On Redesign Projects, It’s Best To Fly Below the Radar

We recently completed a major expansion for a customer relationship in Charlotte, NC. A regular shopper at the store sent me this note: “You guys were invisible. Every week during the project I would shop there and things just seemed to change. I never noticed who was doing the changing.”

I didn’t expect such a nice unsolicited note. This job was the 800-pound gorilla of all projects. It covered 130,000 square feet and none of the four walls were square with each other. We expanded in three directions, with tight site conditions on two sides. Relocation of utilities had to take place, the store had to stay open and the adjoining tenants had to remain satisfied.

The store remained open seven days a week and their sales actually increased during this time. (We were thrilled since it’s every contractor’s nightmare to be blamed for a decline of revenue.)

Our project manager offered these takeaways for success:

• Take a holistic approach from design to construction. Promote clear and constant communications with everyone involved.

• Be aggressive and detailed with scheduling. Retrofits and open-store remodels will take much more hands-on work to be successful.

• Work hand-in-glove with the municipality and constantly be thinking when working through inevitable challenges.

• Create temporary offices and customer service areas to foster good customer relationships.

• Make use of 2nd or 3rd shifts when performing demolition as to not disturb the adjoining business or tenants. Surrounding tenants can shut you down with complaints in a second flat.

• Be aware of security needs. Add an additional guard at key times to keep the project moving rather than bottleneck construction to one door at a time.

• Make it look like you aren’t there. Be invisible to customers and surrounding businesses.

• Maintain routine communications whether you’re sharing the good, the bad or the ugly.

• Take total ownership in the process. Never be afraid to admit a mistake.

• Make extra efforts to keep everything clean during the process. You’ll produce a better quality product and ensure project safety.

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Merrill Stewart is Founder and President of the Stewart Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham, Ala. Contact him via email.

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