Photo of Todd Sachse

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DETROIT—When brands and businesses decide to expand across thecountry, real estate decision makers require a nimble andexperienced construction manager they can rely on to build-outtheir spaces quickly, efficiently, and with a high level of qualitythat accurately reflects the brand.

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While construction management professionals exist in everymarket, the process of identifying and vetting a local partner canbe time consuming—and comes with a host of potential pitfalls. Asnational brands have discovered (some of them the hard way), anytheoretical benefits of working with a series of local constructionpartners who “know the market” are overshadowed by theefficiencies, consistency, communication, resources and trust thatcomes when working with a national partner. Understanding the valueof a national partner, and familiarizing yourself with the generalbest practices for successful build-outs or renovations, is anessential skill for any commercial real estate professional. Thisincludes hiring the build-out team, leveraging knowledge of labor,material necessities, availability, project problem solving andon-time delivery.

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Partnership goals

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To identify the construction management and general contractingexpertise of a single national partner for build-outs at multiplelocations across the country, seek a company who is a truespecialist in rolling out unique retail and commercial spaces. Yourpartner must understand (and have experience navigating) thespecific challenges that come with multi-location build-outs, suchas ensuring the brand aligns across locations, capitalizing onlocal materials for cost effectiveness, and blending the space withlocal community elements when applicable.

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Choose wisely

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Understanding what to look for when you set out in search of anational partner is critical. A lengthy, established andwell-documented history of successful projects should be aprerequisite for consideration. When evaluating experience, payattention to geographic diversity in your prospective partner'sportfolio: just because a firm has built in San Francisco doesn'tmean it can build in New York, Seattle or Detroit.

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It's a notable best practice for construction managementcompanies to send full-time experienced construction managementprofessionals to every job. They are adept at going into a new cityor environment and ensuring a successful project execution frombeginning to end. Even if it's just a single representative, thatindividual stays on-site full time, living and breathing theproject, and serves as the go-to resource for questions, needs andupdates.

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Phoro of Jeremy Gershoniwicz

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One and done

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The single biggest reason real estate professionals are betteroff hiring one construction manager for all their locationbuild-outs is trust. You need to be able trust yourpartner to execute your vision in the way you want and need it tobe done. No matter the circumstances, that partner should be fullycommitted and loyal to your process, priorities, and perspectives.A steady partner offers trust, familiarity and experience, andensures they understand the nuances of your brand and personalpreferences in a way that pays meaningful dividends. The bestconstruction management companies understand a great deal of theirvalue stems from the fact that they don't just build projects, theybuild relationships.

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You can do all the due diligence you want when you go into a newtown, but there's always a risk involved when dealing with apreviously unknown entity. With a single partner, you are assuredthat their loyalty and commitment is to the relationship, and youcan rely on a proven level of quality.

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Best practices

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Once you have established a relationship with a constructionmanagement firm, familiarizing yourself with some essential bestpractices is a good way to ensure they are meeting your needs anddelivering successful build-outs in a range of differentcircumstances.

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Process

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The best construction management teams have a detailed (andproven) procedural checklist they can apply to every project inevery market. They know how to hire the right local trade partners,and to work with municipality to ensure their client's needs areaddressed, preferences are considered, and expectations are met.One often overlooked piece of the puzzle is the ability to deliverfor the client while establishing a rapport with landlords andproperty owners when working in or adjacent to their building. Theinterests of the landlord are not always aligned with those of theclient, so striking a balance can be tricky–and is generally moreof an art than a science.

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Contacts

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Knowledge of labor and material availability is essential. Someof that knowledge is acquired through diligent research, but themajority is built over time. Working nationally allows for theestablishment and maintenance of geographically diverse tradepartner relationships. Seasoned construction managementprofessionals have a long list of established working relationshipswith trusted trade partners. Some have a database extending wellinto the tens of thousands of proven partners they can tapinto.

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Communication

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To ensure any problems are resolved and to maintain an efficientschedule for on-time project completion, clear and consistentcommunication is vital. The most well-versed constructionmanagement professionals know how to set and convey clearexpectations–and then manage and execute to those expectations.Everyone involved in the project needs to be kept informed at everystep, including the client, municipal representatives, landlord,vendors, etc. Failing to align expectations is a common mistake–andan equally common (but avoidable) source of tension andconflict.

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The bottom line comes down to trust and risk: maximizing theformer and minimizing the latter. When rolling out new locationsacross the country, working with a trusted and respected nationalconstruction partner is the best way to achieve those goals–even inthe most challenging of environments. With a strong relationshipand undeniable trust in your partner, the project build-out will bea success.

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Todd Sachse is CEO and Jeremy Gershonowicz is VP, directorof retail at SachseConstruction, a Detroit-based construction managementfirm. The views expressed here are the authors' own.

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