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Improving Organizational Health: Mentoring & Vendor Recognition

The pace of 2023 has already picked up and businesses are well on their way to making every moment (and every dollar) count this year. And the team here at North American Signs has been discussing what will be the biggest trends for 2023, whether that be workplace best practices, industry trends, or the latest and greatest professional growth method. But what’s really caught our attention recently is vendor recognition and mentoring. That’s why we sat down with facilities maintenance professional Kirk Beaudoin in our latest podcast.

Kirk has been in the facility maintenance space for many years and is also highly involved in ConnexFM, the leading multi-site facilities management organization. Kirk has certainly made a name for himself in industry circles for his approach to mentorship and creating delightful and inspiring relationships with external vendors. Kirk shared his insight on how intentionally mentoring others in the workplace can really impact the quality of work and culture, while empowering and encouraging external vendors to excellent work. We’ve pulled the highlights of our conversation with Kirk, but you can check out the full episode on YouTube or wherever you get your podcasts.

The Impact of Mentoring in the Workplace

When asked to define mentoring Kirk said, “At the heart of mentoring is coaching and teaching. It’s sharing… experiences and then it’s supporting and encouraging. But each mentee has different goals, different starting points. They have different end points. I don’t think there’s any sort of magic silver bullet, so to speak, for each mentor-mentee engagement.”

Kirk highlighted the fact that there definitely isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to mentoring. Each mentees’ starting point and goals are totally different, and “it really depends on what the mentee wants to get out of it.” Just as each person is unique, so should be each mentoring relationship.

The other key component of mentoring is practicing what you preach. Kirk noted that many coworkers and industry peers over his years as an FM expressed that they saw him as a mentor, even when Kirk wasn’t aware. “I’ve had some mentees that I didn’t even know were mentees.” And this is true because, as he noted, “you can teach people just through your actions, just through how you work with people and support people.”

And mentorship isn’t just for a seasoned industry veteran to mentor a twenty-something industry newbie. At the end of the day, mentorship is about building intentional connected relationships. “Everyone around you is a mentee. I’m a mentee—never stop learning… you don’t necessarily need to have the label mentor-mentee on it. Just as long as you’re networking and sharing with people, everyone’s learning.”

Industry Differentiator: Inspiring Vendor Relationships

The simple reality is that we all need eachother, especially in an industry like facilities management, that relies on vendors of all sorts to help maintain facilities across many locations. Kirk pointed out “As facilities managers, we’re not actually out there doing the work, so our success is tied to the success of our vendor partners.”

So how do you set your vendors up for success, or how do you help them help you? Kirk believes it’s all in setting clear expectations, letting the experts be the experts (i.e. not micromanaging), and then expressing gratitude for a job well done, in big and small ways.

When asked about some best practices to work with external vendors, Kirk almost immediately highlighted “setting clear expectations, making sure there’s no surprises. [Vendors] only know what you tell them… so it’s not lost on me the importance and the value of those vendor partners. Just because they’re not employees doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the same amount of respect and appreciation.” He also pointed out that when the vendor follows through on those clear expectations, then the interactions are largely positive, which continues to foster better relationships and a more positive working environment.

Once the FM has set those clear expectations, it’s time to let your vendor do their job—treat them as a partner, not a subordinate or just another cog in the wheel. Speaking about NAS, Kirk said, “you guys are the experts in the sign field. I’m not going to tell you how to build signs or install signs. I’m going to go to you as the expert and say ‘Hey, I need a sign. Help me!’ Same with my HVAC vendors, my electricians, my plumber, my janitorial team. I’m not an expert in those fields, otherwise I’d be working in those fields, right?”

The final step is vendor recognition: encouraging and appreciating outstanding vendors. People like to feel appreciated, especially when they’ve gone above and beyond to fit a tight timeline or go outside of their standard M.O. Kirk noted, “you’ve heard plenty of sayings like ‘people don’t quit companies, they quit managers.’ It really is about feeling appreciated. If you’re doing a great job and you don’t feel appreciated people tend to leave and go somewhere where they are.”

And there’s another element at play here, too. Kirk said, “Recognition [fosters] a little bit of competition, right? You’ve got dozens of vendors out there and a lot of them are doing similar services, right? So they’re in competition with their competition. And that’s not the purpose [of vendor recognition], but I think that’s the dual side of it that when people are appreciated, they’re going to maybe give you that little extra effort.”

At Kirk’s company, they’ve started doing vendor awards programs every other year or so. All the company’s vendors gather together and the exceptional ones receive a trophy and recognition in front of the group.

But vendor recognition doesn’t have to include an awards ceremony; sometimes it can just be a simple and sincere thank you over email, or a quick shoutout at the end of a Zoom call. Kirk also highlighted the value of pointing out specific examples when providing feedback, whether positive or negative, providing greater context for everyone.

As demonstrated by Kirk’s professional life, we can really boil mentorship and vendor recognition down to relationships. Whether it’s a formal mentorship program or a casual email to praise a vendor for a job well done, connecting with people is really what it’s all about.  This way, both vendor and client are working together toward mutual success.

You can find more industry resources, best practices, and trends on our blog or podcast, which can be found either on YouTube, the audio version, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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