Choosing your Fit Out Contractor
If you’re planning an office fit out, you’ll know that there are thousands of decisions to make. One of the most important is choosing an office fit out company to design & build your new office. The right contractor will work with you collaboratively to create a design that meets your company's needs. They will also be able to deliver that design within your budget and timeline constraints. A poor contractor choice will lead to an inappropriate design, inflated costs, and extended timelines.
We’ve been designing & building office spaces since 2008. In that time, we’ve worked with hundreds of companies, from occupied refurbishments to 25,000 sq/ft fit outs. Today, we’ll be going through 5 key criteria that you need to consider when choosing a fit out company. We realise that we’re not the right design & build firm for every company. This article is not to tell you what our areas of expertise are, it's to help you choose the best contractor for your project.
Setting The Brief
Many companies get their fit out project off to a poor start by looking at examples of what competitors or major brands have done. They then start speaking to fit out companies with little idea about what their real needs are. The risk with this approach is that you create a design that is not right for your company. Without that, your project will be a failure, regardless of the cost or delivery timeframe.
To set your project up for success, you need to carefully define the project brief. This does not have to be an extensive document specifying every detail. However, at a high level, you should have defined what your major challenges are, and the role your office should play in your company’s success. You should also define an initial budget, as well as set any necessary timeframe goals. You may not know everything you need to create a detailed brief at this stage. However, you can work with your fit out candidates to fill out your brief, knowing that it remains focussed on your company’s needs.
Once you have reached out to 2 or 3 companies that look like they might be a good fit, you can discuss your needs in more detail. These companies can then prepare concept designs and budget quotes. You can then choose which contractor is the best for you, and proceed to a full detailed design and quote before signing the contract.
When considering which contractor to use for your office fit out or office refurbishment, it's important to consider your requirements first. It’s easy to get amazed at their images and portfolio, but are they right for your company? By defining what you need to achieve, you can then select a design & build partner that can deliver on your dream. While every fit out company has different strengths and weaknesses, there are 5 key aspects to consider when selecting your design & build firm.
The first consideration is the expertise of the firm. This does not necessarily mean they have done it in the past, but do they have the ability to deliver on your project? Do they have the right resources, competencies, and qualifications to complete your project on scope, on time, and on budget? Your fit out partner should be able to prove all of these things through certifications and detailed plans.
It’s especially important to think about what is unusual or unique about your project compared to others. If you are relocating to facilitate a move to hybrid working, it’s important your contractor is an expert in hybrid working. If you can’t move out of your office during your refurbishment, you will need a contractor with the ability to deliver phased and out of hours programmes.
It’s easy to get carried away by stunning portfolio galleries. However, you need to consider how that portfolio is relevant to your project. Track record is often confused with expertise, but just because they used to be able to do it, it doesn’t mean they are able to do it now. Expert staff may have moved on, or the supply chain situation might have changed.
If your fit out company has a good portfolio, they’ll be happy to take you around previous workspaces they’ve delivered that are similar to yours. References are also more useful than testimonials. They can give unvarnished feedback about what went well and what could have been better. With this knowledge, you can reduce the likelihood of their weaknesses derailing your project.
Design is almost always the first thing companies think about when planning an office project, but this is a mistake. Without the foundation of an initial brief, you are setting yourself up for failure. Once you have this, you can speak with 2 or 3 different fit out companies to see which suits you best. It’s essential to consider the thinking behind the design. It’s not all about the moss walls and pool tables. They may make your office look great, but if they aren’t helping your people to perform better, what’s the point?
A great fit out company will ask lots of questions to fully understand your needs. They will then develop a design that meets those needs, not one that follows the latest trends or the criteria for an upcoming award. Remember, the best design is the best design for your needs, not the most eye-catching.
You should set an initial budget before you speak to office fit out companies. This, along with the goals of your project will help to give them a better idea of your requirements. That budget will probably change as the design progresses. However, it will help you and your fit out company set expectations. There are 5 key factors that will control the cost of your fit out project: size, specification, services, state, and setting. To learn more, check out our office fit out costs 2023 guide.
However, the initial cost is not the entire story. The construction industry is notorious for hidden and delayed costs. It's important that you examine the way they have quoted on the design. Is it transparent and reasonable? Do the design and the quote match up? At Zentura, we have a fixed cost policy that means you pay what you expect to, with no hidden extras.
Before you commit to signing the contract, you need to understand what their customer care package is like. Some firms will quickly lose interest and de-prioritise you as soon as the contract is signed or the project is completed. You need to consider what your wholistic experience will be like during the project. This is a big investment for your company, and it may come with a lot of disruption and change. You need someone caring and professional to guide you through this process – especially if you are inexperienced.
At Zentura, our one contact policy gives you a management level “go to” contact that is responsible for your project and is always there for you. Our 3-year post-contract Zencare® care programme guarantees your total peace of mind long after we have finished your project.
Choosing your Fit Out Contractor
There are many different design and build companies out there. There are even other options, such as architects or standalone interior design practices. These all have different pricing structures, areas of expertise, and customer care. Making sure your choice is correct can be a huge challenge. Ultimately, you need to choose the contractor that is best able to deliver a workspace that delivers on your priorities, setting you up for success in the years to come.
Thorough due diligence to eliminate unsuitable contractors is essential. By carefully defining your initial brief, and then rigorously assessing potential office fit out companies according to these 5 key criteria, you will be much more likely to choose the best fit out company for your project. Assessing a potential fit out company’s expertise and portfolio will give you a good idea of their ability to deliver your project. Assessing their design credentials, process, and style will help you to understand if they have the right approach for your project. Getting a good understating of their pricing and customer care structures and policies will help you ensure you are getting what you expect and need.
To learn more about setting your office fit out project up for success, download our complete office relocation guide. There you’ll get one comprehensive guide that will help you understand everything that goes into an office fit out, what it costs, and how long it will take. If you’re planning to stay in your current office, check out our downloadable guide on how to plan an office refurbishment. It's a 7-step guide that will take you from defining your brief right through to signing the contract