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Once you sign your lease and begin making plans to move into your new commercial space, you will need to hire a project manager to oversee construction for your build-out. Hiring a project manager helps to ensure your construction goes more smoothly, stays on budget, and gets completed on time while you focus on other elements of your move. Yet, not all project managers are created equal. If you can't get a referral from a friend or colleague for a reputable project manager, you need to perform your own search. In any case, you should ask a series of questions before you choose which project manager to hire. Below, we provide some of the most important questions to ask before hiring a project manager.
If a potential project manager answers "no" to this question, it will be a deal-breaker in most cases.
Not only do you want a project manager who has experience, but you need one who has overseen build-outs for your particular type of business. To some extent office buildings are office buildings, so industry might not have a bearing on your final decision. Yet, in other cases a project manager not familiar with a particular industry can potentially ruin your project.
For example, if you hire a project manager who has worked on countless office buildings, but never done a build out for a restaurant, and you are opening a restaurant, you risk running into major design and construction issues. Issues lead to delays, and you could eat up your entire rent abatement period and have to start paying rent during your construction time.
Ultimately, learning about industry experience helps you determine if a potential candidate will be a good fit. In some cases, you might not be able to find someone who has experience in your industry, but you can still look and ask about adjacent industries. In the restaurant example, you might ask a potential project manager if he or she has done build-outs for coffee shops, bars, or event centers.
While not exactly the same as a restaurant, these things have similar features which suggest the candidate would be able to handle a build-out.
This question dives into potentially uncomfortable territory for the project manager you might hire for your build-out.
Yet, it can give you a plethora of information about whether a particular candidate will come through for you. Hopefully, you get honest and positive responses which include the words on-time, sooner than expected, on budget, and under budget.
If that isn't the case, you want to get the details of any setbacks with previous projects, so you can compare the responses with what the client tells you when you check references. Sometimes delays and budget issues arise and project managers have no control over them.
For example, bad weather and backorders for materials, furniture, fixtures, or other things can cause minor to major delays.
In other situations, a project manager's incompetence to procure materials in a timely manner and manage the budget directly lead to disaster. The most important detail you need to find out when you ask a potential project manager about their last three projects, is if they completed them. You need to be certain that if something goes off the rails with your project, you can at least count on the fact that your build-out will be completed.
Even the most professional, successful, and rockstar project managers run into trouble sometimes. If you are interviewing a potential project manager and he or she claims they haven't had any challenges, it's a result of inexperience or they're lying.
In either case, run for the hills and move on to another candidate. When a candidate tells you about their most challenging project, you will often need to ask some follow up questions to find out more information.
Ultimately, you want to know exactly what made the project challenging, and more importantly, what did the candidate do to overcome those challenges. The best project managers know how to deal with adversity and have honed their creative problem-solving skills to overcome obstacles thrown their way.
You want to make sure the project manager you hire can handle conflict and stress, which can often accompany construction projects, especially large ones. Under the umbrella of this question, you might want to offer a follow up question asking the candidate the biggest mistake he or she has made on a project. Humans are imperfect, and even exceptional project managers make mistakes. Like assessing challenges and stress, you want to evaluate how the candidate fixed the mistake and got the project back on-track.
Most importantly, you want to ensure the candidate learned from the mistake and used it as on opportunity to grow.
Communication is the linchpin of any successful construction project. You need a project manager who is not only comfortable with communicating, but will provide relevant parties with the details they need at the time they need them. Imagine showing up to your soon-to-be new business location and noticing work is behind schedule.
In fact, maybe no contractors are working at all. You haven't heard from your project manager. You try to call repeatedly, but no answer. Avoid heart attacks, strokes, and rage by finding a project manager who will give you a call, shoot you a text, or send you an email to keep you abreast of major happenings.
Your project manager also needs to be able to communicate with your landlord and any other stakeholders at appropriate times. When you ask about communication, make sure you get the sense the candidate has strong communication skills and will use them throughout your build-out.
Communication also ties in with delegating responsibility. You should ask a candidate how he or she communicates with his or her team, other contracts, and others involved in completing the build-out. This can give you sense of leadership style and show you the candidate can delegate responsibilities to achieve success in completing your build-out.