Client Spotlight: Interview with Will Friesen, Provost of Judson University
Will Friesen, Ph.D., is provost and chief academic officer of Judson University, an evangelical Christian liberal arts college situated on the picturesque Fox River in Elgin, Illinois, forty-five minutes northwest of Chicago. We recently talked to Dr. Friesen about his decision to move from another facilities management services provider to National for maintaining the university’s pristine campus environment.
Is this the first time Judson has outsourced its physical plant and maintenance needs?
We worked with a much larger services provider prior to our partnership with National. While the company had been with us for a number of years, we had some service concerns that we felt weren’t being adequately addressed. So once our contract expired, we made the decision to open the bidding to other companies. We worked with a third-party consultant who helped us vet potential providers and narrow down the list, which included National.
How did you end up selecting National as your facilities management partner?
As part of our evaluation process, we toured several colleges—smaller liberal arts schools like our own—where National is the services provider. We liked the way the campuses looked, and the presidents of those institutions recommended National. Our synergy with the National team during this phase also factored into our decision.
Importantly, National exclusively serves small to mid-size colleges and universities, so they understand the needs and challenges of schools such as ours and have a business model that works well for us.
How has the transition been from your previous partner to National?
Although National is a much smaller company, we still have the same number of workers handling our physical plant and maintenance needs as we did with the larger provider. Also, as opposed to, say, a Fortune 500 company focused on shareholder value, National doesn’t have the same pressures to cut costs and reduce services here and there to continually drive profit. They’re very in tune with serving the institution in the way it wishes to be served.
National also made an effort to keep as many of the existing physical plant and maintenance staff as possible, bringing them under its helm. Many of these workers were employees of our previous provider and had been with us for a number of years. I’d say that National has integrated seamlessly with us.
What do you see as the biggest benefits of outsourcing facilities management?
Besides cost-savings, we benefit from National’s significant expertise in facilities management. Contracting such services also alleviates many liability and human resource concerns.
National is able to quickly take care of any needs that arise—either by doing it themselves, or by bringing in specialized resources as required. For example, we had a recent transformer fire and subsequent power outage on campus that occurred on a Friday. National worked diligently with us over the weekend to assess the damage and secure the generators necessary to get our campus up and running for an event scheduled for the following Monday.
You mentioned National’s business model and said that it works well for Judson. Can you elaborate?
National is completely engaged in serving the needs of our campus. For instance, we have frequent snowstorms in winter and it’s imperative for us to have clean sidewalks and roads. With our previous outsource provider, plowing was a time-and-a-half charge over the weekend, above the contract, which added up. In fact, such charges were typical for anything deemed outside what they defined as normal projects on campus. With National, these things are part of their business model and integrated right into the contract. They take care of the facility whether it’s on a weekend or holiday, or is outside the scope of what they regularly do. If a project requires them to go that extra mile, we’re not charged additionally—they just get the job done.
Judson University is an evangelical Christian university offering a broadly based education in the liberal arts, sciences and professions. Based in Elgin, Illinois, the university is home to over 1,250 students from 30 states and 20 countries. It offers more than 50 undergraduate majors, minors and pre-professional programs and is currently the only evangelical Christian college or university to offer a fully-accredited graduate program in architecture.