How to Choose the Right Vendors for Your Facility

From groundskeeping and HVAC maintenance to carpet cleaning and window washing, vendors are a vital part of building operations. Since not everything can be handled in-house, having external partners to handle certain tasks is essential.

For facility managers, a reliable vendor can be an amazing asset—providing you peace of mind, enabling you to focus on your core responsibilities, and helping maximize your budget. On the other hand, working with an unreliable vendor can make life that much harder for an FM. An ineffective or inefficient vendor can cost you time and money, and add to your workload and stress.

That’s why developing strong vendor partnerships is key. Choosing the right vendor can mean the difference between consistent quality and constant headaches. So how can you tell the good vendors from the not-so-good vendors?

7 Things Every FM Should Consider When Choosing a Vendor

While there’s no foolproof formula for choosing the best vendor, here are a handful of things to keep in mind…

1. Look at the history

There’s value to longevity. A company that’s been around for a significant amount of time has usually stuck around for a reason. It signals they have attained a high level of knowledge, possess all the necessary equipment and tools, and know how to get the job done.

Choosing an established organization with years or decades in business is always a smart play. It shows you they have a solid foundation and most likely won’t be going out of business anytime soon, leaving you high and dry. It lowers your risk.

2. Seek specific expertise

This is key in many cases. Rather than choosing a vendor based on just the company alone (though that’s still important), choose a company with expertise solving the specific problem you’re facing. A specialist will likely do a better job of handling your issues than a company that offers a laundry list of services.

For instance, if you’re looking for a company to perform maintenance on specific equipment, find vendors who know that equipment well. If you’re looking to remove deep stains from your carpets, find a company with the proven ability to do that. This will help you narrow down your vendor pool and increase the likelihood you’ll find a vendor that’s a good match.

3. Think long term

Ideally, you want to find a vendor you can work with for years. This will help your operations run smoother and save you money. With an established vendor relationship, you have a good idea of costs. And you can avoid the added costs of constantly testing out new vendors.

The question is: How do you know upfront which vendors will be effective long-term partners? One thing to take note of is how they discuss their services. If they make suggestions for ways to save you money in the long run, or things they can do to help better preserve your equipment or facility today to prevent future problems, that’s usually a good sign.

4. Determine the value of proximity

Though not always essential, location can be a factor in choosing a vendor. While it may not necessarily matter if your cleaning crew is headquartered 45 minutes away, with something like plumbing it’s a good idea to have someone in the more immediate vicinity should an emergency occur.

5. Read into references

Getting references (and thoroughly checking them) is key to choosing a reliable vendor. Hearing what other customers have to say can provide important insight. Just make sure you’re really listening to what those clients are saying.

Take note of how the client talks about the vendor. Do they use standard language like “they completed the job” with vague details? Or are they more emotional and enthusiastic, saying things like “they did an amazing job” and providing some specifics of the projects? Also be sure to ask directly, “would you recommend this vendor to us?”

6. Consider the impact of the cost

Without question, cost will be a major factor every time you’re choosing a vendor. FMs have a budget to work with and limited wiggle room with what they can pay. But remember cost is more than just a single number. You have to gauge the return with the price.

Most FMs have learned at some point in their careers that the cheapest option is not always the best option. Be sure to keep this in mind. Ultimately, a vendor that delivers exceptional service, who you work with for years, who has a higher price tag, is a better value than a low-cost vendor who does poor quality work or doesn’t show up at all.

7. Don’t ignore your gut

While all of the above are important things to consider when choosing a vendor, you should also trust your instincts. Don’t ignore those little red flags that pop up when you talk to a vendor. Give weight to your FM intuition.

If you have to overcome some trepidation before going with a particular vendor, that’s usually a bad sign. In order for a vendor relationship to work, both sides need to be confident the other will deliver on their promises. Without confidence, the relationship probably won’t work.

What do you think is the most important attribute to look for when choosing a vendor for your facility? Share your thoughts by commenting below.