When your strata begins the process of hiring a vendor, you want to ensure that you're making the best choice possible for your community's benefit. A good vendor will execute your vision on time and budget, whereas a not-so-good one can be the source of lousy quality, unexpected delays, inconvenience, and a whole lot of headaches!

Once you move past the brainstorming stage, navigating the vendor selection process with your strata manager is the necessary first step to getting things done in your community. The following is a article to a successful path for creating successful vendor relations. By following these helpful steps, you can streamline and simplify the bidding process and connect with the best contractor to fit your needs—and that goes a long way toward getting the job done right.
 

Do: Focus on more than the price

We can't say this enough. No matter what you are using your vendor for, some strata want to call three companies, get three proposals, and then go with the lowest bidder thinking it will save them costs. While this is ideal, buyers beware. While your commitment to financial stewardship is undoubtedly admirable, don't award the contract just yet. You should assess each vendor based on the value it brings—its fees compared to what it offers.

The saying "you get what you pay for" has never been more accurate, especially in today's tight labor market. It's the combination of knowledge and experience, fiscal stability, and customer service dedication that makes a vendor great.

At FirstService Residential, we research to choose vendors with prior experience, an established track record and one that will best meet the community’s needs. We have preferred vendors that can do any job, or a strata can choose their own.
 

Do: Standardize your procedure

By standardizing your procedure and focusing on what's essential, you can reduce hassles and increase your chances of getting better results. To effectively compare apples-to-apples, be sure each bidder submits a proposal that includes the same work scope. Ask your manager to create a template for vendors to fill out instead of, or in addition to, any standardized bid they provide. This template should consist of specs on all materials used, tool and equipment provisions, timeframe, the total cost of the project, and how they will communicate if anything arises.

We manage the process of standardization by setting clear and reasonable expectations about how and when the job is to be completed, vendor insurance requirements, and any important considerations on how work is to be performed.
 

Do: Complete your due diligence

You can't put a price on reputation; you'll know you're looking at the right vendor if they've got a good track record with other communities like yours. The only truly honest way to get to know a company is to talk to some former clients. Build some extra time into your approval process so you can speak to a few former and current customers or ask your strata manager to obtain testimonials. They will give you the unvarnished truth.
 
It is important to see if all the quotes you have received have understood the timeline and scope of work correctly. There is a need to read through what each trade is offering to verify that they have the resources and manpower to keep in line with the demands of your strata corporation.
 

Do: Get your docs in a row

It's important that your strata manager requests specific documents and obtains the same documents from all the candidates so you can effectively compare and evaluate them. What should they ask for? A list of the company's qualifications, prior experience, past projects, subcontractors (if any), and applicable certifications.

Don't forget their proof of insurance and ensure that proper types and coverage levels are in place before starting any job. If your strata hires an unlicensed or underinsured vendor, it risks substantial financial penalties if injury or strata damage results from their actions. Moreover, your strata could also be responsible for making good on unpaid wages or worker's comp claims filed by the vendor's employees.

FirstService Residential ConnectTM  our proprietary software for strata management is designed to allow a customized view that lets you quickly manage community business, such as making payments, initiating work orders, tracking violations, accessing financial information and more. We work with our clients to ensure all the documents are uploaded to Connect to enable efficient document management.
 

Things to remember:

1.  If it's too good to be true, it is. An extremely low price and a willingness to end final negotiations indicate a desperate contractor who needs money.

2.  Watch the frontload. If the initial payment requested seems out of proportion with the work completed at that point, your contractor could be cash-strapped.

3.  Clean-up is part of the work. Be sure you've specified where contractors and their sub-contractors can store their materials and tools—mandate how the work site should be maintained to keep an orderly appearance. Ask them to provide a map or a description of the work area, so debris and tools don't spill over to other parts of your community.

4.  Get a warranty or guarantee. Any warranties or guarantees offered should be provided in writing.

5.  Get everything in writing. Sometimes after a contract is complete, additional services or requirements can be discussed informally, assuming that things are "understood." Make no mistake: there is no legal understanding beyond what's printed in black and white on the contract.

6.  When necessary, hire a consultant. It might be worth it to pay a consultant to write a project specification and oversee proper installation and completion on complicated or large magnitude projects.

Trusting a vendor to perform work in your community always involves risk. To minimize those risks, try eliminating as many unknowns as possible. After all, if things go south, your strata's legal and financial risks can be substantial. A council must understand their responsibility to properly manage its vendors to provide continued services to the community. Connect with us today to know more about making the right vendor decisions.
Friday May 21, 2021