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The Top 3 Things To Consider When Hiring A Facilities Maintenance Company with Ryan Dempsey (RTS #34)

Episode #: 110
The Top 3 Things To Consider When Hiring A Facilities Maintenance Company with Ryan Dempsey (RTS #34)

Guest: Ryan Dempsey
Topics: East End Group, facilities maintenance


Chris Ressa 0:01
This is retail retold the story of how that store ended up in your neighborhood. I’m your host, Chris ReSSA. And I invite you to join my conversation with some of the retail industry’s biggest influencers. This podcast is brought to you by DLC management. Welcome to retail retold everyone. Today I am joined by Ryan Dempsey. Ryan is the managing partner at East End group. They are a national self performing facilities maintenance company. I am excited for him to join us today. Welcome to the show, Ryan.

Ryan Dempsey 0:38
Thanks, Chris. Happy to be here.

Ressa 0:40
So Ryan, tell the audience a little bit about who you are and what Eastend group does.

Dempsey 0:46
So I’m Ryan them seeing the managing partner of Eastern group, we’re a national facility maintenance firm, like you said. So we handle everything from exterior services from landscapes, no asphalt, concrete repairs, you know, from one facility to a, you know, our largest portfolio is over 1000 buildings, as well as interior services, which could be from general handyman services, electrical, plumbing, mechanical, and small renovation stuff, a

Ressa 1:16
lot of stuff under one umbrella.

Dempsey 1:19
Exactly. We try to be the go to partner for our customers, you know, and our client partners that we’re a one stop shop that they can call us for, you know, a single project or doing, you know, a big rollout of multiple projects, multiple trades all under one umbrella, and know that we’re gonna have it taken care of for them.

Ressa 1:39
Terrific. Well, I want to get into it a little bit. So 2020 was an interesting year for managing facilities. Tell the audience a little bit what that was like for you. There’s a lot of things there. Whether it’s the mitigation of the spread of a virus to natural disasters that happened across the country, to riots, there’s a lot of things that happened. Tell us what 2020 was like for you. And some of the things you all did to kind of get to the other side.

Dempsey 2:12
Yeah, now 2020 was definitely the year that it felt like every week was something new, and something unheard of. There was always something going on whether it was in the beginning of COVID starting to spread and stores closing and facilities going through that hurdle of hey, what are we closing down? And what are we going to, you know, mitigate to make sure on a facility standpoint that the building was ready for that, then to reopening of stores and seeing what that look like. So that was, you know, disinfectant services, you know, extra hand sanitizer, floor markings, customer pickup areas and, you know, exterior of buildings. And once you finally got that going, we saw a ton of disasters across the country, whether it was hurricanes coming through, that were causing tree damage and parking lots and roof leaks and property damage. And then we went into riots of board ups of facilities, and it was everything thrown at us. And one start, you know, this winter was another winter to remember most snow markets are abnormally high snow conditions. So it was a snowstorm every week, you know, the Northeast. So snow, I think almost every day for the month of February. Seeing more snow than the last two years combined.

Ressa 3:30
Yeah, we have we certainly have, what were some of the things that you did to enable you guys to really succeed in managing the facilities during COVID. We’ve seen

Dempsey 3:43
a decrease, a lot of stores start to go opening, reopening and getting back into just the public’s I have a normal kind of scenario. We’re still doing disinfecting services regularly at stores. We’re still going in and taking care of stuff that for facilities that are still not open or have less capacity. So it’s revamping pm schedules that, you know, something could have been serviced on a monthly basis now might not only need to be done on a quarterly or stuff that should it was only being done on a quarterly is now being done on a weekly or daily basis. So it’s really adapting those service levels and figuring out what the facility usage looks like going forward, I think is one of the biggest thing that we’ve been noticing.

Ressa 4:28
And do you all do more than just retail?

