As the World Health Organization officially declares this virus a pandemic, there are many concerns across the globe regarding our well-being. Our personal and professional lives are shifting as we, as a country and as a planet, figure out how best to stay healthy, stop the spread and also continue contributing economically. This is the first crisis in our time of the age of technology which allows many employers to offer work-from-home setups. Only time will tell which initiatives have proven successful in stopping the spread and maintaining progress in our professional lives.
For our industry in particular, which has been experiencing growth amongst a few challenges in the recent years, the coronavirus poses a pretty sizeable threat – material availability. Read more below from Construction Best Practices on how COVID-19 can potentially impact our industry this year.
As reported by GlobeSt.com, which offers commercial real estate news, the coronavirus has made the certainty of construction cost projections rather murky. “The impact of the virus is impossible to predict with certainty, but any prolonged slowdown in Chinese or global economic and manufacturing activity is likely to have significant ramifications for construction costs,” according to the JLL 2020 Construction Outlook, as cited by GlobeSt.com.
The virus may also impact the availability of materials. Because roughly one-fourth to one-third of the construction products that builders use in the United States are sourced from China, a sustained slowdown in Chinese production can lead to material shortages in the United States and rises in material costs, JLL said.
But there may be a silver lining: Reduced construction activity due to virus containment efforts will result in a reduction in demand of materials, offsetting price pressure. However, “Without the ability to accurately forecast the impact of the virus, we have widened our materials price forecast to account for the uncertainty,” JLL added.
Get to know Powerhouse in Retail & Restaurant Facility Business’s January Edition in an interview with one of our Principal/Owners, Robert Blake-Ward.
We spend a great deal of time on our core: people, process and technology
Retail&Restaurant: Where are you based and how long has Powerhouse been in business?
Robert Blake-Ward, Powerhouse
Robert Blake-Ward: Our headquarters is in Crowley, Texas, about 30 minutes south of Fort Worth. Powerhouse was founded in 2004.
R&R: What is your title and how long have you been with the company?
Blake-Ward: I am a principal/owner of Powerhouse and have been so since 2011.
R&R: What trades/services do you offer retailers and restaurants?
Blake-Ward: Powerhouse specializes in Construction Services (remodels and refresh projects), Facility Maintenance (scheduled and reactive services, integrated program management, interior and exterior) and customized Rollouts (high volume, high velocity, high impact projects across thousands of locations nationwide).
R&R: In what regions of the country do you conduct most of your business, or are you nationwide?
Blake-Ward: We work in all 50 U.S. states. Although based in Texas, our work takes us all over the map.
R&R: What makes your company’s “signature service” stand out in the industry?
Blake-Ward: We spend a great deal of time on our core: people, process and technology. Our Infinity platform allows for real-time update as work progresses in the field. Our people drive the results with great training and accountability for their project’s success – customer-centric teams who create a great project result.
R&R: What kind of feedback do you receive from clients?
When a client calls with an issue, our people react quickly and efficiently.
Blake-Ward: We aim to make every client a “Raving Fan of Powerhouse.” We often get complimented on our sense of urgency, which is a key ingredient in our customer service and success. When a client calls with an issue, our people react quickly and efficiently. When we get a work order, a Powerhouse employee answers the phone and is dedicated to getting someone out to location within the business hours.
R&R: Why should owner/operators choose your company to be their next vendor partner?
Blake-Ward: We have the people, process and technology, as mentioned earlier, but we also have the resources. We pride ourselves not only on our client relationships, but also on our Powerhouse Partner relationships – relationships with our key vendors across the country. These are partnerships that have allowed us to have constant, national coverage for all our clients’ needs.
R&R: How many retail/restaurant clients do you have, and is that sector growing for you? Would you like to name any of your clients?
Blake-Ward: We have more than 80 distinct customers of various types and sizes. Retail and restaurant are just two of the eight industries Powerhouse focuses on and where we perform the majority of our work. Retail clients are what started Powerhouse, and we’ve maintained many of those initial clients throughout Powerhouse’s lifetime. As the industry itself is constantly changing and growing, so does Powerhouse and the opportunities we are given.
R&R: Many traditional retailers, in particular, are downsizing their portfolios. Overall, restaurant/hospitality is growing. What other trends are you seeing in the industry?
