Many restorers get their first commercial water-damage project through an acquaintance, or by referral from a previous successful project in the residential or janitorial arena. Although many of the people involved seem to have the same job description, most of these jobs are more complex, and there are a few additional people that need to be acknowledged for a most-successful project.
I define a successful commercial project as one in which the building owner, management staff, the occupants and insurance company are happy with the timely restoration and costs involved, and the restorer gets paid on time for the work performed. Hey, stop laughing; I was very successful in all these areas, including getting paid on time, or at least in a timely manner, because I knew how to communicate with the proper people. Zig Zigler says it best: “You can get what you want if you just help enough of the right people get what they want.” So the trick is to find out who the right people are, figure out what they really want and give it to them.
This time out we’re talking about people on the projects themselves, so let’s begin with the fundamentals. There are three sets of people who have influence on most commercial projects:
- The Owner, Management & Maintenance group
- The Tenants & Occupants group (the owner’s customers) and
- The Insurance group
So let’s start with the power train, the Owners. The owner may be a corporation or an individual, and may or may not manage the structure. You may not get the chance to speak with the owners themselves; you may just deal with their representative, the property management company. Either way, the goal of this group is simple: to continue an income stream from tenants or insurance, and to have their building restored back to pre-loss or better condition in the most timely and cost-efficient manner. This is the group you want to set up your contracts with and that will generally have the final say in what shall be done to restore the building. They are ultimately responsible for your payment, and they should understand this; you need to include this in your contract.
One of the most important members of this group is the maintenance staff, more specifically the building engineer. If you are working on a structure that has a dedicated building engineer, it is vitally important that you show them what they want the most: respect for them and their building. Yes, I said “their” building; it is their baby you are working on, so give them the respect they deserve. After all is said and done upstairs, they are the ones who work in the building on a daily basis. They control the mechanical and electrical systems you will need, and they have the authority to clear loading docks, elevators and grant immediate access. These are all things you will need to make the project go smoothly. So make friends, not enemies, with these people.
Do these tenants need to be in business while restoring, which might require working at a lower temperature and somewhat slower pace, or can they close over the weekend or for a short time so you can restore hot and fast? You should allow them the choice if there is one.
Put yourself in their shoes; if your business was damaged, being able to service your customers and continuing a revenue stream is most important. As my great grandfather Captain John Bruning said when he established our family restaurant in 1849, “The most important thing about being in business is staying in business.” So work with the individual business owners, and in the process you will generate happy customers for your customer, the owner.
Now for the brakes or control, the Insurance group. Of course, everyone thinks immediately of the adjusters; after all, they are the most prominent people and they do have a lot of say. But one must look past them and understand what makes the insurance clock tick. Our insurance adjusters do not rule their world alone; if so it would be much easier to deal with insurance companies as a whole. They have many other people to satisfy that you may never meet, so help the adjuster in their task and you will be rewarded.
An adjuster’s goal is a complex one of keeping the insured happy so they renew the policy, closing the file as quickly as possible and keeping the insurance companies monetary losses to a minimum. We help by drying and restoring, which reduces time and money spent. If we focus on keeping the owners and tenants happy, we also help the adjuster with the renewal of insurance.
Keep in mind, there is a behind-the-scenes person who is only concerned about the money: the auditor. They have no concerns about time or happiness, only money, and they never see the job. So if you want them to do their paperwork (read: authorizing your check) on time, you want to give them your paperwork on time. Your paperwork should be complete and orderly and include documentation showing how much money you saved them.
Always keep in mind what the person you are working for wants. Provide them with it and they should reward you; if they don’t, you may want to look for new people to work with. Keep your relationships plentiful, your paperwork complete and your contracts signed.
Until next time…