As the owner of a business, you likely have an office building where your operations take place. Perhaps it’s just a small office where your immediate staff is. Maybe it’s a huge warehouse where you store all of your products. Whatever your office building or buildings may entail, there will come a point in time where you will want to undertake a remodeling project, either because remodeling has become a necessity or because you feel like your office needs a change. When you are considering a remodeling project, here are a few tips from professionals in the industry that you should take a moment to consider.
Choosing a Contractor
One of the most important parts of your remodeling project revolves around which contractor you choose to do the work. “Commercial remodeling can incorporate several added challenges compared to new construction,” points out Wes Oestreich from Cheever Construction. “Since most remodeling must be accomplished while the current business remains in operation, the owner is best served to select a commercial contractor with a proven history of timely completion with the least amount of interruption to daily business. Pre-planning before construction starts and close coordination and communication during construction is essential for a satisfactory completion.”
Wes continues, “Whether the renovation occurs in a bank, a church, medical or business office or a private business, an owner’s key concerns should be for the safety of staff and customers as well as the security of their property during the duration of construction. A quality contractor will have the past experience to know safe temporary barriers and required exits to be maintained at all times. Daily communication with owners and staff and being flexible to work around busy times of the day are trademarks of a professional contractor.”
“Owners should always ask for and contact past references for a true picture of how a contractor performs. Quality and solid performance may come with a slightly higher project cost. However, slow production and inferior coordination may actually increase the cost when you factor in lost revenue and increased frustration during the construction process.”
Here are a few more tips on choosing the best contractor for your needs:
Gather a list of names
After you’ve decided what type of professionals you’ll need to complete your project, you should write down a preliminary list of candidates. Get these names from friends, family and co-workers who have had good experiences with these companies or from local construction associations who can recommend reputable companies in the field you’re needing. Once you have a preliminary list, you can begin meeting with the candidates to determine which one best suits your needs.
Find out their experience and training
You’re going to want to work with professionals who are skilled in their field and the way most people become skilled in their field is through training and experience. Ask the candidates about their educational background, special classes they have attended, how long they’ve been in the business and any other questions that might help you to determine their skill level.
Make sure they’re insured
Professional contractors should have the proper insurance and licensing that is required in the areas they perform work in. If something goes wrong during your project and someone gets injured or property is destroyed, you don’t want to be responsible for paying for it and you certainly don’t want to get sued. If a contractor is properly licensed and insured, you will not have to worry about this. All reputable contractors will be more than willing to show you the documentation of their license and insurance. If they refuse or seem uncertain, you’ll probably be better off choosing a different contractor.
Ask for references
Asking for references is good idea no matter what type of professional you are looking for, but becomes crucial when you’re searching for a contractor to do a large renovation of your business. Ask for references of businesses they have worked with in the recent past or are currently working with. Call the businesses and ask them questions about the quality of work the contractor performed, how easy they were to work with, if they had any problems with them and any other questions you’d like to know the answers to. You might also want to go take a look at a project that has been recently completed and one that is in progress so you can get a feel for the contractor’s work and for what their work space looks like while they are on a project.
Sit down and talk with them
Simply sitting down and talking with a potential contractor or other professional you are thinking of hiring can sometimes tell you more about them than anything else. By having a conversation about your proposed project, you can find usually find out how you’re likely to be treated by the contractor if they come to work for you, how willing they are to work with your ideas and how well you get along. If there is a personality conflict right from the beginning, you’ll probably be better off looking for a different company to work with. While you are visiting with the potential contractor, make sure you’re talking to the right person. You could be talking to an owner who would not even be involved in your specific project when you should be visiting with a foreman or other member of the company who would actually be doing the work.
Sometimes what you need in your office is not a complete remodel or even a large project, sometimes you just need to brighten things up a bit or bring in some new furniture or artwork to update the look of the office. If you’ve got plenty of room in your building, if it’s still fitting all of your needs, if there is nothing broken or needing an upgrade, then you might just want to schedule a redecorating project.
A redecorating project can be as little as switching out old art work and rugs for something updated and modern up to bringing in new furnishings, introducing a new color scheme on walls and even putting in new flooring. It all depends on how much you want to change and what your budget is.
If redecorating is on your agenda, you’ll probably want to employ the help of a professional decorator. Unless you or someone on your staff has experience and knowledge in this area, you’ll probably find you get a better return on investment by concentrating on what you do best and letting a professional decorator do what he or she does best. Make sure that when you first meet with your decorator that you are communicating the goal of your redecorating project and how much budget you have to put toward it. This will give them the information they need to put together the best plan to make your goals a reality.
