orders fairly.

If you have a particular contractor who performs well, meet with them and send them more work. It will make your job easier. Explain to them why they are receiving more work and reiterate that they should keep that up. It will also make them more successful which in turn will make them more likely to prioritize your company. Take extra care to pay attention to service levels after you assign more work to make sure they remain the same.

If a contractor is not performing well, meet with them and reduce their work load. Explain to them where they need to improve and what will happen if they either improve or do not. Important! Unless there is gross negligence, dishonesty, or some other unethical offense, do not fire a vendor for a slip in performance. Always give them an opportunity to improve.

Growing from management to leadership.

I will end this post with one final word of advice. I heard Horst Schulze, co-founder of the Ritz-Carlton, say that he looks for people with vision, who can tell him where they want to go and what they want to accomplish. He said that people with vision are leaders. They see the world differently than managers who want to maintain the status quo. Managers ultimately fall behind while leaders pass them.

Your role is has to evolve from management to leadership. If you want to be able to have great success, you have to learn to lead.This requires you to look at your job from a completely new perspective. Every decision and action you take must be intentionally working towards a defined goal.

The reason so many facilities managers have problems “holding vendors accountable” is because they have problems holding themselves accountable to improving the way they run their departments or perform their jobs.

Start defining what you want, design a plan that gets you there, and then work the plan.

If like what you just read and want to hear more, sign up to receive new posts and article like this delivered straight to your email. You can either keep doing things the way you always have, or learn so you can make things better. It’s your choice.


How To Hold Your Facilities Maintenance Contractors Accountable Part One

This article is divided up into two posts. This first post is about how to set up the right mindset for your company, your team, and your contractors. The second post is about creating a system for managing expectations and developing strong relationships.

We work with facilities maintenance managers all over the country, and the one thing most ask for help with is finding and keeping great facilities maintenance contractors. Not surprisingly, contractors face a similar problem with finding qualified technicians. The greatest problem our industry faces is not a technology problem; it’s a people problem.

FM has a PR problem.

About seven years ago at a PRSM conference, I was attending an education session led by a national HVAC company when the speaker asked a question that sparked a realization for me. You can read more about that story here.

The bottom line is our culture has looked down on skilled trades for a very long time, so it’s no wonder it’s no surprise that more workers are retiring out of the industry than coming into it. You can read more about that here.

The reason it’s getting harder to find great contractors.

The cause is basic supply and demand principles. Since there are increasingly fewer skilled candidates, repair contractors are competing to hire them. They are paying higher wages to attract people to their companies and also to retain their current employees.The repair companies who do this well are able to provide better service to their customers, and are in high demand.

The repair companies who can’t attract quality candidates are constantly replacing business because their service quality suffers. There are highly skilled people who were running repair companies, and are now going back into the workforce because of they became burnt-out from their hiring challenges. As this consolidation occurs, there are fewer quality contractors.

The right mindset for your company.

Today’s consumer is not the same as it was 10 years ago. Where people shop and eat is as much of a fashion statement as it is a necessity. Thanks to the help social media, it is easier than ever to showcase personal taste and status. As a result customers demand a great experience when they choose to spend their money.

Consumers want well-designed, well-kept, and well-lit physical spaces. They must be visually appealing, making for great photos to share with their online peers. Additionally, they crave updates to the experience as a reason to return. Facilities maintenance departments should no longer be thought of as an afterthought, but instead give the same level of status an organization gives to branding and marketing.

Maintenance can no longer be seen as a passive and reactive component of the modern business. Well maintained physical spaces have a direct correlation to high customer satisfaction, high employee satisfaction (which drives customer satisfaction), lower employee turnover.

The modern facilities maintenance department is a highly professional, well-funded, integral component of creating incredible customer experiences.Accordingly, careful thought and consideration should be given towards creating clear expectations and healthy budgets for maintenance departments.

The right mindset for your team.

Many companies make the mistake of prioritizing hourly rate costs when they source for vendors. This is problematic because the mindset incentivizes a race to the bottom. And, when you race to the bottom, you eventually get there.

