Location solutions Featured

7:00pm EDT December 26, 2007

Whether your company is starting out, expanding or opening a new location, the process of finding a space and getting moved in can be a difficult one. After scouring your area for the best neighborhood and the best space, your work is just beginning.

Getting from choosing your location to actually opening the doors involves several steps, all of which need to be monitored with painstaking detail. There’s negotiating and signing the lease; hiring a legal counsel; selecting architects, engineers and contractors; due-diligence concerns; and installation projects — just to name a few.

“When you’re in the process of moving into a new location, you have to choose the right team,” says Brandon K. Mann, senior vice president of Colliers Corporate Solutions in St. Louis. “You want to be sure that every player has your best interests in mind every step of the way. No matter what you’re looking for — broker, architect, general contractor, etc. — you have to find the one that best fits your needs. There is no onesize-fits-all solution.”

Smart Business spoke with Mann about the process of getting your doors open, what to look for along the way, and the benefits and drawbacks of a complete turnkey solution.

What does a company need to think about once it finds a location?

First, you need a real estate broker to wade through the paperwork of the lease, negotiate the terms and get the deal signed. But, the broker typically doesn’t have full responsibility for the lease, so you need a legal counsel to review everything. You need to be sure your legal counsel has a good feel for commercial leasing, so this may or may not be your normal business attorney.

On top of that, you need to know how the space should be laid out, what improvements are needed and what architectural and engineering elements are involved. You then have to go through the process of finding the proper architects, engineers, general contractors, installers and movers. The key here is finding the appropriate ones who are best equipped to deliver the space.

Oftentimes a broker and a project manager handle the entire turnkey process. Is this always the best route to take?

If you have a broker and a project manager who are integrated, experienced and work together on the same page with the same goal, you’ll get a holistic solution. However, typically a broker just handles the front end [lease execution], and the project manager handles the back end [everything after the lease is completed]. This is where having a complete turnkey provider can be beneficial. This way you have one account or relationship manager who oversees every aspect of the process, from selection of brokers and attorneys to getting your systems installed and moved in.

What are the benefits/drawbacks of having an all-in-one solution?

In the beginning, the selection of players is key. You need a broker who has your fiduciary interests in mind, and one who has experience in the type of space and location you’re looking at. You need the proper architects, engineers and contractors who know what you want and how to deliver it to you. Having the right people in place every step of the way will help you ensure that problems are quickly spotted and resolved. Having that alignment is a clear benefit, and you know you’re covered every step of the way. Plus, you’ll generally see cost savings in every step, and you’ll usually get your doors opened faster.

The drawback of an all-in-one solution is if your provider is all talk. He or she may talk about turnkey solutions and promise big results but, at the end of the day, they’re just passing stuff off internally and things aren’t getting done. You need to know that your turnkey provider is focused on you and on your needs every step of the way.

What pitfalls should companies look for during turnkey processes?

Dealing directly with landlords and not being represented on the buyer or tenant side is something to avoid. Executing or negotiating a lease without knowledge of pre-existing conditions is another. You have to know what you’re getting into, what needs to be done and how it’s all going to get done. One of the biggest pitfalls I’ve seen is a company settling on what seemed to be a good estimate for services, only to get nickeled and dimed to death by change orders and additions. <<

BRANDON K. MANN is the senior vice president of Colliers Corporate Solutions in St. Louis. Reach him at (314) 392-2777 or bmann@ctmt.com.