Dempsey 4:31
Yeah, so we’re in, you know, retail segment, we’re in the utility market. We do a lot of you know, Hoa and homeowners associations on the exterior services. So we’re seeing it across multiple different industries and some have been shut down longer. Some have not stopped. You know, we do a lot in the utility space. So whether that’s electric companies, gas companies, telecommunications, they didn’t have the luxury of stopping throughout it so they had to go above them. beyond to ensure that a critical services were, you know, stayed 100% throughout the pandemic. So for a lot of utilities we went into, on their critical sites actually sequestered in quarantine those employees in control rooms. So we actually designed and built column mobile trailer parks in those facilities, that they actually kept every employee on site. So we brought in motorhomes, generators, shower trailers, laundry trailers and created a complete village in that parking lot where employees lived for months to make sure that the critical services were delivered to all these retailers, homeowners and you know,

Ressa 5:38
the public. Wow, had no idea that was happening.

Dempsey 5:42
And we had probably about 1000, you know, of our assets out in the field, mobilized from food services we got involved with, and pretty much anything you would need to, you know, run in your home, we ran for these people at their facilities.

Ressa 5:56
Wow, I had no idea.

Dempsey 5:59
It was definitely, you know, it was at the height of it. And, you know, we went from when that was one of the plans that got initiated with one of our utility customers, and we expanded probably into 20 new customers throughout the process as it unfolded really from, say, March of last year, all the way through July.

Ressa 6:18
Had you ever done anything like that before?

Dempsey 6:21
We’ve done it on more of the natural disaster. So we do a lot of utility, where didn’t you know, storm damages during Tropical storms and stuff? We do a lot with municipalities on that kind of cleanup work. So we’ve been in that realm, but never when it was beautiful and sunny, and you’re setting these up, normally you’re going into a flood zone or, you know, a damaged area, it was kind of more felt like a drill than actually what it was.

Ressa 6:48
Wow, that’s fascinating. I was going to ask what was the number one challenge your organization had in 2020? I don’t know if you’ve already highlighted it just now. But if you had to tell the audience, from a facilities perspective, what was the number one challenge you dealt with in 2020? Number one

Dempsey 7:07
challenge we dealt with was really still operating at, we probably operated in the beginning at the height of the pandemic at probably 200%, you know, compared to our normal speed, and trying to deal with the challenges of every other business not operating at that speed that we were. So whether it was trying to get material or suppliers that we rely on to help our business operate, getting them on that same page and find selecting those suppliers that were able to meet the demands that we had, you know, material backlogs have been through the roof, just with construction increasing on the residential market side of just a simple, you know, simple toilet that you could go anywhere to pick up now has a lead time, you know, and trying to get that material to still perform the job that we need to get done. It’s been a still a overwhelming challenge. Yeah,

Ressa 7:58
we’re seeing it as well, for sure. I think all property owners are seeing that as well. Do you guys have a view on when that backlog starts to unlock?

Dempsey 8:07
From what we’re getting from a lot of our suppliers, they say probably at least another six months of where we’re at right now. They’re starting to see stuff open up, but just trade and shipping and getting it to us has been the, you know, are one materials missing to be able to make the product that they need?

Ressa 8:25
Are you seeing supply issues on anything other than traditional construction or raw materials?

Dempsey 8:31
Yeah, 100%. We’ve been fortunate enough that we have a large inventory, we warehouse probably close to 40,000 square feet of just material for our own use. But we’ve placed orders in, you know, a year ago that still haven’t been fulfilled yet. So it’s really just going and getting whatever you can get your hands on and stocking up on stuff.

Ressa 8:52
Wow. You placed orders a year ago that you haven’t got your hands on. I know the consumer had a challenge to get toilet paper and paper towels at the beginning of the pandemic. And I was wondering what your challenges were in. There’s still things you ordered over a year ago that you have not received yet.

Dempsey 9:10
Yeah. Wow. It’s a It’s definitely been challenging to navigate those things that have you’re planning on and in the same token, we’ve seen material that gets quoted out on 12 weeks that gets delivered in six. So it’s it’s constantly juggling, you know, material orders, and when they’re coming in whether they’re early, late, or non existent. So it’s really I think part of it’s finding the right vendor to place the order with as well. Wow.

Ressa 9:37
Give us some context of size Eason group. How many employees is this?

Dempsey 9:41
So we’re about 150 employees. Self performing markets is pretty much the whole east coast. We do have people nationally, but we do a lot of travel for our customers too as well. So I’d say from our branches, we travel about 200 miles from every branch so That covers probably at around 65% of the country with tradesmen, and the rest is with project management staff and we more take a backseat role on the facilities more of just the typical trades. But we’ll take a more holistic approach and look at it as your management of that process and creating those structures that we perform in ourselves performing markets and bringing those to their existing vendors

Ressa 10:31
of the not just self performing. But anything you all do, what is your primary line of business?

