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One Size DOESN’T Fit All!

The second installment in a three-part series.

The restoration industry is flooded (mea culpa for the pun) with companies overstating their capabilities. This one-size-fits-all approach is being tried everywhere, including advertisements on TV for carpet cleaning companies claiming they can perform complex commercial construction.

This marketing strategy may be effective on unsuspecting souls, but that only goes so far in the commercial real estate world. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Still, PBI sees commercial projects in serious trouble because an unqualified restoration company was hired.

The vast majority of contractors in this industry work for residential insurance programs and for many different insurance companies. These jobs are typically $1,000.00 to $2,000.00 projects involving wet carpet and drywall from a frozen pipe, washing machine, basement leak or roof leak.  Unfortunately, this type of residential work does not provide the necessary experience to mitigate and rebuild complex commercial real estate with demanding occupants and high usage.   

Screening for a good restoration contractor is no different than hiring for other services and/or positions. You need to do your due diligence ahead of time and not hire a company because you saw an ad or met someone at a tradeshow or have a friend in an association.

What should you do? Here are a few tips:

  • Check References: References can be the best and easiest measuring stick for selecting a restoration contractor or any vendor for that matter. Do they have at least 5 to 6 references parallel to your real estate needs? If you run a hospital, you want to see references from other hospitals without exception!
  • The Test of Time: Ask how long those references have been clients.  Good vendors keep their clients for many years. PBI has many of the same clients from when we started doing commercial work almost two decades ago.  Client longevity means the vendor is providing quality service at a fair price.
  • Billing Matters: Ask those references about the vendor’s invoices after the services were performed. Were they overcharged, billed in a timely manner, were there any problems and how were those problems resolved?
  • Make Sure They’re Covered: One- or two-million dollar insurance policies are common general liability policies for vendors in this industry. If a vendor is seriously operating in the commercial market, they already have GL coverage and/or an umbrella policy for at least five to ten million dollars, as one of their clients is already demanding it. Environmental coverage is also critical; expect to see at least two million in policy limits.
  • Who’s In Charge?  Whoever sold the account is not going to be responsible for getting your building back up and running after a disaster. The key personnel in these situations are the Project Managers and Technicians who will be responding to your call at 2:00 A.M. on a Saturday.  These personnel are the backbone to a successful restoration process. This frequently ignored area of screening is key and requiring a list of a vendor’s key Project Managers and Technicians is necessary. You want to know how long they have been with the organization and how much experience they have. If these people are not strong, your restoration process will likely be problematic.
  • Rentals:  One of the biggest complaints we hear when PBI takes over a new client is how the previous vendor charged (and overcharged) for rental equipment. It’s fairly common for restoration contractors to inflate invoices in this manner. Ask the reference how they were billed for rental equipment? Was the equipment excessive? Were they charged for more than three days under normal conditions?
  • Apples to Apples … Or Not: It’s extremely difficult for most people to evaluate restoration invoices from project to project as no two projects are ever the same in size and scope. Pricing is always important, but the integrity of the company is far more important. An organization with integrity is not going to inflate the invoice or charge you for services that were unnecessary.

Do your due diligence ahead of time and remember: in the commercial real estate world, one size never fits all!

Mike Popowski is President of PBI Restorations.  Reach him at mike@pbirestores.com.