Renovation describes a series of planned changes and updates made to a facility where business is conducted. Office and building renovation will take place now and again in the environment of most business, at their own or at others' initiative, in response to new needs, technological pressures, or simply the need for maintenance and renewal. Renovation, for a business, may be a response to declining sales. As an ancient Chinese saying has it: "When business slows, paint the counter red."
A well-conceived and carefully planned renovation effort can revitalize a business and provide it with much-needed room to grow. But periods of renovation also have a down-side: they can reduce productivity, create inconveniences for customers, cost money, and affect the bottom line. The inconveniences associated with office and building renovation often make it a practical impossible for businesses to maintain the exact same level of operations that they met during non-renovation periods. But owners can—whether they are building tenants or building operators—can take several steps to ensure that the negative aspects of renovation are minimized.
SMALL BUSINESS TENANTS AND RENOVATION
Many small business owners are co-tenants of a building with other businesses. These entrepreneurs may well find themselves faced with an impending renovation. This is especially true if they are operating their businesses in older buildings. Sometimes these renovations take place within the physical space of the business itself; on other occasions, the renovation may be limited to common areas—lobbies, outer building areas, stairways/elevator systems, etc.—that are shared by all the tenants. In either case, the impending arrival of a renovation crew should signal a period of preparation on the part of the small business owner. Tenants normally welcome renewal projects that make the facility more convenient and attractive, but during the period when the renovation is actually taking place, owners may find themselves feeling everything from anxiety to deep anger about the impact that it is (or seems to be) having on their company. The most effective way a small business can minimize these negatives is by establishing and maintaining good lines of communication with the building owner before and during the renovation process.
Effective building managers will typically take the initiative in talking with their business tenants so that these are more likely to feel a part of the project. But if as an owner you feel that the facility's management is doing an inadequate job of informing you of renovation issues and schedules, it is entirely within your rights to demand more information and input. Business owners should make sure that they thoroughly review their leasing contract, soliciting legal assistance if necessary, to make sure that they are being treated fairly.
Some business owners inhabiting facilities that are undergoing renovation adopt a fatalistic sort of attitude toward the process, surrendering meekly to renovation strategies without offering any workable alternatives to plans that might unnecessarily hinder their operations. Other entrepreneurs, meanwhile, err on the other end of the spectrum by making unreasonable demands that may ultimately drag out the renovation process for several extra days or weeks. Small business experts counsel owners to instead adopt a middle ground. They have to recognize that renovation efforts almost inevitably bring about some measure of inconvenience for tenants and their customers, but that they ultimately increase the value of the location for business operation. On the other hand, if a business owner spots a problem during a review of upcoming or ongoing renovation plans, he or she should bring it to the attention of building management. A renovation strategy that would render a key loading dock unavailable during a big delivery period, for example, should immediately be brought to the attention of the landlord.
Small business owners should recognize that many facility managers want to help tenants out in whatever way they reasonably can. After all, they do not want to lose tenants and go to the trouble of finding new ones. Most will bend over backwards to help the tenant get past difficulties by making accommodations.
RENOVATING PROFESSIONAL OFFICES
Office and facility renovations may also be undertaken by small business enterprises that either own or are the sole tenants of the building in which they operate. Business owners that provide professional services are especially likely to renovate to meet changing internal demands, attract new clients, and keep existing ones. Indeed, doctors, dentists, attorneys, architects, engineers, and the like recognize that the appearance of their offices can be a significant component in their overall success.
Analysts note that professional offices are more likely to renovate than relocate for two fundamental reasons: cost and client retention. Even a major renovation of an existing facility is likely to be considerably less expensive than the total costs associated with relocating to another facility. Perhaps even more importantly, existing patients and clients are accustomed to finding the office at a given location. To move may mean to lose—a following.
Renovation strategies can vary considerably, depending on the needs and concerns of the office in question. A medical practice or architectural firm may be amply equipped to integrate new technology with existing operations, only to recognize that its growth has been hampered because it is saddled with an unattractive waiting area. In this situation, the renovation may amount to little more than some new carpeting, wallpaper, and furniture. Other firms, however, may find that only a major rehabilitation effort will be sufficient to correct long-standing problems with infrastructure such as an ineffective floor plan, poor wiring to support information technology needs, or cramped office space.
Professional service firms (and many other businesses) have to meet legislated requirements as part of renovation plans. For example, businesses have to be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Much of the renovation work that took place in the early 1990s was undertaken specifically to address this law, which called on facilities to become fully accessible by widening hallways, installing ramps, and adapting drinking fountains and bathrooms for use by people in wheelchairs. Most buildings are now in compliance with the ADA, but building owners looking to renovate need to make sure that their new plans adhere to ADA parameters. In addition, professional service firms need to factor in their attractiveness to recent graduates when weighing their renovation strategies.
Finally, before committing to a major renovation effort, professional service firms should discuss matters with appropriate experts, including architects, accountants, and lenders. Selecting a contractor should be done carefully as well; business owners are urged to check into the contractor's reputation for quality, timeliness, and financial soundness before making an agreement. Finally, firms should call in legal representation before signing a contract.
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Hillstrom, Northern Lights
updated by Magee, ECDI