How to Choose a General Contractor

Part 1 - Who they are

A General Contractor (or a “GC” as they are affectionately known in the industry) is a person or company that performs or supervises the construction or development of a property, usually pursuant to the terms of a construction contract. A GC may or may not do all of the work themselves and often employ others in various trades to do some – or even all - of the work necessary to complete the project.

hard hat photoThose companies and/or tradesmen that the CG hires are called sub-contractors and the scheduling and management of them is where the GC really earns their dough. Just think of a General Contractor as the conductor of an orchestra, the better the conductor…the better the music. See? It’s pretty much the same thing…just no tubas.

Now, depending on the complexity of your project, you may eventually need the services of various electricians, plumbers, masons, etc. and scheduling who does what - and when - is critical in building out your project on time and on budget. Imagine your plumber showing up just as the tile mason is finishing grouting the tile work. Not good for your grand opening schedule…

You can hire a GC to manage your entire construction job or just a portion of it. It all depends on your “scope of work” (that’s the stuff that you have to do to the space to allow you to open for business). If your scope of work is limited to just painting the place, hanging some slot wall or minor fit-outs for your business, you probably don’t need one. In that case, a little sweat could save you some big dollars.

However, if your project will require specialized skills (installation of restaurant equipment, major upgrades to the utilities or the modifications to the building’s systems or structure), you probably should strongly consider using one…way before you get in over your head and wind up spending, eh…big dollars.

A good rule of thumb is; that if you have building plans and/or engineered drawings, chances are that you’re going to need the services of a GC…this is certainly not a time to get macho.

Finding the right qualified GC for your project will be one of the most important decisions you will have to make early on and although there are many GC’s available throughout the country, just like the other members of your professional team (Attorney, Accountant, etc) it’s your job to find the most qualified and most competitive one available.  

In the end; the competitive bids you receive from the General Contractors will assist you in improving, or finalizing, your construction budget.


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