Dempsey 10:36
My favorite is snow removal. Snow removal is what we look for, where snow 365 days a year operation here. And the other services that we provide are ancillary or backup services to that. And it keeps our employees around all year round for snow season. So we kind of look at it the backwards approach of most snow removal companies that are a landscaping firm or a construction firm that then do snow in the winter to get them through the winter. We look at it the opposite way if we’re a snow firm that provides other services to keep people around the best talent around for snow season.

Ressa 11:14
Got it? So this was a good year.

Dempsey 11:16
This was a very good year.

Ressa 11:19
This is a good snow year for you. Alright. Let’s get into knowing Ryan a little better. I got three questions for you, Ryan, you ready?

Dempsey 11:28
Let’s go for it.

Ressa 11:30
All right. Question one. What is one thing most people agree with? That you do not?

Dempsey 11:37
Most people would agree that the pandemic and all this stuff has slowed down things, or have been able to take a you know, a laid back approach where I look at it, it’s a bigger opportunity for people to grow into that you should be working 10 times harder and not having an excuse for something. All right. Question two,

Ressa 11:59
what is one skill you wish you had, but you do not possess?

Dempsey 12:03
speaking another language. We deal with a lot of suppliers and a lot of different diverse workforce and trying to communicate that would be key. And to be able to handle it yourself and not rely on someone else.

Ressa 12:17
It’s such an interesting answer. I will tell you, I’ve asked that question a bunch it these are three new questions and 2021. That is the most common answer is, yeah, a lot of people really wish they spent the time to learn a second language. And I

Dempsey 12:31
look back when I was in school, I took Spanish class as a joke, and you know, got through it the best I could. But I really wish I paid a little bit more attention than

Ressa 12:39
Sure. All right. Last question. When is the last time you tried something for the first time?

Dempsey 12:46
I would say a couple months ago, my girlfriend she likes to try new food and healthier stuff. And she’s always making me try something but usually I’ll say no. And I did a couple months ago with her of trying food that I would probably not eat.

Ressa 13:03
Like what?

Dempsey 13:06
It was all healthy, organic, you know, on that kick. Stuff that I can’t even pronounce the name of stuff that was

Ressa 13:15
so you tried like kombucha for the first time. It was a

Dempsey 13:18
shake of a bunch of stuff. And I said this doesn’t look normal. But let’s go for it.

Ressa 13:22
Understood. My wife and I, from September to December went on a plant based diet. I’ve since eliminated red meat from my diet. I am not fully plant based or vegan, but I haven’t had red meat in a long time. So

Dempsey 13:38
I guess we’re not gonna let you Peter Luger isn’t?

Ressa 13:42
No. All right, I want to move on over and we’re gonna talk about something I find interesting, which is the top three things a property owner needs to consider when hiring the facilities maintenance company. And so I’m excited to talk about these. Let’s go to number one, what is the first thing that a property owner needs to think about when hiring a facilities maintenance company?

Dempsey 14:06
I would say the top thing is really understanding what the services that your vendor is providing and how the platinum so are you hiring a you’re hiring a construction firm, everyone like we said in the beginning, we cover a wide umbrella of services, but what is really their focus and what are they self performing? What are they brokering? What are they aggregating to get you that service? You know, facilities is a 24/7 operation. Most bad things that happen in our facility world don’t happen between the hours of nine and five. They happen at two o’clock in the morning. They happen on a weekend. They happen on a holiday they have in the worst times then they could so really understanding your vendors capabilities. Hey, if you call it two o’clock in the morning on answering their phone, what service procedures do they have to handle that? Call at two o’clock in the morning.

Ressa 15:02
Yeah, it’s a good point, the type of service that you mentioned, because there’s a lot of different types of service providers out there, right? There’s, you mentioned self perform, which means you’re actually snowplowing,

Dempsey 15:17
it’s our trucks, it’s our people, it’s our equipment, you know, we’re able to make make the decision of this is how we’re going to execute it. It’s not a, you know, from a broker model, it’s, you know, relying on subcontractors and other companies to perform for you. So you don’t have control over that. If you, you know, if Chris is my plumber, and my client calls me, I have to make sure that Chris can go there before I can commit to that. And it’s that time gap, you know, that some sometimes isn’t a luxury,

Ressa 15:52
do you find that there are more self performing organizations that not or most companies using someone who’s not self performing?

