The FM Professional

7 Ways to get the best results from your contractors

David Spence
December 12th, 2013

Are you managing facilities with smart outsourcing?

1. Do your research

The first step in successful outsourcing is doing your research and understanding your options. Talk to other facility managers in your area to see who they recommend. Once you’ve identified a few choices, look at the contractor’s reputation. You can narrow your inspection even further by asking whether the company’s workers have certain certifications in the field of work you need. Other things to look for include a team of long-term workers rather than seasonal ones, and a willingness to share their individual workers’ past job history, experience, and qualifications.

2. Know exactly what you need

After you’ve selected a contractor, give a  detailed description of the work that will be required. For example, say you hire a contractor to maintain the plumbing system. How exactly do you define “maintain”? You and the contractor may have very different ideas about what the word means. To ensure you’re on the same page, CE Maintenance Solutions president Michael Cowley suggests you talk about your expectations right from the beginning when you use words like “fix, repair, inspect, monitor, or perform.” Define what these terms mean for you and your facility.

You may have one idea of what your FM contractor will be doing for you, but their idea could be totally different. That’s why it’s important to discuss your needs up front. Draw up a detailed list of what services you’re seeking. When you’re getting these expectations down in writing, also look for any terms that the contractor could misinterpret and clarify where necessary.

3. Ask for a game plan

Once the contractor knows exactly what you need, he or she should be able to tell you exactly how they plan to meet those needs. Learning this information will reassure you of two things. First, you’ll see whether the contractor has the right experience and expertise for the project (if they can’t lay out a specific game plan, then they aren’t the right person for the job). Second, you’ll also know whether the work may overlap with regular business operations, and you can plan to make the necessary adjustments accordingly.

In addition to outlining your expectations of the FM contractor, you may also need to cover what they’re not responsible for. This can be useful when your facilities department consists of both in-house and outsourced staff. It’s important that each party understands individual roles and obligations, especially if you’re bringing the outsourced staff to take care of areas that your in-house staff originally handled. If those expectations aren’t outlined from the outset, doubling up on tasks could happen, which will be a loss of both time and productivity.

4. See how they communicate

Good contractors should be willing to provide a detailed progress report at the end of each day or week. Otherwise, you may find yourself with a project that lasts longer than projected, costs that run above the initial estimates, and logistical headaches that arise as a result of both. Clear and consistent communication is a must.

5. Investigate their safety methods

An accident is the last thing anybody wants, so when you’re researching contractors, ask companies about their safety practices. Do the workers’ supervisors receive regular safety training? How do they prepare workers for potential hazards, like accidents, respiratory dangers, or hazardous waste exposure? Even better, is the contractor a member of the American Society of Safety Engineers? Are they insured? Ask the questions you need to know to protect your employees and company.

6. Talk about a back-up plan

If a repair part gets damaged, how soon can they replace it? For time-sensitive projects, a contingency plan can be crucial. Without one, you could lose a large amount of time and money waiting for the project to be completed.

The last thing you want is to be stuck in a contract with a service that doesn’t live up to your expectations. This just leads to drained money and mounting frustration. To prevent either of these from happening, you’ll also need to think about what situations may justify ending the service. A continuous failure to perform the duties agreed upon could be one example. Shoddy maintenance work might be another. Though contingency planning can be difficult at first, it may pay off in the long run—especially if it accounts for situations that would lead to legal disputes without the proper checks in place.

Outsourcing FM is not a decision to be taken lightly. Rather than rushing into a contract, give yourself time to do some research, talk to different companies and see which one will be the best fit for your organization

7. Ask about a long-term commitment

Is the contractor available for routine maintenance and check-ins once the work has been completed? If so, your team will be better able to dedicate more of their own time to their individual responsibilities. With this arrangement, your assets will be in good hands, and your workers will have fewer demands on their time and attention.

Choosing a contractor is much like shopping for any good or service. You just need to know what to look for, and which questions to ask.

image credit: 89studio/