When companies prioritize cost over quality, they tend not to reach their goals in either category. They should prioritize quality first, and long-term cost will follow. Quality contractors want to work with quality customers, so finding and attracting better contractors starts with being a better customer in the same way that having a better relationship starts with being a better partner.

The good news is this is very simple, and it has everything to do with treating people they way you would want to be treated. Build a reputation of being a consistent and fair customer. View your vendors as partners who sit on the same side of the table as you and who partner with you to deliver exceptional customer experiences for your customers. They are part of your team, not the “other.”

The right mindset for your contractors

The same way you should have the goal of being your contractors' favorite customer, your vendors should have the goal of being your favorite partner to work with.

Since you are building a reputation of being consistent and fair, you should not settle for a partner who doesn’t strive to do the same. You are looking for a contractors who look at your stores and locations as if they are their own. That means they make thorough repairs, report problems without exaggerating the urgency or severity, charge fair prices, and stand behind their work.

There are common attributes to maintenance contractors who have the mindset described above. They are:

  • They have an actively involved owner

  • They have an office support team

  • They have internal training programs for trade knowledge and soft skills

  • They perform one trade (or related trades)

  • They have a local footprint with less than 30 miles of travel

  • They have fewer than 25 employees

At Envoy, we are advocates of our customers working with contractors who fit this archetype because they are more likely to provide higher quality repairs, better communication and customer service, and a lower average invoice than regional and national companies.

In the next part of this article, we will discuss best practice processes you can use to improve your vendor relationships. There will be actionable advice you can use immediately. Don’t miss it. Sign up and you will be notified when it goes live.


Why Use Not-To-Exceeds In Facilities Maintenance Management

nte post photo.jpg

A not-to-exceed amount, or NTE, is a useful tool for managing facilities maintenance costs and increasing communication with your service providers. Your company provides a dollar amount to service providers. If the service provider can complete the work for less than that amount, they make the repair. They will you for time and material. If they cannot, they will need to get approval from an authorized individual before making the repair.

This article will cover the objections to using NTE's and the best practices for effectively using NTE's for your service program.

NTE Objections

Objection number one: "My service providers will take advantage of NTE's and overcharge me."

The reason this objection exists is that there is truth behind it. There are people out there who take advantage of their customers.

You need to ask yourself, "Why are you choosing to work with people who take advantage of you?" Either you have trust issues, which you need to address before they permeate their way through your company, or you need to terminate your relationship with untrustworthy companies.

Additionally, there are checkpoints in place in place in a proper NTE workflow which will protect you from these situations should they occur.

Objection number two: "I need to know what is going on with my work orders."

The truth is, you only need to know what is going on with important and high-cost repairs. You're systems and processes should filter out unnecessary service requests, and you don't need to be interrupted about a simple fix on a non-emergency item.

Check out time management tips for facilities maintenance professionals.

With a well-thought-out NTE process, you will stay aware of essential items that need your attention, and eliminate distractions from less important ones.

Objection number three: "Am I getting the best prices?"

This objection has more to do with finding and vetting contractors, not NTE's. By finding and building relationships with quality service providers, setting up clear service expectations in writing, and regularly monitoring performance, you will get fair pricing.

Read our best practice on working with quality service providers.

NTE Best Practices

There are two strategies for setting NTEs.

The first strategy is based on the Pareto principle. You set your NTE for each trade so that eighty percent of all work is completed without needing an NTE increase. This strategy is best for companies with high service request volume who have limited staff and strong relationships with quality service providers.

The advantages of this strategy are facilities managers will have more time to spend on system and process improvement because they will be interrupted less frequently to make pricing decisions. Significant cost savings are the result of reducing the number of service requests across the entire company, so your facilities managers can spend less more time on this important work.

The second strategy is based on Parkinson's Law which is that cost always expands to the container it's given. Facilities managers choose to set the NTE high enough to provide a service provider time to travel to the location and either troubleshoot the issue or make a small repair. This strategy results in lower average invoices and is best for companies who have maintenance management software in place to manage service requests.

The advantage of this strategy is a lower average invoice, but you lose out on the time savings unless your maintenance software can automate the approval and rejection process.

