This fall, resorts stretching from South Florida to the Outer Banks of North Carolina were affected by flooding, wind damage and fallen trees due to Hurricane Matthew. The damages that Mother Nature brought on is only a single example of the numerous potential circumstances in which those who work in property management need to hire and work with vendors and suppliers to improve or repair a property.
Everyone is busy which leads to many people seeking out vendors and suppliers when they need them or using the same ones time and time again without entertaining multiple bids. While this works sometimes, it may not be the most effective way to manage properties.
To get an expert’s take on working with vendors and suppliers, I spoke with Pam Cordell, CAM, RRP who is currently a Regional Director of Operations at Defender Resorts. Pam spent ten years with Defender Resorts in a variety of positions from guest service representative to General Manager to Regional Director of Operations. In those positions she hired and worked with many vendors in Maryland, South Carolina, Florida and the US Virgin Islands. After ten years she began working with vendors in another fashion, when she became the Director of Member Services for the American Resort Development Association (ARDA). While there she got to know and work with an array of vendors from interior designers and other professionals who understand the unique intricacies of legacy timeshare. In 2016, she returned to Defender Resorts where she is recognizing that her time spent at ARDA building vendor and supplier relationships mixed with her experience in project management is incredibly valuable.
When I asked Pam to fill me in on some tips and advice for working with vendors and suppliers her initial reply was instant. Relationships. Building them, respecting them and maintaining them is the number one thing any resort management professional can do.
“It’s important to travel to industry events such as regional industry meetings, the ARDA World Convention as well as local events such as Chamber of Commerce events,” said Cordell. “Building and maintaining those relationships could be valuable in the near future or five years down the road. You truly never know.”
Since industry and local events are one of the best places to begin building relationships, Pam gave me some advice on how to make the most out of these events and productively network.
Obtain an Attendee List Prior to the Event
“When possible, having an attendee list can help you review who all will be there ahead of time and identify anyone you have a need or interest in seeking out to speak to,” said Cordell.
Going into events, as with anything else, with intent and purpose allows you to have a clear path and also to do research beforehand.
Sit with Strangers
It’s easy to fall into regular patterns and circle up with the people who you know, but that kind of negates the point of attending an event. While it can feel intimidating at first, sitting with and striking up a conversation with strangers can also be exhilarating and educational. Keep in mind that at the end of the day you and the stranger have at least one thing in common – you are both at the same event. Start there and you never know where the conversation will lead.
Follow Up Afterwards
Often after an event vendors and sponsors reach out to attendees because they are sales oriented, but attendees should reach out to the people who they met as well. Following up helps to cement the relationship and acknowledge to the vendor that you value their time, respect them and it was not a dead end introduction, even if you many not need their services at that very moment.
Building Relationships Makes For Better Decisions
Anyone who has been in the resort industry for a few years or more risks the possibility of being in a relationship rut.
“Change can be good. Using the same supplier time and time again without at least seeking out quotes from other companies can result in a relationship rut,” said Cordell. “It doesn’t serve anyone well to be in that kind of rut when building relationships and opening up quotes could lead to the discovery of better quality products at lower prices.”
Already having vendor relationships built makes projects easier and more productive for everyone. By having an established rapport with multiple vendors there is less time spent weeding them out since you are already familiar with who you communicate well with and know the quality of their services.
According to Cordell, while in the bidding process with vendors it is important to include all the necessary information upfront at the beginning of the process so your time and the vendor’s time is not wasted.
“Make sure the RFP fully-encompasses the project so that vendor’s first bids are truly comparing apples to apples and contain information to accurately fulfill the project. The more time and work you put in upfront on relationships and the proposal process the more smoothly the entire project will go,” said Cordell.
There is core industry advice for working with vendors such as utilizing group buying power to save money and getting multiple quotes, but the cornerstone is building relationships. The results of building strong relationships range from effective communication to getting a resort higher quality work and fair bids – it’s a win-win for everyone involved. Plus, whoever said having a few industry friends in your corner was a bad thing.