As a new franchisee, you are greeted with both the excitement of new opportunities and the reality of starting an entire construction process. It can be a journey filled with many questions and decisions that are new to someone who may not be familiar with the process of commercial construction. It doesn’t have to be full of anxiety if you retain a good team of professionals to guide you through the process. The three primary professionals you will need to secure for your building process are a state-certified Architect, a Civil Engineer (Site Plans/Site Permit), and of course, a licensed general contractor to build out the entire project.

Each of the professionals will need to be licensed in the state and location you are building your new store, and you may already know some that come highly recommended. But if you don’t know of any, you can call the local Chamber of Commerce, local building suppliers, and your network of business friends. Even if you are familiar with the company, you still should go through a few basic steps to confirm that they fit your project best. Some contractors, for example, only build residential projects, or some commercial contractors only build large projects. Even take note of the growth around the area for those currently working on similar projects.

When interviewing your potential professional, you will want to focus on good feedback on the following areas:

  • Types of small commercial projects they have completed in the last three years.
  • Commercial projects that relate to retail and specifically food-related business. Ask for pictures.
  • Ask for references from past customers and contact them for feedback on their experience with strengths and weaknesses in the process.
  • When talking with references, listen or inquire about communication skills, execution to a given schedule, and problem-solving ability during the process. These are critical indicators of how your experience may be with them as well.
  • For building contractors, you can often search online at the local building department to see if any complaints have been filed or confirm some of their recently completed projects.
  • Get more than one bid in each professional to provide some pricing balance to ensure you select the best value (not always the cheapest). An under-experienced professional that delays your project can cost thousands in delayed opening profits, loan interest expenses, and just added stress to the experience.

When retaining your professionals, make sure you get a clear contract and read/understand it before signing it. Make sure you have some commitment to the reasonable timeline for their services and that you have a termination clause if they delay past your agreed upon schedules.

You will need to have all three professionals hired and ready for the process at the beginning and worked into your overall project cost sheet.  Ensure the engineer and the architect are working together at the start, and you will have fewer delays through the site plan and building permit process. Don’t forget to take pictures of the site or have a project manager document the process. These pictures will be a valuable reference later once your project is completed and you have questions about where utilities are located behind walls and in the ground.

Make sure you enjoy the process you have worked so hard to start and praise those that make your project succeed!

Jim Zuber

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