Have you ever asked a friend for a mechanic recommendation and they say, “I have a guy.”
Or when you tell another friend that you’re looking for advice on a problem they say, “I know this gal who is an expert.”
If you’ve owned a property for any length of time, you’ll certainly start to develop your own list of ‘guys.’
For the record, ‘guys' is a slang term that encompasses everyone, including men and women. My commercial banker is a woman and she’s the absolute best in the business. When I'm creating a list of go-to people, she's always at the top of the list.
‘Guys’ can also refer to a company or business. My mechanic is a local family business with three locations. I’ve gone to them for years. The actual mechanics that have serviced my cars have come and gone but the family business has remained. I don’t know the family, but the work their team has done has been exceptional.
My guys are there for me when I need them and will always pull through in a pinch. The group that I've assembled in my life are worth more than you can imagine.
Why It’s Important to Have Your List of Go-to Guys
As a property owner, there is nothing worse than the emergency call.
Fire. Pipe burst. Break-in. Roof leak, or worse, roof collapse.
If you can think of it, a property owner (or their property manager) is going to deal with it sometime in their career.
Therefore, you’ll want to know who to call in an emergency. An exigent situation is not a good time to look up someone to call for a response.
When the stuff hits the fan, you’re stress level is going to go through the roof. Most calls don’t come when you’re standing by ready for them. They happen when you’re asleep, enjoying a baseball game with the family or at a funeral. Guess what? You don’t get to melt down. You have to respond to this situation because there are people and/or businesses relying on you for their homes or livelihood.
Knowing who to call beforehand can cut some of that stress down.
There are companies that handle disaster clean-up and do a wonderful job. I’ve used them a couple times already on my own properties. You can look them up on your phone in the time of emergency, but do you want to?
It's better to do a little “what if” thinking and plan ahead. Pick a company now and put their info into your phone. Then make a contact there. It's better to develop a relationship today rather than tomorrow when it's go-time.
#2. The Non-Emergency
I’ve got a painter who does great work and is super attentive to details. If you visit a job site while he’s painting, you will see what I’m talking about. Not only is the work done well, but the site is cleaned up at the end of the day.
His crew knows how to operate around a retail center. During the day, there isn’t a huge mess for customers or tenants to navigate around. That’s a big positive in my world.
How hard do I have to look for a painter now? Not much. He's my guy.
Or my real estate attorney. This is a big one. When I need an LLC or related legal direction, I already know who to call.
Don’t mess around with online LLC formation. You’re not going to get actual legal advice for your specific activity. You might save a dollar today, but it could cost you tomorrow because your online attorney didn’t ask you some follow-up questions.
Sitting with my attorney allows me to bounce additional questions off him about the property we’re buying. He can ask follow-up queries and handle any new issues.
When we get a property under contract, we enter a period of time known as due diligence. This is the time we kick the proverbial tires. In residential home sales, you can typically hire a home inspector who will come out and do that for you. They are a sort of jack-of-all-trades. However, that usually doesn’t occur in commercial properties. You need to contact the various contractors and have them come out and inspect the different systems.
For example, you’ll want to have your roof inspected by a qualified roofer. A 10,000 sq. ft. roof is nothing to play around with so you want an expert up there. Also, the Heating / Ventilation / Air-Conditioning (HVAC) equipment that services the building should be inspected. Each of these units will cost you $10k or more to replace so don’t mess around. Get a professional up there.
Most contractors will come out and inspect your systems for a price. Do you know how many of my ‘guys’ will check a property before I buy it without an additional cost? Almost all. Why?
Because they know they’ll get the work if we buy it.
We’re loyal to them and they're good to us.
It’s a two-way street.
#3. The Occasional Piece of Advice
I mentioned my banker earlier. Do you know how many times I call her to ask questions? A lot. She’s always patient and willing to hear my ideas. She’ll tell me very quickly if it can be done, or if not, and what needs to happen to make a project lend-able.
