How Not To Do It

Recently the building I work in was sold and another management company was brought in to operate it. Watching this transaction as both an insider, a tenant, and an outsider not overly emotionally involved in it has been nothing short of a revelation.


The former management was very “customer centric.” There was always security in the lobby that acted more like concierges than anything else. They knew virtually every tenant by name and greeted us enthusiastically every morning. The building maintenance guy was always available for any little thing that needed tending to. When our water cooler leaked through the ceiling of the tenants below no big deal was made, no fine levied, no shit given. It was just cleaned up and handled.


There’s a little gym that the building kept stocked with essential equipment (and they regularly solicited users for what constituted “essential” and made sure it was in stock). There was a nice cable TV to distract from the tedium and strain. There was a water cooler to keep hydrated.


Once a quarter the building even threw an ice cream social for all tenants.


Nothing was fancy or over the top. It was always just nice.


When I heard that the building was being sold I honestly didn’t think that much about it. Then I heard a new management firm was being hired and virtually all of the staff we had grown accustomed to would be gone. It was sad and disappointing, but things change and everyone moves on.


Now less than thirty days into the new regime, it’s clear that the owners and operators of the building are in collusion to write the definitive “How Not to Run Anything Properly” case study. Their policies toggle between indifferent and inept. I’ll be curious to see what the impacts will be. The market is very tight in the area, but there are many buildings going up in the tech boom of Boston’s waterfront. As supply increases I’ll be very keen to see if tenants leave or policies change. To me, that seems the inevitable race, the dynamic tension if you will.


Here are some of the highlights from the playbook:









1. Take away things people already have.  The security that was here from 7am to 7pm every night? There is now, and only occasionally, a lone guard manning her post from 10ish to 3ish. Not exactly reassuring to a building filled with young women arriving early and staying late. The final piece d’ resistance? They took the water cooler out of the gym. That’s $50 dollars a month well saved. I’ll go long on their stock. I’m guessing the savings won’t be applied to incremental Rocky Road this quarter.

2. Get all the optics wrong. Everyone before wore some sort of uniform. Not only did it designate that they had a role in the building as opposed to someone just wandering around its halls, it also just lent an air of professionalism that I, for one, found nice and assuring. There were people minding the store. Now I only see one guy with well-worn Wranglers and keys jingling from his belt. I assume he works for the building. He’s never introduced himself nor been introduced by his management company. We’re on a first-name basis if his name is ‘Furtive Glance’ in amateur sign language.

3. Raise prices. This hasn’t happened yet but it undoubtedly will. It’s obvious through (lack of) word and deed that this is an investment to someone somewhere. Their calculus will go like this: whatever market conditions exist vis a vis quality of service or balance of supply versus demand, reflexively raise prices— preferably via certified mail.


I’m going to go back through all our touch points with customers to make sure we’re not touching them all the wrong ways in all the wrong spots.  Ham handed interactions, intentional or not, will be discussed around the water cooler. Even if you remove it.


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