The other day one of our VPs made a courtesy call to a prospective, multi-project Residential client, who has had – like so many before him – fallen prey to all that is ugly in our industry. Bitten by the sharp tongue of dishonesty and unsavory business practices of another, I felt that this client would appreciate our do-whatever-it-takes approach – which up to that point, hadn’t left any time for a lesson on our corporate hierarchy.
During that conversation, because of the inquisitive nature of said prospect, it became evident that he knew little about our organization – specifically how we were organized geographically, and that we were a national, full-scale operation. He asked her at one point: “So, is Opus One Design Build a franchise business?” and “I notice you calling me from a different area code, are you out of town right now?”, when in fact she works out of our Head office – which he had no idea existed prior to the call.
Our VP was happy to have this conversation, because at Opus One Design Build, sharing our story is a source of great pride, not to mention the confidence it gives our clients and prospective clients. It is also a wonderful opportunity for us to cross-pollinate. What do I mean by “cross-pollinate”? Historically – and initially – we built our business on local residential construction projects. We later expanded our expertise and reach to include both national and local residential projects, as well as Commercial. Often – as was the case the other day – a residential client, in learning about our Commercial division, will refer us to their place of business for ongoing or upcoming Commercial requirements. We love when this happens and it is always a win-win situation. Our residential client looks like the office hero and we get to extrapolate one working relationship into another. And, of course, it often works the other way around – we have built or renovated many beautiful homes, country houses, secondary residences and vacation properties for our Commercial clients.
You don’t have to be in our business to imagine how vastly different the Commercial and Residential markets are but the commonality for us are the trusting relationships that we are so proud to have built in both and the benefits of working nationally.
When clients work with a Commercial contractor nationally, they gain a partner they can educate on their corporate strategies, brand messaging and standards, and expectations and who they can then rely on to efficiently align all Construction projects to their brand concepts and plans in any number of markets. It really shortens the learning curve – which automatically translates into favorable time management and cost savings, as well as consistency and reliability.
These days, it is not uncommon for businesses to take advantage of improved economic conditions by expanding into other geographic areas and being able to take advantage of our national Contractor model and infrastructure facilitates this strategic decisions for many of our clients. Before considering a Construction firm for a national partnership, it’s important to first understand how the logistics work, and what you should expect the Contractor to bring to the table to ensure a successful relationship.
1. Boots on the Ground
To successfully manage a Construction project, a National Construction Firm needs to have the right people in place in the market. That usually means having access to the local trades and craftsmen. To this end, Opus One Design Build has built a network of over 800 highly qualified, vetted and experienced professionals across the countries we operate in.
When sourcing a national Construction company, instead of asking “Where do you have offices?”, we recommend asking “Where do you have local talent?” and “Where can you dispatch teams to?”. You should be most interested in mobility and accessibility – meaning, does the Construction firm have professionals willing and able to head to wherever it is that the Client might need them. Right now, we’re working with a multinational out of one market, on a project for their primary location, mostly staffed out of our National office. Just the other day, one of our contacts there asked us if we’d be able to help with a project in Brazil. They know that we don’t have an office in Brazil but, more importantly, they know our style – which means that they know we’re adaptable and accommodating, and committed to their business – and so, naturally, the answer was “yes”.
2. Navigating the Local Terrain
One thing we’ve learned over the years as a national Construction company is that every market is different and that, as a result, each Commercial project will require an understanding of those differences in order to be executed seamlessly. This could mean anything from understanding the politics involved with obtaining permits from the work ethic of the tradespeople involved.
For example, in Toronto, our tradespeople work their butts off all day, every day. They don’t balk at early morning start times, they take very little time to eat their lunches, they do not take advantage of “breaks”, and where permitted, they work into the evenings and on weekends. This is mostly driven by the brutal winters they face and the knowledge that they have to get as much work (i.e. pay) in during the warmer months as they can. Conversely, in several other large markets, the work ethic leaves a lot to be desired and we have learned how to work successfully within these conditions. It’s not easy and many others have not been as fortunate.
Licensing, insurance, taxes, and labor laws – they all can vary from market to market, municipality to municipality and certainly from country to country. Working with a Construction company well-versed in understanding these requirements can take away a lot of the headache and stress that comes with a large Construction project.
There are also market differences that are less obvious and more difficult to pinpoint. For example – did you know that the more congested the city the more undesirable location for most Construction companies because it’s known for being challenging in receiving materials? We did. And when working in a city we may be less familiar with, we know to look for these subtleties. Your assigned Project Manager may not, and that’s why it’s important to partner with a company accustomed to working in and adapting to whatever challenges a market may present.
3. Leveraging Technology
There is a lot of good information out there about how technology is changing Commercial Construction, and never has that been truer than when running projects nationally. Opus One Design Build is always sourcing out, testing and implementing (when and where it makes sense) the latest industry-specific technology to better serve our clients. Of late, that usually means apps for our phones. Our primary focus, when it comes to technology, is accessibility. Not only do we want to be accessible to our clients when they need us, but we want to be accessible to each other.
Thanks to technological advances, our team members are now able to more quickly and easily share information amongst themselves such as: progress reports, photos, minute-by-minutes status updates, Change Orders, permit applications, materials/inventory management, labor hours, and so much more. The efficiencies created by this automation allow national projects to work in real-time, remotely as required, and with the ability to easily access and reference all project-related communications.
While we do not suggest that you base your decision of who to partner with nationally on their technology investments and platforms, we do encourage you to pay attention to responsiveness, organization, diligence and level of detail provided during the courtship phase – as an indication of how you may expect them to engage with you during a project.
If you’re interested in learning more about how a national Construction firm operates or discussing if a national Commercial Contractor is the right fit for your organization, please do not hesitate to reach out to me – I’d love to speak with you further about this smart way of doing business.