DETROIT—When brands and businesses decide to expand across the country, real estate decision makers require a nimble and experienced construction manager they can rely on to build-out their spaces quickly, efficiently, and with a high level of quality that accurately reflects the brand.
While construction management professionals exist in every market, the process of identifying and vetting a local partner can be time consuming—and comes with a host of potential pitfalls. As national brands have discovered (some of them the hard way), any theoretical benefits of working with a series of local construction partners who “know the market” are overshadowed by the efficiencies, consistency, communication, resources and trust that comes when working with a national partner. Understanding the value of a national partner, and familiarizing yourself with the general best practices for successful build-outs or renovations, is an essential skill for any commercial real estate professional. This includes hiring the build-out team, leveraging knowledge of labor, material necessities, availability, project problem solving and on-time delivery.
To identify the construction management and general contracting expertise of a single national partner for build-outs at multiple locations across the country, seek a company who is a true specialist in rolling out unique retail and commercial spaces. Your partner must understand (and have experience navigating) the specific challenges that come with multi-location build-outs, such as ensuring the brand aligns across locations, capitalizing on local materials for cost effectiveness, and blending the space with local community elements when applicable.
Understanding what to look for when you set out in search of a national partner is critical. A lengthy, established and well-documented history of successful projects should be a prerequisite for consideration. When evaluating experience, pay attention to geographic diversity in your prospective partner’s portfolio: just because a firm has built in San Francisco doesn’t mean it can build in New York, Seattle or Detroit.
It’s a notable best practice for construction management companies to send full-time experienced construction management professionals to every job. They are adept at going into a new city or environment and ensuring a successful project execution from beginning to end. Even if it’s just a single representative, that individual stays on-site full time, living and breathing the project, and serves as the go-to resource for questions, needs and updates.
One and done
The single biggest reason real estate professionals are better off hiring one construction manager for all their location build-outs is trust. You need to be able trust your partner to execute your vision in the way you want and need it to be done. No matter the circumstances, that partner should be fully committed and loyal to your process, priorities, and perspectives. A steady partner offers trust, familiarity and experience, and ensures they understand the nuances of your brand and personal preferences in a way that pays meaningful dividends. The best construction management companies understand a great deal of their value stems from the fact that they don’t just build projects, they build relationships.
You can do all the due diligence you want when you go into a new town, but there’s always a risk involved when dealing with a previously unknown entity. With a single partner, you are assured that their loyalty and commitment is to the relationship, and you can rely on a proven level of quality.
Once you have established a relationship with a construction management firm, familiarizing yourself with some essential best practices is a good way to ensure they are meeting your needs and delivering successful build-outs in a range of different circumstances.
The best construction management teams have a detailed (and proven) procedural checklist they can apply to every project in every market. They know how to hire the right local trade partners, and to work with municipality to ensure their client’s needs are addressed, preferences are considered, and expectations are met. One often overlooked piece of the puzzle is the ability to deliver for the client while establishing a rapport with landlords and property owners when working in or adjacent to their building. The interests of the landlord are not always aligned with those of the client, so striking a balance can be tricky–and is generally more of an art than a science.
Knowledge of labor and material availability is essential. Some of that knowledge is acquired through diligent research, but the majority is built over time. Working nationally allows for the establishment and maintenance of geographically diverse trade partner relationships. Seasoned construction management professionals have a long list of established working relationships with trusted trade partners. Some have a database extending well into the tens of thousands of proven partners they can tap into.
To ensure any problems are resolved and to maintain an efficient schedule for on-time project completion, clear and consistent communication is vital. The most well-versed construction management professionals know how to set and convey clear expectations–and then manage and execute to those expectations. Everyone involved in the project needs to be kept informed at every step, including the client, municipal representatives, landlord, vendors, etc. Failing to align expectations is a common mistake–and an equally common (but avoidable) source of tension and conflict.
The bottom line comes down to trust and risk: maximizing the former and minimizing the latter. When rolling out new locations across the country, working with a trusted and respected national construction partner is the best way to achieve those goals–even in the most challenging of environments. With a strong relationship and undeniable trust in your partner, the project build-out will be a success.