When the time comes to choose a fit-out partner for your office refurbishment or redevelopment project, where do you start?
If you type the words ‘design and fit-out company in the UK’ into Google, you’ll have more than 75 million hits in less than a second. So when the time comes to choose a fit-out partner for your own office refurbishment or redevelopment project, where do you start? Meridian Interiors has this advice for companies that want to source the right partner every time.
No matter how small or vast the project in question, when you are choosing a fit-out partner you will need to know the answers to three basic but critically important questions.
The first thing to consider is the company’s capability and expertise. Are they big enough to cope? Do they have the resources in place to tackle any particular technical challenges?
If they could undertake your project in theory, how might they perform in practice? Do they have the financial and corporate integrity required to complete the job to the right standard, on time and to the agreed budget?
In the fit-out world, mistakes can be very costly. If the answers to 1) and 2) are yes and yes, it’s time to make doubly sure by conducting a thorough check of the company’s credentials.
Firstly – what do you want your fit-out partner to do?
Are you looking for a simple refurbishment of your current premises, or a complete redesign? Is this for a small office, or an entire building? Do you need more space? And if so, does that space need new plumbing, heating, air conditioning, telecoms, IT? Will you need to relocate a few people, or a few hundred people, while the work is carried out? Once you have outlined the scope of your project you are ready to begin the hunt for the perfect fit-out partner.
If you’re starting from scratch, with no past suppliers to call or recommendations to explore, a quick Internet search should identify dozens of fit-out companies that operate in your area, with websites testifying to their prowess and experience. Reviewing and comparing their claims and client lists will give you a rough idea whether they could tackle a project like yours. Given that you will need to investigate each one of the companies on your long list in more depth, it is worth limiting your efforts to five or six that seem to meet your requirements best – on paper at least.
Once you have a long list prepared, start looking into each company a bit further and reducing your selection to a shortlist of three or four that you would like to meet face to face.
Before you call the different companies in to pitch for your business, decide up front how you will evaluate the contenders.
Consider every angle: There will be many different factors to consider, so your interview panel or steering committee must have the ability to question the presenters on all aspects of the job. This includes the design and planning, cost, timelines, IT requirements, infrastructure changes, project management and impact on the day-to-day business.
Seek independent advice: If you don’t have this level of know-how in house, you can recruit a third party consultant to help you with the selection process at the very least. (if your project is substantial you may be wise to employ an independent project manager too).
Don’t repent at leisure: Even if one company seems to stand out from the start, don’t rush in to making a commitment as an easy win may cause the successful party to become complacent. The harder a company has to work for your business, the more they will value it.
Each design and fit out company will send along a ‘pitch team’ to bid for your business. The make-up of the team will tell you a lot about the company and how it’s organised. For example, most teams will include a project leader and a senior designer and possibly a pre-construction manager. Other various experts may also be brought along to explain how they would manage some of the technical aspects of the project (IT specialists, for example).
The team will work together to excite your interest with striking representations of their ideas for your project with 3D visuals. Don’t get swept away by the design alone – it’s your job to dig deeper and question how this work will be carried out, when, and by whom.
Make sure you ask:
Even the smallest office fit-out will involve a significant sum of money, so you need to be sure that your investment is safe. Don’t take their word for it. Check for yourself that any company you may choose to appoint is financially stable.
Before you appoint any company to work for you, look and see how well they have done for others. The pitch presentation is likely to include photos of completed projects and quotes from happy customers. So ask to speak to a few of the customers directly. It’s the best way to find out what went on behind the scenes – and how they dealt with any challenges they faced along the way.
You’ve chosen a fit-out company based on what you believe they can deliver. Now it’s time to put it in writing.
Great, you’ve just appointed your perfect fit-out partner and can look forward to the finished result.
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