Electrical and Environmentally Friendly Remodeling
Through various electrical remodeling projects, you can not only update the look of your office but also make it a more efficient, practical place to operate. Eric Hoke with Eric’s Electric suggests some of the following updates to help make your office more environmentally friendly and to decrease energy costs. “We do a lot of retrofitting, which means we go in and replace the current lights with LED lights. In essence, you are then paying for only 12 watts of energy, but you are still getting 75 watts. We also put light sensors close to the windows so that when it’s light outside, the inside lights automatically adjust so you’re not using 100% output when it’s not necessary. Motion sensors are also great to consider. You can put sensors in a room so that when there are no people in there, the lights automatically turn off. You can also put the lights on timers so they automatically shut off at a certain time, say at 5 pm.”
“Some other projects we sometimes suggest are to put the water heaters on times so that at night, say between 11 am and 5 pm, they shut off because they aren’t needed,” adds Eric Hoke. “We’ve also added baseboard heating in some commercial buildings so instead of heating the entire building, you only need to heat the rooms you need. This is especially good for large buildings that only have people in certain rooms and use the rest for storage.”
The government is offering grants to many business owners who want to undertake projects that will make them more energy efficient. With this and the fact that energy efficient projects will end up saving you money in the long run, there’s really no reason not to incorporate them into your remodeling plans.
Pat Killeen with Engineered Controls also has some suggestions for environmentally friendly upgrades. “If a business owner is considering a remodeling project, they should definitely consider the age of the mechanical and electrical systems in their facility,” he says. “In many instances, the mechanical equipment may only have a 15-20 year life expectancy. Their current equipment may be more expensive to operate than they realize. At the same time, they should also consider if the time is right to upgrade the control system in the facility as well. With the ever-changing technologies in today’s commercial buildings, a system that was installed ten years ago could be upgraded to include numerous new technologies that a building owner would want to integrate into the control system. These might include adding internet interface to the control system, remote interface via mobile telephone technology, graphical interfaces and metering equipment. Additionally, building owners want their building to be more ‘green’, whereby everything is integrated, optimized and environmentally friendly, too.”
“The benefits of building controls are many,” continues Pat Killeen. “Internet technologies allow a building owner/operator to view their entire building complex from anywhere they would have an internet connection. This means even when they were away from the building, all the information of their facility is at their fingertips. This would also be true with control system network access via mobile telephones using either iPhone or Android apps. Relative to energy usage, we are offering a variety of metering products from Honeywell that will assist a building owner to understand where the real energy cost is in their facilities. By providing sub-metering equipment (electrical, gas and water metering), a building owner can obtain real-time information on the exact cost of operating their facilities.”
Camera Surveillance Systems
When you’re already undertaking a remodeling project, it can be the perfect time to add extras such as security systems or audio. “When remodels have drywall and ceiling tile out, it’s a great time to add cameras, security systems, audio systems, flat screen TV wiring or conference room audio/video,” says Lance Nelson of Sound & Security Innovations, Inc. “When the wall and ceiling access is open, a company is able to save money on labor charges compared to an existing (closed wall/ceiling) installation.”
“Camera surveillance systems can help businesses be more profitable by cutting down on theft and liabilities, increasing profits,” says Lance Nelson when discussing the benefits of installing these types of products. “Security systems can not only save lives, but also protect property when the business is closed. Audio systems make an environment feel comfortable, increasing chances that a customer will return. Conference rooms can help businesses run efficiently by giving them a meeting place and communication tools like video conferencing. There are many options available for businesses to meet every budget. It’s best to call a professional ahead of any remodeling project to get an idea of what is attainable before construction is underway.”
Adding electronics to conference rooms is an especially good investment. Using teleconferencing equipment is invaluable if you have staff that works from other locations and you want to have regular meetings without having to travel. Even if all of your meetings are with in-house staff, being able to have video equipment can enhance meetings and help bring your meetings into the current technologically advanced climate.
Window Tints and Films
Incorporating window tints and films can be a very economical way not only to control the amount of light that comes into your office, but also to increase privacy and provide other benefits. Keith May of The Tint Shop says, “Solar control films have always been a popular choice with commercial property owners, architects, engineers and superintendents. Newer trends in window films are starting to go more toward ‘spectrally selective’ films as opposed to ‘mirror’ films or room darkening films. Spectrally selective films are essentially very light, and in some cases clear, films that block an enormous amount of heat from passing through the window. Spectrally selective films offer high heat reduction along with high light transmission and visibility (virtually clear film). 3M Night Vision line of films offers privacy, along with high heat and glare reduction while still allowing outstanding vision from the inside at night, something that a “normal” window film cannot accomplish.”
