Sentinel Field Services
Sentinel Field Services' approach to property preservation reflects the background of one of its founders, who served as a sentinel guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
“That is a role that requires consistent precision and care,” said Sentinel CEO Phil Johnsen. “We like to think we’ve adopted that same mindset as we take care of the properties that our clients entrust to us.”
Founded in 2000, Sentinel currently services more than 5,400 properties in 21 states, with clients that include banks, GSEs and government agencies.
Sentinel’s goal is zero defects, a very high standard for a company providing every aspect of property maintenance and pre-closing resolution, including inspections, repairs, eviction management, HOA fees, past-due utilities, liens and code enforcement.
To meet that goal, the company has implemented internal reviews that carefully evaluate all work orders and provide immediate feedback — a system that allows Sentinel to quickly identify and address any deficiencies. These reviews include Field Manager Reviews by Sentinel field-based employees, inspections by independent QC inspectors, and case file reviews by internal QC specialists.
“All these different levels of scrutiny ensure we get better,” Johnsen said. “It’s almost impossible to achieve zero defects when dealing with the myriad of unique property challenges, but that’s clearly our goal. We work hard to get better every day.”
The company is organized around client-centric teams, which gives individual clients a single point of contact, while giving teams a deeper understanding of the unique needs of each client. Sentinel consistently receives performance ratings of 98% or better from its clients, and has maintained that rating even as it doubled its geographic coverage in the last two years.
One of the most important components of that success is vendor management, and Sentinel has developed a three-deep approach that guarantees they have the quality and depth of coverage they need. The company develops long-term relationships with vendors, putting them through an on-boarding process that gives them the opportunity to prove their service quality.
Primary vendors are those who have a proven track record with Sentinel, and they get about 60-70% of Sentinel’s work for a given area. Secondary vendors are available as backups and “bull-pen” vendors provide work in specialized areas, like lawn care or cleaning. This approach delivers better quality, faster turn times and lower cost to the clients, Johnsen said.
“At the end of the day, we are only as good as our vendors. We will always have quality backup vendors; if we get a barrage of orders in a particular area we don’t want to overburden any one vendor,” he said.
Part of Sentinel’s commitment to getting the highest-quality, best-performing vendors in each market is an accelerated payment plan, where vendors are paid two to three times faster than competitors. The company doesn’t batch payables — once a property specialist signs off on a work order, the vendor is paid.
“We make sure our vendors are paid promptly and fairly. It’s all about relationships and trust, and making sure our vendors see Sentinel’s work order as the highest priority in their day,” Johnsen said. The company has also invested in technology to make its vendors and staff more effective, with systems that track work orders and present queues of work.
“Technology is the enabler,” Johnsen said. “We are becoming more automated in the way we interact with vendors.”
Sentinel’s standard of zero defects, its system of vendor management and its use of technology, are all part of its commitment to its clients. “Our thorough understanding of the unique nuances of individual clients makes Sentinel the ideal service provider and partner to execute successful asset management and disposition strategies,” Johnsen said.