No matter which strategy you choose, you will still review job costs regularly, and discuss outliers and irregularities with your service providers. Making your service providers aware that you pay attention to prices will result in lower average invoices and better relationships.

If you would like more tips on starting and running an effective facilities maintenance program, be sure to download our free eBook.

How To Get Started With Asset Management

Asset Management.jpg

You know you need to keep track of your facilities' assets and equipment, but you don't know where to start. You don't even have an inventory of your assets, let alone asset warranty information, service history, or cost. And with the number of locations you are managing, organizing all of this information is an overwhelming task.

Don't worry. Starting an asset management process is simpler than you think. You need the right strategy and the proper process to make it happen. The good news is you already have every resource you need to pull this off.

How to decide what information should you gather.

The first step in starting your asset management process is deciding what information you should track. While this varies based on your goals for your asset management program, the necessary information you need to gather is:

  1. Asset Type (i.e. Roof Top Unit, Walk-In Cooler, Oven, Fuel Dispenser, etc)

  2. Asset Name/ID (Use 1-001 as a best practice, where 1 is your location number and 001 is the actual asset number, starting from one. This will make it easier to keep track of later.)

  3. Manufacturer

  4. Model Number

  5. Serial Number

  6. Purchase Date

  7. Installation Date

  8. Purchased From

  9. Replacement Cost

  10. Installed By

  11. Labor Warranty Expiration Date

  12. Material Warranty Expiration Date

  13. Other Warranty Type

  14. Other Warranty Expiration Date

We created a spreadsheet template for you which you can download here.

How to collect your asset information.

Most companies get stuck at this stage because they worry about the time and cost to obtain the information. While this concern is entirely understandable, be encouraged that the investment will pay for itself. The average multi-location business pays for at least one unnecessary maintenance repair a month. Foodservice businesses, like restaurants and convenience store chains, may see that number as high as three to four unnecessary repairs costs given the amount of equipment they have in their facilities.

The first time you prevent an unnecessary maintenance repair cost your company will see a return on your initial time or money investment. There are three cost-effective ways to gather your information.

Have your people do it.

Your district or area manager is the ideal person for this task for two reasons. They should already be in your locations regularly. You will only need to train one person for each district or area. Simply create a process outlining which equipment's information, you will need and provide them with the asset tracking template you just downloaded. Have them create a tab on the spreadsheet for each location they visit.

The only information you will need to look up later is the warranty information which you can obtain through the manufacturer's customer service departments.

Have your maintenance vendors do it.

This option is more expensive. However, you may feel you will receive more accurate information. The same process applies here that applies to the district/area manager strategy.

Whichever strategy you choose, be sure to provide clear expectations and a deadline for the project to increase your success.

How to prevent unnecessary repairs.

Now that you have all of your asset information you need a process for tracking repair history, new repairs and checking for warranty status. This process should look like the following.

When a location reports a new maintenance issue, you will want to troubleshoot the problem with the person who reported it. You are looking for common problems which can resolve without hiring a contractor. Common issues are power supply problems, incorrect settings, or restarting the equipment.

If you cannot resolve the problem through basic troubleshooting, review the warranty status of the equipment and the repair history.

If the equipment is under warranty, you will assign the repair to the warranty contractor for a free repair.

If the equipment was serviced recently, you should assign the repair to the contractor who maintained it last as a workmanship recall. If the issue is the result of an improper or incomplete repair, you should hold your contractor accountable for making a proper fix.

Otherwise, hire a contractor to repair. Provide them with a not-to-exceed dollar amount (NTE) which will give them enough time to troubleshoot the issue or make a minor repair. For more extensive repairs, they will need to provide you with additional back up and a price to repair. This will keep you informed and give you the opportunity to make sure you receive a fair price.

How to track service history.

Every time you service your equipment, you need to log the following information:

  1. The date of service

  2. The original issue

  3. The assigned contractor

  4. The resolution

  5. The cost

Every time you have a new repair, update the amount of money you have spent repair the equipment. This is valuable data you can use to determine whether to replace an asset or continue repairing it in the future.

Final Notes

You can manage this entire process on a spreadsheet. However, the best and easiest way to do asset management and facilities maintenance management is with maintenance management software.

