Handbook for the Real Estate Manager: Sustainability

Our last blog discussed outsourcing and its influence on how facilities are developed and managed.  Managing for sustainability is another important trend of managing facilities in the 21st century.  Many factors have coalesced to make sustainability critical for your success.  They include the high and rising cost of energy, improvements in HVAC and lighting technologies and the recognition that sustainable practices can now be routinely and inexpensively measured.  ROI calculations demonstrate huge savings by upgrading lighting and HVAC systems.  The C-suite can embrace these capital replacement projects because payback periods can be easily estimated and some are as short as three or four years especially if your property portfolio is over a decade old.

Sustainability programs follow a common cycle beginning with paper recycling, the use of recycled products, lighting upgrades, HVAC system replacements, new building LEED recognition, building Energy Star ratings and finally some transformational process on how you work or manufacture products.  This process improvement can be as routine as adding solar panel to the roof or changing manufacturing methods to recycle water and reduce waste.

In service industries the reduction in workspace can save significant dollars.  Companies have learned to share space especially in sales.  Home based work offers the employee better work life balance and the ability of the CEO to reduce the footprint of its office space.

The key to an effective sustainability program is support by the C-Suite and employees.  Using  a metric driven scorecard can demonstrate the impact of your process improvements especially in the dollars saved.  Assigning an accountable department to manage a sustainability program is critical for success.  Programs need to adapt to changes in technology and become part of the company culture.  Please share your experience and by all means find a partner to help you develop the program.

Handbook for the Real Estate Manager: Outsourcing Trends

Outsourcing or vendor management is a fundamental skill of the effective real estate manager.  Real estate brokerage, architecture, general contracting and furniture procurement have traditionally been outsourced to independent resources so the real estate manager has vast experience in RFP’s, sourcing, bidding and contracting.  Outsourcing, however, has expanded into project management, facilities maintenance, lease administration and nearly all aspects of corporate real estate.  The largest real estate companies continue to merge and CB Richard Ellis, Jones-Lang-Lasalle (JLL), Cushman/Wakefield now dominate the real estate/facilities services of many fortune 500 companies

So the challenge facing real estate directors today is how to manage these huge outsourced partners.  Many use metrics, contract provisions and periodic performance reports to ensure the services are working and cost effective.  Contracts generally run between 3-5 years and provide some illusion of competitive bidding.  In reality it takes a year or so for these firms to train staff on the specific portfolios, internal processing procedures and for their staff to build trusted relationships with your key stakeholders.  It simply is not prudent to change firms and start the learning curve again.  You will pay more for outsourced services but the prejudice of CFO’s is a preference for “outside services” and reduced staff.  The price multipliers are not as great as architectural firms, but I would estimate fees are probably double the in-house team.  The advantages include economies of scale, functional expertise and accountability.

Competency in lease administration and reporting should be expected as outsourcing firms have invested heavily in database technologies.  Project and facilities management skills are not as advanced as scalability is difficult and the lack of continuity in customer service is less about metrics and more about building relationships.

The key to building effective outsourcing partnerships is demanding documented improvements in key occupancy metrics, budget variances and how they have applied best practices to show improvements.  Real estate managers get buried in daily issues and emails.  The value of stopping once a month to evaluate key metrics is that you can make adjustments and can report on key wins and losses.  Being strategic is not a strength of the outsourced partnership.  It is up to the real estate director to conduct the orchestra and shift priorities and make the tough decisions.  Outsourcing is a tactical approach to real estate management so your role is to take the 30,000 foot view and determine if your focus is linked to the strategic objectives of the firm.  Outsourcing great benefit is its scalability so apply it as needed to meet schedules, budgets and demonstrate value.  And finally insist on your partner pushing innovation; bring you best practices in real estate management.

Next topic is sustainability…the most notable trend in facilities management.

Handbook for the Real Estate Manager: Contracts, Leases and Strategic Partners

In today’s outsourced world, almost all facilities work involves a contract with a third party.  So it is critical for you to to learn how to negotiate.  My favorite leverage techniques are to let the other party talk, listen and be prepared.  That means knowing the real estate market and what tenant improvements actually cost.    Even more important than your negotiation techniques is developing what can be called your Strategic Partnership Network.

