Tag Archives: commercial property preparation

Propertyserve Announced As Finalist In 2015 PFM Awards

Great news! Propertyserve UK has been announced as a finalist in the 2015 PfM Awards – http://tinyurl.com/nr385vt

We’re a finalist in the category of ‘Partners in Expert Services – Property Management’, for the excellent work we are doing with Cushman and Wakefield.

PrintPeter Drabble, head of FM operations for Property and Asset Management at Cushman and Wakefield, said: “This type of outsourcing contract needs to be based on a true partnership, one which is built on trust and that is something we are definitely getting from Propertyserve… The team has worked hard to get under the skin of our business, and to really begin developing relationships and building confidence in their service… All queries are answered promptly and professionally.”

The competition looks tough, but we’re hopeful of a strong result when the awards ceremony takes place.

Roll on the 4th November.

Fingers crossed…

Chris MacDonald, managing director, Propertyserve UK

Propertyserve’s Top Four Strangest Calls

Over the last ten years the staff at Propertyserve have certainly had a wide array of call outs to deal with. From lift entrapments to ceiling leaks, flooded drains to blazing buildings, our helpdesk operators have seen the lot. With over a decade of property maintenance calls, some are bound to push the boundaries of what we’d consider normal requests, however. “I’m used to taking cleaning requests from tenants,” says Tori Nagle, one of our most experienced members of staff, “things like flooded carpets or clearing out entire office floors are pretty common. One day about a year ago, though, I answered the phone to a woman who’d just finished her breakfast and had spilt a bit of her yoghurt on the floor. She wanted us to send out a cleaner on an emergency basis to wipe it up”. With a plethora of great stories from our helpdesk operators, narrowing them down into a blogable list was difficult – but here, in a very vague but certainly not definitive order, are four of our favourite call-out requests of the last ten years.

4. Evening of the Living Dead
Saturday evenings can get fairly busy for our out of hours staff. “The time was about 11 o’clock in the evening on a relatively quiet Saturday night and the phone started ringing,” says Tony Martin. “Our typical calls at this kind of time will be for fire alarm activations or leaks – that sort of thing. I picked up the phone and the guy on the other end was clearly in a bit of a panic. He was quite out of breath and was talking really fast and was difficult to understand at first. Even when I asked him to slow down, I still thought I was mishearing what he was saying. When someone tells you there are zombies running around outside, you kind of do a double take”.

Tony’s hearing was fine, however, as it became apparent that the flustered security guard was genuinely amidst a real-life zombie apocalypse. Left alone overnight the guard had headed outside to carry out one of his hourly patrols only to find his torch trained on a limping, torn-clothed, blood smeared zombie straight out of Evil Dead on the road outside his industrial unit. Somewhat surprised and suspecting a prank, the guard walked on to find several more wandering about and a hoard of hundreds groaning and shuffling over the fence to the next door unit. “It took us a while to realise what was really going on. An events company had organised an overnight zombie escape game in the next door unit and the guard hadn’t been told about it. All these people dressed as zombies were running about all over the place – the poor guy must’ve been terrified!”

3. Trouble in the Pipeline
In her three years at Propertyseve, Vanessa Aldridge has taken her fair share of strange calls. “The best one I took has to be the time I answered the phone to a less-than enthused tenant explaining that he’d lost his favourite ferrets into the pipework of a building we take care of”, she says, “They’d scampered in amongst the pipes that served the building and he couldn’t get them out”. Liaising with the sympathetic Facilities Manager, Vanessa was eventually required to call out the fire brigade to cut into the pipes and release the furry fugitives. “I don’t know if they found them – I hope they did.”

2. Where There’s Smoke…
“Four o’clock in the morning is never a good time for anything,” says Tony Martin, who’d only just recovered from his zombie scare a couple of weeks before. “We’ve had fires reported to us before and when we get them there’s a lot of people than need informing and contractors lining up to carry out remedial repairs once the fire brigade have made the building safe, so when the security guard on the phone told me he’d called 999 and that the emergency services were on their way I knew I was in for a tricky morning.”