At Envoy, we have made the simplest maintenance management software in the industry while still being a leader in powerful features and automation. You will stop wasting time and money with our software, and you can try it out completely free.

How To Find The Best Maintenance Vendors

Photo by  David Siglin  on  Unsplash

Before we get into the topic of finding the best service contractors, we would like to share with you a story from Envoy’s CEO, Scott Reyes:

“About seven years ago at a Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association conference, I was attending an education session led by a national HVAC company. Near the end of the session, the speaker asked:

‘How many of you in this room have children?’

Most of the people in the room raised their hand.

‘How many of you with your hands raised dream of your children growing up to be HVAC technicians?’ he added.

Only a few hands were still raised, and I recognized a couple of them. They had their hands raised because they ran HVAC companies.

Our culture and our industry have looked down on skilled trades for a very long time. This is difficult to see in the mirror and painful to admit to ourselves. It is, however, very true.

We do it in the way we value a college education over a technical trade education. We do it in the way we pay vendors and technicians, always looking for the lowest rate. We treat people like a commodity, a throwaway thing, and then get frustrated when these same people whose jobs we do not value and whose careers we do not want our children to pursue, don't meet our expectations.

So to me, it starts with being more human. It begins with giving people the dignity, trust, and value they deserve. It starts with relationships.

Contracts, agreements, and expectations are all great and necessary parts of the process. But they are meaningless outside of a foundation built on relationships.

This is what I believe.

Treating people well and listening will fix most problems. It starts with giving people dignity.

I tell you this story to make this point. If you treat your service contractors like a means to an end or a commodity, they will treat you the same way. However, if you approach these business relationships, and all of your others, like relationships, you will find you have partners who watch your back.”

That being said, there are five simple attributes which we find great service contractors possess.


This means the contractor works in the same community they live in, often not traveling more than 30 miles.

Single Trade

They perform one trade or a set of related trades (HVAC and refrigeration).

Active Owner

They have a knowledgeable and actively involved owner. Companies with involved owners tend to have better trained and more professional field technicians.

Office Manager or Dispatcher

They have an office manager or dispatcher. This is someone in the office who communicates updates, manages schedules, and can work with your CMMS.

$2 Million Insurance Policy

Companies with at least $2 million in general liability insurance are more established companies and can name your company as an additional insured. This covers your liability in addition to theirs.

If you stick to hiring vendors with these characteristics, you will find more professional service, better response time, faster work completion times, and lower average invoices.

Time Management For Facilities Maintenance Professionals

When I talk to facilities maintenance professionals, time management is one of the topics that routinely comes up as a significant challenge.

It's easy to understand. Facilities maintenance management is a tough job. There are endless problems to solve, people to serve, contractors and technicians to manage, and costs to control. It's common for a to-do list to get out of control.

Over my career, I have developed and taught a time management strategy to facilities maintenance managers which helps eliminate the overwhelming nature of the day-to-day work.

It's based on the principle of grouping work into four categories and then prioritizing them correctly.

Important and Urgent: This is work that is both critical to your success and requires immediate attention. (i.e., an emergency work order)

Important and Non-urgent: This is work that is critical to your success, but does not require immediate attention. (i.e., developing a process, working on vendor relations, or getting updates on work orders)

Unimportant and Urgent: This is work that is neither critical to your success, but distracts you and tries to get your attention. (i.e., email, responding to other departments' questions)

Unimportant and Non-urgent: This is work that is neither critical to your success, nor does it require your immediate attention. (i.e., social media, a conversation with a coworker, reading the "news")

This is the order in which you should prioritize your work. However, people tend to fall into the trap of spending the most time on Unimportant and Urgent tasks. They answer every email and phone call as it comes in, no matter what the importance of the incoming requests are.

In the facilities maintenance world, this means that more time is spent on new work orders, giving updates to people when they are asking for them, and not being able to focus on a single task for longer than a couple of minutes.

There is a correct way for facilities managers to order their day which will lead to immediate improvements in creating more time and reducing the length of a work order's lifecycle. This method will result in better vendor relationships, lower costs, higher efficiency, and higher effectiveness over time. Finally, facilities management professionals who put this method in place will have more time to work on improving their facilities maintenance programs.