Strategic Partners will include your real estate broker, preferred architect/designer, general contractor, janitorial service and even the local locksmith.  Key vendors often evolve into Strategic Partners especially if they are in a trade:  The electrician, roofer, plumber, HVAC vendor and of course the handyman service.  No facility group can function effectively without a list of trade companies who can respond in a timely manner to an emergency.  Roof leaks, blackouts, bursting pipes and other unanticipated problems are inevitable.  The key is that your emergency call list is composed of reliable and honest technicians who will find a way to be responsive even on a Sunday.  Remember, a bad situation can end up demonstrating your team’s competency!

I remember the pregnant woman who somehow got locked in a secure building after 11 PM, the pipe that burst over the main telecom switch at 5 am and the toxic fire in the darkroom.  All these events demonstrated how effective our strategic partners could react in a crisis.  The janitorial owner paged his team and unlocked the building for the expecting mother in just a few minutes.  The electrician obtained a generator to power up the telephone switch in time for the next work day.  The emergency preparedness team responded to the fire and had the balance of the medical building open for customers within just a few hours.

Even with the best strategic partners, it is the contract that sets the tone and nature of the relationship.  Fairness often trumps the most iron clad clause especially if there are unusual circumstances or “acts of god.”  Strategic partners should protect you and your team, and work to improve the situation.  I like to use performance scorecards, metrics and regular feedback sessions when the partner describes his accomplishment for the last quarter.  Did they discuss how they saved significant dollars or avoided expenditures?

People often question why I prefer negotiated agreements over competitive bidding in construction.  I like to be able to call the President of a strategic partner and discuss a problem.  If partners share the bad as well as the good news in a timely way, you can collaborate to resolve the problem early and minimize the damage.  Hiding mistakes can be far worse to your relationship than the error.  Managing errors in construction is simply what I call project management.  Unforeseen events, design miscues or city inspector changes can derail your schedule and blow a budget.  It is how you react that can show mettle and leadership.

Just as your contractor and sub must be open with you, so must you be just as forthcoming with the C-Suite.  Here is where your relationships are tested.  Hiding bad news is always a mistake…truly great leaders will work with you to understand what went wrong and help mitigate the damage.  If your boss or the C-Suite reacts badly, it show a distrust which can be debilitating to your role.  It calls into question your C-Suite relationship or their own ability to perform during a crisis.  Keeping cool under pressure and making sound decisions will be noticed.  Always be concerned with safety first…dollars second!

Unfortunately the best of strategic partnerships have to be tested, evaluated and renewed.  Renegotiating contracts allow you periodic evaluations of their performance and evolving relationship.  Even the best relationships change over time.  I once let my favorite architect go because of changes in their ability to marshal resources.

I include Lease Agreements in contracts as they are are so critical to your success as a real estate manager.  Building relationships with the owner/landlord has become harder with property managers and the other middlemen.  But in your larger facilities especially your corporate headquarters a working relationship with the owner can mitigate the most challenging of tenant landlord conflicts.  It also creates some harmony so when the next renewal comes around, you can finalize a fair agreement with less rancor.

Our next handbook topic will be recognizing trends in real estate…

Handbook for the New Real Estate Manager: How to Improve the Department

I have started two real estate departments from scratch and was hired to improve several others.  Establishing accountability for the key functions was always the first step to achieving department competency.  It is easy to simply manage invoices and perform tactical work without evaluating the strategic objectives and taking some risks.  As the director your role is to assess the weakness in your team’s basic practices and pursue measurable improvements even if it is uncomfortable.

A competent real estate director understands the key functional areas of responsibilities and the toolkit of skills necessary to effectively run them.  Sometimes the lead person  just needs to look at the work in a more strategic way and bring in better technology or strategic partners to improve results.  First and foremost you have to be willing to challenge current procedures.  In my most recent venture I was told the executive team had lost confidence in the department.  Elevating their confidence meant more metrics, more communications and challenging the status quo especially in regards of our organizing structure.

I noticed that the key functions of real estate and facilities:  Transactions, operations, project management and lease administration worked in silos.  Weekly meetings of the functional leads helped everyone get on the same page and not work in a vacuum.  Then we tried to link each functional area with goals that aligned with the company’s strategic goals.  When individual performance goals were established they also were in alignment with the department goals.  The simplicity of goal setting alignment reduced staff stress during a time of great business upheaval.  Our regular meetings of the leadership team eventually dissolved years of holding back information.  The culture of sharing information and supporting each other was a huge change that also improved the culture.  Laughter and humor returned to the workplace…a necessity in a high stress environment.  I insisted we celebrate our wins and eventually the executive team noted a real change in improved communications and department response.

