Tales from the trenches
When building service contractors bid on a government facility, their attention often is directed at the people in corner offices in the main administration building the people, for better or for worse, who seem to be in charge.
Of course, impressing these people is important. But in many cases, its not the higher-ups who determine whether you win a bid or keep a contract the guys in the buildings themselves can have a tremendous amount of influence.
David Timber is a building maintenance supervisor for the County of San Diego, Calif. He does not directly approve or veto contracts. He doesnt write the specifications. But hes the person responsible for keeping the building occupants comfortable, which means his BSCs better treat him, and the buildings, right.
Timber is responsible for the custodial operations at 13 buildings throughout the county, including several medical facilities, an animal shelter, probation buildings and a library. Buildings in the county are bid in lots, so he works with several contractors.
Timber describes his relationship with the BSC in his building, a healthcare administration complex, as good to strong. Hes comfortable with their level of service, and impressed with their commitment.
However, his interactions with contractors in outlying buildings are much weaker. Partly, hes a victim of geography he only makes it to some facilities monthly, or less.
A partial solution to that problem lies with the contract specialists they act as liaisons to the outlying buildings. The contract supervisor attends the facility services meetings so they can share problems.
Still, Timber wishes the contractors in other buildings would take the time to stop by his facility.
Just come here once in a while and leave a business card and a cell phone number for emergencies, he says.
Whether theyre at the main administration building or in a satellite facility, certain traits keep popping up in his best BSCs.
They seem to be motivated, and they make an honest effort to comply with the contract terms, he says.
A good BSC also uses good products, Timber says. They dont attempt to save a few pennies by purchasing inferior chemicals. They also use the best distributors in the area when Timber sees a reputable suppliers truck pull up, he knows hes working with a knowledgeable BSC.
On the other hand, Timber has little sympathy for low-bidders who end up cutting corners and working short hours and hope nobody notices to make ends meet.
Contractors who underbid bug me, Timber says. There is a reason these guys are failing theyre often not qualified to do the job. They might not have relevant experience.
Even though the job of accepting or denying a bid falls to a team of contract specialists, Timber has a say.
When youve been working in one area for a long time, you get to know everybody, he explains. If I see someone on the bid list who Id rather not be working with, I can ask the contract specialist to give them greater scrutiny. We can look at bonding or at their financial status.
Just about any contract can be torpedoed if the contract specialists dig deep enough, he adds. Likewise, he can recommend preferred vendors to the specialists.
The best advice Timber can give to any contractor hoping to impress the guys in the trenches:
Be aware of what youre doing. Think of the building as your own. How would you like it to look?
by Stacie H. Whitacre, Managing Editor
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