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Making changes to buildings to reduce energy use is critical to achieving our environmental mission, and our mission is central to everything we do at Carbon Lighthouse. One of the most important things we can do to accomplish that mission is to select our Preferred Contractors to work with repeatedly for many years to come.
Many great companies, from Toyota to Pepsi, have invested heavily in forging solid relationships with their suppliers to achieve greater mutual success. Given the importance of finding the right Preferred Contractors – whom we consider partners – we take our selection process very seriously.
Selecting partners is a science for us, not an art. More than a century of research has explored which elements of selection processes work. The Carbon Lighthouse team has analyzed hundreds of pages of academic research and interviewed dozens of experts to determine the best ways to do this.
What follows is a summary of how we select these important partners and why.
Carbon Lighthouse’s Preferred Contractor selection process is designed to offer significant opportunities for our teams to get to know each other. This process ideally feels rigorous, fair, and straightforward. If it doesn’t, please let us know. We’re always eager for feedback and ways to improve! Our process works as follows:
We want you to understand why we do things the way we do. Here’s why:
Bias. People are naturally biased to think favorably of, and therefore hire, people similar to them. In our partners, it’s not important that you’re similar to us; it’s important that you can effectively execute an agreed-upon outcome. We want people who will help us succeed and whom we can help succeed, too. Throughout our process, we have taken steps to reduce the effects of biases. Doing so is not only the right thing to do, but it also pays dividends for the company by helping ensure we continue to select the best Preferred Contractors. For this reason, we post our Request for Partnership (RFP) far and wide: in industry trade groups, in local newspapers, etc.
Initial Review: We use information submitted by prospective Preferred Contractors or other publicly available information to try to quickly identify which potential partners have the skills, capacity, reputation, and safety practices to make a good Preferred Contractor. To reduce bias, we create a strict scoring rubric: For example, finding Preferred Contractors who work in the geographies we target is essential, so if a Contractor works in no regions where we work, they get no points. In one region where we work, they get 1 point, and in more than one region, they get 2 points. Prospective Preferred Contractors who exceed the passing score threshold are invited to a Phone Discussion.
Phone Discussion: Phone Discussions are about 30 minutes long. We have a structured set of questions we ask, with time for Preferred Contractors to ask us whatever questions they want to ask. If it’s not a fit, we can each quickly move on. Phone Discussions allow us to ask questions about an experience best assessed through a conversation, such as, “Can you tell us about a time you had a project that went awry? What did you do? What did you learn from it?” Answers to these questions are evaluated against a pre-determined scoring rubric, and those who exceed the passing score threshold are sent a Sample Project.
Sample Project. Our sample projects are designed to be as close to the real work we give our Preferred Contractors as possible. They help us assess Preferred Contractors’ abilities to do the jobs we would send them, and they help Preferred Contractors understand the types of jobs they’d receive from us. A sample project might be a scope of work for a job, and we’d then ask you to list all the questions you would ask us to ensure you understood the job clearly. We have found, and research confirms, that Preferred Contractors who do well on the sample project have a very high likelihood of doing well as actual partners. We enforce a strict time limit on Sample Projects. This is both for consistency and to respect Preferred Contractors’ time.
Reference Checks. References checks are more than just checking the boxes. We ask for three to four references from previous clients as well as financial references. A typical question we might ask a client reference is, “How did the Preferred Contractor handle setbacks? Did they communicate well? Did they resolve the problem to your satisfaction?” We sometimes ask references to provide an additional reference because we want to hear the opinion of someone who knows your work but who wasn’t hand-picked as a reference by you. You should always feel free to ask us not to talk to specific people or firms. We try to respect everyone’s time, so we will only request references from you if we are very excited about you as a potential Preferred Contractor.
Office Tour. We tour prospective Preferred Contractor’s offices to get to know the prospective partner better and to confirm the accuracy of their representations about the scope of their operations, processes, and people. We want to meet leaders and field staff from our prospective Preferred Contractor’s organizations, and we will bring several people from Carbon Lighthouse, both executives and engineers. We ask additional questions of all prospective partners during this tour (always the same questions of every prospective Preferred Contractor to ensure consistency and fairness).Master Frame Agreement (MFA). We sign a Master Frame Agreement with all our Preferred Contractors, which outlines the terms and conditions of our relationship for years to come, and across all jobs, we will award you.
This agreement is the culmination of all the mutual review work we’ve done to date. The terms of the MFA capture the many lessons learned about what is critical for all parties to agree upon in writing so that jobs can go smoothly. The contract should have answers for the many challenges that arise when the theoretical scopes meet the real-world work of wiring, hauling, physical barriers, order backlogs, building owner schedules, and more. As applicable, the MFA also lists agreed-upon labor and materials rates that we update as frequently as necessary. This ensures predictability in revenues for our partners and in costs for us.
Onboarding. We want our partnerships to last for years to come. As such, we want to invest in ensuring our Preferred Contractors have an in-depth understanding of our expectations. The onboarding process consists of a one-day seminar to set these expectations related to the quality of work, safety, communication, etc. Our business has a unique commitment to performance verification and an ongoing results assurance guarantee for our clients. We want to ensure our Preferred Contractors understand what that looks like and why. We have found that when our Preferred Contractors understand what matters to us, they deliver superior work— often in ways we would never have thought of ourselves—helping our business and mission and theirs.
Our Preferred Contractor selection process is thorough and requires us to spend much more time than many other companies do. It also requires additional time from our prospective Preferred Contractors. Taking this additional time to be rigorous up front, however, has paid dividends for Carbon Lighthouse and our Preferred Contractors. Time spent in developing this relationship can be thought of as time saved on a per-project basis, which translates to more attractive margins for both parties. We invest heavily in training our Preferred Contractors. This investment wouldn’t make financial sense if we didn’t intend to work with our Preferred Contractors for many years to come and vice versa. To accomplish our environmental mission, we need excellent and reliable Preferred Contractors. Thus far, the results of our Partnerships have been extremely positive for all involved. We hope you will consider partnering with us!