Leadership in a real estate department also requires earning trust.  It is essential that you have a basic knowledge of the key functions of a real estate and facilities.  No one can be exceptional in all these areas but you must identify staff with the skill set to fill these specific roles.  One missing piece can mean increased risk and problems so take time to evaluate your team before making wholesale organizational changes.  Here is my short list of the key functions critical to effective real estate management:

  • Contracts:  Negotiation skills to finalize cost effective vendor, design, construction and lease agreements
  • Project Management:  Understand the relationship among scope, schedule and budget and how to select effective partners in design and construction; continuity and design standards are critical
  • Metrics:  Establish key metrics/scorecards in all critical performance functions especially in occupancy planning & budgets
  • Goal Setting:  Develop initiatives in each function using process improvements to demonstrate value and monitor progress
  • Technology:  Increased use of technology especially in database management and compliance
  • Facilities Management:  Ordering and tracking tools to capture requests and measure customer service
  • Lease Administration:  Oversight on critical dates, payables, receivables and tax obligations
  • Operations:  How to better process invoices, manage budgets and report on variances to plan
  • Resource to other departments:  Your effectiveness means more than just serving the C-Suite.  You must learn to be a partner with HR, finance, accounting, legal, compliance, audit, retail and especially IT.

Your first priority is to manage to better performance in all areas.  You will eventually have time to focus on your area of expertise.

Handbook for the Real Estate Manager

 

I always hoped for a kindly and distinguished mentor to guide my path into the profession of real estate and facilities management.  Like many others, I navigated my career on my own and unfortunately into some notable, even infamous firms, several that either failed or was purchased.  I also ventured into new industry sectors:  Away from healthcare, to high tech and finally into financial firms.  Yet it always seemed I was learning on the job.  I learned most from the people who actually performed the work:  The real estate broker, the real estate attorney, the project architect, the superintendent, and the furniture layout specialist who would creatively fit the cubes into vacant space. 

Alas there was no mentor or handbook, but I enjoined many helpful business associates and even the people behind the city permit counter to answer my many questions.  I also leaned on my staff for constant dialog to spark ideas to keep the job new and exciting.  I eventually learned to protect them from the inevitable c-suite drama or lay-off.  I never showed fear, but sometimes uncertainty.  I learned the many lessons of experience especially the power of silence in a contract negotiation.

So what would the ideal Mentor Handbook for Real Estate/Facilities Management teach?  First and foremost that both the real estate and facilities function thrives on change and creativity.  Your success is linked to an attitude that welcomes change so it can be managed.  You will not be threatened by change if you see it as a chance to show your best self.  Best practices are interesting to read about, but within the storm and buffeting winds of change, execution is the only certain key to success.  So select your service contractors carefully and find those whom you can trust to tell you when things go off the rails as they often do.

Trust your intuition is the second principle.  My best decisions have been the “no, table it for next week or the let’s wait for the final approval” when I had the authority to proceed but my instincts screamed no!  The emergency room, the new HVAC system and the Biltmore quality furnishings that were never built were my silent but most noteworthy wins.  Coming from a health care facility background I have also focused on safety issues.  I have seen too many fires, earthquakes, falls, slips and heart attacks so emergency response and disaster planning is critical.  Not the complex plans nobody reads but the call list and the building assessment.  Evaluate the life safety system of all space in your portfolio for risks and perform the upgrade or move.

The third principle in the Handbook would discuss how to elevate the importance of your real estate department within the company.  Always demonstrate your team’s value and functions like a consultant.  Learn the critical metrics in the key functional areas because they are your armor and shield against the ignorance from above and within.  It is obvious to respond quickly to the c-suite with the most mundane complaint.  Excellent customer service for everyone regardless of title is a mantra I lived by and it garners respect from the department heads you need for support.

Fourth, obtain the trust of the CEO and CFO.  This relationship is probably the most important factor for both your success and that of your department.  The longer your tenure, the more time there is to demonstrate your brains, commitment and work ethic.  Trust is everything, but truly hard to develop in a profession few executives really understand.  Relationships are always slow to build, difficult to predict and quick to sour.  But never burn a bridge as someday that executive could be your boss!   

