Telecomm Site Consultant Jim Beatty of NCS International Talks About Selecting Sites for Back Office and Call Center Facilities and more.
A candid conversation with Jim Beatty, president of Omaha, Neb.,based NCS International, who has been a corporate site location consultant since 1982. NCS International works with customer service operations, regional headquarters and back office facilities on a national and international basis.
Jim Beatty is president of Omaha, Neb., based NCS International and has been a corporate site location consultant since 1982. Previously, he worked for telecommunications company Northwestern Bell, where he attracted call center and customer service operations to the Omaha metro. NCS International works with customer service operations, regional headquarters and back office facilities on a national and international basis.
EXPANSION MANAGEMENT: How has the consulting industry changed during the past decade?
JIM BEATTY: When I began, we had site consultants who were embedded in major accounting firms. That provided a level of prestige for those consultants to go out and attract business. It also provided access to a client base. As a result of the mergers of major accounting firms, a lot of people have left those firms and hung out their own shingles. An increased number of individuals are now providing site location services. We also have many real estate firms that provide site location services. From a competitive standpoint, you have to be aware of the changing nature of the business.
EM: What do companies look for when they employ a site location consultant?
JB: Mainly, they are looking for assistance. But what Iíve seen as the genesis of how these projects come is that they have attempted this on their own through an internal committee structure. They have had some degree of difficulty in terms of coming to a consensus. Sometimes they need an impartial third party to ferret out the situation. Another scenario is that theyíve been through it and they know it requires many more steps than they typically have considered, so they want to hire outside expertise to give an unbiased, non-political viewpoint on what should be done, how it should be done and where it should be done.
EM: Have these companies spent more money than they originally wanted to, so they turn to a professional?
JB: A lot of money can be spent internally. Theyíve spent more money in terms of staff time. No one on staff typically is a site consultant. They are human resource managers, real estate managers or facility managers. What they find is that while these people provide valuable input to the process, they are only one component of the process and not generally aware of all components required to affect a successful site decision.
EM: How has the time factor changed from when you are hired to when a company expects to be in a new facility?
JB: In terms of time frame, the typical process has been to identify locations, seek information and receive information after youíve contacted the ED group. That process would take several phone calls, faxes and days or weeks to complete. Now, with the Internet and the extended use of Web sites that ED groups and other places that provide data have, you can conduct a search in hours if you need to. It also gives the community the ability to be open 24/7. Previously, if the person you needed to reach was out of the office on business or on vacation, you were out of luck until they returned. Now, it puts a great emphasis on having updated Web sites that instantaneously reflect the most recent statistical information.
EM: Has the Internet made your job easier?
JB: Itís made the job easier and harder. Itís easier in that I can get all of the information from a lot of places and because of that, I have to look at more places than I would have years ago. I mean that in a positive sense. Itís easier to access, but there is more data that you have to sift through and make sure you are comparing apples to apples.
EM: Where are companies locating their facilities?
JB: The Southeast U.S. has grown, primarily as these areas have moved from textile- or agricultural-based economies to a service sector economy. Increasingly, I see more expansions in smaller communities all over the country. And there is more of an interest in Native Americans and inner city locations. In the inner city, companies are getting tax breaks for moving there, but I also think there has been much more investment by cities in their downtown infrastructure, housing and cultural amenities. That creates a catalytic process to stir other investments. Iíve seen it in Kansas City, Des Moines and Seattle, and itís happening in many other cities. They are investing hundreds of millions of dollars and attracting private sector development. Companies more and more are opening facilities in rural areas because there are lower operating cost and a high level of workers. In many cases, if you are a 50 person operation in multimillion population metro area, youíre not a big deal. However, if you are a 50 person operation in a community with a population of 50,000 to 75,000, you are a major player. Smaller towns play very well to corporate egos, which is part of the equation. But it also works well from a cost standpoint and a corporate impact standpoint. You can also corner the market from a labor standpoint.