The 5 Biggest Mistakes You Can Make When Relocating Your Office

It’s never too early to start planning for your company’s next office relocation project. Moving your firm’s office is a major undertaking and can be quite a headache if it’s not planned out correctly. And when I say headache, I really mean, a wallet-ache, because mistakes can cost you money.

Thankfully, companies don’t move very often, maybe an average of every 6-8 years or so, but that’s also what makes it so challenging. The chance that you have someone qualified on your staff, who has recent experience with a major office relocation project is slim. Even if you have someone who has been involved in a office relocation project in the past 5 years or so, chances are he may have forgotten the small details that can cause you so much aggravation. 
As a voice and data cabling contractor for the past 18 years, I’ve seen the mistakes that can be made when planning a major relocation project and I’ve also seen how some of those mistakes can be avoided. So here are the top 5 most common mistakes made when relocating your office, as it relates to your voice and data cabling infrastructure.

1) Underestimating the budget-

Practically everyone has a boss. If you underestimate the cost of what it will take to install a new voice and data cabling infrastructure, then you have to go back to your boss to ask for more money. That is never an easy thing to do and could make you look like you screwed up. After all, if your boss has to go to his boss to get more money approved for your budget, some one eventually is going to ask, what happened? The only answer when coming in over budget will be either you left something out or you made a mistake. Neither answer puts you in good light.

There is a secret in the construction business and it’s goes by the name of “change orders”.

The construction business is predicated on the “low bid” model. If your only criterion for selecting your cabling contractor (or any contractor, for that matter) is low bid, then be careful. Contractors need to make a profit to remain in business. If their model for winning projects is to low bid everything, they’re going to have to make it up somewhere, and the difference is usually made up when you forgot something or you make a mistake or the design changes. Design changes during the construction project are normal. Life is a video, not a picture. The low bid was based on the “picture” at the time of the bid. But as the project progresses, things change and design changes will result in pricing changes, typically an increase. Your boss will usually be the one making the design changes, so you won’t have to answer for those cost increases. But of you were responsible for setting the original budget and you left something out or made a mistake, a change order price increase will rest on your shoulders. At this point, you may want to ask yourself the question, “How does the construction industry, which relies on low bidding to win project manage to make enough money to stay in business?” For the answer, just Google the words “change order yacht”.

You’ll see a dingy named “Original Contract”, being towed by a huge boat called, you guessed it, “Change Order”. It’s not a fake picture.

2) Underestimating how much time will be required of you once the project is underway-

Ask yourself this question: What percentage of your time do you think you’ll have to spend on the relocation project once you have selected a contractor and the project is underway? You haven’t thought about that yet, have you? Unless you’ve been involved in a relocation project before, it’s almost impossible to imagine how much time the process will take out of your daily routine. There are construction meetings to attend, design changes to deal with, questions to answer from the contractor, questions to answer from your boss, details to iron out, unexpected surprises, and more. This is in addition to your regular work duties. I say that, because, it’s my experience that no one gets a reprieve from their regular work duties to deal with a relocation project. So in addition to your regular duties, now, you twice as many responsibilities as you had before. A good contractor can assume many of the responsibilities that could normally eat up your time. A mediocre contractor could cost you more time and more money.

3) Improper design planning

Planning takes time, and since we can’t see around the corner, planning is usually where shortcuts are taken in order to save time now. I’ve heard it said that for every 10 minutes of planning, an hour of implementation is saved. In my experience, this statement is pretty accurate. If you haven’t been involved in an office relocation project, it’s hard to predict the unknown. You don’t know what you don’t know.

The biggest mistakes are made when a hastily put together specification is sent out for competitive bids. If the specifications are not detailed and clear, relying on low bid as your only decision criterion can have some serious implications. Lack of clarity and detail in a specification inhibits an “apples-to-apples” bid comparison. Contractors know that they will be selected on a low-bid basis, so if you left something out, they will be reluctant to alert you your error. They know that once awarded the contract, you will have no choice but to pay for your mistake in the form of a change order. So any errors and/or omissions on your part will result in cost overruns.

4) Not realizing that once you pick a contractor, your are stuck with him till the project is finished

On any large project, selecting a contactor to work with is like a marriage. And I probably don’t have to tell you how expense divorce is. Selecting a contractor to work with strictly based on low price only can make for some bad relationships. If you haven’t considered other criterion, your project is starting off on shaky ground. Before you make a contractor selection, you have all the leverage. But once you’ve selected a contractor, and the project gets started, the leverage shifts to the contractor’s side. This is because it’s difficult, if not impossible to change horses in the middle of the race, and if you do, the time lost will cost you money and the next contractor will know he has you over a barrel anyway, so he’s likely to charge you even more than he would have had he been awarded the contract to begin with. It’s very, very rare that you see a contractor being fired in the middle of a project. It’s just not practical or cost effective. So you’re pretty much stuck with whom ever you have chosen from the beginning, regardless of how bad things get later on. So if they try to nickel and dime you to death to make up for being the low bidder, your options are limited. So my advice is to use price as a criterion, but not as your only criterion.

5) Not trying to create a Win-Win situation between you that the contractor

Businesses need to make money to stay in business and keep their doors open. Working on a win-win relationship is the fairest way to ensure that your contractor will be around for years in the future when you need to rely on him for more services. The worst feeling in the world is to purchase a company’s products and then call them back in a year or two, only to get a recording telling you that they are no longer in business. The success of the project will make you successful at your job. In the technology sector, a true partnership with you contractor is very important. Technology changes so fast, that there is no possible way for you to keep up with all of the latest and greatest information. Having a good partner on whom you can trust and rely on is imperative in this hyper-competitive business climate that we all live in.

Take a long term perspective to your career. I’ve found that it doesn’t take long for 10 or 20 years to go by. Long term relationships with your vendors and contractors can make or break a career. The way we change jobs now days, you may find yourself relying on your vendors expertise time and time again. Relocating a company is a major endeavor. Finding talented people to help relocate a company isn’t easy. The next time you are interviewing for a new job, you might want to mention in passing that you’ve had recent experience helping to relocate a company. You never know, that just might be the thing that differentiates you from the rest of the pack.

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