Over the years the pace of change and the stress borne by the real estate function has increased dramatically as its resources have dwindled.  People who direct this important function have turned to the strategic partner and the outsourcing model to stay effective.  This leads us to the fifth and most critical lesson:  The importance of budgets and to always, I mean always, be pessimistic about both schedules and costs.  Failure to meet a schedule and exceeding budgets are rarely forgotten even with good reasons or other wins.  Complex and changing codes, city approvals and internal authorizations all take longer than before.  Use historical costs as your best argument for battling the cost cutting during the budget cycle.  Inflation is your friend.  Use factors on energy, labor and materials to defend and justify your budget.

Over the next few weeks I will discuss the” Handbook” that my mentor should have left behind.  I hope it is helpful to you!

Best Practices in Corporate Real Estate: Organizing its Functions

For over thirty years I developed and improved Corporate Real Estate (CRE) Departments as both a consultant and director.  Early in my career I encountered a McKinsey Consultant who deflated all my youthful expectations by ending our meeting with only one obvious recommendation:  Hire a good real estate broker.  Years later I actually provided worthwhile real estate consulting to several Fortune 100 firms.  My practice focused on key CRE functions with obvious problems:  Disorganization, excessive costs or missed deadlines.  I learned quickly to provide measurable scorecards demonstrating the value of the services.

Directing a real estate and facilities department is a much more difficult than consulting.  You are caught up in the clutter of daily tasks and minor emergencies.  To lead and demonstrate competence in all the real estate functional areas and to maintain the trust of the C-Suite, you have to be more strategic.  Your ultimate success requires a broad understanding of CRE functions and the ability to build relationships with other department heads and C-Suite executives.  Those relationships are based on your ability to meet their facility needs.  In companies enjoying growth and success, the CRE competency challenge is amplified by increased workload as strategic initiatives inevitably align with numerous real estate activities:  Mergers & acquisitions, project expansions, lease transactions, moves, adds and changes as the company adapts to growth.  In firms that are failing, the pressure to downsize and reduce costs leads to poor real estate decisions and undue stress on the department as more executives venture into the realm of CRE without sufficient knowledge.

Organizing your staff abilities and skill sets to better manage the basic real estate  functions is the key to an effective CRE department in any business.  What are those functional areas in real estate and facilities?  Effective CRE directors drive improvements in six basic functional areas or competencies:

  1. Real Estate Strategy includes strategic occupancy planning & communication with key stakeholders
  2. Transaction Management includes buy/sell, lease negotiation, subleasing to rationalize the real estate portfolio
  3. Project Management which includes standards, contract administration, design, construction, fit-up and IT coordination
  4. Finance and Budget Controls administers rents, operating and capital budgets and compliance issues such as SOX
  5. Lease Administration, Property Management and the Database Management tracks key dates and facilities data
  6. Facilities Management includes emergency preparedness, business continuity, sustainability, repairs and maintenance.

These six functional areas of CRE represent the second largest category of business expenditures after staffing.  So real estate issues often get attention from both the CEO and CFO.  Technology has transformed all six functional areas of CRE, but  I contend that the single most important attribute to managing CRE is organizing your team’s talents around these functions.  Then you set performance goals for each function and measure your progress.  Provide these scorecards to the executives so they can focus on their jobs and let you do yours!

 

 

Best Practice: Bundling Projects is Better

The virtue of “economies of scale” is purchasing and pricing power.  The more goods you intend to purchase the more leverage you have in negotiating price.  Most companies develop procurement practices to buy supplies, furniture and equipment at a discount. And yet, this critical economic concept is often ignored when companies and institutions begin to complete their annual construction projects.  As a corporate real estate executive the policy to get “three bids” on a project always seemed counter intuitive to my goal to bundle projects to achieve economies of scale.  Thus during my consulting days I would find companies immersed in competitive bidding spending enormous design dollars and staff time on work that should have been bundled and negotiated as a program of projects.  Combining projects can reduce the general contractor profit margin while getting them to select their most competent PM’s and superintendents.  I observed profit margins dropping from 5-6% to 3-4%.  Most important, their general condition costs were also reduced.  The builder who had contracts in hand and would assign their best team to manage it.  The owner got the best team at a lower rate!

Bundling construction projects is not difficult.  In larger companies especially those with clear design standards, we would develop an Request for Proposal for all the major work during the year.  The competition was fierce as the bundled projects suddenly had scale.  We only selected the best firms requiring an interview of the team who would perform the work.  Using the same design firm also achieved economies as we could work out design standards so that design hours were reduced and the quality of design achieved consistency.  The successful bidder became a strategic partner and was expected to advise on ways to reduce expenditures.  Some smaller projects were run concurrently to save on general conditions.  Others suggested ways to buy fixtures or fan coils in bulk to save dollars.

