A commercial tenant improvement can be a disaster if it isn’t planned out properly from the start. Below are some tips to help ensure the job will be a success. You will find that the common thread here is the importance of setting the right expectations before it gets too late.

1. The sooner you get the entire project team in place, the better.

The most successful project teams I have worked on were the ones where the entire project team was running in unison from Day One.

There are several reasons to involve all contractors, architects, consultants, and vendors early. First, a more complete budget can be developed sooner. Second, when the entire project team is working together from the start, constructability concerns can be identified before they become too late, which often leads to a better design.

2. Thoroughly interview the individuals who will be working for you.

This may sound intuitive, but often contractors, architects, consultants and vendors are hired simply through referrals but the individuals doing the work are never properly vetted. For example, ABC Construction may get the job, but their project manager and superintendent might NEVER be introduced to the client until after the contract is signed.

Realistically, we do business with people and not companies. It is important to be comfortable with the propose team, and confirm if their experience can cater to your needs. Equally as important, ask yourself: Is a group of people you can get along with over the course of the project?

3. Get a good sense of your electrical, cabling, and A/V needs.

I have seen tenants realize at the end of countless projects that they underestimated the quantity of outlets. Coming back after the contractor has left the job is always much more expensive than getting all the scope performed the first time. It is worth spending extra time during the design process to triple check the layout of outlets to make sure you have enough and they are located properly. Miscalculations become extra expensive when floor mounted outlets need to be added or relocated.

4. Make sure your contracts are full of details and expectations.

Contracts – for construction companies, architect, consultants or vendors – are your last chance to set the record straight on ensuring your get what you want for the agreed upon price.

Is there a critical deadline that requires the project to be complete by a particular date? Perhaps a liquidated damages clause should be added. How often do you expect your architect to visit your jobsite? Has your contract specified what hours are permitted for work? If you firm starts business at 6am for stock trading, you may not be comfortable with jackhammering at that hour.

5. Make it clear to your contractor that you want a “Potential Change Order” Log (PCO Log) maintained.

The only thing worse than change orders are unexpected change orders. Your contractor needs to be informed at the beginning of the project that you wish to see a log of additional costs that may be coming up as change orders along with associated estimate ranges. This log should be presented to you weekly. It will reduce the surprise of unforeseen conditions and help tabulate any added scope you have added to the project.