1. What are your basics?
Have a plan prepared with the basics of the project. What are your needs? How much can you spend? How much time do you have? It’s important to be realistic in this phase so you are not surprised further down the road. Do your research and come up with three scenarios: “Best Case”, “Worst Case” and “Most Likely Case” for your budgets and timelines.
2. Who will be on your dream team?
Two heads are better than one, three heads better than two, and so on…to a certain point. Having too many people invested in one project can destroy it. Put together a team; decide who will be the point of contact for certain situations and who will be in charge of certain details. Before moving forward with your project, ensure that all stakeholders are in agreement on the details so far.
3. What are your limits?
Schedules and budgets are likely to change, but know where you need to draw the line. At what point will you have to scale back? Be realistic, and determine the absolute latest completion date and the maximum budget. Be flexible in changes up to those limit points, but stick to them.
4. What issues or needs can you expect?
What are the zoning restrictions that might apply to your project? What permits will you need to obtain before moving forward with the plans? What types of insurance will you need for the construction process? Is the construction going to affect your current business practices? This step can be tedious, but it’s better to know prior to construction if there will be any issues.
5. Who will be your general contractor?
In the past, it has been generally suggested that plans and budgets be sent to multiple contractors for bidding. However, in today’s environment, clients and their projects can greatly benefit by selecting a contractor at the front-end of a project. The right contractor can provide guidance and assistance in the development of concepts and budgets.
Personality matters. Make sure the contractor you hire is someone you feel comfortable with, trust, and communicate well with. A good working relationship can make a world of difference.
6. What are your expectations?
Sit down with your contractor, and make it known what your preferences are in everything from method of contact to how you expect certain situations to be handled. Find out what ancillary services your contractor offers. Can they obtain permits for you or do you need to handle them? How do they perform in the warranty period? A contractor who is a able to provide multiple services can reduce the burdens of the owner.
7. What are your priorities?
Maybe you were set on having a 500 gallon aquarium in the lobby, but if it would mean cutting corners on essentials, it’s time to reprioritize. Make a list of absolute musts: starting with the things you literally cannot go without (permits, licenses, a floor…). If you have to start making budget cuts, you’ll know what you can afford to lose and what you cannot.
8. How can you best use your resources?
You have a dream team and your perfect contractor, so take advantage of them. Does your contractor have recommendations for businesses to use in securing materials, licenses, etc.? Get their honest opinions on your plans and schedules. They have probably completed similar projects, and will be able to aid in determining certain items that may have longer lead or delivery times, which can impact the schedule.
9. What impact is your project going to have?
What impact could your project have on the local community? Once completed, how will the business affect the local community, economy, other businesses, etc.? You’ll want to keep these things in mind so you are well-prepared if the issues need to be addressed.
10. Have you covered all your bases?
It’s never too early to develop a good reputation. Use your research findings to determine if there will be people unhappy about your project. Address the issues head on, and be proactive. Reach out to the local media or city council and explain how your project will have a positive effect on the community. It might be useful to hire a PR professional for guidance in handling these issues.