Economies of partnerships is just as powerful as scale.  So the next time the CEO suggests competitive bidding as policy, it is worth the effort to discuss the advantages of negotiating a bundled set of projects with a trusted strategic partner.  We calculated the annual savings on a small capital project budget of $20 million to be 8% or over $1.5 million.  Applying this process over the next ten years saved the company$15 million dollars, but more importantly the quality of construction work was better and the schedules were superior to the old fragmented system which did not bundle projects into a managed program.  Imagine the staff relief to organize and evaluate only one RFP Bidding process for the year!  Of course the type of work should be similar and if it is nearby the savings are enhanced.  Custom or large scale projects over $5 million should always be competitively bid.  Next time let’s discuss why some prefer negotiating construction contracts over competitive bidding.

Cost Avoidance Strategies in Capital Projects

At interviews or initial consulting meetings I am often asked, “Tell me about how you contributed at your last firm or last consulting assignment?”

My answer would inevitably be how I managed a program/project on time or under budget…yawn!  In my thirty five years of building out space and managing facilities, I now realize that some of my best decisions were to simply to avoid the work altogether!  Cost avoidance is a topic to often dismissed as companies grind on process and cost savings methodologies.  Only through experience and by risk taking can you truly make a difference…by avoiding costs altogether!

This is where process gets critical.  An effective process to determine capital spend is often upended by a CFO or CEO who wants a pet project completed.  The rigorous review process is trashed and the C-suite takes control.  The mettle of the Corporate Real Estate Director is sorely tested in these situations.

Here is my top six list of major cost avoidance interventions by $ saved:

1.  $400,000,000  Wow, that’s a lot of zeros.  I was asked to finalize a massive building development contract, but I soon realized the builder was unwilling to disclose his fees and had already overcharged us before finalizing our contract.  The builder wined and dined me the first day but by day two I realized his attorney was stonewalling us.  Needing Board approval for the huge expenditure, I told my boss of my concerns.  It became clear in our candid conversations that the project was not critical.  I set the next Board meeting as the deadline for the builder to provide us all documentation on his fees.  He refused and the day after the meeting I told him my work was finished.  No project could proceed.  After a lengthy tantrum he handed me the only lawsuit I ever encountered in my career.  Luckily I had told my boss that the project cancellation would probably result in a lawsuit.  He noted that any suit related to current charged would be infinitesimal compared to the $400,000,000 we had saved!

2. $10,000,000  I was asked to build ground up outpatient centers.  Despite enormous pressure as that was the current approach, I argued that leasing offered a better exit strategy.  Considering the program was cancelled the following year, I never calculated the savings by subleasing/assigning our facilities.

3.  $1,300,000 in air conditioning work.  The engineer told the design committee that the air conditioning was undersized and to bring cold water and equipment to the roof was the solution.  Logic told me that the building functioned fine in the past.  What figures did you use to calculate the heat load was my question.  After an hour of discussion they realized that they had used the wrong number to make their calculations.

3.  $1,200,000  Refusal to install fire suppression in the data center.  Despite the arguments that new data centers used sophisticated fire detection systems, the IT head insisted that state-of-the-art data centers always had halon systems.  After six meetings where expert after expert testified that the risks of FM systems in larger data centers were no longer recommended, he withdrew his request.

4.  $800,000 in additional air conditioning for a data center.  The current system was at its maximum cooling capacity.  I asked for the future head load estimates as older equipment was being replaced by energy efficient servers.  I sat on the proposal until IT did a study for next years equipment.  It said equipment would be down 30%.  Another company purchased the firm and closed the data center one year later.

5.  $500,000 in ADA upgrades were requested by the consultant.  It was in the capital budget so everyone argued to proceed.  I asked to only do those upgrades that would improve safety or were required by law.  The consultant was correct that items should be improved but the law provided a grandfather clause so work was stopped.

6.  $1,500,000  The CEO asked me to build a project as beautiful as the Biltmore Hotel in Santa Barbara.  When he told me that his budget was $1.5 million, I had to inform him that the scope of work he defined on the initial plans would cost $3 million.  He supported me in value engineering the project.

Capital projects should be reviewed twice, first as part of the annual capital plan.  Secondly, when the project commences.  The ROI and reasons for the project should be approved based on the valuation.  The larger the project, the more approvals should be obtained.  Avoiding a project is often the optimal decision.

