A reader writes: “You do not seem to like purchasing agents very much. We are responsible for keeping costs under control.”

Thanks for your comments. First of all, I know some great purchasing agents who I would consider my friend. After your comments they may choose not to acknowledge me but that is okay, too.

You, as a purchasing agent, play a very important role in managing costs by purchasing products and services that can help the front-line staff perform their tasks successfully. Unfortunately, your reward system is usually based on how little you spend which can motivate you to purchase cheaper (poor quality) products, including equipment, chemicals and tools.

We reviewed a couple of contracts that you manage and found that you came in 15 percent lower on one and 27 percent on another compared to the budgeted allocations and average percentages for a contract of this size and type. As we dug deeper, we found that you selected some very cheap vacuum cleaners that do not have good filtration and worse still, a high failure rate. This means that instead of getting 2 to 4 years life, most of these units will have to be replaced within 18 months or less. They are also harder to service and maintain which is a hidden cost you did not take into account.

I also noted that you squeeze your vendors for every penny with threats that you can get many of these items cheaper off the Internet. Obviously, you have not had to get one of your vendors to provide training, a five gallon pail of finish for a job or other supports since there really is no cushion for them to provide such benefits. A good (or should I say great) vendor/distributor may not have the lowest cost up front but they are the best value over the life of a contract.

It is my opinion that purchasing cheap equipment and supplies can set your custodial operations up for failure while you get a nice bonus. Please take a moment to consult with the front-line staff and try to understand that your decisions may be the reason for complaints, staff turnover and even the loss of some contracts.

Your comments and questions are important. I hope to hear from you soon. Until then, keep it clean...

Mickey Crowe has been involved in the industry for over 35 years. He is a trainer, speaker and consultant. You can reach Mickey at 678-314-2171 or CTCG50@comcast.net.