Month: February 2015

The Chutes and Ladders of Site Acquisition

by Harry Kapp
Project Supervisor

Multiple projects, multiple carriers… site. Saving money or doubling your costs are both possible scenarios for these sites. Similar to the old game of Chutes and Ladders, when there are multiple carriers who are all seeking to upgrade the same cellular site, a mistake or a delay can result in having to begin your application from the beginning, losing your place in line. Given the time required by some tower owners to review and process applications, this can add months to your project and increase costs, e.g., re-application fees and the cost of revised structural analyses. When budgets and forecasts need to be changed, justified and explained, it’s no longer a game.

Additionally, when one carrier has multiple projects planned for the same site, it is important to understand the impact these projects may have on each other and on the tower owners who may be approached by various vendors with overlapping requests. Approaching tower owners with coordinated plans to upgrade equipment, change equipment, install backhaul, etc. is a much more successful and cost effective approach than having an owner poised to sign an amendment for one project who is suddenly approached by another vendor with a separate but related request for the same carrier. The pen is put down, the amendment remains unsigned and you may be faced with revising an application and paying more fees. The result will likely be another delay and another need to revise forecasts.

Multiple carriers and projects at the same site clearly illustrate the importance of attention to detail, matching your needs to the site’s needs, understanding the big picture and communicating successfully and proactively with both the carrier and the tower owner. Communication is the key to success for your projects and successful communication can be accomplished in various ways. Whether it’s the use of accurate up-to-date reporting for all the required steps in your process or simply responding quickly to email and phone messages, to be successful you will need to be fully aware of your particular project and, at the same time, have an awareness of how the pieces fit between all parties and other projects that may be impacted. Having tunnel vision and focusing only on your part of the process may lead to the issues raised above and ultimately delay your project.

The lesson in all of this is to pay attention to detail but to also not get lost in the detail. Understanding the big picture is just as important. Chutes and Ladders may depend on the roll of a dice but in the constantly changing and demanding world of telecommunications, tracking, reporting and communication are the tools needed to successfully play the game. Don’t just roll the dice and hope for the best.

Respect for the Individual

By Michael Moskowitz
Human Resources Director

“As long as I am focused on myself, I can’t fully focus either on results or on the people whom I am to be delivering these results.”
Leadership and Self-Deception, page 109

In 2014, every Md7 team member participated in a training program using the book Leadership and Self Deception: Getting Out of the Box by The Arbinger Institute as a basis for the program. The training highlights one or more of our six company Core Values with ways to integrate them into our life and daily work.

The book is a great reminder that life and work are more enjoyable (and probably more productive and satisfying) when we behave empathetically and demonstrate respect for the people we interact with every day, taking the time and effort necessary to understand their perspectives.

The training program encourages everyone to behave according to the Md7 Core Value of “Respect for the Individual” through identifying, understanding and empathizing with the needs of fellow team members. We recognize that leaders who demonstrate respect for individuals can more effectively influence those individuals to achieve goals. Empathetic leaders facilitate a team environment where members tend to respect each other, leading to greater team communication, productivity and goal achievement. Team members tend to respect others when they are treated respectfully. As the cliché goes, “what goes around comes around.”

Not all people take to this concept immediately and automatically. Our training program points out the benefits, barriers and challenges of demonstrating respect for all individuals – fellow Md7 team members, clients and vendors alike. The training’s goal is to facilitate changes in skill and knowledge which, we have learned, leads to changes in attitudes and behavior. At the conclusion of the training program, all participants are onboard, ready to explore and commit to the Core Value.

Are we done? No. One of Md7’s other six Core Values is “Continuous Improvement,” so we are forever on a journey to seek better days tomorrow.

Lease Audits – An Essential Element of Proactive Site Project Planning

by Jared Williams
Project Supervisor

Like it or not, cell site leases are a crucial element of wireless networks. Without these leases, equipment does not get installed, network upgrades are not deployed, and your cell phone becomes nothing more than an expensive digital calculator or music player. Leases are a key element of every cell site, and must be treated as such for every project undertaken at a cell site.

