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Choosing an Office Fit Out Company: 6 Mistakes to Avoid

Updated: Apr 25

Fit Out Company Selection Mistakes

Are you planning an office relocation or refurbishment? Are you at the stage of researching companies to design & build your new office? If so, you may be wondering how to choose the best office fit out company for your project. It’s a major decision that many companies struggle to make. It will have a huge impact on the overall success of your project, so it's crucial to get right.


Choosing the right fit out company will enable you to get the right design, within a suitable pricing bracket and timeframe. However, choosing the wrong contractor will almost guarantee your project will not be a success. The design package will likely not meet your needs, or you may incur time and cost overruns.


In this article, we’ll go through the 6 most common and damaging mistakes we see companies make when choosing an office fit out company. This article is not to convince you to choose Zentura for your office fit out. It’s to educate you about common problems people in this situation have, and how you can avoid them. By the end of the article, you’ll feel better prepared to choose the right office fit out company for you.


Incomplete Brief

One of the most common office fit out mistakes we see is companies creating a poor brief. These briefs are often rushed, lack detail, or are misleading. There is a lack of clarity about the motivations and objectives. As a result, the design package and proposal provided by your fit out company may be unsuitable.


There is much more to a brief than a drawing from the last project, and a desire to make your office feel “modern and fresh” (or any other vague adjectives). You need to create a comprehensive brief that starts with the high-level motivations and objectives for your project. For example, you may want to redesign your office because staff attendance is very low, and you want to attract your people back to the office. These simple steps will guide the rest of your project, providing a crucial point of reference. It is also crucial to consider key project constraints such as timescale and budget.


You should also consider how your office design needs will evolve over time. You may need to factor in staff growth plans. To be able to start working on the design, your office fit out company will also need a full information pack about the current space, including a full technical drawing pack, O&M manual, and contact details for landlord and incumbent contractors.


It is also absolutely crucial that all key stakeholders are aligned on the brief – especially objectives and success criteria. Otherwise, there will likley be internal conflict during the project, which may cause delays and cost increases.


You don’t need a comprehensive and finalised brief before you reach out to potential design & build contractors. In fact, you will probably need their support and expertise to explore and refine your brief. However, by preparing as well as you can, you are giving yourself the best chance of making your project a success.


Rushed Longlist Selection

An office design is an exciting project. It’s tempting to start searching for design styles and features that you like. Colleagues or managers may want to involve people they’ve worked with previously or other contacts. With so many sources of information and opinions, it can be difficult to know which design & build companies to speak to.


This is a stage of the process that many companies don’t pay enough attention to. However, if you don’t create the right longlist, you will likely select the wrong company. It’s crucial to be structured in the way you longlist fit out companies.


To do this, you should first create a list of contractor requirements based on your project requirements. For example, if your project is a 20,000 sq/ft office relocation, you will want a company with sufficient resources, qualifications, and experience to deliver this. You should also identify minimum requirements and optional ones.


Once you have this list of requirements, you can identify several companies that meet them. You can then meet with these companies, conduct further research, and narrow down accordingly until you have a suitable shortlist of companies to produce initial design concepts.


Portfolio-Based Selection

Many design & build companies have a portfolio of stunning designs they’ve worked on, as well as an eye-catching client list. As impressive as these may be, they are not necessarily relevant to your project. You need to be focussed on what is best for your people and company.


There is so much more to design than just the aesthetics. Office design includes the layout and how people use it, as well as what it looks like. If you focus excessively on the portfolio of your potential fit out companies, you risk getting an imitation design that doesn’t meet your needs.


A fit out company’s portfolio can be a useful indicator of their qualifications and expertise. However, it’s important to consider how their track record is relevant to your project requirements. To do this, you should consider track record as one of your contractor requirements – important, but not the primary criteria.


Choosing Solely on Cost

An excessive focus on cost is one of the most common and damaging office design mistakes we see. If you set out to deliver the bear minimum requirements as cheaply as possible, your project is unlikely to be an overall success. In an effort to deliver the project as cheaply as possible, your design and build company will likely cut the scope and specification of their package. This will reduce the quality of your finished new workspace. As a result, your project may not deliver on the brief you set. If you have worked with multiple fit out companies on designs, choosing the cheapest option will likely also mean choosing the lowest quality option.


This is not to say that cost is irrelevant or that you should always choose the most expensive company. More expensive companies do not always justify the extra cost, and it’s important that the investment is suitable for your company. Much like track record, it needs to be kept in context. While it’s important, you should instead prioritise the ROI of your office fit out.


When comparing quotes, you should also consider hidden costs. The construction industry is notorious for hidden and withheld costs. Few companies will offer a fixed cost guarantee, so it’s important to review the terms of the contract. You should also ensure everything included in the design is costed for. Otherwise, these elements may be added as a chargeable extra midway through the project.


Not Considering Project Management Expertise

Another common mistake made by companies choosing their office fit out contractor is that they don’t pay enough attention to the project management expertise of the potential companies. They focus on comparing the designs and costs, without considering the ability of the companies to deliver a project. The design or the cost is irrelevant if the contractor you choose can’t deliver the project.


To assess the project management expertise of the company, you should first look at their portfolio. Previous projects they have delivered successfully will prove their project management capability. You could even speak to their previous clients for a better understanding. Many fit out companies will also have various project management qualifications or frameworks, such as ISO, Safe Contractor, or RIBA.


Not Considering Customer Care

Another underrated aspect of choosing the best fit out company for your project is the customer care package. This is about more than just the end product, but the experience during and after the project. Some companies may de-prioritise your project once the contract is secured, or have poor communication, making your project a very frustrating experience.


Aftercare is also important. After the project is complete, will they be responsive if you have any issues with your new office? Do they have a proactive care plan to ensure your new office is performing as it should?


The best way to understand their customer care is to speak to previous clients. References are more useful than testimonials, as you can ask relevant questions and get unvarnished opinions on the strengths and weaknesses of your design & build company.


Choosing Your Office Fit Out Company

Choosing the right office fit out company doesn’t guarantee your project will be a success, but it does make it much more likely. On the other hand, choosing the wrong fit out company almost guarantee that your project will be a failure. It’s one of the most important decisions you will make throughout the entire project, and it's crucial you make the right decision for your needs.


Now you know about the common and damaging mistakes companies make when choosing an office fit out and how to avoid them, you are in a much better position to make the right choice for your company and set your project up for success.


For more help planning your office relocation, download our ultimate office relocation guide. It includes everything you need to know as you plan your office fit out, including costs, timeframes, checklists, as well as full explanations and breakdowns.


To learn more about choosing the right fit out company, read How to Choose the Best Office Fit Out Company For Your Project. There, you’ll learn about the 5 key criteria that you need to consider when choosing a fit out company.

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