Contributed by Barney Gershen, Gershen Consulting

With whispers of an impending recession growing louder, facilities executives are proactively exploring ways to minimize expenses and stretch their financial resources. For building contractors, this might lead to cutbacks or even discontinuation of services. However, with a strategic approach, not only can these setbacks be mitigated, but there's also potential to broaden one's market presence. 

Central to the janitorial sector is the deep-rooted relationship established with facilities clients. Such relationships take on heightened importance during financial downturns. Grounded in the ethos of multi-tiered relationship building, it's essential to foster diverse connections with clients. This transition transforms a contractor from just a service provider to a valued business collaborator. Tools like strategic planning boards, graded customer visitations, and sensitivity to potential issues are crucial. Furthermore, actively seeking feedback is paramount — for a client's silence might not always indicate contentment. 

It's evident that even the strongest of partnerships can waver during financial constraints. When confronted with a client's intention to discontinue or migrate to a cheaper competitor, the immediate task is to safeguard that account. At times, this could mean adjusting prices — even if it leads to a temporary operational loss. The underlying principle remains: without clientele, there's no revenue. 

For building service contractors, being proactive is the way forward. Understand clients' financial restrictions. Is there flexibility to modify the frequency of services? Perhaps, scale back from five days to three days a week? Or pause specific services temporarily? The ultimate goal is clear: maintain presence and influence, even if it means compromising on profit margins. 

If clients are contemplating transitioning to a more cost-efficient competitor, emphasize the potential perils of entrusting a novice. A contractor's proven track record, the trust nurtured over time, and a consistent workforce are strong selling points. To make the proposition more enticing, think about offering additional benefits, such as discounts or even a complimentary month's service, all to bolster client loyalty. 

It's also an opportune moment to employ the quid pro quo strategy. While proposing price cuts, reciprocate by introducing an innovative service. This not only results in savings for the client but also enhances the contractor's service repertoire — a mutually beneficial arrangement. 

Yet, it's essential to recognize these measures as temporary. As the economy stabilizes and clients' budgets rejuvenate, these special arrangements should be re-evaluated. An offhand comment, such as "Did you know we also provide landscaping services?" can spark intrigue, particularly if a neglected garden area is in plain sight. Offering a range of services further cements the contractor-client bond. 

As economic conditions improve, it becomes imperative to recalibrate pricing strategies to ensure sustainability. Scheduled evaluations, perhaps quarterly, can serve as a platform to underline the multifaceted value contractors bring to the table. It's not merely about the cost, but the overall value. Contractors should position themselves not just as a cost factor but as compatible partners. 

In this dynamic market, building contractors should actively pursue new clients, by using this as a marketing tool. If clients are scrutinizing their rates, it's equally vital for contractors to be informed about competitor prices, ensuring they remain both competitive and relevant. 

Mastering the “SAP” ("Strengthen, Adapt, Prosper") framework ensures resilience against potential client losses during financial downturns. By fostering strong alliances, staying attuned to feedback, and responding promptly to potential discontinuations, contractors epitomize the ethos of safeguarding, acquiring, and preventing account attrition.  

An emphasis on reengineering jobs in response to evolving session times has been an embodiment of our core approach: "Strengthen, Adapt, Prosper." Building service contractors who have integrated this approach are already seeing measurable success. 

Barnett (Barney) Gershen is the founder and CEO of Gershen Consulting LLC in Houston, Texas. Since 2005, Gershen Consulting has specialized in providing industry specific advisory, recruiting, and investing services to clients across the country. He can be reached at