8 steps to win a TOBY

Photo courtesy of BOMA.

These tips and resources will make the TOBY application process easier.

Last month the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) of San Francisco and Oakland/East Bay held a luncheon panel titled How to Win a TOBY. The panel consisted of three 2015 TOBY winners from San Francisco (Kilroy’s 303 2nd St and 100 1st and Harsch Investments’ 450 Sutter). All three buildings use Gridium tools. With the TOBY application period starting this month, the panelists discussed their experience applying for and winning the award. We’ve summarized their insights below, boiled down to 8 steps.

1. Get Buy In

As with any new project that will take up time and money, getting buy in from the entire team is crucial to success. To sell the application process to ownership, highlight the increase in revenue from a TOBY award (TOBY → satisfied tenants → renewals → revenue). Forward thinking tenants want forward thinking landlords. Third party vendors are easy to get buy in from because they want to work with award winning clients.

2. Make Time

Plan on 2-3 hours per week for 2-3 months for the application process and 2-3 days of onsite inspection by TOBY judges.

3. Pre-judge & Category Selection

All of the panelists urged attendees to utilize the pre-judging process with experienced TOBY judges. The pre-judge team will offer suggestions, provide insights, and answer questions to help your team prepare your application. One of the most important aspects of the competition that the pre-judge team can help with is selecting the best category (from the fourteen available) for your team to compete in. Pro-tip: some categories are more competitive than others.

4. Utilize BOMA Employees

Local BOMA association employees can be valuable resources during the application process and love to help. Don’t be afraid to reach out.

5. Attend a TOBY Entrant Workshop

The TOBY Entrant Workshop provides a roadmap for a successful TOBY application and gives your team insights into the most essential parts of the application. Consider the workshop a prerequisite for applying.

6. Submit E-binder

Once you have buy in from your team, understand the most important elements of the application, and have dedicated time to the process, it’s time to submit your e-binder.

7. Paint All at Once

Set aside a budget for “painting” and instead of “painting periodically” throughout the year, paint all at once before the judges arrive.

8. Have Fun

Make it a fun event when the judges arrive for their inspection and evaluation. Have refreshments on hand and be proud and enthusiastic of your hard work!

The panelists highlighted that an additionally benefit of applying for a TOBY award is the team building that occurs during the application process. In addition, if you don’t win a TOBY award this year, the application process is much easier the next time.

Good luck to all those applying!

TOBY History & Structure

The TOBY award was developed in 1985 to “recognize quality in buildings and reward excellence in building management.” The award started with four different categories of buildings and has grown to fourteen. The award is initially competed for at the local association level, with winning entries advancing to the regional level, and regional winners advancing to the international level.

TOBY resources:

TOBY home page

FAQs & best practices

Entry requirements

TOBY calendar


About Boyd Arnold

Boyd is the Senior Account Manager at Gridium. Before joining Gridium, Boyd helped build businesses in the renewable energy, food, and investment consulting industries. He has completed a fellowship with the Clean Energy Leadership Institute (CELI), is a LEED AP, and has attained the CFA designation. When not delighting customers, you can find Boyd at an SF Giants game, around a campfire, or on a golf course.

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