Dempsey 16:02
I see the market as trends. And you know, a couple years ago, everyone went to more of the bigger aggregators in the market. And it slowly over the last year or so, people have been trying to go back to that self performance model versus they’ve lost that quality. And, you know, in the work and management of it, that makes sense. Okay, goes through it goes through waves, you know, there’s, there’s a lot of things people consider whether it’s pricing service, and you kind of got to rank, you know, you can’t get all, you can’t get everything from a supplier. So you have to kind of pick which is your priority.

Ressa 16:35
Understood? Makes sense? All right. So the first one is the type of service they provide, what is the number two item that a property owner needs to consider when hiring a facilities maintenance company?

Dempsey 16:46
experience in the market and experience in their service? What are they good at? Where are they going to excel? For you? What kind of quality control programs do they have in place? What kind of reporting do they have? What kind of transparency do they have transparency is huge in the facility maintenance world? Are they going to say something’s fixed? You know, we a lot of portfolio managers we deal with don’t have the luxury of going to the properties that they service, you know, on a daily basis? So are you their eyes and ears on the property? Are they did they feel confident enough in the information you’re relaying to them? Whether it’s by phone and email, text message that pays you’re handling it with the right quality to get the job done? And when you say it’s done? Is it really done?

Ressa 17:31
So great point that I think most overlook, you mentioned the experience. And you mentioned you all do snow plowing? Are most people coming to you for snowplow first and then kind of that expands.

Dempsey 17:47
It’s a mix of both we’re known in the industry is a you know, a serious player in the snow removal world.

But we have customers that come to us for all our services. And snow is something that we always try to push them towards.

Ressa 18:02
Got it that makes sense. So when you’re looking at new customers, you mentioned the 20 new customers you got for doing the mobile parks at utilities, they were new customers. Just curious today, are you with doing more than you are in April for them?

Dempsey 18:19
100%, we’ve gotten into all sorts of services with these customers, we really try to consider ourself partners for who we take on as clients as well. You know, I think it’s important to have a, you know, it’s not, we’re providing a service to you, but you also have to be able to provide us, you know, a comfort level to us as the service provider that we want to work for you we want you to, you know, we don’t want to feel like it’s a burden when this customer is calling are they going to look at us the same in the same light. So it’s really about really both both sides of the coin, feeling a mutual respect for each other and the services we’re providing to each other. And wanting to go to work and wanting to help them out and making their job easier.

Ressa 19:04
All right. And the third one is one that was an interesting one that I didn’t I didn’t realize was gonna be in the top three, but I think it makes a lot of sense. And what is number three?

Dempsey 19:15
Emergency Preparedness,

Ressa 19:16
emergency preparedness, how

Dempsey 19:18
is your vendor able to perform on their last minute notice? Are they able to put their money where their mouth is? Can they perform something? Anyone can schedule a service call for two weeks from now and try to you know, try to make that appointment, you know, look at a you know, look at the last time you call the cable company. And they they give you a window from you know, you can be there from 10 to two o’clock next Thursday. When you have an emergency situation, you can’t say hey, I can get there tomorrow morning. I can get there next week. Are they able to jump at a moment’s notice and be there for you? And that’s really where I think a lot of vendors the difference between A lot of vendors are, that’s the moment to shine. And if they can’t take that opportunity, that’s a big, that’s a big issue.

