The journey from deciding to implement a new office fit out to your team moving in and functioning in their new workplace, differs depending on a long list of factors. But every project is marked by the same set of signposts and requires the same set of insights and undertakings.
This guide offers advice, strategies and details that will help you embark on the journey, putting your best foot forward, so that in the end you receive exactly what you wanted – a workplace that you love and love to work in day by day, week by week and year by year.
With that in mind, let’s get started.
Ask yourself why?
Efficient thinking upon lease expiry
Here’s a familiar situation: your business has operated out of a particular space in Sydney for almost seven years and a letter arrives announcing the upcoming expiry of your lease. You may be asked to relocate or perhaps you’re offered new lease with new terms including a significant rent increase. If the latter, then it’s imperative that you ask yourself the right questions.
How has the existing space served you and your business? If your response is to shrug and say “it’s fine”, then you have doubts. As business leases are often lengthy affairs, we’re often forced to “get over” undesirable aspects of the space, whether in terms of layout, design and functionality. Cramped kitchens, inadequate storage, wasted space, drab environments – all undesirables that we often put up with when we don’t have to.
The second pertinent question is: what will your business look like in the not-too-distant future? Things change, for example:
- Business activity broadens in scope
- Shifting needs require staff increases
- New equipment and storage demands arise
If you’re existing space is unable to allow for possibility and flexibility then perhaps you need to rethink your location.
Our independent workplace strategy service involves us working with you to understand your requirements, comprehensively, as well as us meeting with owners, landlords and/or agents to ensure that you get exactly what you need and nothing less. Our proven track record shows that we allow our clients the option of renegotiated terms or iron-clad documented evidence that shows that the perfect space is waiting elsewhere.
In other words, we’ll help you know with all certainty whether to stay or whether to go.
Set your goals
Put your best foot forward when approaching design teams
It’s not uncommon to receive a response to your brief from a fit out company and become deflated, confused and anxious. What you’d expect and desire is a comprehensive, detailed submission/pitch that instils faith, but sometimes you get a vague, over-hyped submission that sounds more like an advertising campaign full of empty promises and lacking insight.
Above all else, you should know what you’re signing up for. If you’re the one tasked with overseeing a relocation or office fit out, or both, then you should ensure that through the eventual fulfilment of the brief, you’re able to:
- Add value to your company’s brand
- Solidify or enrich its corporate identity
- Construct an environment where staff can work to their fullest capability
- Adhere to a budget
- Satisfy timelines
If after reading the submission you can’t foresee taking the brief to actuality while satisfying all of the above, then it’s the wrong submission (and perhaps the wrong brief, but we’ll get to that in a bit) – and you deserve the right one.
The right one
The successful completion of your office fit out depends on two elements – the quality of the brief your company creates and the choosing of the design company that best understands and responds to that brief.
The ideal brief that will elicit the ideal response (from the right design team) is fuelled by looking inwards and iasking questions. Before diving into the brief construction process, you need to ask yourself:
- What needs to happen in our new office fit out (process and outputs)?
- What do we need to ensure is in our new office fit out?
- What do we want individuals (employees and visitors alike) to feel when occupying the new space?
- Who will be exposed to our new fit out and how much of it?
Researching and investigating these questions and coming up with clear, concise answers is the most comprehensive way to form the basis of your design brief. Once you’ve given them the attention and respect that they deserve, you’ll receive equally cogent, creative and culture-fitted submissions.
Do your research
Designs that please the eye and work too
‘All that glitters is not gold’ is an old adage that finds new life when applied to office fit out designs. Upon receiving your first fresh set of stunning schematics, it’s easy to get swept up in their air of professionalism without looking any deeper. Truth is, flashes of approval from the untrained eye have brought down many an office fit out and in turn, many a business, through:
- Expensive mid-lease refits
- Dysfunctional layouts and builds
- Collapsed culture and halted progress
Pointing out this tragic (and avoidable) reality is one thing, but knowing how to look beyond the look and avoid it altogether is another. The question becomes how do you assess a seemingly magnificent design package for true worth that works?
The answer is clear and simple. Instead of asking if the design “looks good”, we must ask whether design “works great”. In other words, do the design details solve problems and satisfy needs? Good designers integrate essentials, increased functionality, an efficient layout and enviable aesthetics into one seamless, striking plan.
A design team that does their due diligence and delivers beyond expectations should at the bare minimum respond to the client’s base-level problems, such as:
- Space – we are taking on more staff and therefore need additional workspaces and suitable amenities / we’re streamlining and therefore require downscaling across the board.
- Rebranding – our logo and design assets have changed to fit our changed company direction. How can we reflect this shift in culture?
- Functionality – we’re now presenting and pitching from the office. How can we best facilitate this additional purpose?