Following the set procedure for reporting fires, Tony proceeded to call the Facilities Manager, potential contractors to prepare them for any emergency repair instructions and informed the rest of the helpdesk and management here at Propertyserve. “I had just finished informing the last person on my list when the phone rang again. It was the security guard again sounding utterly miserable. The fire brigade had arrived and located the source of the fire: steam was being generated from the rain falling on the slightly warm lamps outside the building. Apparently the orange glow from the lights made it look like it was ablaze.” While false alarms are a common occurrence at Propertyserve, the security guard’s reaction makes this call stick out in Tony’s mind.

1.       Another One Bites the Dust
Back when the helpdesk was relatively small, Chris MacDonald – now our Managing Director – was working on the helpdesk and had charge of the weekend phone. “About 5 o’clock in the evening I got a call from a distressed woman in a residential property shrieking down the phone that she had a mouse in the kitchen. As I tried to calm her down I arranged for our pest control contractors to attend and they were able to get to her pretty quickly,” explains Chris. “Once they got there they found her perched on top of the worktop in the middle of the room refusing to get down. Our guys didn’t have to look for very long to find the little perpetrator, but what they found wasn’t entirely what they were expecting.

“Instead of an innocent mouse, a small ball of dust was being blown around by the heating fan in the kitchen. The woman had been up on the counter too scared to even look closely enough to realise she was hiding from a piece of fluff.” Although the dust ball was removed humanely and released safely back into the wild, this story doesn’t have an entirely happy ending; after helping the relieved resident down from the kitchen-top the pest control officer headed back downstairs to find his van had been towed for parking illegally!

Jake Jones – Propertyserve Helpdesk

The Signs are Good for 2015

The transition from one year to another presents us with the opportunity to take stock, take a look over our shoulder and then rise onto our tiptoes to catch a glimpse of what’s over the hill.

In terms of both the property market and our own business, both landscapes are currently proving easy on the eye. However, as Michael Fish will testify following the storm of ‘87, forecasts can be wrong. We’re not resting on our laurels; our teams are continuing to work as diligently as ever to ensure we remain at the forefront of helpdesks who are in fact ‘helpful’.

Operating purely in the property and asset management sector, we keep a constant eye on market trends and the views of industry experts. With that in mind, what better way to start this assessment than by giving a brief summary of the market.

2014 was a good year for UK commercial property. The economic recovery coupled with low levels of development has meant that the balance between demand and supply has swung in the favour of landlords indicating that the rental market will see accelerated growth in 2015. London has seen vacancy rates drop to pre-crisis levels with the regions following suit at a predictably lower pace. Manchester in particular stands out in terms of growth in the office sector.

From our perspective there also seems to have been a rise in the number of industrial units and parks changing hands. According to industry experts, the rise in this stock has been largely attributed to the move to online shopping resulting in increased delivery requirements as well as the rise in traditional occupiers, such as builder’s merchants.

So, what does that mean for us? The rise in tenanted property indicates that we will – potentially – have more tenants to handle within our existing client base. It also means that any property management firms without a helpdesk facility will be fighting more fires on a day-to-day basis – with many slowly coming to realise the power of working with an outsourced helpdesk provider. We have already seen the result of this in the market and are speaking to a number of companies of varying sizes who can see the storm coming and are scouring the market for options. We’re delighted to say that early discussions have gone well on all fronts and we’re anticipating a very busy 2015.

As a company, we have also had to make provisions for the anticipated market growth. This has come in a variety of forms, which include:  bolstering our Out of Hours presence to ensure it keeps pace with our impressive In Hours performance –  currently boasting an average pick up time of 3.6 seconds over the past 6 months. We have also reviewed contractor performance and rates to ensure we remain very competitive in the market – our average attendance to a fabric repair emergency in 2014 has been 48 minutes nationally. This is all being achieved whilst proving to be 40% better value than average labour rates in Central London according to contractual independent benchmarking.

