Office moving project management services

Office moving project management services

Katz, Ed

In recent years, furniture customers have begun characterizing brand names as irrelevant. This trend of perceiving all dealers as being alike results in purchasing decisions based upon one criterion-price. Ultimately, of course, a price-driven market lowers dealers’ margins and weakens financial condition.

When I started Peachtree Movers in 1976, we, too, were perceived as being just like all the other moving companies. I tried to be like our competitorstalked the same talk, copied their brochures, and offered the same service. As a result, we booked business only when submitting the lowest bid. I learned early on that being the lowprice mover also meant being the littleor no-profit mover.

Back then Neptune Movers was the big, number one office mover in my market with eight times the men and equipment as my company plus a good reputation. I kept trying to be just like them but discovered that the customer would rather stick with number one than switch to me. I finally realized that if I didn’t stop following the followers, I would loose everything. I found success by no longer trying to become another Neptune. I dropped what wasn’t working and, therefore, gave up selling price.

Instead of reorganizing your company to fix a price-driven market, simply drop what’s not working. Wake up to changes in the market place and cut your losses. Making safe decisions instead of rocking boats can lead to more failure. Try developing a new niche. For instance, you might explore the possibility of offering project management services.

As a project manager, you could provide your customer with a mover, an installer, a furniture liquidator, and asset management services. When your customer relocates, you can charge for coordinating, scheduling, and monitoring these services, and except for asset management, offer them without hiring additional labor or investing in capital equipment.

Faced with growing competition, companies reorganize, restructure, reengineer, and subsequently relocate to become their industry’s preferred provider. But moving involves much more then transporting furniture and boxes to a new address. Like an iceberg, the vast portion of a commercial move lurks beneath the surface.

Besides decisions about office furnishings, your customer must worry about finding the right space or hiring a contractor to build it, finding an architect who can translate company needs into functional and attractive space, hiring and training new employees to replace those lost due to the move, and making sure telephone, fax, e-mail, and other communications traffic continue uninterrupted. Your customer must anticipate, evaluate, and plan for everything from the financial impact of the new location to the availability of a freight elevator on move day.

Lacking the in-house project management resources of large companies, your small and mid-sized customers may wade into a move mistakenly believing they’ll need to do little more than set a date and line up a mover. They soon find themselves overwhelmed by the complexity because they did not realize the key to a successful move-finding then hiring and managing consultants, vendors, and suppliers that bring the best value to the project.

What would these customers expect of you as their project manager? The truth is they don’t know where to start planning a move-and don’t know they don’t know-much less what to expect from project management services. Outwardly, your customer hopes for a smooth move without unpleasant, expensive surprises that blow the budget and puts them out of business. Underneath, they fear the opposite. Anything you can do to make moving less traumatic, less disruptive, and less unsettling, and you as a dealer cement existing relations. Your customer counts on you for help with furniture buying decisions. Expanding to include other furniture-related services will make you a much more valuable resource, fill a wide-open niche, and help distance your company in a positive sense from the competitive pack.

Besides new furniture, your customer will also need their layout reconfigured which often means purchasing additional panels, work surfaces, components, and hardware. You can help your customer by inventorying their current configuration and then preparing accurate installation drawings for the reconfiguration. You profit not just by selling additional product but by marking up the space planner’s services.

Once decisions about new and reconfigured furniture are made, your customer will likely face what to do with the leftovers. Valuable surplus furniture can be Stored for future use while a source must be found for the disposal or recycling of old, worn out items. As their asset manager, you can help by providing inventory, storage, and liquidation services.

Asset management is a fancy name for storing surplus furniture in a manner that specifically identifies what it is, what color it is, what condition it’s in, and where it is. The purpose is to preserve the value of the asset so that when the customer grows, he or she can fill furniture needs by first drawing down the surplus. By convincing your customer to let you store excess furniture, you not only control the opportunity to bill for future transactions, but snatch the business from moving companies selling warehousing services. (You can elect to outsource asset management but you run the risk of your contracted warehouser actually stealing your customer away.) By handling and storing furniture in your warehouse, you’re more likely to keep your customer and develop a relationship with a new customer contact since it seems contacts are changing jobs more frequently now than ever before. And what about surplus furniture that’s no longer of any value? Offer to liquidate it.

