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
“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.
“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.
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.”