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The Exclusive Magazine for the Building Service Contracting Industry Since 1981

One Long Night

Written by  John Ezzo, CBSE and Ron Lemcool, CBSE


When our customers ask us to do something, we always respond with a confident yes, and then figure out how to make it happen.

We were asked to assist with the conversion of Charter One Bank, which was acquired by Citizens Bank, itself part of the Royal Bank Scotland. We were the only contractor expected to convert locations in two states in one night with no misses.

Accepting the challenge, we had to clean the branches—remove all old marketing materials, signs, retail promotion fixtures, confidential trash and regular trash from the buildings. We had 12 hours to complete the assignment, covering 309 branches between Michigan and Ohio from 9:00 p.m. until they reopened in the morning.

There are three ways to learn: First is by your mistakes; second is by other people’s mistakes; and the third is by others’ successes. We decided to go with the second and third choices. We contacted another BSC that had already completed its conversion in a different state to get an understanding of what they encountered, such as removing the wrong materials that were to be shredded; custodians not showing up to clean and the BSC did not know it; custodians not knowing what to do when they arrived; custodians emptying trash only and then left; and items clearly marked trash or confidential. We had to come up with a plan that limited the chance for these problems to derail completion of the assignment.

When cleaning bank branches, we can assign the daily cleaning to a custodian who may service several locations each night. However, the conversion requirements amounted to 7.5 hours of work per branch location. So with allowing time for things to go wrong, we had to have one custodian in every location. We had to hire and train enough extra custodians to have one person to clean each bank branch in two states.

It was a human resources nightmare! We recruited friends of current employees via letters, voicemail and direct contact with our employees. We paid our employees a referral bonus for each person they recommended and we hired. To attract people to a job for one night, we offered to pay them the same night they worked. We agreed to cut a check for each employee for 7.5 hours and paid them $10 per hour. We distributed paychecks for each custodian to our supervisors in each of the zones of each state. We also hired backup employees for each zone to cover for those who did not show up. And we offered to pay them for the full 7.5 hours whether they ended up working or not.

In addition to us finding, assigning and paying the temporary employees, we had to have each of them complete an employment application and be photographed for an ID. We set up training sessions in regional locations to facilitate the paperwork and train them on the scope of work for the conversion. We had to have people who could work with and around bank employees and other contractors. And we had to cover how to dress, how to respond to requests and how to get our required tasks completed. Then we had each new employee clean the branch he would be assigned to for the conversion with the existing custodian. It was a scheduling challenge to say the least.

Then, for the conversion night, we had to coordinate the issuing of keys and their return. We set up command centers—one in Michigan and another in Ohio. Each cleaner had to call into the command center to let us know he had started and the current conditions at the branch, such as was IT still working on the computer conversion and how much trash we had to remove. We had to report by 9:30 p.m. to the facility managers for Charter One Bank that all staff was confirmed onsite and what we were doing about the ones who did not show up.

Each region had a current manager/supervisor that employees reported to. We wanted to limit the number of custodians per supervisor to five or six. The supervisors had to check their assigned branches and address any issues. Each employee was given a report form that we created to address pre-job issues, tasks to be completed, and a post-job inspection. We also included procedures to follow if various things went wrong. The branch managers were asked to sign off on the form so we could verify satisfaction to the bank. We had to collect all 309 forms that night.

What about all the trash involved? It was like 309 homes deciding to clean out their garages and closets in one night. One month prior to conversion night, we sent letters to all Charter One bank locations to encourage the removal of all confidential trash and regular trash from their locations. We provided them with a conversion trash kit that included all items to properly remove trash in compliance with bank procedures, such as colored bags for the various trash categories. We even included a black felt pen to be used for writing the word “TRASH” on large items not placed in bags. The remainder of the trash was to be removed on conversion night without exception. On conversion night, the branches and custodians were instructed to bag all trash and put it by the front door so the waste management company could pick it up.

Several hours into the job, we were informed that entire regions were not being picked up. With much of the trash being confidential, we could not leave it outside, and the bank would not tolerate having to open for business with trash in the building. We called on our Enterprise rental car representative, who was able to scramble cargo vans for us. Hence we found ourselves instantly in the waste management business. We had to pick up the trash and take it to locations that had confidential dumpsters. Each van was staffed with two people, which was done for safety. The branch staff was overfilling the bags, making them a lifting hazard. This was a challenge that we did not plan on having to handle.

What would we do differently next time? We would hire a waste management company to pick up the trash at each location. We had to work on trash removal into the next day and were disappointed that some of the branches had to open with the trash not yet removed. The bank’s waste management company really let them down.

So, all in all, we were heroes to our client. They were pleased and impressed with what we had accomplished. We even received a letter from the bank CEO thanking us for a job well done. We also made a lot of money on the assignment.

It was a great experience, and it would not have happened but for the dedication of the employees, their friends and family and the management of New Image Buildings Services. It was one long night.

John S. Ezzo, CBSE was the 2007 president of BSCAI and is the CEO of the New Image Building Services, Inc.

Ron Lemcool, CBSE, is the vice president of operations. The company is headquartered in Michigan. Visit www.newimagebldg.com.


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