HardHatChat: How a commercial contractor blogs to build its business

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Englewood Construction's HardHatChat blog

Englewood Construction’s HardHatChat blog demonstrates how a commercial contractor can combine useful information based on real-life experience with the all-important brand/reputation building objectives.

The contractor, based in the Chicago area, but working nationally, demonstrates these qualities most effectively in this post: CRE Construction Project Site Selection: 3 Tips for Finding the Perfect Match.

The interesting theme here describes projects that became “not” because of fundamental barriers to the original concepts, as outlined in the sub-category: “Does the site match up with infrastructure needs?”

Case in point, a developer once asked us to price out a retail-to-restaurant conversion on the first floor of a Chicago high rise. Because the space was originally built for retail, it wasn’t outfitted with the infrastructure for a commercial kitchen – including the black iron ductwork and fans that tie the kitchen exhaust system to the outside. Once we budgeted out the cost of installing black iron as well as other improvements to power and cooling systems, the developer decided it was not realistic to convert the space.

Here’s another example:

Recently we worked with a national appliance manufacturer to scout existing retail locations for a prototype of a new branded laundromat concept. It turned out one of the biggest challenges of the project was finding the right real estate deal, since many of the storefronts where a laundromat would be appropriate – such as small strip malls – did not have the high-volume waste and water lines a laundromat requires. Nearly every space we looked at with the client would have necessitated a costly upgrade to existing infrastructure, which ultimately caused the client to reevaluate their strategy for the project.

Englewood provides another “no-go” example, referencing: “What will it cost to build out the space.”

We recently collaborated with a rock climbing gym to evaluate an old 8th-floor food court in a Michigan Avenue building in downtown Chicago. The client loved the idea of bringing their concept to such a high-profile location, but the nature of the existing building and the urban setting meant construction would be more complex – and expensive. In addition to demo-ing the remnants of the original food court, plans called for removing escalators, infilling openings in the concrete floor plate, and bringing in steel for the climbing structures by crane from the ground floor. In the end the client decided the food court wasn’t the right fit, and continued their search for an option where construction would be more straightforward.

The third problem, thankfully, is less daunting: “Will any unbranding be necessary?” Here, in repurposing old mall or storefront sites, the contractor and client need to figure out how to remove traces of the old/defunct brand before moving forward. Fortunately, most of the time, these changes are cosmetic and shouldn’t be deal-breakers.

Englewood’s point in outlining these examples is to demonstrate how the contractor can work with clients consultatively in assessing project feasibility and cost long before shovels hit the ground. And that of course an excellent marketing message for any general contractor seeking to avoid basing business numbers purely on “low bid wins the job” cattle call competitions.

This is certainly another worthy entry in the 2018 Best Construction Blog competition, for which voting remains open until March 31. If you haven’t already cast your ballot, you can vote for as many of your favorite blogs as you wish — but you can submit only one ballot.

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