Whether you’re rehabbing a commercial building, adding onto existing space, or constructing a new location from the ground up, there are specific steps that you’ll have to take to get your project out of the planning stages and into reality.
At a minimum, you’ll be orchestrating contractors and navigating your municipality’s permitting and zoning requirements. For more complex undertakings, you may also be working with architects, engineers, and designers—all of whom will work together to bring your construction project to fruition.
Managing these different elements isn’t always easy, but if you educate yourself in advance about the potential risks and pitfalls, you may make it over the finish line and start enjoying your new, rehabbed, or expanded space.
Challenges in Construction Project Management
There's a myriad of challenges that may surface when managing a construction project for your small business. Some of these issues may be small and manageable, while others may require more effort to work through. By preparing yourself in advance for what “could happen,” you’ll be well braced to address these and other potential problems:
When the contractor(s) you’re working with can’t find skilled tradespeople to come to work every day, it may delay the project’s progress.
Lack of an overall vision
If you don’t know what you want before you begin your project, your construction project may not turn out as planned.
Contractors, architects, and engineers aren’t mind readers; they need your guidance in helping them assist you in reaching your project goals. Open up lines of communication with and between these professionals early in the process.
Poor planning may often lead to rushed jobs, unreasonable deadlines, safety problems, and other issues that may be prevented with good planning.
Construction hazards may be dangerous and costly, which makes risk management and hazard control absolute priorities on projects of any size.
Depending on how long it takes to complete your project, variables like material costs and labour costs may change while it’s under construction. Talk to your contractor about this and determine a financial “cushion” that you may use to offset these overruns.
By factoring these and other risks into the early stages of your construction project, you’ll be better prepared to manage the issues as they surface and keep your project on budget and on schedule.
How to Manage a Construction Project
Use these seven best practices to avoid the above challenges and other setbacks that could interfere with your construction project:
Create a plan
Rework creates additional expense not factored into the original budget , so you’ll want to have an overall vision in mind before getting started. Share this vision with all the professionals who will be working on the project and be open to possible suggestions and better ways of doing things. For example, if the flooring that you’ve selected for your building addition is pricey and difficult to procure, ask about the alternatives and factor in those suggestions. Use this information to develop a written, shareable plan that everyone may work from.
1. Assign project and job roles
One of the best first steps in construction management is to delegate specific job roles for everyone who participates in the project. If you’re rehabilitating an older building into an office for your small business, for example, you’ll need someone to handle the permitting/zoning processes and to develop the plans for the project (in most cases, this will be an architect or engineer). Then, you’ll need a contractor to do the actual physical work and a designer to manage the interior design work. Through good delegation, you may effectively manage these various moving pieces and get everyone working toward a common goal.
2. Work only with licensed providers
It may be tempting to cut corners by opting for the low-cost provider, but a better choice is to work only with those that are licensed to perform construction projects in your province. These professionals must meet specific industry training standards and have been officially allowed to work in your area. For added insurance, ask your local contractor licensing authority for a copy of the professional’s license (this information may also be available online).
3. Make sure contractors are bonded and insured
Construction is risky business, both in terms of ensuring project completions and for safety reasons. All contractors and providers you work with should be both bonded and insured for everyone’s safety and peace of mind. They should carry both liability and workers’ compensation insurance, with the former protecting your property should the contractor damage it and the latter covering physical injuries that employees may experience while working on your property. Finally, be sure to ask for a proof of bond, which will act as a guarantee that the contractors you hire will perform the work as promised.
4. Set realistic timelines
Maintain a realistic project timeline and go over it regularly with your contractor to make sure everything is on track. If delays do come up, be sure to reset your timelines to accommodate these shifts. Because any changes will impact your business (e.g., when you may hire new employees, open a new store, bring in new equipment, etc.), pay close attention to these alterations and factor them into your overall construction management plan.
5. Plan for potential setbacks
Understand that all construction projects will likely encounter some type of delay (e.g., due to weather conditions, labour problems, permitting challenges, etc.), but that these issues don’t have to derail your expected completion timelines.
6. Use automated reporting systems
You may use construction management systems to keep your projects on track and to create a collaborative environment for all parties who are involved. For example, your contractor and architect may use the system to communicate with another, upload plans and files for review, and make changes for everyone to review and approve. These systems help reduce project delays, minimize communication problems, and support a good overall experience.
Set a Construction Project Up for Success
Construction sites are dynamic settings and the building industry as a whole is always changing and morphing. With the right knowledge and skills—and using the best practices outlined above—all small business owners may plan, orchestrate, and complete successful construction projects of all sizes.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion on any issue. It should not be regarded as comprehensive or a substitute for professional advice.