“Another popular trend in window film is decorative films or ‘frost or etched’ films,” adds Keith May. “Films like the 3Ms Fasara line of decorative interior films are being added into architectural plans as part of the interior design. Commercial and home builders are using more and more windows nowadays, particularly on the interior of offices and other commercial buildings. 3M frost films in the Fasara line do an incredible job of ‘breaking up’ all the clear glass in an office environment and also covering up cluttered areas or providing complete privacy in meeting rooms or private offices, at a fraction of the cost of etched or sandblasted glass.”
Landscaping and Outdoor
It’s easy to neglect to take your outdoor space into consideration when you’re planning a remodeling project, but make sure you are thinking about this space, too, as it has a large effect on how others view your office and how much enjoyment you and your staff get out of it. Curb appeal is very important to your company, especially if you have the type of business where clients or customers are visiting your location regularly or if you’re in a high visibility area. Even if you don’t have a lot of drive-by or walk-in traffic, having impressive curb appeal just gives the impression that you care about your business, that you are diligent and that details matter to you, which are important impressions to make no matter what type of business you are in.
Working with a professional landscaper is very important, especially in a commercial setting. They will be able to work with the contractor involved in your remodeling project and make sure the landscaping changes that are being made are practical, sustainable and serving your best interest. They will also be able to assist you with an ongoing maintenance program or put you in touch with another company that can so your outdoor office space will continue to look well-kept throughout the seasons.
Your lawn isn’t the only outdoor project you should be considering. You may have other outdoor projects that need to be planned for. One of the best ways to determine outdoor projects you should be including in your remodeling plans is to have a friend or colleague who does not come to your office very often come by and give you his or her first impression on your office. You drive to the office every day and it’s likely you don’t even notice the cracking driveway or the peeling paint on the windows. However, someone who isn’t as familiar with the building will have a fresher perspective. Have him or her compose a list of some of the first things he or she notices that could use improvement.
You don’t have to stop at outdoor improvements or repairs, though. Why not add some outdoor remodeling or addition projects to your list that will help you and your employees enjoy your office? Maybe some high quality outdoor furniture so your employees can relax outside on their lunch break or you can have outdoor meetings on days when the weather is nice. Or how about an outdoor barbeque area where you can have Friday afternoon cook-outs? One of the trends of office buildings is to make them more home-like and a place where employees feel comfortable, especially if they are required to work some long hours. Doing some remodeling projects that help them socialize and feel that the office is a second home is a great way to show that you care about them and want to make their environment as satisfying as possible.
When Your Project is Complete
Completing a remodeling project is a very rewarding feeling and one that should be celebrated! Whether your office is in a high traffic area where new people will be seeing it each day, or you have more of a low-key location where just your employees see the results on a regular basis, planning some events to celebrate and making plans to maintain the changes is definite must. Here are some ideas.
Plan an open house
It doesn’t matter if you spent a thousand dollars or twenty thousand dollars, you should plan an open house to show off your investment. Invite employees and their families, current clients, colleagues, prospective colleagues and neighboring businesses. Have some munchies and drinks and plan a little speech telling attendees why you did the project and how it will enhance your business and the service you are able to provide. This is a great way to touch base with those you do business with and reconnect with those you might have lost touch with.
You want everyone to know that you care about your business enough to make the investment to remodel it. How do you get the word out? Put an announcement in your newsletter, on your website, in Strictly Business Magazine, everywhere you can think of. Add a picture, especially if you’ve done extensive interior or exterior renovations. Invite readers to come see the results of the project.
Your new office probably looks great after the remodeling project has been completed, but how is it going to look two months down the line? A year? It’s important to make plans now to maintain your investment. Consider hiring a cleaning company to come in on a regular basis and encourage your employees to keep their offices and communal spaces clean. If you’ve done major electrical or mechanical work, make sure you’re talking to the professionals who did the installation about how best to maintain it. Should you be on a regular service plan with them? Who do you call if something should break or malfunction? Will they come in to check things over on a regular basis or are there things you need to be doing to make sure everything is running properly? There’s no reason to make a large investment in remodeling projects if you fail to take the steps necessary to maintain them.
Your office is where you and your employees spend a good portion of your time and it’s also the face of your business. What is that face telling your clients when they walk in? A well-maintained, updated, interesting office says that you care about your business and your customers. Remodeling projects, whether they are as small as a simple redecoration or as large as a complete face lift or addition, tells your staff and your clients that you are investing in the business and, in turn, them. Work with the right professionals, do the proper planning and your investment will be well worth the time and money.