At Propertyserve we feel we are prepared to stride into 2015 with our house in good order and a lot to say to the market. 2014 saw significant growth in terms of turnover, client base and our own team. The day Propertyserve opened its doors to the world in 2004, the employees were 75% family (there were four of us!), we now employ over 25 members of staff but the family feel remains as strong as ever. No one is made to work late. No one is made to cover shifts. No one is asked to make cakes. All these things just happen due to having a team who take responsibility, adopt the culture that’s been developed from day one and ultimately want to succeed and help shape their own career paths and futures.

Ian Robertson, Director, Propertyserve UK

Winter Tip 5 – Winter Risk Management

With a beard that could command a thousand ships, Chris T held open a clear plastic bag and waited patiently as I gingerly inserted my hand and ruffled 34 pieces of neatly folded paper. I wasn’t in the best of moods – it was the morning and I was expecting a hat. As I swished my hand around the bag I asked Chris why there were 34 names when there were only 33 people who’d agreed to play this round of Secret Santa. He didn’t know.

I thought about it for a second as I bought myself some time. The swishing of paper was kind of therapeutic, and the longer I waited before choosing my victim, the more of a chance I’d have of claiming that I’d not had enough time to find a decent present for under £5 if what I got was rubbish. Chris began to get restless. “Just choose one already. You don’t need to mix them up – they’re already random,” he urged, “and you don’t have to close your eyes. The paper is sealed. There’s no way you could know even if you could see”.
“Will I get to swap if I don’t thi-“
“No, just pick a name.” Chris was having none of it.

I swished a little faster and eventually settled on the bit of paper I’d had in my hand since I began mixing. I pulled it out of the bag and the queue behind me sighed with quiet relief as I walked away, unwrapping the paper. Last year’s Secret Santa saw me buying my chosen colleague a condiment gun designed to dispense two condiments onto a hotdog. I was ecstatic about this find and couldn’t wait to see what I had to unwrap. As the long-awaited opening day arrived, I was greeted by a poorly wrapped little box with a tiny tag bearing my name. How endearing, I thought. Smiling I tore open the Tesco brand white plastic paper and revealed the contents. A small, glass Christmas bauble. A little button on the bottom made it flash and some of the glitter it was shipped with was still visible on the glue that was meant to hold it. I was devastated. As it transpired, my ‘Santa’ who shall remain unnamed (TOM) had forgotten about the deal until that day and had panicked. Since that day, the prospect of Secret Santa has never been the same.

That day doesn’t seem so long ago, but as we reach the end of November it’s clear that winter is here and that the short, dreary days will soon have engulfed our days of Christmas shopping. In an unashamedly blatant link to the last in our tips for preparing your commercial property for winter, shopping centre managers have almost run out of time to finish their preparations for the snowy season ahead. So here, along with a recap of our previous four tips, is our final snippet of advice for how to prepare your property for the cold weather ahead:

1.      External clocks for Lighting

Ensure that your site’s external lighting is up to date, all the bulbs are working and the time-clocks are adjusted to allow for the change in light as the winter draws in. The last thing you need after all your timely preparations is a tenant injured in an easily prevented trip or fall.

2.      Ensure you hold a suitable gritting contract for your building

The amount of calls we get from tenants complaining that it’s snowed surpasses any weather based reactive maintenance calls we receive. A reactive call out for snow shovelling and a bag of grit will cost between £150 and £300 depending on the size of your property, but on a first-call-first-shovelled basis you could be waiting an age for a contractor to become free. With that in mind, you need to make sure your gritting contract covers the right factors. Auto gritting is a must; upon the threat of snow your contract includes pre-emptive visits to throw salt over your site to prevent snow and ice. Auto snow clearance is also very important if your site’s of any substantial size, and with the right options selected you can even be notified when there’s snow abound.

