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ARCHIVED  February 1, 1997

Getting help: Outsourcing helps lighten the load

Outsourcing is like riding a tandem bicycle where both parties benefit from the efforts of the other.
In Northern Colorado, more and more businesses are relegating services once handled “in-house” to companies that specialize in various aspects of office maintenance or enhancement. An outsourcing market is developing while business clients focus on their own specialty.
Hewlett-Packard Co. in Fort Collins began outsourcing its custodial, food and security services 10 years ago, said spokesman Will Arduino.
“1986 was our first big wave,” Arduino said.
The HP site in Fort Collins is the largest private employer in the city, with 1.1 million square feet and 3,200 employees.
“We’ve done it for quite awhile,” Arduino said, dismissing the idea that outsourcing is a “new” concept. “We’ve got a half-dozen things we outsource.”
Telephone operations, mail service, travel-agency service, copy center services and even contracted-out onsite cable pulling services are also outsourced by HP.
“These aren’t businesses we’re in,” Arduino said. “We’re a technology company. We want to spend time and energy on those things to give us an advantage. We want to focus on our core business.”
Arduino said outsourcing is also convenient.
“We’re not adding new people to payroll,” he said. “It’s much easier (to outsource). We gain a lot of flexibility.”Out-sourcing services flourish
Pam Bricker has been in the plant business – in other people’s plants, mostly – for 13 years.
Bricker is the owner-operator for Mariposa Plants in Greeley, which takes care of office greenery for businesses.
“Plant leasing” has become the rage for office managers who just don’t have the time to water all the foliage.
Bricker’s seven full- and part-time staff members manage about 4,500 plants for 65 businesses in Northern Colorado, from Greeley to Loveland and Fort Collins.
One of her accounts is with Hewlett-Packard in Loveland.
The cost to keep a cheery, lively atmosphere for an office can run from $50 a month to $3,000, says Bricker, based on the number of “rented plants” and staff time.
“It’s not as unusual as you might think,” Bricker said. “There are very large national companies doing this – that’s their specialty.”
Orkin Exterminating Co. Inc., renowned household-pest controllers, have delved into the corporate world of plant-leasing. A British multinational firm has gotten into it as well.
“In any large city, you’ll have huge office buildings (that are) outsourcing,” Bricker said, commenting on the widespread practice.
Although business couldn’t be better, Bricker finds that having a retail plant store has allowed her service business to be successful. And vice versa.
“That is an extreme benefit,” she said of the balance between the two. “It’s a nice mix.”
She said she does not have a lot of competition in Greeley, but she is not out to “take over the world.”
“We compete” with the influx of home-based or corporate “interior landscapers,” she said, “but, I prefer to stay small and give the best service.”
Outsourcing can be risky for the service provider, despite demand from the business community for outsourced services. For example, when a very large account considers downsizing, extra services are in peril.
“We are always at risk of being considered an option,” Bricker said.
Once, she said, one of her larger accounts marked her service for discontinuation. The employees protested. Apparently, they had bonded with the regular green thumbs – and the plants.
“They were very connected with the foliage,” Bricker said.
People’s identification, at least with plants, is a saving grace. Bricker said it was an essential investment, a presentation which she provided, and therefore likely to stay around.
“It’s a trend we are definitely seeing. It’s a trend (for businesses) to contract out,” she said.
Kathy Verbel’s “A Change in Greenery” in Fort Collins has done a booming business since 1989.
Verbel provides interior landscaping from Cheyenne to Boulder.
She would agree that the market is growing.
“Loveland is finally starting to pick up on things,” she said. “They are getting more aesthetically involved in their surroundings.”
Outsourcing exposes providers with a variety of clients and experiences, making the independence factor very attractive.
“I’m there when people are working,” Verbel said. “People talk to me. They make me feel real welcome. I become part of them.
“When you have a small business, your own business, you do a better job,” Verbel said.
The key to being successful is finding the right people to work for you who feel the same way about the business, she said.
“The client does not have to work through a lot of channels. I am making their business more successful. We are providing an environment for their clients and employees to enjoy.”
Mario Rosa said providing janitorial for retail businesses is on the increase.
Rosa is owner-operator of All-Brite Janitorial Service in Greeley. All-Brite provides general office- and window-cleaning services and has retail and residential clients.
“A lot of retail is growing,” he said. “There is an increase in business as clients increase their space.”
All-Brite has grown from two persons in April 1979 to eight full-time employees in 1997.
“It grew real well,” he said.
Rosa said competition is fierce in Greeley for janitorial service provided to businesses. A lot of companies start up, often basing their service out of their home, but don’t tend to last long, Rosa said.
The danger is that when a business gets successful, it makes sacrifices with a small staff to serve a large number of clients. Overextending themselves cost them reliability. Rosa said that crippled his business back in the 1980s, but finally he is back on track.
He has 28 clients, now, including industrial sites, gas companies, small banks, medical and office buildings.
Rosa said various government offices are beginning to outsource as well. He has not been too successful with them, he said, because he is underbid by smaller teams that don’t have to pay benefits to their full-time employees.
“I’m always looking for new business – ones that fit services you can provide satisfactorily,” Rosa said. “You can’t get the money out of it if you do a shoddy job and not giving quality (service).”ÿ

Outsourcing is like riding a tandem bicycle where both parties benefit from the efforts of the other.
In Northern Colorado, more and more businesses are relegating services once handled “in-house” to companies that specialize in various aspects of office maintenance or enhancement. An outsourcing market is developing while business clients focus on their own specialty.
Hewlett-Packard Co. in Fort Collins began outsourcing its custodial, food and security services 10 years ago, said spokesman Will Arduino.
“1986 was our first big wave,” Arduino said.
The HP site in Fort Collins is the largest private employer in the city, with 1.1 million…

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