How to Hire a Commercial Construction Company
So you’re ready to get the ball rolling on a commercial construction project, but first you just need to find right company. Where to begin? We’ve been through this process (on the other side) more times than we can count, and we’ve learned a lot along the way about what most people don’t (but should) know.
So today we’re sharing our best tips for choosing the right construction company so that you can make an informed decision when you’re ready to hire a builder.
Tip #1: Have a Design Ready When Getting Quotes
Most of the time when we get a call from a potential client looking for bids they don’t have a fully prepped design. So companies will prepare quotes based on incomplete designs, meaning that their estimates are going to vary widely. And this just doesn’t make it easy for the client to pick, because the bids they’re getting are like apples to oranges. Take flooring for example: carpet tiles can be 50%-100% more expensive than broadloom carpet, and in a commercial space that’s over ten thousand square feet, this disparity makes a big difference in cost estimates.
So, it makes the most sense to have your design ready to go from an architect or designer before getting construction bids.
And if you don’t have that design ready?
Then make sure to pick a construction company you like and trust before moving forward with them because they will need to be flexible enough to adapt to changing design specifications.
Here’s how we work during the bidding process:
If your designs are incomplete or we notice key elements are missing, we’ll let you know what needs to be added, so that you can create an addendum for your bid. A small error, like forgetting to specify the correct number of rooms that need to be painted, can make a real difference in final costs.
No matter what, we’d rather work as a team right from the beginning, earning your trust every step of the way.
Tip #2: Consider a Company’s Reputation
Of course you’d consider a company’s reputation, right? It’s probably one of the most important elements when choosing who to hire.
Any reputable company will give you a list of references, and your job is to call them. Ask them questions like “were they communicative and reliable?”, “did they show up when they said they would?”. The answers you get to these questions will tell you a lot about a company.
Tip #3: Consider Experience
Beyond their reputation, think about the company’s experience. Have they been around for a while? Have they done a range of work that’s similar to what you want to do, and do they have the gumption to try something completely new?
Experience matters, so find out how long they’ve been in business, the experience of the owners, and other important factors, like their team’s background.
Tip #4: Do they Educate?
At Optimum Construction, our goal is to make sure that our clients feel confident in the process, and often times that means presenting several options and educating them on why they might choose one over the other. Most people don’t know what they don’t know about construction, and it’s all too easy for builders to literally drywall over a problem you won’t notice for five years.
We’ve redone entire sections of roofing just to fix joists that a previous builder didn’t complete up to code, just so that we could be confident that the entire job was done well. We told the client the reason for the small delay, and he was of course more than happy to have it done properly. One of our core values is “Durabeauty”, which means we take the time to build straight lines and square corners that will reflect our company’s integrity for years to come.
Find someone you can trust, who you know will work with you along the way.
Tip #5: Find out How They Handle Mistakes
Mistakes happen in the construction business. It’s just part of how things go for every contractor, because it’s impossible to anticipate absolutely everything that will come up.
So when you’re interviewing, the real question to ask your contractor is how they handle mistakes, not if they make mistakes. Watch their reaction. If they promise that they don’t make any mistakes, that’s not a good sign, because mistakes are an inevitable part of the process.
Find someone who owns up to their mistakes and does whatever it takes to make it right. In short, look for someone who has a solution oriented attitude instead of a “not possible” attitude.
Tip #6: Ask Who Will be Involved in the Project
Find out who will be working on your project, and who will be managing it. All general contractors use subcontractors, so find out how long, on average, they have been working with them. Find out if they are bidding out the job to three different subcontractors so that it’s cheapest for them (and possibly not the best quality for you), or if they’re using a reliable team they’ve used for years. Our subcontractors have been with us for years, and we’ve made a point to only hire people we like, trust and who are skilled. (Did you read our “no jerks policy” post?)
Then find out how they hire subcontractors. At Optimum Construction we have an extensive interview process. We heavily vet all members of our subcontractor team, including background checks. We’re very careful about who we put on a client’s project, because we know how much trust it takes to invite someone to work on your home or business. One of our earlier projects was with LL Bean, who required background checks, so we’ve continued to follow this practice with all subsequent hires.
Are owners onsite? The owners of the company will have a major vested interest in the success of your project, because their reputation is on the line. Ryan, co-owner of Optimum Construction, is onsite often. He grew up on-site, so he knows how to guide the team effectively (and he’s handy!).
Tip #7: Look for Creativity
A great construction company will think creatively when it comes to solving design & construction problems. We’re currently in process with one of our most creatively driven projects to date, and we have loved seeing the process unfold.
Find a contractor that can work with a design, or even create one. Having the ability to do in-house design is helpful — we love pulling out the iPad and creating drawings to show the client our vision.
A construction company that has good relationships with architects and designers helps create a better end product. We call this “co-construction”. A great builder will bridge the gap between designer, builder, and client.
It often falls on the builder to find ways to save $$ while creating the look the client wants, so creativity is key.
And if you have an architect, designer, etc. you like, will the builder work with them? Or do they have a “not my job” attitude about coordinating with other professionals? Openness to collaboration is key, and we value building great relationships.
Tip #9: Ask About Their Communication Management
At Optimum Construction, we use a software management tool that supplies an app for all clients and stakeholders. Everyone has access to it and can communicate in one place.
Each section of the client’s contract becomes the scope of work so that the client and all associated stakeholders (especially subcontractors) can see the construction project in full. We make sure that plans, schedules, changes, specifications, and construction documentation are attached to keep everyone in the loop.
This means that whatever the client sees on that contract is what goes out to the subs. This transparent communication allows us to quickly see any gaps or issues so that we can remedy them right away.
Our team also keeps detailed daily job logs. These help the project leaders foresee problems, document all details of progress, including weather related concerns, any delays, work completed, and dependencies.
Optimum Construction founders Kendrick Ballantyne & Ryan Lessard use these detailed logs to communicate delays or budget constraints clearly to the client. One of our company values is “Straight Talk”, and our system keeps the lines of communication open for all involved.
Beyond the communication app, our team is always available by phone, email, text, and is often on site.
The Optimum Way is defined by our work process. We love what it does for our clients by allowing us to consistently do the kind of work that builds better relationships.