Blake-Ward: We continue to see a hyper-competitive market where operators need to differentiate – they are innovating both their brand offerings and how they deliver it, blending the ordering/pickup expereince to serve different customer needs. Operators need to execute these programs faster than ever and with fewer resources to manage – they lean on partners to help manage more of the communication and planning of their projects.
R&R: What is your advice for FM vendors reacting to this shifting climate?
Blake-Ward: Partner with your suppliers; you’ll get more value in return. Don’t be afraid to try a new approach you haven’t done before.
In case you missed it, see how our Senior Director of Operations of FM answers this question in her article with Retail & Restaurant Facility Business.
R&R: What predictions do you have – for your company, your industry or both – in 2020?
Blake-Ward: Continued growth, continued opportunities and continued challenges, for everyone in our industry.
October 7-11, 2019
During the first full week in October there is always an exciting buzz around the Powerhouse Office. Powerhouse has celebrated Customer Service Week since 2016. During this week we celebrate and recognize all our incredible employees who exemplify our customer service expectations and core values. We also spend time fine-tuning our customer service skills while having a great time doing it. Our goal every year with Customer Service Week is to learn how to have fun while having a positive and lasting impact on people.
When we prioritize meeting the needs of our customers in a manner of excellence, integrity and humility, we create a relationship with the customer that is not only long-lasting but sets us apart. This is a huge component in how we have a positive and lasting impact on people.
-Fallon Leeth, Construction Coordinator
Customer Service Week showcases the creative ways an employee can improve the Customer Experience. Reading through all of the customer comments and feedback provides inspiration and innovative ideas to take your service to the next level. Having a positive and lasting impact is realized by delivering these experiences continuously over time, and that is what we strive for!!
-Dillon Coggins, Business Developer
Powerhouse has been involved with Outsystems since 2018. Outsystems is a global leader in low code rapid development technologies, and is a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Multi-experience Platforms and Low-Code Application Platforms, as well as a leader in the Forrester Low-Code Platforms Wave.
We were excited to be invited to their NextStep 2019 Conference at the beginning of October where we were represented by Powerhouse’s Senior Applications Developer, Mark McRight. Mark and Team have been steps ahead of Powerhouse’s growth as we’ve picked up the pace more and more every year. What an honor for Powerhouse and our spectacular IT team to be chosen for “Best Digital Transformation” out of hundreds of global Outsystems customers at the 2019 Innovation Awards!
Thank you, Outsystems and DoiTLean, for your help getting here and the recognition of our team’s hard work throughout this past year!
With their rapid growth and success, Powerhouse, a leader and innovator in Construction and Facility Maintenance, was challenged with legacy technologies and processes that were entirely dependent on e-mail, spreadsheets and disconnected platforms. Leveraging low code and rapid development tools from Outsystems and their chosen delivery partner DoitLean, Powerhouse developed a unified technology platform in just 14 weeks to reduce touchpoints through maintainable automation and workflow within several areas of their operation. The process improvement and workflow begins with New Business submission, and flows to project setup, resource profiles & allocation, performance tracking, travel booking and management. Through the implementation of high-tech process and workflow, the ability to continue unmatched customer service, project management and Quality control while continuing rapid growth is made possible.
Read about Proactive vs. Reactive FM Protocols in Retail & Restaurant Facility Business’s July Edition in an article written by Megan Varano, our Senior Director of Operations of Facility Maintenance.
Changing the game from reactive to proactive facility maintenance protocols.
The last decade-plus has brought tremendous change in the FM industry. It’s been thrilling to be part of the evolution. Working on both the retail and the service sides has given me a unique perspective on both the challenges and the opportunities.
Megan Varano, Powerhouse
I started out managing work requests on pieces of paper. The dispatcher would take a phone call or read an e-mail and then write out the dispatch to the field; the work request was then paperclipped to a bundle and hung on the wall. While it sounds archaic, this was in 2005!
Over the next 10 to 15 years, several work order management systems were introduced. As a service provider, these management systems obviously helped organize our vendors — but perhaps the biggest shift was for our customers. As more companies invested in CMMS systems, these investments resulted in increased visibility toward store needs, costs and execution. As our clients gained visibility and control over location expenditures, it began to drive further accountability at the vendor level. The result? The evolution of vendor score carding and, eventually, financial management / prioritization.
