How To Win New Trade Business With Universities And Colleges

Colleges and university buildings have a range of heating, plumbing and servicing requirements which installers can help with. The trick is to get in touch with the right people at the right time.

As the saying goes about the best-laid plans, sometimes they go awry – and even the largest educational facilities, such as universities, will need help with their maintenance. Regardless of how much planning is carried out, there will always be a need for external support from plumbers, installers and heating engineers. Here’s how you can be front of mind when universities need help.

lecture hall If you have little or no experience within the sector, then your first action should be an introductory email to the most appropriate person: the maintenance or facility manager. At the same time as you’re emailing the relevant university contact, you may also want to update any social media accounts that you have, ensuring all information is up to date. It is also an idea to fill your website with recommendations and testimonials from customers who have been pleased with the work you have carried out for them. Remember to include an updated contact number.

For more advice around the digital side of things, be sure to read our digital marketing 101 guide to get yourself up to speed.

Summer work

The summer months are when most of the work will need to be carried out. There is a good reason for this; it’s the end of term, so both UK-based and international students will be leaving campus, not to return until the beginning of September or, in some cases, October.

This is a good length of time for the university to carry out health and safety checks, as well as the servicing of heating and cooling systems and, if necessary, the repair or installation of bigger, bulkier items such as boilers.

The six to eight weeks that the campus is closed for will allow you to order in the necessary parts and carry out a comprehensive servicing of heating and cooling systems. More advanced aspects of a boiler service may also need to be carried out, such as a water treatment test, which requires the complete shutdown of the boiler and flushing it of the sludge and grime that can build up during the lifetime of the system. Ideally, this should be carried out every six months to a year.

Cooling focus

While summer is the optimum time for maintaining and servicing boilers, winter (or, more specifically, the Christmas break) is ideal for checking cooling systems. This helps to ensure that all air conditioning units are working efficiently before they are switched on and used to their max during the hot summer months.

Just as you can ensure a boiler is working efficiently using a water treatment, the same needs to be carried out for all refrigeration and cooling systems. The Christmas break is the perfect amount of time to ensure that necessary parts can be ordered and delivered in time for the students to return to classes.

Halls of residence

There may also be other lucrative areas of the business that you can provide support for – one of these being halls of residence. Like the campus itself, halls will need health and safety checks for all gas appliances, including boilers and other gas devices within the various blocks of student accommodation. Bathroom and kitchen plumbing can also be checked to ensure that pipes and valves are clear, and any substantial blockages can be treated with a necessary a power flush.

Check your credentials

Like any other job, there is a need to prove that you are up to date with all necessary training and legislation, which includes being Gas Safe registered. As you would with any other customer, you should always have the necessary legislative paperwork with you.

lecture hall Although it’s not a legal requirement, you may also want to take out public liability insurance, which will cover you if there is a problem with any of the work that you carry out. It is highly likely that the university will ask to see your public liability insurance before they award you a contract. It may also be wise to ensure that your employee liability insurance is up to date, which is a legal requirement if you have people working alongside you. Read our trade guide to business insurance to find out more.

Having proved yourself to be trustworthy and credible, there may well be further work for you. Annual gas checks, carrying out the servicing of appliances in the halls of residence or simply being a 24/7 call-out emergency plumber or heating engineer are just some examples of the jobs that you may be asked to quote for. These are all great ways to expand your skills and knowledge of the university sector, which ultimately means you can approach other universities for the same type of work.

If you gain a network of testimonials from each institution you work for, there should be no limit to the amount of work you are offered. These jobs may be working alongside the university’s own maintenance team, but realistically there is always a need for an extra pair of hands during busier times or seasonal extremes.

Do you want more ideas for expanding your business? Check out our guide to winning work in rental properties.