 

 

Leadership 101 in the corporate world

Solidarity

Great leaders and good teams are made not born.   It takes the crucible of experience to learn how to lead people, build a team, a  department or a great company.  As the new head of a department, I wanted my team to excel; to elevate the team’s competency so the executive team had renewed confidence in our work.  Reputations are hard to repair.  Just look how companies work to build a brand and protect it.

I knew the CEO felt the former department head was disorganized.  So at least I understood the primary issue to repair.  The team seemed dysfunctional because before they had no means to communicate with each other on a regular basis.  My first objective was to organize our department functions so our roles were crystal clear with metrics tied to performance goals.  Starting with job descriptions and one on ones, I met with each employee to define their responsibilities and generate some quarterly and annual goals.  I summarized each role in a written department functional description that we reviewed together.  That first meeting cleared the role confusion.  It also started regular weekly staff meetings that ensured better communications.

Meetings are frowned upon in our e-mail culture, but communication is better when you can see the non-verbal cues:  The rolling of the eyes, the yawns and the distraction.  To lead an effective department, I had to improve our staff communication and create some respect for each other.  The staff meeting joined us together as people.  Our humor and shared issues helped us become more loyal and supportive of each other.  It took some time as behavior and attitudes are hard to change.

Trust especially in a new position has to be earned.  Being an example to your reports means a visible strong work ethic.  It also means creating an atmosphere of openness so problems are acknowledged and addressed.  Leading people is not easy.  It takes patience and time to build relationships.  Sometimes you will not succeed but if you generate trust and respect, the problems will not escalate into C-suite fodder.

The staff meeting helped organize the team and kept everyone aware of the department priorities.  Leading the meeting demonstrated my role as the leader but also as a member of the team.

Parkinson’s law states that work expands to the time available.  Its corollary is that the more direct reports you have the less time you have to perform your own work.  You must devote adequate time and energy to managing your staff.  To lead a team means you often have to mentor, coach and solve some daunting personality conflicts.   Despite what you have heard, not everyone is equal.  Some are better at customer service, others at web design or accounting issues.  Building on one’s strengths is key to building a strong team.  Identifying weaknesses and finding someone to fill the gap can be critical to your success.  In our team we used key consultants in tax, energy savings and construction to turn glaring weaknesses into department strengths.  As a leader the key is to know the department needs well enough to spot such weaknesses early.

Great leaders anticipate areas of weakness before they become problematic.  One corporate rule is the ease of hiring outsiders versus increasing staff.  If you can demonstrate ROI or savings, the executive team will support third parties.  Just be prepared to demonstrate the savings!

Adapting to The Norm – What Does It Mean to Your Business Sytle?

Traveling through parts of Europe lately I noticed the slow pace with which everything was done.  There was no one hurrying to help you in grocery stores. In fact, the cashiers sat behind the registers with barely a smile and you bagged your own groceries!  Eating out was slow and deliberate.  You could count on a good hour or more before you were even mid way through a meal.  Drinks arrived slowly, food arrived slowly and so did the bill.

Many businesses closed for a few hours around the lunch hour.  Some shops even had little hand written signs saying they would be back shortly.   Is this good customer service?  How do these businesses stay in business?   Yet, it is the norm for these companies and they don’t seem to eager to change.

We all have to find our norm.  The way we transact business whether we are the owner of the company or an employee that is taking pride in their area of responsibility.  Taking on someone’s norm is not necessarily good for your business.  Be aware of what others are doing and the reactions of their client base.  Are their profits soaring while yours are falling?  What could you adapt from these other businesses while still staying true to your core values?  Things you may consider are:

  1. How quickly do you return phone calls?  Do you see the red light flash and do nothing?
  2. Do you really listen to what people have to say or are you too quick to push your own agenda?
  3. Have you adapted your hours of operation to fit the needs of your customers?
  4. Have you trained your staff appropriately and given them the tools to be successful?  Their success is ultimately your success.
  5. No you go the “extra mile” or do you stop short if you feel there is nothing in it for you.  Remember you customers are looking for the WIIFM as well!  (What’s in it for me)
  6. Do you do all that you promise you will do in the time you promise?  Where can you adapt to be more realistic and not over promise and under deliver?

There is always someone around the corner doing things which may seem better, faster, cheaper, easier.  Your job is to be innovative in your thinking and open minded to the fact that you just might have to change.