Facilities maintenance managers need to stack their day for success. They have to start their day working on important work that will make for less work later in the day.

Start your day with emergency work orders. A real emergency is only an emergency when it affects the sales, safety, or security of the business. If it does not fall into this category, do not work on it. If it is in this category, it takes priority over anything else you are doing, no matter the time of day.

Next, update every work order every day. This may sound like a lot of work, and it will be a lot of work at first. It is, however, the most important work a facilities manager can perform to influence the performance of their program positively. You will need a way to track this process. If you don't have a facilities maintenance software, you will want to use a spreadsheet to keep track of every open work order, the status, and the updates over time. There is a list of the information you need to track in our free eBook. You can download it here.

Start with your oldest work order. Pick up the phone can call the contractor the work order is assigned to and ask for an update. While you have the contractor on the phone, ask for updates on every work order assigned to them. If you are unable to get an update, make a to-do to follow up later in the day. Repeat this process until you complete every open work order. I have a great video on how to get what you want on a phone call on LinkedIn. Here is a link. I highly suggest you watch it to improve your effectiveness on the phone.

Once you get through your list, go ahead and check email and voicemail. You might have answers from your follow up requests waiting for you in one of those inboxes. Don't get distracted by anything that is not important to getting work order updates. You will have time to work through other items later.

Next, work on assigning new work orders to contractors and all of the to-do's you created earlier when you could not get satisfactory updates.

After you follow up on all of your open work orders and to-do's entirely, work on email and voicemails again. Clear out your inbox, archiving and deleting anything you do not need.

If you put this strategy into place, you will find you start getting updates without asking for them because you will train your contractors and the people you work with on your expectations. You will get through your daily updates more quickly, and you will have more time to work on making improvements to your processes.

I hope you found this article helpful. If you would like to learn more about our best practices and strategies for running effective maintenance programs, you can download our free eBook, "How to Start a Maintenance Program."


Are You Tracking Your Assets Properly?

We have created an easy to use spreadsheet to get you started. Download it free by dropping your e-mail address below.


There are three main reasons you will benefit from compiling an accurate asset and equipment list for each location you are responsible for.

First, you will have an detailed list of your equipment for tracking and accounting purposes. Second, you will be able to track the lifetime spend and repair history on your equipment which will help you save money and make better decisions on whether to repair or replace equipment and assets. Third, you will know which equipment/assets are under warranty and avoid paying for repairs and even voiding your warranty. The following is the minimum information you need to track.

  1. Asset Type (i.e. Roof Top Unit, Walk-In Cooler, Oven, Fuel Dispenser, etc)

  2. Asset Name/ID (Use 1-001 as a best practice, where 1 is your location number and 001

    is the actual asset number, starting from one. This will make it easier to keep track of


  3. Manufacturer

  4. Model Number

  5. Serial Number

  6. Purchase Date

  7. Installation Date

  8. Purchased From

  9. Replacement Cost

  10. Installed By

  11. Labor Warranty Expiration Date

  12. Material Warranty Expiration Date

  13. Other Warranty Type

  14. Other Warranty Expiration Date

How To Manage Maintenance

If you are reading this, chances are you are feeling some pressure around maintaining your facilities and equipment. When your locations were newer and fewer, maintenance wasn’t as much of a hassle. That’s no longer the case.

Download our free eBook, How To Start A Maintenance Program.

Your list of maintenance issues is growing. You are spending more time managing repairs. You need to make decisions about what to prioritize. There is too much information to keep in your head, and you need to figure out who is going to start managing it all.

Most multi-location companies wait too long before putting maintenance processes and programs in place. They react to the problem from a position of pain instead of designing an effective program from the start.

But where do you start?

You will learn

  1. Signs of an effective maintenance program

  2. Where most maintenance efforts start and why they fail

  3. The qualities to look for in a maintenance management hire

  4. Processes for managing maintenance, including a detailed work order management workflow

  5. What information is worth tracking and how to track it

  6. What to look for in maintenance management technology

  7. How to find and vet quality contractors