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Expanding scope while compressing costs

Expanding scope while compressing costs

Can I add some ideas with blowing out the budget?

Shane Deering, projects director

One thing leads to another – especially when it comes to good ideas. And this is precisely why fastidious planning, foresight and planning routinely save clients time, money and face.

It is not unusual for clients to see drawings and plans, samples and ideas spread out before them during a presentation and decide, “I love it, I want it but can we add something here.” As a response prior to signing-off on concepts or even designs, not a problem. One could even consider it a part of the creative process between clients and the design team.But what if this happens after sign-off, estimates, detailed drawings, fixed quotes and even the commencement of construction? This is one of the curliest questions of all in the commercial office fit out industry and it comes with one of the straightest answers.

It will come with a cost. And that’s the safest assumption you’ll ever hear.

How do I minimise these costs?

Firstly, let’s review that assumption because it is just that, an assumption. Assumptions have a deservedly poor reputation. They have historically led to poor decisions, actions, inactions and oftentimes they have proved costly. However, there’s an exception to every rule and in this case that exception comes in the form of the assumption that variances can and sometime do occur. These variances and their impacts on budget can minimised by using these three tips:

1. Lay everything out on the table – during the initial discussion and into the briefing process, it is vital that you the client, tell the fit out company with whom your working, everything you want.Tell them how you work, how you’d like to work, what works and what doesn’t.They’ll need to know the complete picture.Note: Some fit out companies won’t want the full picture because it may mean more work for less margin.This doesn’t mean that they’re bad people, it just means that you should do all you can to make sure that their business model aligns to the scope of your needs, wants and aspirations.

2. Honesty is the best policy – if you find that you don’t understand something in the proposal you’re being presented, speak up.If something doesn’t seem right to you, question it – without hesitation (you might find that with some clarification, all is as it should be… or not).If you don’t like something or feel it’s not what you asked for, make it known. Don’t worry, it’s not your job to work out the solutions, it’s the designers’ job to do that.

3. Talk… to everyone – it’s a fact that we only have two eyes, two ears and one brain. Which means that our understanding of a multi-faceted problem (which is exactly what fulfilling an interior office design is) will be challenged by a lack of perspective. Canvass teams and those in positions of authority within your business. What are the challenges they need this fit out to address? Speak to those that are happy with a recent fit out. Who did they speak to, what questions did they ask? Many hands make light work and many heads take the hard work out of selecting and briefing a fit out company.

Fixed costs fix everything

We are of the firm belief that if the initial discussion phase and briefing process are as comprehensive and effective as possible then DUE DILIGENCE (yes, capitalised, underlined and italicised) allows the provision of fixed cost quote. Everything that you’ve read in the last section forms the basis of due diligence but that’s only the beginning. From here, there are discussions with the building owners, compliance imperatives, statutory considerations as well as the big question – will this fulfil the brief and delight the client? These are the steps that take us from an estimate to a fixed cost quote.

With the presentation of a fixed cost quote by a reputable and experienced fit out company, the answer to the question, “will there be any additional costs outside the original agreement?” should be, all things being equal, no. However, here in the real world, sometimes clients may have a change of mind (or heart) when it comes to a certain, previously-agreed-upon aspect of the design. Depending on how late in the day this occurs, there may be a variation. Variations due to latent conditions might also pose issues. All that said though, a fixed quote from said reputable and experienced company will absolutely offer the most peace of mind available.

The key to getting more without paying too much is…

Understanding the process. That’s one of the keys to ensuring you get what you want (and perhaps even more). Keep in mind that almost anything is possible within the office fit out industry – if you have enough money. However, if your business is built on or at least thrives on fiscal responsibility and common sense, you’ll already have decided that cost control is important. Therefore, avoiding costly, retrofit solutions by openly declaring your expectations, hopes and needs as they pertain to fit outs from the outset, appointing a team with optimal experience and expertise and capitalising, underlining, italicising due diligence, you will get more without leaving your budget in tatters.