When searching for a general contractor there are countless firms to choose from, however choosing an experienced firm that’s familiar with your local and regional markets will ensure your project is a success before construction begins. Keep these best practices in mind when you’re choosing your building partner.
Identify your project goals
Whether you are expanding your business or starting from scratch, having your project goals and expectations defined is key. This will help potential contractors to better conceptualize your needs during your initial conversations and proposal phases. In this stage the key decision makers should also discuss and if possible, establish a preliminary budget. While this could change as the project develops, having a baseline budget will be helpful in those initial conversations.
When will your project need to be completed? Some projects are extremely time-sensitive, while others are more flexible. If your new construction needs to open by a specific date, it’s essential to disclose this to your potential firms at the start. Realistic expectations of timelines set as the project is in its conceptual phases allow potential contractors to decide from the beginning if they can complete your work as needed.
By spending time defining these key areas in advance, you will be well on your way to creating a clear line of communication during the search and bidding process. Well thought out parameters will make finding and hiring a contractor in budget, with the proper expertise and right experience simpler.
Cast a wide net before narrowing your search
Begin with a local and regional search
To start your search, it’s best to utilize several resources. Start a spreadsheet and take some time combing through local and regional listings on Google. Firms in your region will not only be familiar with the area, but will have local contacts for subcontractors, plus have more in-depth knowledge of local processes and building codes. This level of local knowledge will save valuable time and money.
Another resource is your local builders’ associations. Some have online databases you can search, or you can call them directly for assistance.
Dig deeper to refine your search
With your list in hand, it’s time to narrow your list to your top candidates. This process is more time intensive.
Check their websites
Give each of your listed firms’ websites a deep dive. Look at their portfolios for local or regional work similar to your project. Ask yourself if the buildings in their portfolio appear to meet the standards of quality and visual appeal you’re seeking. If possible, visit some of their featured construction pieces in person.
If the contractor’s website doesn’t show projects that meet your needs or standards, reach out to them directly. They may have worked on a build closer to your needs in the past, it just isn’t featured on their website.
Seek out past client reviews
As your list narrows, seek out more specific feedback. If possible, reach out to previous clients and talk to the contractor directly about their past work. Consider the following thoughts or questions in your discussions:
- Did the contractor deliver the project within the given budget?
- Were there timeline delays, and if so, what caused them?
- Was the firm professional in their communications and easy to work with?
- Was working with this contractor a positive experience?
- Would you hire them for future work?
Ask for their credentials
Professionalism runs deeper than good customer service. A reputable contractor can provide proof of their experience and skill. Verify this by asking for:
- Their licenses, qualifications, safety record, and insurance.
- Their affiliation with any national trade associations.
- How they source and vet their subcontractors.
Send out requests for proposals
Gather all the specifications and parameters for your project and send out proposal requests to at least three firms.
Keep in mind that price should never be the only determining factor. Instead, consider the overall value of the project and select a contractor that best aligns with your organization and demonstrates valuable industry experience.
If possible, meet with each of the contractors that submitted proposals directly. Ask any questions you may have about the information submitted and likewise, give them an opportunity to learn more about your project.
While it may be time-consuming, this level of planning and research will ensure that the contractor you choose is an effective and valued partner throughout your project.
Planning your next commercial project in the Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, or Arkansas area? Contact us to discuss how we can help your construction plans come to life.