Eight Strategies for TOBY Success

Achieving TOBY success on the local, regional and international levels can be quite a challenge, though the hard work and preparation– win or lose – results in stronger teams, greater collaboration and exceptional buildings. Industry leaders from BOMA/Chicago’s 2016 TOBY International winners, Susan Hammer, general manager for Riverview Realty Partners at AMA Plaza and Martin Huttenlocker, property manager for Sterling Bay at 564 West Randolph, share their winning TOBY competition strategies.

Read Susan and Martin’s eight TOBY tips and best practices below and consider applying for the 2017 local TOBY Award.

Get Stakeholder Buy-In

Susan: A successful TOBY campaign starts with stakeholder involvement. The owners, asset managers, tenants and vendors, as well as the on-site management staff, must be involved and passionate about the TOBY program. All team members should understand that participation in the TOBY competition increases value through market recognition while simultaneously creating team cohesion that lasts well beyond the TOBY competition itself.

Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute

Susan: The TOBY competition is a process, and to be successful, proper planning is crucial. Rushing to clean-up or paint areas right before the inspection or slapping together a haphazard narrative is an obvious indication to the judges that the team did not have a thoughtful plan or desire to win. The TOBY competition is a serious undertaking, but the rewards received after creating a solid, thoughtful TOBY application and inspection protocols produce an indescribable sense of accomplishment.

Martin: Applying for a TOBY takes a lot of time and thought. Get focused early and meet with your team to discuss the story of your building and the aspects of your building that you want to highlight in your application.

Focus on the Present

Martin: Your TOBY application must highlight the current programs of your building, not future plans, amenities, etc. Meet with your team and brainstorm about all of your building’s accomplishments over the past year. Don’t focus on future plans or projects because this could take away from the amazing programs already in place.

Don’t Stray from TOBY Guidelines

Susan: The TOBY Entry Requirements and Guidelines must be followed as closely as possible when writing the narrative section. Organization is a key component here. Writing in accordance with the chronology in the guidelines will make it easier for the judges to check off each required component.  A missing section or a missing/incomplete attachment will result in a lower score.

Proof Read & Spell Check

Susan: Typographical and grammatical errors in the narrative leave a poor impression with the judges and may be the item which separates the first position from the second. Spell check should be used. Also ask several people to read the narrative to help ensure that errors are eliminated from the final application.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Susan: At the local level, the building inspection is the most important component. There is a limited amount of time for each tour, so the more organized and complete the tour is, the better impression will be made on the judges. Practice the inspection and the presentation in advance to identify areas which may still require attention or gaps in the presentation.

Prepare for the Unexpected

Martin: Be prepared to go off track. Inspection tours never go 100% as planned and judges can ask to see any room, closet, bathroom, etc. As you practice, have someone pretend to be a judge and think of all possible scenarios for the inspection. But, remember that judges will likely throw a curveball. Practicing in advance will help you be prepared for these curveballs.

Organize and Review Your Files

Martin: Review your files to ensure they are all complete and updated. Then organize them in one central location for the judges so you don’t waste their time searching for documents.

Susan: Make sure all of your team members are familiar with your required forms and documents and that they are prepared to answer questions and participate in describing components/programs of the building.

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The voice of Chicago's office building industry since 1902.
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