Now we are headed into the age of proactive vs. reactive FM. Once reserved for basic recurring needs such as HVAC PM programs, janitorial programs and exterior services, we are now evolving into proactive cosmetic repair — not only to maintain brand standard but also to better manage budgets. In this next evolution, I’ve seen and executed two options: proactive brand standard checklist implementation and proactive service bundling.
Proactive Brand Standard Checklists
Proactive brand standard checklists are typically executed by your go-to handyman. If you are lucky, he or she has been servicing your location on a recurring basis for years.
First, engage your local jack-of-all-trades with a checklist of your highest priority needs. Needs may range from lamp outages or color consistency to securing door hinges and cleaning scuff marks off walls. The idea is to engage a partner who can be set up on a recurring schedule with the intent of agreeing on a price up front for the checklist.
This can be a risk to the vendor as it is agreeing to complete the list on each service without knowing the site condition. The keys here are consistency and committing to a set duration for the program — to ensure both parties win, and that the stores are brought up to and maintain corporate brand standard.
An added benefit is forming a habit with store managers. They will know their service provider comes in on a regular basis to complete that checklist. Both parties form a relationship, and, not only are brand standards maintained, but unnecessary reactive work is prevented. Fewer reactive service dispatches also drives less office work and fewer store service disturbances.
Proactive Service Bundling
The concept of bundling is a slightly different approach. It primarily looks at reducing trips for needed items vs. proactively addressing cosmetic items not called out by the field.
First, establish a timeline during which you hold service. Essentially, you can do this in two ways: (1) Set each store on a recurring timeline window. For example, stores in X market have services bundled from Jan. 1 until Feb. 15 and those non-critical tasks are completed by Feb. 28. Market Y has services bundled from Jan. 15 to Feb. 28 and completed by March 15. This staggers the work execution for your vendors and keeps costs from hitting at the same time.
Or you can opt for a completely opposite approach: (2) Begin bundling once your first non-critical task is received. Each store will be on its own schedule, all based on when the first need is requested from the site. Hold that dispatch for a determined amount of time and during that time collect all other non-critical tasks to be dispatched in tandem. This method saves trip charges and, in most cases, it also saves labor by picking up efficiencies onsite as well as having less time spent in your stores.
The proliferation of the data from CMMS systems has enabled both concepts to be deployed. Ultimately, what our clients choose depends on what their need is. If the need is maintaining brand standard, a proactive list is best. If the need is to reduce cost and vendor time onsite, then a bundled service is better.
Both paths require a vendor that can execute and manage your approach with a technology driven solution. The market contains many options. My experience has allowed me to work with some of the best options in the industry and can speak to the efficiencies we’ve realized on the vendor side.
Planned services, while helping address your client’s driver, also enable fewer touches and overall time management of the work order. (To clarify, this can only be achieved if you have the right technology solution in place. If your provider does not have the technology to handle this, it will ultimately result in more touches and sloppy, untimely delivery of reporting.)
After weighing your options, it comes down to what’s right for your stores. Ultimately, you’ll want your stores to be your partner; the more they understand the goal, the more successful they’ll be.
Next Steps & Action Items
- Investigate what a proactive checklist would look like for you:
– Look at historical work order data to identify where most of your cosmetic money is spent. Is it loose door handles, scuffed walls or perhaps peeling wallpaper?
– Walk your proposed checklist in a handful of stores. Identify what your checklist captured and missed; modify before finalizing. I suggest having more than one set of eyes engage in this step.
- Investigate the call volume you receive per store for non-critical requests that can be handled by a handyman. Identify the average received in a given time period to identify what a good average “bundle” period would be for your stores. Don’t be afraid to modify the bundle time per market or even per store for your high revenue locations. The secondary benefit of this data pull will be its ability to provide the groundwork for your financial synopsis on the savings this could potentially drive.
- Work with a few key players on your operations team to discuss the approach that fits best.
- Make sure you have the right partner. Not only do you want to review expectations, but you want to determine if they have what it takes to deliver. Without the right technology, your vendor will be unable to deliver.
- Implement the best solution for your organization.
Click here to read Megan’s article in Retail & Restaurant’s July issue.