The sleek and modern World Trade Center PATH station was scheduled to be completed in early 2013. As one might expect from a construction project of this size and scope, it was beset with problems. Some were due to uncontrollable issues, such as delays in the supply chain from steel providers. Other problems, however, were a matter of poor project management, such as a lack of communication between government agencies and developers, not following best practices when it came to project controls, and not sticking to construction deadlines.
As a result, the project was completed a year late and $2 billion over budget. I know what you’re thinking. My project is nowhere near that big in size or budget. But bad project management is just as likely to derail the construction of your franchise. What should be a $500,000 project could easily turn into a $750,000 one, and that is real money.
As a franchisee, staying on budget and on schedule is critical to getting the doors to your business open and making a return on your costly investment. But, as most franchisees learn early and are reminded of often, there are many things that need to be completed before the doors of a franchise are opened for business. The last thing a franchisee needs on his or her plate is overseeing the actual hanging of those doors.
For this reason, we highly recommend that franchisees -- whether they are new to the game or seasoned vets -- invest in construction management services. In addition to the architect and general contractor, the construction manager is the third piece of the puzzle and can serve as the glue that holds all the pieces together.
The construction manager can pick up where the architect’s job ends, delivering and walking the franchisee’s designs and construction plans through the permitting process. From there, he or she can oversee each phase of the construction project.
Franchisees who have been at the game for a while may have a preferred general contractor. But, for first-franchisees who have not built those relationships, having someone spearhead the bidding process with contractors can be instrumental in making sure you partner with the right company and get the best bang for your buck.
Even long-time franchisees can benefit from having the construction manager seek out companies and bids, especially if entering a new market or if their preferred contractor is over-scheduled. A good construction manager will have a feel for the local GC pool and is likely to have relationships in place that can streamline the process.
In addition to sending out requests for bids, the construction manager works closely with contractors on the shortlist to prepare the bid and the overall budget to ensure that they align with the franchisee’s plans. The construction manager’s input and advice can help the franchisee make the best selection.
Once a general contractor has been hired, the construction manager works closely with the GC on the construction schedule. From the get-go, the construction manager serves as a buffer or gatekeeper between the franchisee and GC. Believe it or not, the two parties don’t always see eye-to-eye. Not only do they have different priorities, but they don’t really speak the same language, figuratively, that is. A construction manager understands the needs and demands of the franchisee but also speaks the language of the general contractor.
The construction manager will schedule and run weekly update calls detailing progress, problems, budget issues, etc. If the project has any delays or issues, these weekly calls are critical to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks and that those issues come to light and get addressed in a timely manner. This is critical to ensuring that the project stays on schedule so the franchisee’s doors can open when expected.
Periodic and Final Walkthroughs
The construction manager is onsite for inspection walkthroughs, as well as regular walkthroughs with the franchisee. If the the construction project is slated for six weeks, for example, there is often a walkthrough at the three-week midpoint. These walkthroughs are important for ensuring that punch list items do not fall through the cracks. The construction manager knows what the final space should look like and is in the best position to make sure everything is getting done to meet franchisees demands while also meeting local and state building codes. After the final walkthrough, the construction manager ensures that the franchisee has all the closing documents, including as-built plans (link to as-built article), equipment manuals, service schedules, warranty information, and other records pertaining to every component within the space.
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