Ressa 20:06
Yeah, it’s a great one in the residential consumer world that everyone plays a part in. There’s many service providers that don’t want to play in that lane. They don’t want to have to do that. And it’s frustrating for your consumer in the business world in, you know, the commercial business world, the business owners have no choice they have to play in the emergency preparedness. So you need a partner who can deliver service that that meets those needs. How do you deal with in a time like COVID, when you have so many calls that are emergency or in a civil unrest in providing that service,

Dempsey 20:44
big thing is being prepared, running these drills, we have a very robust of back office platform that we use for all our scheduling and our dispatching and keeping track of that, that plays a crucial role in dispatching and making sure things are checked off the list, especially on in times when things are coming in so fast that you can’t remember what you did 10 seconds ago, you know, so having good logs of paperwork or worth it. And then really being transparent with your customer and showing them that, you know, no one’s gonna get upset if you say, Hey, you haven’t we have a situation here, we got these 10 things, but we missed this one. If you say you did them all, and you say, hey, well, you missed this, you’re going to be a little bit more upset than if I said, Hey, I know I missed this, but I got 98% of them done. But we’re working to address this. So I think being that transparent, you know, giving everyone the cards that you have, you know, showing everyone your cards on the table. Is is crucial.

Ressa 21:39
I couldn’t agree more. You mentioned drills? Are you guys practicing things in for emergency scenarios?

Dempsey 21:47
100%. From all you know, we do it on, you know, just on our office side of, you know, incoming and how do we dispatch and prioritize things? Do we do it to our field operator. So we have you know, in the snow world, we do snow rodeos in the you know, in the summer, in the fall months, to get guys prepared, show him hey, this is what a dispatch looks like, you know, we dispatch upwards of 500 people in a snow event. So just getting that in and out of who’s going to what site what equipment they’re getting in. And then on the back end of hey, this is what we expect from you on a you know, reporting end of this is the information we need back from for the customers, every customer has a different requirement, whether they have an IVR system, you have to check in an app you have to check into or what information they need from the end of an event or the end of a service call that they need before and after photos they need time in and time out. They need a material break down. Whatever that requirement is and making sure everyone understands that going into it.

Ressa 22:49
That’s really interesting. You don’t hear of a lot of businesses out there that are actually practicing before the events. So I find this fascinating. Very cool. I’m sure that helps you guys tremendously. So kudos to you all for doing a new word. I’ve heard snow rodeos.

Dempsey 23:05
Yeah. No, 100% you always have to be prepared. Yeah.

Ressa 23:10
So all right. I want to bring us to the last part of the interview called retail wisdom. I’ve got three more questions for you. Right. Oh, here we go. Question one. What is the last item over $20 that you bought in a store?

Dempsey 23:24
Last item over 20 bucks? Was probably I went food shopping last night.

Ressa 23:30
All right. Where do you go? food shopping?

Dempsey 23:34
Stop and Shop.

Ressa 23:35
All right. Where are you? Where are you from? Long Island. Okay. All right. Question. Two, what extinct retailer? Do you wish would come back from the dead?

Dempsey 23:48
I’m gonna have to go with blockbuster. We write about this the other night at dinner? And you know, I miss going and try to Yeah, I do miss that whole experience.

Ressa 23:57
For sure. It’s a good one. You know, Saturday night, let’s go choose a movie. Let’s read the back. Actually, I love the process of choosing the movie. My wife always gets frustrated because I’ll sit and read a million. Hit the info button on a million movies on Netflix and my wife’s like, please just choose something.

Dempsey 24:17
I do the same thing. And then half the time I’ll sit there for 45 minutes and say nothing look good. And they won’t even watch anything. They

Ressa 24:23
totally have done the same thing. Totally. Totally. I’ve done that end up turning on some. You know, Everybody Loves Raymond or something. Let’s go right back to this. All right. Last question. If you and I went shopping Ryan at Target, and I lost you when I would I find you in

Dempsey 24:48
this one. So from my own experience, you probably find me back out in the car. So I spend I get to spend a good amount of time at Target and I spend a lot of that time waiting. And there’s actually a there’s a there’s a cool video on YouTube. I know it the husband’s is target. You’d find me out there making friends in the parking lot.

Ressa 25:11
Great answer. All right, well listen. Right and this was great. I really appreciate it. I appreciate it as well. Thank you so much for catching up. And thank you so much for doing this. Sounds good. Thank you. Thanks. Take care, man.

Dempsey 25:24
All right, have a good weekend.

Ressa 25:25
You too. Bye. Thank you for listening to retail retold. If you want to share a story about a retail real estate deal that you were a part of on our show. Please reach out to us at retail retold at DLC This show highlights the stories behind the deals from all perspectives. So it doesn’t matter if you are a retailer, broker, entrepreneur, architect or an attorney. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to retail retold so you don’t miss out on next Thursday’s episode

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