How To Choose The Right General Contractor

If you’ve ever been involved with a commercial construction project, you can probably appreciate the important role of a commercial general contractor. Whether you’re renovating an office building or planning a new construction facility, the right contractor can make all the difference.

As a business owner or project manager, you don’t want to spend countless hours studying building codes and zoning regulations, or chasing down permits throughout the various stages of construction. That’s where the general contractor comes in. Their job is to oversee and coordinate the wide range of tasks and responsibilities required for the successful completion of the project.

Define Goals For Your General Contractor and the Commercial Project

The first—and arguably most important—step of any commercial project is to make sure you have a clear vision of the goals, priorities and general parameters of the project. What’s the budget? Is time-sensitivity a major concern? Are there any unique requirements that may call for specialized knowledge and skills? You need to know the answers to these questions, and so does your commercial contractor.

Having a well-defined initial design can save a lot of time, money, and headache along the way. And, effective communication will not only help you find the right contractor, it will make their job easier in the long run.

As a part of this process, you should also consider the expectations you have for the commercial contractor you choose. But, what makes a good contractor? Well, there are some obvious things, like reliability, quality work, and years of experience. But, more than that, you need to find the right contractor for you and your project. If you’re looking to build a small shopping center, you probably won’t want a contractor that primarily oversees restaurant remodels.

Finding The Right General Contractor

Once you’ve established the foundation of your plan, the next obvious step is the search for commercial general contractors to bid on your project. This is where you want to utilize trusted commercial construction resources to find the best candidates. The Builders Association’s Membership Directory lists a variety of construction companies across the whole spectrum of trades involved, as well as general contractors. Additionally, a quick internet search should give you several well-designed, informative websites that can be used as a tool to help narrow down your pool of candidates.

Along with basic concerns, such as the scope and scale of your project, you want to get a feel for the potential relationship you’ll have with your general contractor. Like any other business, commercial contractors have different personalities and communication styles.

Given the considerable investment of time, energy and money that goes into a commercial construction project, it’s imperative to make sure you’re compatible with your contractor, because you are essentially business partners for the duration of the project. Ask for references. Speak with previous clients to gain valuable insight into what it’s like to work with that particular contractor or construction firm.

  • Other topics to address when contacting references include asking the following questions:
  • What was the nature of the commercial project?
  • Were you comfortable with the level of communication and transparency?
  • Was the general contractor able to consistently meet deadlines?
  • Was the project completed within the proposed budget?
  • Would you recommend this construction firm?
  • Do you have any specific reservations about using this general contractor again?

Additional Considerations For Your General Contractor

The right contractor will have the skills, experience and resources necessary to deliver top-quality results, which includes the ability to choose qualified, specialized subcontractors. Depending on the scope of the project, it’s likely your general contractor will use a variety of subcontractors, including masons, electricians, plumbers, and roofers who are capable and competent in their respective trades. Often, general contractors turn to trusted organizations like The Builders Association to review member organizations during this process, because they trust that those construction companies are staffed with men and women who have the crucial training and experience you’d expect from highly skilled union professionals.

Keep Your Commercial Project As Local As Possible

Don’t underestimate the value of hiring a local general contractor, because working with someone who has a track record of success in your specific market will give you much-needed peace of mind. They know the area and they work to utilize dependable local subcontractors to keep the project running on-time and within budget.

Don’t Let Cost Be The Determining Factor

While it’s certainly important to keep financial considerations in mind, jumping at the lowest bid is not necessarily a recipe for success.

Try your best to NOT to let cost be the predominant factor in your decision making. In fact, accepting a rock bottom bid could come back to bite you (think delays, subpar work, and surprise expenses along the way). Your building’s construction is not exactly an area you want to cut corners! Instead, be more concerned with value and your level of comfort in knowing that you will receive quality construction for the money invested in the project.

It’s Your Commercial Building—Ask Questions!

Don’t be afraid to ask your candidates about their licensing, insurance and safety record. The way in which a general contractor discusses these topics can give you a deeper understanding of their overall professionalism. A credible contractor will have no problem standing behind their record and qualifications.

Be Confident In Choosing The General Contractor For Your Commercial Project

Last, but not least, don’t rush your decision. While you may be eager to get your project underway, taking the time to properly assess your options will lead to a better choice and a more pleasant experience overall. Learn more about the various aspects of the skilled construction trades and find valuable resources by exploring The Builders Association.