Abbey Environmental Management, Inc. (AEM) is the brainchild of Michael Schluterbusch. This is the latest version of an Environmental Consulting Firm that began in 1988 with MNS Enterprises. Michael was the sole proprietor and pretty much did everything necessary for any project. Kathleen Flanagan and Michael began a cooperative business relationship in the early 2000’s, when she served up her expertise in anything computer-driven, legal based, business back-office related knowledge. The second iteration was Annectens Environmental Management, named after an age-old, tough-as-nails lungfish. Who knew at that time that the Crash of 2008 was looming in the near future, and that type of survivalist mentality would be sorely needed? Kathleen also began to take on some of the field responsibility around 2010.
AEM was incorporated in 2012. We serve a two-state region: Colorado and Wyoming. We’re happy to travel anywhere; it’s just that’s where our clients are for now. Our clients are predominately school districts, commercial property owners, county commissions, a few souls in Dutch with a regulator, and a few homeowners. Our core competencies are indoor air quality and industrial hygiene issues, and helping our clients deal with hazardous materials in their buildings before they remodel or demolish. So we do HVAC studies, mold inspections, asbestos testing, project management, abatement and mitigation oversight, demolition specs and oversight, and lots more. I truly believe we are the very best at solutions-oriented service that’s simply more valuable since when close out a project, we leave behind an excellent product, complete clear, concise and edited paperwork and a clean slate: no environmental skeletons in the closet.
We once helped a nice family who had recently renovated their east-Denver home, and all were getting sick, and complaining of a sickly-sweet odor. Long story short, the contractor had spilled (and didn’t bother to clean up) an adhesive, meant for gluing deck boards together, on the floor in the living room. The positive outcome was that the recalcitrant contractor had to correct the issue, faced with overwhelming evidence that they were the direct cause of the odiferous odor. We have lots of stories like that, and soon you can visit our abbeyem.com site for some exemplary case studies.
Currently there are two Principals under contract with AEM: Kathleen Flanagan and Michael Schluterbusch. Although Kathleen deals primarily with business and administrative management issues, and Michael is the go-to guy for any in-the-field issues, the lines often blur, when Kathleen takes her turn managing projects, and Michael takes over the office. We tend to share the field duties, especially those happening out of our local Denver market. Any time we require technical competency not part of our rather robust range of experience, we have developed an excellent network of trustworthy, dependable, fast-responding experts we can rely on for support.
We believe this structure allows for a fairly lean operations budget, coupled with timely, confidential response. We respect and value our clients enough to always tell the truth, communicate effectively and timely, and deliver a product that protects their short and long-term liability. I guess that’s why we’ve never lost a client, even though we often seem to work ourselves out of a job. There’s always something to do in this crazy business, and it’s nice to get called by a client who remembered how well we took care of them in the past.
Our marketing scheme is centered in the fact that our clients stick with us, and they often talk to others in their community while at, say, building maintenance workshops. So, word-of mouth has kept AEM flourishing, and we expect to provide the same quality service for years to come. Nothing in the world compares the great feeling of having a new client request our assistance based on a conversation they had at some convention, especially when they’d gone there expressly for getting the low-down on some environmental issue. So, blogging and other internet-based advertising is new to us. Hopefully, because we recruited an excellent mentor in this strange, fast changing arena, we can avoid messing things up. Same model, just a different product. Wish us luck.
Our business model is based on a cooperative hands-on approach, where everyone puts their cards on the table and we sort out the best solution available, not solely based on the cheapest price, like the currently predominant competitive model. I wish we could get into the heads of building owners and reverse the trend of “cheaper is always better.” I know that’s harsh, and let me explain: long-term intangible liability can sneak up on a company several years after the ink has dried on a tidy sum paid to “fix” an environmental issue, when an attorney shows up in a suit with a suit for personal injury caused by a negligent asbestos removal contractor that wasn’t watched while they yanked cancerous boiler insulation out a window at midnight, filling the building with invisible toxic fibers that got into the lungs of an innocent tenant. Don’t kid yourself: this happens more often than you think. And, sometimes the truth is hidden in piles of paperwork.
AEM is sure that, long after the sharks of the industry have bloodied the waters with the corpses of other companies competing for a larger share, and clients are tired of poor service based on vague promises, we will still be here, doing our best to treat our clients like we want to be treated: respectfully, honorably, effectively, with integrity. In fact, some of our business comes from just that kind of scenario: a new client comes to us with a regulatory or litigation issue resulting from a belief that asbestos abatement is like hanging drywall: simple, fast, and painted to cover up the faults.
There’s something bothersome about an unsuspecting owner, just wanting to save money or stay on schedule, hiring a consultant that’s willing just to go along to get along. Those wimpy tongue-waggers will tell the client “that’s just the way they want it done” when a regulatory compliance issue comes up early into a renovation project. Those guys are willing to take the money and run, without ever looking back. Buyer beware! Instead of looking to innovative, time and cost-saving, regulatory-compliant processes that aren’t currently “approved” by someone in the public sector, the consultant instead uses that excuse to cost the building owner (and sometimes, themselves as taxpayers) thousands, even millions. This is very interesting: the regulators are so very human (most of them anyway) and every one of them are willing to listen, and change their minds when there’s enough reason, evidence to demonstrate a new concept, approach, technique that still protects the public and employees from toxic hazards that often take years, decades to manifest as illness and sometimes death.
This is my first blog, and it feels good to clear the air about my chosen way to keep body and soul together. I love that Kathleen and I still willingly and gratefully serve our well-informed clients, all the while wishing we could do more. Yes, we are capitalists, and we like getting paid, and we can sleep at night knowing we were the best we could be. Yes, we make mistakes, and yet I’m pretty sure we’ve never exposed anyone to anything more toxic than one of my stale jokes. I think this is complete, for now. Stay tuned. Thanks for reading so far. Oops, forgot to tag you with a new service: free asbestos awareness training. If you want certificates, that’ll cost you ten bucks each. Just visit abbeyem.com for details.