Ready to woo


Quality work goes a long way, but getting commercial jobs is just as much about building relationships with property managers.

March 28, 2016
Brian Horn
Illustration by Vinnie Neuberg

A few baked goods can go a long way in the business world. And if that means giving a decision-maker’s assistant a few cookies, then so be it. Kent Gibson has been in the commercial real estate industry for more than 30 years, and he says that kind of act isn’t just about satisfying a sweet tooth.

“You’re looking to build trust and confidence,” says Gibson, president of Capstone Property Management in Salt Lake City and chair and CEO of the Building Owners and Managers Association International. “Assistants see that you are there and you are interested and trying to be proactive and helpful.”

Gibson has these other tips for contractors trying to win more commercial work.

Get involved.

Joining local associations where you will meet property owners and managers is a great idea but you can’t stop there. Gibson says associations like BOMA hold events and do charitable work, and the contractors who are involved in those activities stand out.

“We’ve found that those service providers who get actively engaged, people see that they perform well and it builds confidence that they’re responsible and will take care of problems,” Gibson says. “I watch to see how active and involved they are in participating. If they are just there collecting cards, I am probably not going to pay a lot of attention. But if they are there contributing, trying to be involved, trying to help move things forward, I’ll pay a lot closer attention to them.”

Be flexible.

Not every job is going to be an elaborate, expensive project. “On commercial properties, you may end up with minimal landscaping like flower bed planting or pruning trees, but that same property may have an office park with a number of different elements,” he says. Often, the commercial manager will try a contractor on a smaller project and if they aren’t successful there, they won’t get the big project.

“If they want to do commercial work, they’ve got to be able to run the gamut. Everyone wants to have the big office park, and you have all the mowing and things of that nature, but if that’s the only thing you can provide, it’s harder to open doors,” Gibson says.

“If you are just doing one type and somebody else is doing multiple types, the property manager will go with the one that’s easier because they can deal with one contractor to handle a number of tasks.”

Don’t cause problems.

It goes without saying that you want your crews to show up on projects, do a great job and hear nothing negative from the customer. Doing the basics can go a long way with a manager.

“The property manager is dealing with elevator contractors, cleaning contractors, window washing contractors, landscape contractors, maintenance service providers, security, so there are a lot of different groups and individuals that are servicing a property,” Gibson says. “So you need to help simplify that decision-making as much as possible.”

Right your wrongs.

If mistakes are made on a job, don’t make excuses. Instead, use those mistakes to show your value by fixing problems immediately.

If they are just there collecting cards, I am probably not going to pay a lot of attention.

“Nobody is perfect, and what’s more impressive to me is that they’ll actually stand behind their work and fix things when they do go wrong,” Gibson says.

“Property managers will consider someone for more work, if you know that they’ll stand behind it, fix it and move forward. If they don’t want to take responsibility, then you’ll eventually start looking elsewhere.”

Realize your importance.

Yes, price is going to matter, and some property managers will view you as a commodity. But the good ones will see the value in what you do.

“My personal view is that street appeal is one of the most important marketing tools to make a property successful and continue to keep its occupancy,” Gibson says.

You are also important not only for what you do to their grounds, but also for what information you can provide.

“Property managers are looking for advice on how to update appearances and do it appropriately without spending a bunch of money,” Gibson says. “Those that are creative and helpful are very much appreciated and end up rising to the top and get more work.”