Executives from Campus Suites, Avison Young, and Summit Commercial Solutions said integrity and a long-term approach are critical for maintaining post-secondary clients.

Servicing the unique university/college environment at scale: Best practices for building relationships and securing contracts 

January 4, 2024

SHURE Initiative

Universities and colleges are often the largest landlords in municipalities, and their populations support the volume of activity in the service sector, from food, stationery, appliances, cleaning services, and other wholesale supplies. For vendors to universities and colleges, this can often mean important and valuable contracts at scale. At SHURE GTA on November 16, executives discussed the unique challenges of working with and building relationships with post-secondary clients. The session was moderated by Curtis Gallagher, Principal, and Canadian Hospitality Lead at Avison Young.

Unique aspects of working with university/college clients

Amanda Pereira of Greenleaf Pest Control Inc.'s services are frequently in high demand in transient higher-ed environments. "They're usually looking for something very hands-on."

"During the RFP process, it's important for us not only to show that we provide the same services as every other contributor out there but what is the value that we show in comparison to everybody else," according to Amanda Pereira, Operations Manager, Greenleaf Pest Control Inc. whose firm services universities and student accommodation providers in the GTA region. Pereira said that while universities are a core client base, there are more challenges to building long-term relationships in the higher education arena.

In his comments, Josh Morton, Vice President of Campus Suites, repeatedly stressed the importance of looking long-term when working with post-secondary institutions.

Josh Morton of Campus Suites said his firm is in for the long haul working with higher education partners. "For us, a single point of contact for the long term is the big differentiator."

"At Campus Suites, we take a long-term view of the business," noted Morton. "And if that's the case, then that's the same thing as the university's mindset because they expect integrity."

Morton said there is a benefit to higher education partners of his firm being family-run and the principal long-term point of contact. "There will be someone there, the developer, or someone who will be there to be a part of our perspective in the future of problem-solving and knowing the context of what's happening in the entire development."

Responding to RFPs from post-secondary clients the right way

Pereira of Greenleaf Pest Control told the SHURE audience that because her extermination business is a unique but vital provider, education with the higher education customer is vital.

"The support provided to the university is very comforting for them," said Pereira. "I am very proud of not just providing a service for kill and call approaches, but we provide education. How do you prevent this from happening in the future?"

Pereira agreed with Morton that higher education customers work best when there is a single point of contact and the messaging is very clear.

GTA-based GreenLeaf Pest Control is looking to partner in health and wellness for higher-education clients. As one of the leading pest control companies in the region, the firm specializes in safe and proactive residential and commercial pest control services.

The benefits of university and college customers

According to Morton, the university/college client has significant advantages beyond simple contracts.

"As a developer, if you are building something for the use of university, there's an expectation that you do not have to pay property taxes for development charges, which has a big impact on the property value," said Morton. "In addition, there is an expectation that if you're building any type of asset for the university on its campus, academic, housing or otherwise, there's the expectation of the long-term premise."

Pereira concluded with a message about working with higher education customers. "It's important to show how you're being supportive to them."

Continue reading with your SHURE membership account.

This full-length story, industry research, and data analytics are available exclusively to SHURE members.

  • Unlimited access to SHURE.international
  • Unlimited access to SHURE analytics covering university real estate and student accommodation trends
  • Member-only newsletters and industry announcements