If you are planning on trying to renovate an office, store or restaurant, or are moving into a new one, then you should seriously consider hiring experts for your shopfitting work. Kitting out a new commercial property is a big job, and it is something that should be taken seriously.
While you can do shopfitting by yourself, in most cases this would be an overly expensive and time consuming thing, and if you do not have the project management expertise required to do a good job then you will end up with a partly finished office or shop and will probably go well over time and budget.
Shopfitting involves everything from measuring out the commercial space to designing the cabinets, desks and other fixtures and fittings, working out how to lay the place out to ensure that the environment is suitable and comfortable for your employees and/or customers, and also managing the actual installation of the fixtures and fittings in question.
Depending on the size of the commercial property in question, shopfitting can be quite a large task. However, a good team will have the skills required to manage the task from start to finish, ensuring no wasted time. They will discuss your requirements, put together a project plan, and then meet with you at agreed milestone periods to ensure you are happy with the work being done.
If you are considering hiring a shopfitting company then you will need to make sure that the company you choose to work with is reputable. As with any form of tradesman, there are some unscrupulous ones out there. Do not allow yourself to be wowed by promises of low prices. Get several quotes from different shop fitting companies and make sure that those quotes are itemized. This will help to ensure that you are comparing the same thing in all cases.
Ask each company for timescales, and to tell you clearly what is included. Some shopfitters buy in desks, cabinets and other items while some make them in house. Some handle disposal of old fittings for you and some do not. You will need to clarify this before you make any decisions. If a company is not willing to explain in detail what they do and do not include then you should walk away from them because they are probably not going to offer good customer service once they have secured your business.
Ask for testimonials from past clients. Look at photographs of the businesses that they have worked with, and if you like what you see follow up on those testimonials by talking to the business owners. It is not enough to just know that the end result was good – you need to make sure that it was completed on time, within budget, and that the tradespeople conducted themselves in a professional manner throughout. For example, you may want to have a part of your business open at the same time as the rest of the office is being worked on – is that possible?
Alternatively you may need to give access to the building to network engineers, electricians, plumbers or someone else in addition to the shopfitters. Can they work around each other? If the landlord has restrictions on opening hours, noise or parking, can you trust the shopfitters to comply with those rules?
All of these issues are things that you need to be confident about before you hire a shopfitting company.
Other things that you need to think about are insurance and payment policies. Make sure that the company you choose to hire has public liability insurance, and insurance for workers too. When you draw up a contract, make sure that it is clear how much you will need to pay, and when. In general it is perfectly normal for some payment to be requested up-front, but not the whole payment for the job. Other payments will typically be made in installments, as milestones for the job are reached.
While there may be some rare instances where the amount owed for the job may change (for example if you are opening an office in a period building and the shopfitters run into an unforeseen problem because of the rules on what can and cannot be done to the building) a good contract will put limits on what those charges can be.
Read the contract that you are given carefully – do not sign it if the shopfitter tries to make you do so without having a proper look at it. Do not be embarrassed about taking it away and asking a legal expert to look over it. In addition, before you hire any shopfitting company look for reviews of them online and look on business forums to see if any of your peers have had any issues with them. There are plenty of Australian business forums as well as city-specific ones that are full of people who would be happy to give you advice.
If a company is so new that they have no existing reviews online, then you should be wary. Of course, some companies really are new – and someone has to be their first customer – but a lot of the time shopfitters and other tradespeople will form companies, trade for a few months, rip off a few unsuspecting business owners, shut down the company and re-open in another city under another name. You can usually catch those people out by researching the company founder to see if they have a history of opening and closing lots of companies.
Do not try to do shop-fitting yourself, unless you are an experienced joiner and decorator with plenty of project management experience. For most people, DIY is a false economy, and hiring experts (with appropriate due diligence) is a much safer way to ensure that you get a great looking, polished office that is a good working environment and that will impress your clients.
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