The Details Matter: How to Maximize Your Furniture Budget

For senior living residents, fixtures, furniture and equipment — or FF&E — is a key piece of their living experience whether they realize it or not. This is, of course, the first thing anyone sees when they walk into the building.

Because of that, for operators, purchasing the right FF&E package is a massive undertaking, and a challenging one, in part because it is often done during a time of intense operational activity — opening a new building — but also because the packages bring a great deal of budgetary strain and uncertainty.

That’s where a purchasing agent comes in.

Advertisement

“FF&E is everything that isn’t affixed to the building. If you turn the building upside down, everything that falls out is FF&E,” says Graham Peterson, senior vice president of construction at Anthology Senior Living. “We want to buy everything together. So we rely on the team at Furniture Solutions Group to ensure that everything fits with each other.”

As Peterson knows, maximizing and optimizing a senior living FF&E budget is an essential challenge. Here are four areas where operators can make strategic decisions.

Shopping choices

Anthology owns or operates between 25 and 30 communities, and they’ve used Furniture Solutions Group (FSG) for about 15 of those. That is a lot of FF&E purchasing, and that is the first major benefit that the right purchasing agent brings to a senior living operator: the shopping itself. FSG, for instance, is a procurement company, going to multiple vendors to find the right product for the right price.

Advertisement

“It’s everything from the drywall in,” says Christian Carr, FSG president.

“I think what attracted anthology to FSG is the professionalism, thoroughness and dependability,” Peterson says. “A lot of times what I look for is turnkey, and FSG provides turnkey services. Nothing slips through the cracks. I never have to follow up about a missing piece or a damaged table. They provide white-glove service.”

Shopping strategy

Going hand-in-white-gloved-hand with being a one-stop shop is the ability to strategize a budget. A purchasing agent knows when an operator should bid out its project, and how to proceed in those negotiations.

Recommended SHN+ Exclusives

“Many times, a senior living operator has already selected a chair, for instance, so the chair manufacturer is dictating the pricing, because he doesn’t have to compete,” Carr says. “But if we get the chair manufacturers to compete first you might get a sharper number.”

Ideally, operators should get preliminary pricing and get the bidding going early. Peterson notes that while he and other operators might not know the details of the actual pricing debates, as those are handled by someone else in the organization, the end result is right as rain.

“They always adhere to our budget,” Peterson says. “We present FSG with a clear budget, and they will come to us with any kind of value engineering or value-added pieces. How they do that is their secret sauce, but we never have to have a hard discussion about going over budget or coming out of pocket for more expensive items.”

Pricing transparency and vendor access

FSG is not tied to any brands, and holds deep knowledge of vendors and products. That empowers the company’s ability to freely implement the right shopping strategy for the operator.

“One of the things we really appreciate about FSG is that upon request, they do provide us with options,” Peterson says. “They will show us the FF&E package we can get for our budget, but they will also give us value-engineered options. ‘If you would like to save money, you can go with this similar product by a lesser known vendor.’”

“We’re very independent,” Carr adds. “We can buy all brands. We have no motivation to sell one brand over another.” In fact, more important than any one brand is the understanding of the items themselves. Take a chair, for instance. A chair is not just a chair, Carr notes.

“It’s the patina in the leather,” he says. “It’s the stitching. It’s the joinery. It’s the details that make the project perfect.”

Delivery and installation

Once Anthology Senior Living has purchased its FF&E package, FSG has to install everything in a tight window: about 1-2 weeks between when the building is ready for furniture, and when all elements have to be set for licensure. FSG can fill a 100,000-square-foot building in about a week, Peterson says.

“They have to get in and out of the building in a relatively short amount of time, and they never delay,” Peterson says. “They always hit their dates. They’ve always been responsive. We are definitely appreciative about their timing”

Another major benefit of FSG, Peterson says, is its cleanliness in delivery and installation.

“I’ve heard of issues where the building is punched, everything is pristine, but then a furniture company comes in and they scuff up the walls and there is finger-pointing,” he says. “Construction is an industry where there are a lot of challenges and hurdles to overcome, and thankfully FSG has not been one of them.”

This article is sponsored by Furniture Solutions Group. To learn more about how FSG can help your operation maximize its FF&E budget, visit furnituresolutionsgroup.com.

Companies featured in this article: