What medicine is called for when a good retail construction project goes bad? Here’s what one doctor had to say:
I learned there are troubles
Of more than one kind.
Some come from ahead
And some come from behind.
Okay, the “doctor” may have been Dr. Seuss, but he’s right. Troubles are always coming at you. Such as:
You are WAY over budget!
This may have happened for several reasons. For example, a new prototype may be creating endless design changes, making it difficult for the architect and contractor to keep up with the paperwork, and cost controls do not keep pace. Or the schedule has been compressed for myriad reasons, causing overtime costs to skyrocket. At times, it’s hard to fathom how quickly costs can add up. Anywhere between $50,000 to $100,000 per week is not unheard of.
Stop for a day. Pull the project team together for a working session. Have the architect, client representative, contractor’s project manager and superintendent review the project room by room. Identify anything that has changed. Reconcile these changes back to previous change documentation, or plans or sketches.
Estimate the pricing and make decisions. There may be changes you can live without. Stopping the bleeding is the key here, allowing you to proceed with much better information.
Consider the non-financial options as well, before making your decision. If it’s a location that you’ve temporarily shuttered for remodeling, a few weeks’ delay may change customer visiting habits. In that case, spending the extra money to make your deadline may be worth it.
Permits won’t permit
The building department has suddenly shut your project down because proper permits were not obtained. What do you do? First, gather the strongest, highest-ranking leaders from the general contractor, architect and client.
If it’s a permit or certificate of occupancy issue, have an executive at the general contractor approach the building department. Building officials like to deal with licensed contractors so they can hold them accountable. Too many parties calling on the building department will only cause them to drag their feet. However, if the architect has filed for the permit and has a strong rapport with the plans examiner and building official, let him or her make the call. Discuss it among your project team before duplicating efforts, being very careful to tactfully, subtly push your agenda at City Hall.
If you have a store-opening party planned, ask city officials – most importantly, the fire marshal – if you can at least still have your grand-opening party, with a temporary certificate of occupancy. If the store is so unfinished that it will reflect poorly on your brand, transform the store into an event space. Drape the walls and ceilings with fabric and create a cool “Delano Hotel” type of space. Once the party is over, take the time to get the store finished properly, and then open it to the public.
You may not want to open if a major design issue detracts from the brand image this store must present. If this happens, get photos immediately and share them with someone in your firm who can make the final “brand” decision. Can a temporary fix be implemented?
If this particular store is the launch of a new prototype to reposition the brand, then smaller and more subtle issues matter more. If it’s store No. 99 in a roll-out, a subtle color variation may not prevent opening and can be corrected in the following weeks during off-hours. Pressure your general contractor to get it fixed and maintain the original opening schedule. If the deficiency is the GC’s fault, it’s the GC’s responsibility.
Everyone’s first thought may be: It can’t be done. Fight this. I’ve seen too many situations where time was spent talking about why it can’t be done when the same time could have been spent fixing the issue. We have a rule in our firm: Almost anything can be obtained, somewhere in the world, within 24 hours. This type of push can get you back on track.
So, when things are going badly, gather the most powerful leaders on your team, assume control, assess the situation and launch your short-term action plan. It won’t be long before the pains of construction are a distant memory.