The right commercial interior design team will hear your problems, as well as your suggested answers, then instead of coasting by and implementing exactly what you ask for, they’ll enter a process of exploration. They’ll ask the right questions and suggest energising alternatives in order to not merely satisfy your expectations, but where appropriate, exceed them. The right solution can take a succession of back-and-forth exchanges in order to satisfy not only your needs, but needs you didn’t know you had.
The fact of the matter is, functionality is more important than aesthetics as the former is more likely to lead to superior results, but that doesn’t mean you should settle for one over the other. Powerhouse Group’s long list of completed office fit outs throughout Sydney and beyond boast the best of both and guarantee that all that glitters IS gold – every time.
Be honest with yourself
Let inexperience work for you
When assigned the task of overseeing a commercial office fit out and hiring the right design team to do the job justice, you score no points by letting pride getting in the way. With hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars on the line, it’s better to locate your gaps in knowledge than create tension and uncertainty between your team and the fit out company. Inexperience should not equal embarrassment but instead foster freedom – to investigate, to ask questions and find authoritative parties to help carry the load. And who better to carry that load than a fit out team with years of proven experience.
Searching for the perfect design team to deliver the perfect office fit out can and will be a smooth process if you know what to look for and knowing what to look for includes looking for a team that:
- Asks all manners of questions – an experienced company with a proven track record will ask a combination of open, leading and closed questions in order to understand everything there is to know about your organisation and its plans for the future.
- Creates an achievable and honest timeline – any fit out company that claims they can provide an end-to-end service in a few weeks should be avoided at all costs. Planning, due diligence and proper implementation requires patience, persistence and of course, the time to do the project justice.
- Flags concerns you could never have considered – if the process from brief to execution goes smoothly without any questioning then you know you’re in the wrong hands. An experienced team raises challenges and concerns that would have never occurred to you and offers authoritative solutions and safeguards before you have a chance to worry about any of it.
- Have worked with people and brands you know – personal recommendations and testimonials from known parties and companies are both signs that a company can be trusted. Proven examples of previous work add that extra layer of surety.
- Inspire confidence – if working with a fit out team in the early stages of the process and you feel a sense of stress or doubt without ever being countered with practical assurance, then you might have jumped the gun. Thanks to 25 years of experience, Powerhouse Group prides itself in instilling confidence not only from the outset but along every step of the way.
Choose the right space
How to get and stay in the zone
Creating and knowing your own plans is all well and good but they aren’t airtight until filtered through the plans of the powers-that-be. Eyeing off a grand commercial space brimming with potential, boasting stunning views while still offering an under-budget lease all means nothing until you know and understand the zoning prerequisites of councils and town planners, for example. Your desired building may very well be perfect in all areas except the one that counts – only allowing specific uses that lie outside your business function.
If you’re lucky enough to find your desired office space in your desired location with the desired zoning parameters, more power to you. Usually, making this discovery would mean it’s time to move on to the due diligence phase, but in some cases a building that is ‘appropriately zoned’ for general office use comes with caveats, so it’s imperative that you ensure your plans conform to the intricacies of zoning classifications. In order to do so, you’ll need:
- Experience: being aware of the fact that a site is, for example, zoned 5B is all well and good, but zoning does more than tell you what can be done, it also underlines what may not be acceptable. Understanding the fine print in terms of limitations and exclusions is best left to experienced specialists, both before and after a lease has been signed.
- Recognition: the commercial real estate circus contains a cast of specialists, each of whom should be known by title and function. Knowing who is looking after your interests means engaging with those with expertise in sourcing and fitting out your new office space, including securing all mandatory approvals.
- Due diligence – once the above boxes have been ticked, you then need an authority on degrees of consequence. Adequate space for the work is one thing, but enlisting the services of someone who will consider factors such as adequate parking and transport, safe (and ease of) public access and locations of necessities such as cooling units — is another.
These areas of complexity require an engagement with parties who live and breathe the details and the right details at that.
Choose the right path
Many joined hands make lighter work
When you arrive at that thrilling phase of the process where the designs are complete and so utterly impressive and idiosyncratic that they leap off the page, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the excitement and pre-emptively label the project a success. Even before anything has been built. If you’ve chosen to engage separate and, for all intents and purposes, mutually exclusive entities to “design” and then “construct” your new office interior respectively, you’ll now find yourself at a critical crossroads. In other words, no such assumptions around success can nor should be made.
One path leads to hiring project management and construction teams who may never have worked together while the other is quite a different story. Companies like ours (sometime known as design and construct) operate throughout the whole project as a single entity from conception through to completion. We, for example, enjoy longstanding relationships with established, go-to construction partners and suppliers. The first path requires a leap of faith; you’ll be hoping that parties that have never worked together will work together and do it well. The second, thanks to ongoing relationships that have yielded wonderful results time and time again, instil confidence from the outset. With such an important project, that’s what you want.