For one of these projects to be successful, it goes without saying that proactivity and proper planning are necessary. For those that have managed site acquisition projects within the telecommunications industry, it is easy to understand just how true this statement is. Having years of experience in working on, and overseeing these types of projects, I can assure you that auditing the leasing documents for each site should be an essential element of this planning. Each site is unique, and when it comes to the deconstruction of a cell site, understanding each party’s rights and obligations under the lease will guide the actions taken at each individual site.

A carrier’s rights and obligations within a lease play a major role in defining the limits to any on-site activities. To better plan for these activities, and minimize the roadblocks that delay many lease termination and deconstruction projects, there are many pieces of information that should be extracted from each lease during an audit.

What are your termination rights?

Knowing whether or not a lease can even be terminated early should be the first step in any termination or deconstruction project. As landlords will often try to prevent the termination of their cell site lease, it is imperative to understand exactly what the carrier’s rights are, and what rights will be exercised to terminate the lease. This will ensure that the rights utilized will take you down the path of least resistance when terminating the lease. For example, should the lease be terminated for economic or technological reasons? Perhaps the lease permits at-will termination as well. Understanding that certain termination rights will be more difficult for landlords to dispute will prevent further problems down the road.

Will you have to pay a termination penalty?

When budgeting for a decommissioning project, penalties can drive costs up quickly. A carrier should be aware of the additional costs that they’ll be exposed to when terminating leases. Knowing this ahead of time provides the carrier with the ability to consider other termination options that might allow them to avoid these penalties, or plan for the additional expenditures that will be associated with the project. Rest assured, the landlord will know if a penalty is owed or not.

What is the lease expiration, or term expiration date?

If the expiration date is quickly approaching, it might be better to simply not renew the lease, rather than terminate it via another provision of the agreement. This could prevent disputes over termination, and save rent. Knowing this ahead of time also provides guidance when it comes to scheduling physical work on a site. If the term end-date is quickly approaching, this site will need to be made a priority for your general contractors performing the site deconstruction.

Does the lease permit you to leave any equipment on site?

Does the lease require the full removal of equipment and restoration of a site? Perhaps it permits the carrier to leave a generator, shelter, platform, or some other infrastructure on site? Knowing this information could drive down costs. Leases are often structured in such a way that certain pieces of site infrastructure are to remain behind when the lease is terminated. Items such as shelters, generators, room additions, interior walls, platforms, etc. are often expensive to remove. If the lease requires that they be left behind, then these cost savings can be anticipated. It also ensures that deconstruction crews are not being directed to remove equipment that legally belongs to the landlord.

What is the current rent?

Knowing the current rent on a site allows for high rent sites to be made a priority for termination. Rent can be several thousand dollars per month at many sites. If this information is ignored, then the carrier could end up paying a substantial amount of rent that could otherwise have been avoided.

What are your access rights?

As landlords will most likely be upset that their lease is being terminated, they will often do what they can to prevent deconstruction of the site and prolong their rent payments. Understanding your access rights will allow for accurate and effective discussion about this topic with the landlord, and ensure that the deconstruction crews are acting in full compliance with lease terms. This also provides the carrier with the information needed to hold the landlord’s feet to the fire and ensure that if the landlord wants the carrier to remain in compliance with the lease, they must do the same as well.

Knowing this information also leads to better scheduling on the part of the deconstruction crews. The difference between having 24/7 access and being limited to work on weekends, or only when supervised by the building manager, will have a substantial impact on the scheduling of work on-site. Applying for a road closure permit and a crane rental for a Wednesday afternoon does no good if you can only work on the site on weekends. As these permits and rentals must be obtained well in advance, this could set back work on a site by weeks or even months.

What are the restoration requirements?

