How managers can move their organization from reactive emergencies to planned activities
Angela Testa, senior vice president of operations at American Campus Communities, strengthens operations without compromising a healthy work environment
There are several important areas of information that should be requested in the RFI from prospective facility service providers. First, ask for a company’s mission statement and corporate environmental policy or sustainability statement. These will explain why the company exists and how it demonstrates environmentally responsible services while ensuring sustainable business practices from its suppliers and for its employees.
Reviewing a company’s mission statement provides a general perspective on its core values and how important sustainability is compared with other agendas. Facility executives will gain insight on what is guiding management and employees in making critical decisions. The sustainability policy or statement may include information on a company’s experience with LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance or other green building and green cleaning initiatives.
Facility executives should request information on the specific green components of their program and what makes their green cleaning program different from a traditional program. In addition, request information on specific green cleaning products including chemicals, janitorial paper (if supplied by the provider), powered equipment, etc., and the certification standards (i.e. Green Seal and Environmental Choice) or if the products are “self-certified.” Additional information should cover how they collect data on an ongoing basis to ensure that the company will be using these products over the life of the contract.
It is important to understand how companies are planning for the future and the path by which they will achieve their prescribed goals. The cleaning industry is comprised of more than 100,000 companies, many of which are small, family-owned or start-up ventures, so finding out how an organization plans for continuity and succession can help facility executives ensure that succession or continuity does not become a problem during the performance period.
Part of this is finding out about the company’s organization. An overall organizational chart for the facility service provider is an important tool for understanding the depth and breadth of the company. This chart demonstrates the flow of communication that supports site-specific requirements and whether the company will have adequate management supervision to ensure a consistently acceptable level of cleaning.
The organizational chart will also be an introduction to the company’s service delivery model. While green cleaning products are important, the real key to long-term success is the people. Thus the RFI should request details about the staffing components of the project including the proposed corporate management support, account management support and operational staffing for the specific building.
When asking for this information, facility executives should request brief background information on the employees who will be managing or supervising the project. It may also be important to determine if and how much experience the company has with day-time cleaning when the building is occupied. Day-cleaning can have significant energy savings (and environmental benefits) compared to cleaning at night when the building is otherwise unoccupied.
The RFI should also inquire about the company’s administrative systems, which can significantly affect the success of the ultimate cleaning operation. In the RFI, include questions that provide information on the supplier’s policies for recruiting, retaining and training the future staff of the account. Responses typically can separate facility service providers who are “flying by the seat of their pants” from ones who have an established and functioning program for addressing these critical personnel issues.
Quality control issues are also a critical part of the RFI. It is not uncommon for the quality control process (QCP) to vary greatly among facility service providers. When evaluating a supplier’s QCP consider the feasibility, the continuous manageability and the performance metrics outlined in the program. The QCP will determine whether the service requirements are being met and where there are opportunities for improvement. A comprehensive QCP should include a communication and training plan, as well as the measurement tools that will be used to determine the ongoing success of the operation.
The RFI should also request evidence of corporate compliance with all state, federal and country jurisdiction and regulatory requirements. These documents are readily available to the facility service providers and should be presented in their response to the RFI. Corporate compliance documents include documents that demonstrate proper insurance. These include but are not limited to worker’s compensation insurance, employer’s liability insurance, auto insurance, general liability insurance and possibly immigrations compliance. When requesting evidence of these documents, facility service providers should be informed that the winning provider will be required to name the facility and facility management as additionally insured on its various insurance policies.
Finally, ask for references. References provide an important opportunity to evaluate whether the facility service provider has experience similar to the type of green cleaning project being proposed. When seeking references in the RFI, ask for specific names and phone numbers, as well as the square footage, staffing, length of service and performance metrics used. Placing a quick call can provide important insights that can help facility executives assess what they might expect at their building. Furthermore, an unscheduled site visit is an excellent method for validating the reference.
The RFI process is designed to weed out facility service providers who are not in a position to meet the green cleaning requirements, which in the end will save time and money during the evaluation process. There may not be right or wrong answers to any of these questions — facility executives will have to use their best judgment as to what might best meet their needs. And then, facility executives should determine how many bidders should move on to the RFP process.
For example, imagine that the RFI process results in 30 responses, 10 of which clearly cannot meet the needs, 10 that have demonstrated an ability to execute a quality green cleaning program, and 10 somewhere in the middle where some doubts or questions still remain. In this case, facility executives might simply decide to move forward with only the 10 respondents who clearly demonstrated their capability. This is a sizable pool from which to select a provider and will make the bidding process more time- and cost-efficient.
After receiving the responses from the RFI and pre-qualifying a group of potential facility service providers, it is time to create and publish the RFP. The responses to the RFP, if structured correctly, will allow an informed operational and financial decision.