Member Tips on Working With Vendors

We recently reached out to members of the network for tips on working with vendors. Respect, communication and relationship-building were a common theme. Also important are vetting your vendors and follow-through. Have something to add to the conversation? Drop us a line or leave a comment.

Scott Gerow | Estate Manager / Owner | 360 Concierge and Staffing

Always treat people with respect regardless of hierarchy. It’s very easy for a trades person to become “busy” when you desperately need resolution for y our principals. Firm but kind & understanding is our motto.

Madeleine Chean | Personal Shopper / PA| Private Residence in Los Angeles, CA

Respectful communication is key. I have seen vendors walk away from very lucrative opportunities because they didn’t feel they were treated professionally.

If your employer hasn’t made a decision or is going to use a different vendor, don’t avoid the conversation. A quick e-mail or call, even to say that there is no new news, goes a long way in keeping up the relationship.

Stay positive and don’t be a “no” person. Yes, we all know things could fall apart at any moment, but where there’s a will, there’s a way and negativity will not get you anywhere. Creative problem solving is one of the things that will make you indispensable, so if one way doesn’t work, don’t get stuck. Move on to plan B. Or C or D until you get it done.

Don’t underestimate the power of a sincere thank you.

Lamar Ramsey | Estate Manager | Private Residence in Dallas, TX

Before selecting a vendor make sure that your principal companies do a thorough background check, or your principals allow you to pay an agency to do the check. When checking it should include looking for “Fly By Night Company Names” or LLCs. Some vendors open under a certain name and if the company goes under or he/she is sued they will change their names to continue doing business. Also make sure that the vendor is insured and licensed to do the work that you want them to do.

Facilities Manager | Private Estate in Palm Beach, FL

Get it in writing. Always have a contract. Employ the ‘change order’ system if / when the scope of work changes. Every dollar above a signed contract requires a new signed contract or addendum (the change order) in order to be paid. We use this in construction always, but it’s just as relevant to a landscape crew or a exterminator. You don’t want any surprises, financial or otherwise

Stella Martins | Estate Manager | Private Estate in Sonoma, CA

I try to meet my venders face to face as much as possible and I’m extra nice when we finally meet. When calling, I always have a “smiling voice”. They seem not to forget you and will be there when you need them.

For Example:
Yesterday, the paving contractor had a cancelation and he had to sell his asphalt ASAP.  I got the road done for $2 a sqf as opposed to $4.50.

Last December the contractor brought his excavator during the rain to unclog the culvert under the bridge. It was a major clog and a major storm that almost took the bridge.

Two years ago during a party, the Valet broke a water pipe. Thank God one of the contractors was there and fixed the pipe right away.

Another tip is to ask a lot of questions during a meeting with a contractor so you can better understand the solution and use the proper vocabulary the next time you interview another contractor for the same job. The more you know, the less they can misguide you.

House Manager | Private Residence in Palm Springs, CA

My boss always says that vendors will ‘Do what you INSPECT, not what you EXPECT’, and in many ways that’s true. Supervise your vendors. It’s common that you will walk through the work in detail with the owner or manager when he’s trying to get the contract, then you will never see them again. A totally new guy will show up to do the work. Walk through it again and watch them carefully. At the end of the day, their work is a reflection of your service.

As a final note, I’d like to add that there’s great value in referring a good vendor. I’ve had vendors come back to me and say “Hey, I got a job for $XYZ because of your referral, let me know if I can do anything for you”. They want to continue great service because they can see how it affects their business beyond your job.

*Cover photo is of John Juenemann Painting in Georgetown, DC. They are my favorite vendor of all time. Response time is amazing, staff and crew are extremely respectful of the property and residents, and the work is perfect.

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