Must the site be restored to its original condition less wear and tear? Must all work be completed only one foot below grade level? Understanding what condition the site must be left in will ensure that a proper scope of work is developed for the site. It will also provide the information necessary to generate more accurate cost estimates for the physical work on-site and enable more accurate scheduling by the deconstruction crews. Once landlords are informed that their lease will be terminated, they will make sure they are intimately familiar with their lease and the restoration requirements for their site. Landlords will inspect their sites to ensure the carrier fulfills its obligations.

Frequently, landlords will also seek to get additional work performed by the carrier as well. Often, landlords want roofs repaired, buildings repainted, water tanks repainted, and other miscellaneous services or items. When these demands are made, understanding what is and is not required per the lease is crucial to ensuring that no unnecessary work is performed, and that no unwarranted costs are incurred.

The items listed above are just a few of the pieces of information that are essential to an effective lease audit, and in turn, effective project planning. When planning a lease termination or site deconstruction project, careful consideration should be given to each and every lease. Proactivity cannot be stressed enough when it comes to effective site project planning. Every day, projects run into delays and even legal issues because not enough attention was given to the lease prior to engaging in on-site activities. Proactively addressing the lease for each site at the beginning of every lease termination or deconstruction project is the first step to ensuring that a site is off air on time and deconstructed on budget.

FitBit Flex

by Cyrus Sidhwa
Md7 Lease Consultant

After gaining 20+ pounds in 2014, I was happy to find a FitBit Flex under the tree on Christmas morning. The Flex is a device you wear on your wrist that tracks your daily activity level. I have never enjoyed tracking workouts, but I was willing to give it a shot. Boy, am I glad I did. Let me tell you, I love this thing!

One great feature about the Flex is that it is extremely light-weight and comfortable to wear. I also like that it is water resistant. I only take it off to charge once every 5 days. If I had to take it off to shower, I would forget to put it back on half the time and just stop wearing it.

I also love the simplicity of the Flex. It has a small display of five lights. Whether you’re walking, running, exercising on an elliptical, or even pushing a stroller, the FitBit will track your steps. At any point during the day, you can simply tap on the Flex and anywhere from 0-5 lights will illuminate. Each light represents 20% of your step goal.

For the times when you want to see more detailed information, there is a free FitBit app that syncs wirelessly via Bluetooth and displays your exact daily step count. This is my favorite feature! Whenever I pull up my stats and find out I’m only a few thousand steps from my daily goal, I suddenly find new motivation to walk the dog. I often find myself walking to the grocery store instead of driving. Knowing that I have a specific goal that is within reach is a huge motivating factor! Be warned: You may find yourself unexpectedly sweating up a storm at 9pm when you are suddenly lugging home a dozen grocery bags overloaded with the chicken breasts you found on sale!

The Flex app also tracks the distance you have walked and the calories you have burned. Another cool feature is that you can track your current exercise. So, if you want to go on a 5 mile run and you see you’ve gone 2.5 miles, you know it’s time to turn around.

Flex can also track your sleep. When you are about to sleep, you tap the Flex 5 times and it goes into sleep mode. There are more advanced FitBit trackers that automatically sense when you go to sleep. These trackers also track your heart rate and display the distance traveled during exercise directly on the tracker. Pretty cool stuff!

There are a couple of minor complaints I have about the Flex. I don’t like having to manually tell the device that I am going to sleep or waking back up. I often forget to wake it back up in the morning, so I stopped using the sleep tracker. Also, if you are doing something that causes your hand to bang on something several times in a row, the tracker may think you are putting it into sleep mode and stop tracking your steps. This has rarely happened, but it’s something to watch out for. My biggest complaint is that the sync between the Flex and my Android is a little hit and miss. Sometimes it syncs right away. Other times, I’ll have to force-close the app, or even restart the phone before the sync will work. It’s not a big deal, but a little maddening in our on-demand world. First world problems….

All in all, I love my Fitbit Flex! The only way I’m going to stop using it is if I decide to upgrade to one of the more advanced models. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go get some steps in!