So, when you choose Powerhouse group, you are choosing:
- Three decades of experience handling all aspects of the office fit out process, end-to-end
- Close, ongoing and time-tested relationships with hand-picked suppliers and contractors
- A single line of communication and accountability between and through all project and construction teams
In other words, instead of you having to continually ensure that multiple plates are spinning and keep spinning, with us, there’s only one plate.
Each of our contractors and suppliers are an extension of Powerhouse Group. We don’t consider them independent third-parties, but integral players in the process. Everyone gets a say, as they should, considering that they are all experts in their particular niche. These relationships move with honesty and openness; they’re a meeting of voices that all speak to the same end – a brilliant result, achieved together.
Opting to go with a single, solid team of experts that incorporate workplace strategy, design, project management and construction is the most efficient, comprehensive and freeing path to project success.
Ask the right questions
Establishing an atmosphere of curiosity and carefulness
When engaging an office fit out team, it’s important to know that questions are your best friend. In this arena especially, there is no such thing as a stupid question, but there is such a thing as productive questioning.
The first step is to get a sense of how your chosen fit out company approaches the process of being questioned. After perusing the company’s website and getting a general sense of their capabilities, you could benefit from asking:
- What exactly do you do for your clients?
- Looking beyond the projects highlighted on your website, what were you able to achieve for your clients?
- Why have your clients selected your company, as opposed to a competitor, for their office fit out?
Once you’ve gleaned this top-level knowledge, it’s important to broach the topic of timelines and markers in relation to your own proposed office fit out.
- What is your approach to achieving our project goals?
- What’s the estimated length of time, from these initial talks through to handover?
- Why so quickly/so long?
- How can you guarantee the entire project will be completed by this time?
You can then hone in on specific interior design aspects with questions such as:
- Is this the best that can be done to optimise this space and the way our business functions?
- How many additional features and functions have you implemented in the design that we hadn’t imagined?
- Why can’t the design include (specific features/aspects that we were interested in during initial discussions)?
These 10 questions aren’t gospel, nor are they a comprehensive set, but instead they will help you form the basis of the question-and-answering aspect of the partnership. Once you establish an atmosphere of curiosity and transparency, then asking and probing and subsequent discussing becomes a natural part of the process.
Ask the deeper questions
Your comprehensive questioning checklist
Now that you’ve fostered a relationship where all skittishness is out the window and openness and diligence are firm fixtures on the table, you can now think about the kinds of questions that YOU will have to answer in some way, shape or form when engaging with a company like Powerhouse Group.
Here’s a handy checklist of 19 questions that will make the life of your project easier.
Existing form and function
- What’s the size of your current space?
- How many people does it house when at capacity?
- What is your primary function (including frequency)?
- What is your secondary function (including frequency)?
- How would you summarise your company history and list of achievements?
- How have you built and earned your reputation?
- When it comes to your brand, what are its strengths and aspirations?
- What kind of culture have you built and hope to maintain/strengthen?
- In your current space, which features and aspects are in use on a daily basis (kitchen, data room, breakout space, etc…)?
Concept through to completion
- Is this a design and construct project (D&C) or do you also require a purpose-fit site for your new office (tenant advisory)?
- When would you like the new office to be fully operational?
- Have you yet nominated an internal project officer/manager and/or central point of contact?
- What are you expecting/needing in terms of documentation? This is a critical aspect that your nominated office fit out company should explain to you.
Your company goals
- Have you collected imperatives and aspirations from key stakeholders?
- How will your business look in 5-7 years and how will it continuously improve?
- How are your competitors and inspirations raising the bar with their built environments?
Now that you know yourself, it’s time to get to know your fit out team
- This will be complex process on many fronts, how does an ideal relationship with your fit out company look?
- How involved do you want to be in the process?
- Is over 25 years of experience and more than 1,000 successfully completed projects a source of comfort?
Ensure the right voices are heard
Expecting more than what you asked for
As the person tasked with overseeing a new office fit out form the client side, you should never expect your chosen company to nod their heads and transcribe your needs to the letter. You are not an interior designer nor have you ever claimed to be and that’s why you’ve turned to professionals.
If you end up with a stack of fresh designs and plans and the accompanying feeling of “well, I could have done that myself” then you’re in dangerous waters. A competent commercial interior design company will filter your wants and needs through years of experience and a wealth of knowledge and come back to you with ideas, suggestions and approaches that you would never have considered. Your chosen company should push boundaries, raise bars and surprise you with an out-of-the-box mentality.
In other words, you should expect the following from your interior design team:
- A challenge: a symbiotic relationship that stimulates, surprises and opens the door to possibilities and opportunities. You deserve push-back in the most positive and productive way possible.
