Posted by Chris Buffalino

When I was back in New York- and since I’ve been here in Los Angeles- I’ve consulted for a number of restaurant, hospitality and other organizations that have had to hire general contractors to do the dirty work of getting their businesses up and running. Needless to say I’ve seen some pretty out-out-of-this-world scenarios.

In my own restaurant back in New York it was always a battle of finding a contractor who was either union or not union (depending on the building), one who could meet your budget (and stick to it), and someone who could communicate and get things done on time. Pretty simple, right?

We never thought that wouldn’t be the end of it!

I’ve seen projects start and never get completed because a contractor will walk off, not show up or decide they are entitled to more money for misinterpreting the scope of work. I’ve seen them going into the storage areas to find food and drinks unannounced. I’ve been told outright that the lighting array had been fixed and is working properly, when I know damn well that it trips the breaker every time I flip on the switch.

These types of problems seem pretty common to me. Now that I work for a general contractor as a marketer and business developer, it is always my ambition and goal to make sure these things don’t happen with my clients. To us it only boils down to communication and understanding. If you can work towards those two goals, the rest is just up to execution- which is a huge JUST, but one that should come standard when you purchase any service.

Below are a few things I’ve learned along the way to help ease those all too common construction woes.

Scope of Work

This is probably the most frequently overlooked area of a project, in my opinion. When you’re walking through the site with your prospective contractors it is absolutely imperative to discuss the entire scope of work. A great contractor will know what questions to ask to help guide you toward your mutually shared goal of getting the job done, and that process can be facilitated by being clear about all elements of your project that need to be addressed. Fail to do so and be met with the often cumbersome process of initiating a change order and increasing the price of your project or driving a rift in relations with your contractor.

Which brings me to my next tip…

Get Clear About Your Goals

Getting clear about your intended goals in construction is a very important part of the process. You have a clear idea of what you want, and making that idea just as clear to your construction team will go a long way to establishing the roadmap to success. Be transparent, be up-front, and be crystal clear about what your goals are. Your contractor will appreciate this and will be able to better guide their team towards the finish line. If that accent wall needs to be lit up with blue light because that’s the color scheme of your business and you prefer halogen lighting over traditional incandescents, or LED because your business is eco-friendly- make sure they know that. A great contractor will respect your ambitions and be one with your mission to represent yourself appropriately and provide you with options on how to achieve the desired result.

Timeline & Communication

Now I’m putting these two topics together, although they can be spoken about at length separately because they go hand-in-hand on most construction projects. Your timeline is the aforementioned roadmap to success- the schedule of events that will happen in order to bring your project to completion and ready for the world to revel in. It is critical for you to know and understand the timeline in order to feel confident in your contractor’s progress, to manage your own expectations of the project and to have measuring stick to make adjustments when things don’t match up. This all falls back on communication. The roadmap is a communication tool between the contractor and the client to establish and manage those expectations. Having strong and clear communication during the construction process will help keep all parties moving forward. Having periodic meetings or conversations with your contractor will help foster the relationship and keep everyone on the same page so when it comes time to pivot everyone knows and understands why and the transition will be less jarring.

It’s important to understand as well that your timeline is an estimate based on your contractor’s ability, and your intended goals. A good timeline will have a little padding to allow for the unforeseen. Often times, weather, staffing, supply chain or other logistics issues can play a role in successfully executing a timeline and these could be of no fault to either party- sometimes life happens. The timeline and your contractor will be there to refit the puzzle pieces together and get your project back on track.

Wrapping Up

Hopefully these 3 tips for ensuring your success in development go a long way to helping you build strong and lasting relationships with your general contractor. Building is more than a two-way street and it takes many hands and heads to prevail to make a project truly come to life. Use these tips to establish good grounds for expectations and communication and your project is sure to be a success!

When you are looking for a contractor who understands these principles well, make sure to consider SD Design Construction in Los Angeles, CA. They can help you with tenant improvements, restaurant construction, ground-up development, luxury homes and multi-unit condominiums and a host of other construction services geared toward getting you and your project off the paper and into the real world.

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