Changing with the times

While the details of our world have changed significantly over the past several years – financial crises, regulation changes, and general uncertainty – the need and ability for business to grow is a constant. So it should be expected that commercial construction will always be a part of our local, regional and national economic engine.

The interesting thing about commercial construction is that it is one of those industries that both changes and stays the same all at once. New technology allows buildings to be built to new heights; new sustainability measures allow buildings to perform highly efficiently and with minimal impact to the environment. However, the process of how a business owner goes about making her or his decision with respect to construction services has stayed the same. On the face of it, the equation seems simple:

1. Scope

2. Timeline

3. Cost

The challenge for many business owners is in the evaluation of these three items and the relative weight applied to each.

Scope

Determining what a business needs might seem like a straight forward item, but it isn’t always that simple. Consider a dentist who is looking to expand the practice and is in the market for renovating their existing space. A smart contractor would work with the dentist to consider all the options – not just the details of what it will take to renovate the existing space.

Are there opportunities to buy a new or existing building that will allow the dentist to build equity and long-term wealth? Are there ways to change the scope to give the dentist the same outcome but at a far better price? Business owners should look for contractors who challenge them with these types of questions because it shows they have their client’s best interests at heart.

Timeline

In the world of construction, time is definitely money. Unfortunately, there is a common, if not popularly accepted, notion that construction projects will always be delayed or finish later than expected. When projects run long, the business owner pays. But again, the business owner should look deeper into the things that impact timelines when evaluating a contractor.

Relationships matter. If a contractor is well known for having a good reputation in the market and has established relationships with local individuals and entities, their construction projects have a much higher chance of finishing on time. Knowing the local subcontractor market and knowing the local government agencies allows the contractor to anticipate needs and avoid road blocks.

Cost

Unsurprisingly, the big number on the bottom of the page is the ultimate “make or break” moment for most business owners in determining a contractor for their projects. But how should business owners be looking at cost?

Cost is highly complex because it can and should include soft costs as well as hard construction costs. However, it is also emotional and can be used as a selling tool. If a business owner is reviewing cost proposals from three different contractors, they are most often instinctively drawn to the smallest number of the three. But the smart business owner will be asking questions. The most important question should be, “What is included and can this number be guaranteed?” If the answers are not clear, then it is time to look at another contractor.

The current trend in the local financial market for financing construction projects is to lean toward projects that have some sort of centralized management system. Banks are still highly risk-averse and are asking for more guarantees than they ever have before. While it might seem like a pain, it shields not only the bank from risk, but also the owner. Projects that have written and enforceable guarantees are the ones that get financing.

There are plenty of opportunities out there today. Land prices are competitive, Clark County has waived traffic impact fees to help stimulate growth, and local governments are eager to help create new projects and jobs. In order to best take advantage of these opportunities, business owners need to go beyond the basics and work with a contractor who truly understands how to help them be successful and build their personal wealth.

Debbie Marcoulier is the vice president of business operations of RSV Building Solutions. She can be reached at 360-693-8830 or Debbie@rsvbuilding.com.

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