Editor’s note: This is the first in an occasional series of discussions with principals from associations along the supply chain. Each article will help familiarize BSCs with the associations’ mission and members, as well as provide tips for working with partners in that market segment.

Industry associations are a mainstay across the building service contractor supply chain. Building Service Contractors Association International (BSCAI), as well as a host of smaller regional associations, serve BSCs themselves. ISSA, now open to the entire industry, was originally a manufacturer and distributor organization. Specialty groups such as the National Air Duct Cleaners Association and the International Window Cleaning Association, serve niche service providers. There also are a host of groups serving the various markets where BSCs find their customers — property management, higher education and health care, for example.

In this installment, we speak with David Hewett, RPA, CPM, CCIM, FMA, CFM, chairman and chief elected officer of the Building Owners and Managers Association International (BOMA). Hewett also is a principal for Trammell Crow Co., a corporate real-estate firm in Auburn Hills, Michigan. He will be speaking at the BSCAI convention in Nashville (see more show information).

Contracting Profits: Can you tell us a little bit about BOMA’s mission and membership?

David Hewett: There are really four key areas we work in — the biggest area is advocacy, and we have a very strong working relationship on Capitol Hill in Washington, and we’re really advocating for our members’ needs in the building area — whether it’s in the tax bill, or depreciation on improvements, or a terrorism risk insurance amendment.

The second thing is the standards and research — our floor-measurement publication is the industry standard for how landlords measure square footage. Another is our Experience Exchange Report, where we collect income and expense data for almost a billion square feet of space across the country. Appraisers, brokers and others find it a useful tool.

The third is education. We partner with a lot of outside organizations — BOMI [The Building Owners and Managers Institute International], a separate entity, provides certification in the industry. We do a lot of stuff with BOMI, working our locals, hosting classes that have designation programs, so there is a lot of strong cooperation. Nationally, we work together providing education, whether a one-hour audio seminar. We’re partnered with Harvard this year, providing executive-level education.

The fourth is “inclusive membership” — which really works out as networking between our members.

CP: Who do your members tend to be?
DH: Our biggest “level” of membership is made up of individuals who either have regional or direct responsibility for property management — those types of people who are out making day-to-day customer service happen. They’re hiring the janitorial and landscaping contractors. They’re responsible for the bottom-line income on the company. The balance of our membership is people higher up the food chain.

CP: What kind of relationships do building managers have with their building service contractors?

DH: I would say they typically would have a strong working relationship, and would want to grow it more. We’ve seen this industry change from “they’re my vendor, do my work” to a partnering attitude. Certainly, there are exceptions; it’s tough to get away from bidding out the contract every two or three years. But typically, they want to build relationships with their contractor partners. Most property managers feel they’re tied in with their janitorial contractors to provide customer satisfaction inside their buildings.

CP: How do they accomplish this?

DH: My No. 1 piece of advice for contractors is communication — good news, bad news, indifferent news. It all needs to be communicated quickly and often, and in the best manner that works with your partner. That could be e-mail, voice mail, a face-to-face meeting — or all of the above. That said, property managers are requiring more and more reports and more communications via the Web and e-mail and other tools.

Step two is acting like a partner, even if your partner isn’t. If you act like a vendor, you’ll be treated like one; if you act like a partner, you have a much greater probability of being treated like one.

CP: Green cleaning, and programs like the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is getting a lot of attention from BSCs. How is it playing in facility-management circles?

DH: The LEED program is evolving into the next level of its life. Up until the last couple of years, the principal focus has been government agencies and municipalities and the architectural-engineering world; the buildings that have taken on LEED have been non-profit. I think that’s changing, and you’re seeing more institutional and corporate owners looking at it.

The struggle, I think, most BOMA members have is: are the economics of LEED and green short versus long term? They’re under tremendous short-term pressure. Still, we are getting greener — at BOMA, we encourage people to go out and get involved. Our members are looking at opportunities, and we’re pointing them to what’s available.

CP: So how can BSCs get involved?
DH: There are a couple of things that become critical. The first is BSCs need awareness: What is the property manger doing that intersects with what I’m doing? Maybe it’s an energy program with automatic lights. The BSC needs to ask: can we clean a floor at a time, and turn off the lights when we’re done? Are we using chemicals and paper goods appropriately? Are we bringing ideas to the table? Again, a lot of LEED improvements are capital items; when you build, we need you to do this. But on the janitorial side, what about the ongoing items? Are we being responsible there, and bringing it to their attention about what’s the latest and best way to do this?

CP: You will be speaking at the upcoming Building Service Contractors Association Inter-national (BSCAI) show. What can we expect?

DH: BOMA and BSCAI are working at providing one another with educational sessions, and we’ve worked together to do a research project on the cost of cleaning an office facility. We’re kind of in the beginning of that partnership, developing the relationship from both sides.

I’ll probably be talking about leadership, and how individuals can draw their leadership skills to create partnerships, motivate their team — how can you motivate a team to be a partner? I’ll be focusing on those skills.

I’m excited about coming out and spending time with everyone at the meetings; there’s a strong need for facility managers to be more connected with the contractors and really partner, so people do their jobs well on both sides of the table. The more we focus on that, the better off we’re all going to be.