Hawaii’s building and maintenance choice
With the experience and longevity to back up its work, HBM continues to lead Hawaii’s building and maintenance competition
For 65 years Hawaiian Building and Maintenance (HBM) has been providing janitorial, maintenance, and engineering services throughout Hawaii, consistently offering a top-quality experience and exceeding customer expectations.
As the largest facilities maintenance company in Hawaii, HBM serves over 300 locations, including commercial buildings, retail establishments, and institutional and government facilities, working to accommodate the unique needs of each client, and creating trusting relationships that stand the test of time.
Along with its commitment to providing a clean and safe Hawaii, HBM is also endeavoring to build an employee culture that offers more than the industry standard.
Jarett Walters, President and CEO explains, “Oftentimes janitorial and maintenance services are looked at as one being, ‘low skill’, generally replaceable and commoditized. Our mission and goal are to find a way to advocate, train, and promote from within. We want to build a culture, in an industry that’s often not focused on culture, so that we can improve the lives of our employees and add better value for our clients.”
HBM reports better employee retention than the industry average, which is known for very high turnover. Building strong morale is part of this success and is done through team-building experiences like an annual basketball tournament, family potlucks, and a karaoke competition.
For Walters, the idea for these events stemmed from spending time with the HBM employees and learning about the things they enjoyed. This employee culture attracts more than one member of the same family to HBM, which is a win for everyone.
“We will have someone work for us and when their kid is looking for a job, they refer them over to us. We get some of the best and hardest working people from families all being part of the same team here. So that’s good for us because in this market, it’s hard to find people in general, but then people are referring good people which makes it a much more sticky and cohesive recruiting approach,” he relays.
A strong management team is another strategy HBM applies, which is beneficial to both employees and customers.
“Historically, in our industry, account managers, middle management, all that is seen as sort of superfluous tiers of leadership. Simply put, hiring more managers is direct overhead, and it impacts the bottom line,” Walters recounts.
“We believe that having an impactful group of management helps us serve our clients, but also helps us provide better support to our employees.” He adds that when he first joined the company 17 years ago there were five account managers supporting 600 employees, a number that has more than doubled. “Our ratio of manager to employee has gone up, and that has also allowed us better control, improved touch with our clients, and helped us find and promote from within, because we have better relationships with our team,” he adds.
On the customer side, HBM is focused on a ‘one-stop shop’ approach, aiming to provide value that is not simply based on price. Walters elaborates, “Our philosophy is, if you’re only a value to your client because you are the cheapest, then that’s a pretty easily replaceable value. Our focus has been on creating long-lasting partnerships with our clients.”
One approach the company takes is to match clients to high-quality personnel, who then become long-term partners to the property. “Let’s just say you’re a tenant in a commercial office building working late one night, and you see a janitor come in. There’s a good chance that the janitor has known you for the last 10 years. There’s a comfort with a lot of our clients, just knowing the people that they’re working with or that may go through their spaces when they’re not there,” Walters demonstrates.
“That’s one of the other benefits to our longer than average tenure for our staff too, is we become a fixture of a property and not just someone who cleans it.” As well, HBM works on a system that has employees specializing by job tasks and by location, which not only creates mastery due to the repetitiveness but also adds familiarity,” he adds.
Maintaining these relationships over the long term is a priority, as Walters acknowledges, “We are very fortunate now to have a number of our clients that have had really long tenures with us, and that’s because we’ve really worked to develop partnerships with them. We set up meetings so that we are meeting them at their level and hearing what their needs are, and then working to manage our team in the field accordingly to make sure that we’re dealing with all the varieties of things that go on.”
This became even more important during the pandemic, and HBM kept the lines of communication open with customers, while also proactively adopting best practices as the situation evolved.
An ad hoc Pandemic Task Force allowed the company to work with vendors, insurance companies, and mainland organizations to identify the changing landscape throughout the pandemic and adjust accordingly. Through a program called the Global Biorisk Advisory Council, HBM became an accredited business and earned the title of “microbial warriors”, another opportunity to ensure they were best meeting the safety needs of customers and employees.
Walters asserts, “We were able to focus not only on our business continuity but on how our operation meets or exceeds what they consider to be best practices. During the pandemic, there were a lot of people doing ‘pandemic cleaning’. We actually waited two months before entering that segment, because we really wanted to get smart on it first as opposed to just running out to chase the dollar.”
“This meant that HBM was able to secure safety gear and supplies, as well as train staff on entering and exiting contaminated areas safely. “By doing that, our people felt safe going into places that would be considered at risk, and we were also able to provide our clients that peace of mind that if there was an incident on their premises, we would have it returned to work quickly and safely,” he says.
Walters admits that previous experience with the H1N1 outbreak was an advantage for the company, although COVID required more significant adjustments. It was also timely that HBM purchased an office and warehouse space in 2019, providing another opportunity to stay ahead of the curve, buying in bulk and avoiding supply chain disruptions, and the resulting service interruptions that many others experienced.
“It was very helpful for us,” Walters admits. “We bought 1000s of masks. We were able to buy hundreds of disposable hazmat suits, and then through our administrative support in the office and our safety manager, we were able to develop an inventory control program, so that we never put ourselves at risk of running out of necessary supplies.”
As a company with deep roots in Hawaii, HBM takes many opportunities to give back. One example is the company’s support of the Sony Open, a PGA Tour event that is in its 25th year.
The company also partners with Friends of Hawaii Charities to support local nonprofits, an initiative HBM is proud to say they have been involved in since they were first established. Other impactful community involvement efforts include “adopt a school day”, where HBM selects a local school to perform extra maintenance and cleaning tasks.
“It’s been neat because we’ve opened up some of these opportunities to our team to give feedback or input,” Walters says. “One year, one of our chief engineers recommended us to his kid’s middle school. And then he got involved and his kids came out and helped. It was a great way for us to give back to the community, but also it really targets and engages our teammates.”
Valued relationships with Atlas Insurance and Island Insurance, are crucial to the successful day-to-day operations of the company. “They both partnered with us not just during the pandemic, but prior to, with ongoing monthly safety training meetings where we bring in all of our supervisors and managers. They also participate with us every other week while we do proactive safety inspections of all of our properties,” Walters describes.
He notes that HBM is also grateful for the great relationship they have with major suppliers Granger, Premium, and Lammers and local supply company City Mill, as well as local cleaning company Crestek, and HMAA the company’s health insurance vendor.
Looking to the future, Walters says HBM will continue to enhance its onboarding and employee program, ensuring that as a new business is brought on it will have the staff to service it.
He is also excited to see a continued focus on the company’s restoration and emergencies division, which is a chance to move the company forward.
“We’ve been doing emergency services for a very long time, but it’s only recently that we’ve gone for it from a certified and licensed restoration company standpoint. We see that as a really good opportunity for growth for our business,” Walter concludes.
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AT A GLANCE
What: A janitorial, maintenance, and engineering services provider servicing Hawaii.
Where: Honolulu, Hawaii