Should you outsource your Facility Maintenance Services?
This is a question that more and more people are asking as the retail landscape continues to evolve. As with all services that can be outsourced, there are some areas where it doesn't make sense, and others where it is a no-brainer. A preventative maintenance program should be in the latter category, and below are some reasons why.
The money value of time
In my opinion, paying $8 for someone else to wash my car makes much more sense than doing the job myself. By the time you figure in the cost of supplies including water, cleaning solutions, and laundry detergent for the dirty rags, as well as my time, $8 is a bargain. On the flip-side, it doesn't make economical sense to have a tax professional prepare our annual filing, as tools such as Turbo Tax provide a step by step guide for the tax novice. However, this obviously isn't something that a large company could do when they rely on the knowledge and experience of their trusted tax partner.
What to consider
Let's take a look at some factors that you should consider when deciding whether or not to outsource the facility maintenance needs of your portfolio of retail stores.
Do you have the number of service calls that justifies partnering with a management firm? You could be on the low end of things in a relatively new business with just a handful of stores where you are only handling 5 calls per week. This is easily managed by 1 person, so long as they have trusted vendors with the required trade knowledge in place.
On the flip-side of things, you might be part of a huge corporation with several hundred stores where it makes sense to build an internal facilities team. A higher volume of service requests creates the work needed to justify full time employees, and you also have the capability to hire trade experts.
The place where it typically makes most sense to outsource is in the Goldilocks realm where you don't have too few stores, or too many stores, but just the right number. This is usually somewhere in the 10 - 250 range depending on the nature of the business, the complexity of the store environment, the age of the business, and the company's philosophy.
You will sometimes see companies with less than 10 stores outsource their needs as they are looking to get the systems in place that will allow them to scale efficiently and effectively. On the other end of the spectrum, some larger companies will look to outsource if they are consolidating their portfolio of properties and are looking to reduce the overhead associated with a full internal team.
One of the most popular reasons for partnering with an external management company is to increase the efficiency of your operations. Sure, you could probably solve the problem yourself if you spend enough time research the web, watching YouTube videos, and listening to podcasts, but is this an intelligent use of your time? By partnering with trade experts your problems will be dealt with sooner and will be solved. With this idea you need to consider the money value of time concept.
Even though your store is only open from 10am to 8pm, an issue could occur at any time of the day. If a storm hits and takes out your electricity impacting your lighting, security, POS, network, and HVAC you need a rapid response to minimize downtime and lost revenue. A burst pipe leading to flooding can significantly damage product if not dealt with properly.
The challenge here is that you as a facility maintenance professional have much more interests outside of work. You have family, friends and loved ones you want to spend time with, your health to look after, and a social life to help you relax. By partnering with a project management company you will have peace of mind that your stores are in good hands, and you won't be putting out literal or figurative fires come Monday morning.
One internal solution here is to run all of your after-hours service requests through a customer service call center or IT help-desk. The challenge here is that they are just a messenger as they do not have the required trade knowledge and it is unlikely that they will be able to solve the problem. Does it make sense to implement this "solution" when the problem will ultimately remain as it does in this popular TV commercial?
The complexity of your problems plays a huge role on the cost-benefit analysis of outsourcing. If you are in buildings that contain highly complex equipment, there are going to be huge benefits to outsourcing. When you need knowledgeable trade experts at your fingertips, having a partner with these resources available 24/7 is much easier than trying handle things yourself. A management partner will also have more power when it comes to receiving priority service as they can provide higher work volume. This means that they will be able to pass this expeditious service onto you and your stores which keeps everyone at your firm happy!
In the ever changing retail world, maintenance budgets are typically shrinking as companies look to save money. However, this is often a very shortsighted approach as they neglect the inevitable increase in repair and replacement costs, as well as store downtime and it's negative impact on brand strength and revenue.
Responsibility and burden
This is a very simple one: Do you want to be the person who is responsible for everything related to the maintenance of your stores or would you rather pass this onto someone else? By outsourcing your partner will now assume accountability for all items related to maintenance, allowing you to spend your time more wisely on higher level matters.
Store environment, appearance and safety
The health and sanity of facility maintenance professionals is unfortunately something that is often neglected. If you are the entire facilities team and are responsible for the upkeep of your entire portfolio, I know that I now have your attention! Although you have the required skill-set and are capable of handling this workload, it is not sustainable. Sooner or later your health is going to be negatively impacted, you will start being absent from work due to stress and exhaustion, and ultimately you will burn out and move onto another position. You need to make sure that you are taking care of yourself and are maintaining your health as well as your stores.
At the end of the day, each situation is unique and you are going to make the best decision given your circumstances. The two key pieces of advice to remember are:
1. Don't forget the human factor - Be sure to include the human component of facility management. Piling an overwhelming amount of work on one person's shoulders will cause things to fall through the cracks, health problems which result in HR challenges, and increased store downtime. There is also a chance that your repair and replacement expenses will rise as you will be putting out fires instead of working on longer term maintenance strategies to increase the life expectancy of your assets.
2. Work on rather than in the business - Far too many people spend the majority of their time in the weeds instead of working on higher level strategic items. Many people fear outsourcing due to job insecurity, but this is often irrelevant. By partnering with an external company, you will now spend your time managing them and having them put out the fires, which will allow you to work on more important matters such as budgets, strategic preventive maintenance programs, and capital replacement programs. You will be the hero as your facilities will be immaculate, your store managers will be happy, and you will actually be saving money as you are spending your time on preventative instead of corrective maintenance.
Look into the benefits of outsourcing by connecting with fellow FMS professionals, attending trade-shows through organizations such as PRSM and IFMA, and run pilot programs to get a taste of how a trusted partner can help take your facilities to the next level.
If you would like to discuss things further, please schedule a consultation with one of our facility maintenance professionals. We will listen to your current challenges, get an understanding of your work volume, and provide you with suggestions to reach your goals. If we are unable to provide you with the solutions you need, we will connect you with one of our trusted partners so that you can continue the conversation if you so wish.