I had a chance to bid the maintenance contract on a police services center about 15 years ago. I was somewhat intrigued about the invitation for two reasons:
- I wasn’t the installing contractor, so why wasn’t the installing contractor taking care of that?
- The systems were brand new, installed within the last six months, so why did they even think they needed a maintenance contract so early in the game?
It turns out that some building managers have actually learned that maintenance is supposed to pay for itself in longevity, reliability and efficiency. A true building manager should have a plan for those items. Some do, some don’t.
I began the process of mapping out how many units would need filters, what the likelihood would be that condensers would need more than just an annual hosing down. You know the drill. You see, I don’t like doing work just to have something to charge for. I don’t believe in chemical cleaning coils unless the coil requires chemical cleaning. If I can tighten up the return air and install a better filter so that the coil almost never needs cleaning, then that is what I opt for. In my part of the country, I have gone behind maintenance companies who regularly burned the aluminum right off the coils with harsh acid cleaners when they were not needed and, of course, did not properly rinse them.
So, where’s the beef? Where’s the money in maintenance?
I’ll tell you where the money is.
- The small change is in changing filters. You won’t get rich here.
- The dollars and cents are in repairing equipment and replacing equipment, but that will be several years down the road on a new building like I described above.
- A sub-category of this one is that the key to these riches is in the relationship you keep with the decision-makers. When repairs or replacements are needed, you need to already be “the trusted advisor.”
- The big bucks, the real money is in what nobody seems to notice: the people.
So, I did a walkthrough of the police services center, and the place was hopping, lots of people at lots of desks in lots of offices looking really busy. I asked the building manager some key questions like, “How many people work in the building on a regular basis?” And, “How many policemen and women work out of this center?” The response was shocking.
Regular support workers (employees) including police administration, investigators and all office and maintenance staff equaled 30 people. Police officers including regular patrols (the ones that write tickets for good people like you and me) and also plainclothes officers equaled 90 people.
So, the total number of people associated with this building every day is pretty substantial.
Heating and cooling units, 20. People, 120. Hmm.
I began to develop a plan. How could I service these brand-new units while developing relationships with 120 people who lived in homes where the heating and cooling systems were not likely to be brand-new?
I thought, if I can service these 20 units for $49 each, every month that’s $980 per month or $11,600 per year. If I bid over $49 per unit (this was “back in the day”), I won’t get the job because I will be underbid.
But If I could get 10 percent of those 120 people to become my customers at an average of $230 per service call and $5,500 for replacements, it might look something like this (remember these prices are from 15 years ago):
- Police center maintenance first year: $11,600
- One service call for 40 of the 120 employees: $9,200
- Ten replacements out of the 120 employees: $55,000
- First-year sales maintenance-only: $11,600
- First-year sales with a little effort: $75,800
Finding the opportunity
So, where is the opportunity? It is in using the maintenance contract as a marketing tool to develop long-term relationships with 120 people. Every year, sales as a whole will increase. If I maintain a good relationship with all parties, I should get virtually all of the repairs at the police center and eventually start getting the replacements, too.
To do this, what is the challenge? To look at the project not as a get-rich scheme but as an opportunity to service an entire community of people who all work together. Which means, keep my prices reasonable and my service over the top.
What is the catalyst that makes it work? Understanding and building a targeted marketing campaign, a “Let’s all be friends and get along” campaign.
The things that work in advertising such as postcards, coupons, special offers, flyers, newsletters, giveaways, sponsoring events both community and sports and on and on are so much easier and so much more cost-effective when the “community” consists of everyone who works at the building you service.
What is the synergistic opportunity? When you go to the building manager and say, “Hey friend, we just got a pallet of free filters that we don’t need. How would you feel if we just gave them to all of your employees?” The synergy is when you and the building manager become partners in giving the employees special benefits.
“Mr. Building Manager, we have three free air duct cleanings to give away each month, and what would you think if we just give them to people who work here who are concerned about air quality?”
Are you getting my drift? I can easily come up with something special I can do for this building’s employees, that helps them to be happy they work there while also giving each of the employees a taste of my “over the top” quality.
Who you gonna call? If my sticker is on your ‘stat and your family is enjoying recipes from my monthly newsletter, you are going to call me.
So, the big money in maintenance is where it’s always been: In doing great work for reasonable prices with spectacular service and treating the entire building as your newest favorite neighborhood.
Rodney was here.
Pricing enthusiast Rodney Koop is the founder and CEO of The New Flat Rate, a home service menu-selling system designed to put profit directly into the hands of plumbing, electrical, and HVAC contractors.