Choosing your Fit Out Contractor
An office fit out is an incredibly exciting project. It can transform your office from a drab desk farm into a modern, on-brand and collaborative workspace. Even more importantly, it can improve the performance of your people and help you attract and retain talent.
However, there is one crucial area of this process that many companies find difficult: selecting a contractor. This is not actually the first step though. First, you have to decide what the goals of your office project are and what success looks like. You then need to decide on an initial budget. Only then can you reach out to companies that can help you.
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.
Choosing a design and build firm is a massive decision that can make or break your project, so it's crucial to choose the right partner for your needs. 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.
When making this all-important choice, it can be easy to get carried away with cool design ideas or low initial costs. It's crucial that you consider what the best option is for your company. 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.
Over the years, we’ve worked with hundreds of companies on their office fit out projects, from occupied refurbishments to 25,000 sq/ft fit outs. We know, however, that we’re not the right choice for everyone. 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.
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, and what they are able to do. 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. They will be able to create a design that meets your needs. 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 looking at some amazing case studies online, but you also need to consider how those projects are similar to yours. Track record is often confused with expertise, but there is an essential difference. Just because they used to be able to do it, it doesn’t always 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. It’s the most fun part, but without the foundations of a clear goal and rough budget, you are setting yourself up for failure. Once you have these (and some initial design ideas) you can work with 2 or 3 different contractors on rough designs, to see which company suits you best.
At this point, it's really important to consider the thinking behind the design. It’s not all about the moss walls and pool tables. Yes, these can 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 the needs of your people and your business. 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 coolest.
Cost is the hurdle at which many cool design ideas fall. There are hundreds of things that can drive the cost of your dream project up or help work it down. There are 5 key factors that will control the cost of your fit out project: size, specification, services, state, and setting. Check out our article on office fit out costs for a full breakdown.
It’s recommended that you 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. This will often change as the design is finalised, but starting with a reasonable figure will save a lot of work later having to value engineer your design.
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? 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 once the contract is signed, or once 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, so 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 office fit out and refurbishment companies out there, from small contractors through to internationally renowned design & build practices. If you are a smaller company or have a short term lease extension, then a more cost-oriented firm will likely meet your constraints. If, on the other hand, you are looking for an Instagram-worthy office to put your company on the map, then a larger design-led practice is more appropriate.
We love working with companies with 3,000 to 25,000 sq/ft of office space across England. As experts in hybrid working, we’ve helped numerous companies adapt their workspaces across the UK to the workspace of the future. We focus on creating designs perfectly tailored to your needs, delivered at minimum disruption to you.
To find out what you might want to budget on your office fit out project, checkout out our downloadable pricing guide for the full breakdown. If you want to make a mid-to-long-term investment in your office, to boost performance and attract & retain talent, then we’d love to hear from you. Call today for a no-obligation meeting to get started!