If I didn’t know her and I had to call a random commercial banker, how quickly do you think they would answer my questions? Not very quick. They’d want to know who I was, what my background was, how much money I had, blah blah blah. Essentially, they’d need to pre-qualify me before they would or could commit to giving me some advice.
Without really knowing who I am, how much time would they spend with me? Not much.
My banker, on the other hand, knows me and my investing partner. We’ve been working with her over eight years now and multiple deals have been sent her way. She also knows how we run our properties once they are in our portfolio.
She can tell us very quickly if something can happen or not. She’ll also telling us if we’re wasting our time. That level of honest help, without having to constantly reintroduce myself, is incredibly valuable.
Costs increase everywhere.
That’s how it is. However, when you have a relationship with your guy or gal they know who you are and if you’re going to be able to afford that cost going up. I’ve had an account manager call me and chat with me about a quarterly $15.00 bump in costs.
I appreciated that attention, even though we could afford it. They care about me, my properties and our business.
If we didn’t have a relationship, they would have just billed me and moved on. The companies that do that to us, by the way, aren’t our guys. They haven’t figured out that relationship.
#5. Loyalty Matters
When you do business with a company long enough, they remember you. My go-to HVAC company services almost every property I own. The only one they don’t is the one we recently purchased and I firmly expect them to take that over in short order.
Guess what happens when I call them?
They know who I am. Even though every property is listed in a different LLC, they know me.
I’m not the biggest fish in the pond by any stretch of the imagination. However, I have multiple accounts with them that get paid on time.
When I need something, they get a technician out their quickly. Now, this may be the same service everyone else gets, but it sure feels like they are giving me extra attention.
As you can see in all the examples above, loyalty matters.
Too many people try to squeeze the last dollar out of a vendor, either by beating them up on their bid or using technology to dehumanize the process. Guess what? If a person dehumanizes a vendor so that they're only competing on price, they are no longer special to the vendor. That person will only be a single point of sale. The vendor knows that buyer won't be back. They aren't there to build a relationship. The buyer is only buying a one-time product or service and will be treated accordingly.
If you noticed shades of yourself in the above paragraph, that's okay. I behaved like the previous paragraph in the early part of my property management career. Then a senior property manager took me to the side and explained some things to me, sort of like I'm doing now. That's when things changed for me.
Suddenly, I had vendors calling me to say, "Hey, I was driving by your property and I noticed you had a problem..." The issue was completely unrelated to something they could solve. However, they were looking out for me. You see, they knew me, not my checkbook.
Which would you rather be known for?
Developing Your Own List of Guys
If you’re new to property ownership, you’re going to have to do some homework. Guess what? That’s what we’ve all had to do. It’s part of learning.
The best bet is to always ask for recommendations. Do you know any friends or acquaintances with similar properties or situations? Ask them who they would refer you to. People love to give endorsements. I love recommending my ‘guys.’
If you’re unable to get a reference, it’s time to do some research. Use Google, Angie's List, etc. Whatever gets you the company you need.
When that company is done with the work and, if you’re pleased with the outcome, hold on to the contact name. Put it into your phone and make sure you follow up with them.
I’ve even created an emergency contact sheet for each property with a list of vendors to call in various situations. These situations include landscaping, snow plowing, roofing, HVAC, plumbing, insurance, janitorial and more. Since every property is different, there will be different vendors on each. Not all my properties are in the same county so I have to be flexible with the vendors I use. It takes some time, but when you build your team you don't want to ever lose track of them.
These contact sheets are stored on the cloud so I can access them from anywhere at any time.
The Five P's
Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance
The Army taught me that phrase and I’ve always like the alliteration. I learned it a lot of years ago and have never forgotten it. Actually, the instructors called it “the six P's” but that was just to throw in a crude word to further describe poor performance. Since we’re professional investors / savers here, I figured we’d keep it clean.
Take a few moments and think about the vendors who service or may service your properties. Either add the various contacts to your phone or create a list and keep it somewhere easily accessible.
When the moment arises that you need it (and it will), you’ll be glad you spent a couple minutes thinking ahead.