- Unexpected solutions: it’s not your job to have considered everything. If you request a particular feature in a particular place, your chosen team should investigate and apply creative thinking to the solution. Alternatives that build and improve on your initial suggestions is exactly what you deserve.
- Flair/magic/magnificence: a set of designs that seamlessly integrate form and function in a way that far exceeds your expectations – displaying ingenuity, inspiring awe and energising you with ongoing anticipation.
- An investigative spirit: arriving at the desired endpoint is only possible when supported by a team who live and breathe curiosity – who take your desires and transport them to new and surprising places.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what the right company will bring to the table, but the overriding point is that the client/company relationship should be much like a romance – connected, challenging and full of unexpected delights.
Lock down your project team
Who should be in charge of our office fit out?
On the client side, selecting your in-house project manager isn’t as straight-forward as you might assume. It’s easy to relegate the job to someone who’s competent enough and has a bit of time on their hands – and they could very well do the task justice, but it’s important to understand that if you go that route, you’re going that route. Just as it’s important to know how much slack the project manager on the fit out side of the equation will need to pick up.
Ideally, your in-house project manager will —in addition to possessing inherent diligence, thoughtfulness and grit— have some degree of experience in project management. Once you’ve placed someone with those necessary qualities at the top of the list, it’s then time to ask if they possess:
- Complexity awareness – an office fit out is a process with many moving, overlapping parts and requires someone who can work on multiple, simultaneous fronts. Half a dozen teams could be working on the project and at times, they could all come at you with different requirements within the same half-hour period.
- Process sensitivity – knowing what to expect and how to handle the unexpected are both vital qualities in ensuring the smoothest and best possible result.
- Ease of authority – your chosen project manager will need to keep the project moving even when faced with unforeseen circumstances and that can only happen if they are comfortable with making tough calls, with expedience.
- Industry familiarity – any niche discipline comes with its own distinct lexicon and it’s imperative that your chosen person is somewhat versed in the language of the office fit out. Words such as mechanical, hydraulics and engineering all take on skewed meanings in the fit out industry, so in the name of time and money, a base understanding of specialised jargon is desirable.
Of course, while the fit out company side of project management will be there to guide, support and facilitate, we can’t stress enough the importance of selecting the right person with the right set of skills to head up your side of the partnership.
From idea to ideal office
An overview of what to expect
You’ve asked yourself the right questions. You’ve set your goals. You’ve done your research, chosen the right space and appointed your project manager. You’ve partnered with Powerhouse Group and therefore locked in the right project and construction teams and suppliers. The journey is well and truly underway, so now it’s time to know what to expect when you’re expecting a new, breathtaking and inspiring office fit out.
Initial meetings are at their most successful when both parties have adequately prepared. Discovery involves the articulation of needs and wants and a revealing of company history, present situations and dreams for the future. The more you formulate and order your thoughts, the more information can be used to inform the process. In other words, be prepared to discuss everything, ask anything and leave no stone unturned.
First response speaks volumes
Any skilled and storied team will respond to initial discussions having synthesised your wants and needs into solid yet surprising design drafts. These preliminary documents will give you a feel for how proficient your chosen team are in listening, translating and building on your requests in order to find functional and aesthetically inspiring solutions. In other words, your gut reaction to their first deliveries will give you a general sense of how the journey will transpire.
Once you’ve gone back and forth on the design phase and arrived at a mutual agreement that inspires confidence and anticipation and after due diligence has been addressed and materials (and the like) have been selected,
the fit out company will have enough information to come back to you with estimates. Never settle for presented budgets before all of the above have taken place, as you’ll then end up saddled with wild variations in both cost and time.
Always in the loop
When the relationship between design, project and construction teams are operating optimally, then you should expect regular updates marked by clarity, conciseness and comprehensiveness. Through these updates, you should get a sense that your project is incrementally coming to life and feel free to raise concerns/questions/clarifications with your lead contact if necessary.
Hail to the handover
The new office fit out has been built and implemented according to the estimated timeline and you’re now in a position to uncork the champagne and cast an eager eye over the resulting splendour. Ideally, you should feel a strong sense that what you’re seeing is more than an aesthetic makeover, but a physical embodiment of a new and exciting stage in the life of your business.
Just because the champagne’s been popped and the streamers and ribbons have been untied, doesn’t mean the journey is over. Powerhouse Group look beyond the transaction and believe in the continuity of relationships. Our clients are known to touch base years later purely to share memories or provide updates and we are always more than happy to offer evolving advice after the fact. Our legacy hinges on their satisfaction and when selected as the office fit out team of choice, we take to the entire process, from conception to completion and beyond, with an earnest desire to delight our clients.