3.      Seasonal gutter clearance

When it rains, it pours. And when it pours out of your gutters because they’re blocked by a year’s worth of debris, your tenants get wet. Tenants hate getting wet.

A simple gutter inspection can alleviate unnecessary emergency call-outs to clear blocked or broken gutters and could even go as far as to rectify any problems that could potentially cause thousands of pounds’ worth of leak damage to your building. By getting them cleared the water will drain properly, and the contractors will check for damaged systems and even backflow while they’re up there. A must-have in your winter preparation arsenal.

4.      Roof Inspections

In the same way that a gutter inspection could help repair any small problems which lead to big issues, a roof inspection could highlight holes, loose tiles or blistered asphalt that’ll save you a significant amount of money compared to what you’d be spending cleaning up the mess they’ve caused.

5.      Pre-Order Sandbags

Getting into the sand market early will ensure that you’re not fighting for every grain when the floods come bowling in. At about £4 per bag at this time of year, look into how many you think you’d need to block up any sources of ingress. Buying them now will ensure you have them when you need them rather than at the back of the queue paying premium prices, knee deep in your new moat. You can also look at other means of flood prevention which could prove more cost effective like purpose made barriers. An air brick seal can cost £10 and save you thousands.

Jake Jones – Propertyserve Helpdesk

Winter Tip 4 – Winter Risk Management

I’m not a bath kind of guy, but yesterday I sneezed three times in a row and decided I must have a cold. Sitting bored in a lukewarm bucket of water doesn’t appeal to me over a quick, hot shower but my girlfriend had left a little box of exploding bath bombs in my bathroom and I didn’t feel like standing up much, so this alignment of three significant factors led me to opt for the lukewarm bucket. I sat there for a while, arms folded and frowning at the prospect of having to write a letter of complaint to Lush explaining that not only would their ‘Exploding Bath Bomb’ be more aptly named a ‘Dud Fizz Ball’, but that I was now covered heat to toe in glitter and would have to take a shower anyway. Pulling the plug with my needlessly wrinkled toe, I watched the water spin anti-clockwise for a bit before I grumpily swished my feet about and watched it change direction. As the water drained and revealed how much glitter a pair of Speedos can gather, I realised that the water I was swishing hadn’t naturally gravitated around a single direction every time as the Simpsons would have had be believe.

I got out of the bath and, removing my goggles, sat at my computer. I didn’t have to search long to find that the belief that water only swirls clockwise in one hemisphere and the anti-clockwise in the other is nothing but a common misconception. Inaccurate, too, is the belief that a MacBook Pro is immune to viruses, malware and glitter. There ain’t no party like an S Club Party? Double negative. There are loads of parties like S Club parties. Realistically, if there’s no party like the party you’re having, what you’re having probably isn’t a party.

Just like lying in a cramped plastic container of water and fairy liquid, Vitamin C affects our chances of catching a cold in no way whatsoever, and cracking your knuckles while your girlfriend shouts at your for getting the carpet wet and sparkly has no bearing on the likelihood that you’ll develop arthritis. These popular misconceptions are easy to believe and unless we’re careful they can actually reach a point where it becomes dangerous. Some people, for example, refuse to vaccinate their children against serious diseases under the ill-founded belief that it can be linked to autism, while in the past others have been killed under the mere assumption that they were practising witchcraft. As the winter draws near, it’s easy to believe that your commercial property will last the testing times of the cold, dark months that lie ahead under the common misconception that severely bad weather only really occurs every other year. Time is running out to prepare for the cold, and so here is the fourth instalment in our series of blogs devoted to the preparation of your commercial property for the winter.

Tip 4 – Roof Inspections

In the same way that a gutter inspection could help repair any small problems which lead to big issues, a roof inspection could highlight holes, loose tiles or blistered asphalt that’ll save you a significant amount of money compared to what you’d be spending clearing up the mess they’ve caused.

Jake Jones – Propertyserve Helpdesk