Another related asset management service is panel cleaning. When stored panels are once again needed, you can offer high-profit cleaning services before delivery (or on site once panels are reconfigured). When stored file cabinets are moved back into your customer’s office but their color doesn’t match other cabinets already in use, offer electrostatic painting. And who will transport the furniture while all of these services are being performed? You can. Use either your own existing resources or outsource the business to a moving company. Managing your customer’s good surplus furniture and sprucing it up when it’s needed again, getting rid of worn out pieces, and providing transportation services for all of it solves a customer problem-which makes you indispensable-while generating profit for your dealership.

To promote your one-stop, furniturerelated services, start by becoming familiar with the whole move process (see below), and then mentally put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Remember businesses only move every three to five years, and chances are extremely high that the coordinator for the next move had no part in planning the last one. Without a base line from which to form expectations or a foundation on which to stand when contracting or services, most customers discover too late that companies many times get the job after selling themselves as something they are not.

But many companies are finding answers in a new book, Commercial Relocation, from Franklin-Sarrett Publishers. It’s a guide for both industry professionals and service buyers that I compiled with the help of some of America’s leading authorities in the industry. The book covers essential move tasks such as finding office space and negotiating the lease, hiring an architect or designer,_ a general contractor, a telecommunications service provider, a move consultant, an asset management service, a mover, and a furniture dealer. Each chapter was contributed by an expert in each segment of the move process, and explains what to look for in a best-value service provider and how to hire and manage them.

What business relationships do you already have with furniture installers, liquidators, asset managers, or movers? Develop your offerings by screening companies already performing the services you wish to offer, then outsource to the ones that bring the best value to each job. Outsourcing expands revenue without incurring additional payroll or labor problems, and your customers will appreciate the one-stop shopping.

What questions can you answer for a customer with little or no move experience? Can you act as an agent for the customer? Resourceful dealers who develop consulting, advisory, or clearinghouse services give customers a reason other than price to also buy new furniture. After becoming knowledgeable of the entire relocation process, market your expertise to prospects. Develop a free mail-out guide that doubles as a brochure. Answer frequently asked furniture buying questions and describe your one-stop shopping services.

Once you decide to take a bold action, you can overcome the perception of being generic. Being first creates one way to stand out in the crowd. By being a leader and defining your market, you can carve out a place in the mind of your prospect. Most of the time being first means that you’ll be successful. Once you’re in your customer’s mind, you usually keep the number one position even when your competitors offer the same service. To prove the point, whose name comes to mind when you think of the first person to fly across the Atlantic Ocean? Or the first rental car agency? Or the first computer company, the first cola, or the first cellophane tape company?

My prospects used to complain about the costly downtime that occurs before and after an office move. Packing and unpacking disrupts work and often puts the customer out of business for at least two days. To overcome this problem, I pioneered a patented system to move the contents in the furniture instead of the contents and the furniture thereby eliminating most of the downtime. Since desks and file cabinets were being moved with the contents intact, we could also guarantee no more mixed-up or lost files. By being first with this concept, we took over the segment of the market that wanted a premium move and not simply the lowest price. Soon we discovered that once we moved just one desk or one file cabinet without requiring it to be emptied first, our customer became addicted to the convenience.

Once you’re first with a unique product or service, try to come up with a simple word that describes it. For example, FedEx coined the word overnight, IBM came up with computer, Xerox gave us copier, Coke turned every soft drink into a cola, and thanks to Heinz, ketchup is the topping of choice for just about everything. By coming up with one word or a simple phrase, you narrow your prospect’s focus and strengthen your position in the market place.

In the beginning, we tried to explain how our Spider Crane(R) moved fully loaded lateral file cabinets and how our Space Gobblers” eliminated the need to empty the contents prior to moving desks. Our explanations seemed to miss the target until The Wall Street Journal wrote a story about my system and tagged it the boxless move. Such catchphrases easily stick with prospects because they instantly bring to mind a very desirable image in a beautifully simple way. My inventions became The Patented Boxless Moving System and Peachtree Movers became the Home of the Boxless Move, taking over the number one office mover spot in our market.

And what ever became of our old nemesis Neptune? They’re no longer in business. M EDITOR’S NOTE: Ed Katz heads Ofce Moving Systems in Atlanta which manufactures and distributes highlyspecialized products for the moving industry. He recently received the Award of Excellence as Distinguished Author for 1999 from the International Facility Management Association for his first book, Commercial Relocation: A Comprehensive Guide for Industry Professionals & Service Buyers. To learn more, visit The Office Moving Resource Center at www.officemoves.com or call 800-464-8688.

Copyright B U S Publishing Group, Inc. Dec 1999

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