Selecting vendors for your community
Communities hire vendors regularly to provide a wide range of services on an as-needed or contract basis. Since who you do business with can have a major impact on property values, resident satisfaction, and your community’s reputation, it’s important to prepare and structure your hiring process in a clear and organized way.
In this article, we’ll provide you with insight on how to select the right vendors for your community and some features on your website that can help along the way!
Types of vendors
The two categories of vendors you might employ for your community are maintenance services for common areas and professional services. The types of professional services you’ll likely need to hire include attorneys, accountants, and insurance companies.
The maintenance services you require will depend on the common areas in your community, which can include the grounds, recreational areas, and sometimes the roads. Depending on the types of facilities in your community, common areas can also include hallways, elevators, roofs, parking areas, and laundry rooms. Below are some examples of maintenance service providers you’ll need to hire:
- Pool maintenance
- Pest control
- Snow removal
- Trash pickup
There are both internal and external factors to consider before preparing to select vendors for your community. The internal factors for your community to weigh include your specific needs and budget. Another critical and sometimes overlooked factor is staying neutral and avoiding conflicts of interest. An example of a conflict of interest would be if a board member owns a landscaping company and wants their company to be hired by the community. It’s best for all involved to avoid these types of scenarios.
External factors to consider are those associated with the vendors themselves. Vendors that understand community associations and offer services specifically designed for your type of community can make life much easier. Vendors with experience supporting communities should already understand the relationships that can exist within a community structure (e.g., the board, property managers, committees, and members). They also may have service packages prepared in advance since they have serviced other communities before. Also, don’t forget that a set of shared values like professionalism, a sense of urgency, and customer service can go a long way in your relationship!
Once you’ve considered your needs and the types of vendors you would like to pursue, you can identify your vendor selection team. The critical task for this team is to determine your specific vendor requirements. By detailing exactly what service you need, your expectations, and vendor responsibilities, potential vendors will be able to provide a more accurate bid.
If your vendor selection team isn’t able to meet in person to discuss these requirements, you can create a restricted “Forum” page type on your website to facilitate a discussion. An example of this is shown below:
Create request forms
Two key forms to prepare in advance are the Request for Information (RFI) and Request for Quote (RFQ) documents. Each of these forms will serve a unique purpose in the vendor selection process.
The Request for Information (RFI) form will be used early in the vendor selection process when you need additional information about a company. Also, inviting vendors to complete an RFI is a great way to gauge how responsive the company will be to your communication or work order requests.
The other form you’ll create, a Request for Quote (RFQ), will be used once you've determined which vendors your community will invite to submit a bid. This detailed document defines in writing the specific service needed and vendor expectations. Vendors will use this document to show how they will meet your requirements and how much their service will cost.
Use the “Custom Form” page type to create both the RFI and RFQ forms the vendors will need to fill out and submit. By using this page type, vendors can do this directly on your website, and the selection team will be able to visit this page to view all form submissions.
To further organize these forms, we recommend placing both under a folder labeled “Vendors” so potential vendors can easily find them.
Select, vet, and hire
Once your selection team has completed the above steps, you can start the selection process, which consists of finding, vetting, and hiring the vendors.
There are many avenues to find reputable vendors that would be happy to service your community! Online directories, local advertising, and networking events are all great places to search. Start by selecting 5-6 vendors and invite them to respond to your RFI on your website.
To keep communications official, create and use your community-branded email accounts for professional vendor communication.
Once you’ve received responses from the chosen vendors, select 2-3 finalists and send them the RFQ for completion and submittal through your website’s custom form page. Once you evaluate the vendor bids, consider meeting face-to-face for any follow-up questions you may have. Also, be sure to ask for references from their satisfied existing customers!
Additionally, to avoid a conflict of interest, don’t accept gifts or favors from vendors during the selection process, and base your decision on the same criteria across all potential vendors.
Once the selection team has decided who to hire, notify the chosen vendor to let them know the good news! This is also the time to negotiate terms or pricing so that once your community attorney draws up the contract, there will already be an understanding between all parties.
Hiring vendors to serve your community is an important decision that can have several benefits when done correctly and thoroughly. We recommend using the suggestions above to help consider what types of vendors you'll need and to create a hiring process that ensures you end up with the right vendors that meet your community’s needs and budget.