Going in to a pre-bid meeting and walk-through blindly can be risky business for a cleaning contractor. Instead, BSCs should do all they can to be prepared for this critical phase.

Prior to the pre-bid meeting, the contractor should examine all bid documents, and formulate some pointed questions.

Unfortunately, BSCs tend to be too secretive about asking questions, for fear of losing any competitive advantages. The important aspect here is to get a clear and precise indication of what the customer requires in order to put together the best bid. The astute contractor will keep an open ear and a keen eye to optimize the fact-gathering opportunity.

One way to come up with the best game plan is to get a thorough scouting report of the objective during the walk through. Once again, preparation is the key — instead of making notes on a blank sheet of paper, make up a walk-through checklist.

Breaking down the data into categories makes it easier to collect and utilize. Useful categories include logistics, furnishings, customer commitment, the food factor and any special considerations.

Determining key logistics is vital to planning:

  • Size and location of janitor closets
  • Hours of operation
  • Additional storage space for large equipment
  • Availability of clean electrical outlets for vacuums and power equipment
  • Availability of a phone line and electricity in the janitor space for dial-in attendance programs and other telecommunications connections
  • Population of the building, especially usage by area
  • Lighting
  • Width and length of aisles and corridors

Note furnishings that need special cleaning chemicals or procedures:

  • Executive-area furnishing and special care needs
  • Carpet manufacturer and maintenance guidelines
  • Restroom configuration, type of dispensers, floor and wall finishes
  • Special finishes such as brass, copper, marble or granite
  • Types of window treatments

How customers treat their own buildings can make a difference in how hard contractors must work to keep it clean. Here are some indicators to look for to determine a customer’s cleaning commitment:

  • Cleanliness and clutter of mechanical and electrical rooms
  • Maintenance and condition of the building — Are there stained ceiling tiles, holes in the walls, peeling paint or leaky plumbing?
  • Use of chair mats in offices and cubicles
  • Adequate walk-off areas at entrances with quality walk-off matting or tiles
  • Wall protectors and corner guards
  • Levels of personal clutter in offices and cubicles

Food-service areas can have a major impact on the condition of the building and the contractor’s costs to clean:

  • Number and size of food areas, including cafeteria, break areas, vending and conference rooms
  • Company policy on food and beverage consumption in the building
  • Food-service hours of operation
  • Food-preparation areas and cleaning requirements
  • Microwave oven and refrigerator cleaning requirements and responsibilities
  • Open-container vending and the availability of lid dispensers

Other special considerations are things that make a contractor’s life more complicated:

  • Recycling programs, containers and procedures
  • Document shredding
  • Equipment used by building occupants, such as mail mobiles, wheeled carts, pallet jacks and golf carts
  • Secured areas and other security procedures
  • Special functions and use of the facility by outside groups
  • Meeting room and conference room set ups and responsibilities

Developing and using a specific checklist will not only assure sufficient data collection for proper bid preparation, but also will allow the contractor to stand out from the competition. Suggestions for cost saving ideas, or utilizing new equipment or procedures can be incorporated into the bid with data justification from your checklist.

Steve Spencer is a facility maintenance services senior specialist for State Farm Insurance Companies.