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    Avoid These Common Construction Mistakes

    Before you even break ground, missteps could cost you thousands.

    By Lee Imbimbo , Imbimbo Inc.

    It’s the day you and your team have been anticipating for years: the ribbon-cutting of your brand-new convenience store. Every detail has been agonized over again and again, from the selection of the candy bars in the snack aisle to the perfect placement of the coffee machines.

    Your new employees pace behind the counter nervously, anxious to put their training to use. As you walk through your store, the smell of a fresh-roasted, fair-trade organic Columbian blend greets you — and soon (you hope) your future customers. After all, you’re going to need them if you have any chance of getting back in the black after the misery you’ve endured over the past two years. As you look outside to the small crowd of onlookers and media gathered by your PR team, you reflect on how things went wrong. "If only I’d known then what I know now," you think to yourself, "I could’ve saved myself a lot of trouble."

    It all started months before the first shovel hit the dirt. Your project manager came to you and suggested doing some additional environmental research, but you were confident that the site you had purchased would suit your needs. After all, the property was zoned for commercial use and looked clean to you. Of course, now you know that before it was home to your store, the land you purchased was occupied by the endangered golden-cheek warbler. Unfortunately, finding that out cost you several months, thousands of dollars in additional fees, and countless meetings with regulatory officials.

    Not only that, but somehow it got out to the media, which caused the whole thing to blow up into a big political mess, with the people who were supposed to be your happy customers turned into angry golden-cheek-warbler-defending protestors at city council meetings. Whoever said "there’s no such thing as bad publicity" clearly hasn’t been reading your Facebook comments.

    But you’d gladly have that all over again compared to what happened when the deal with the contractors went nuclear. There were the headaches, the stress, the thousands of dollars wasted in idle time as contractors bickered with you over an agreement they signed that should have been thorough enough to get the job done. Sure, you finally broke down, paid them off, and then hired a seasoned construction manager who renegotiated new contracts (this time with AIA-approved documents). Of course, by that time, the damage had already been done and your project sat in budget-eating construction purgatory for what seemed like an eternity.

    It could have been worse, though. At least the delay gave you some time to learn from your competitor’s mistakes. The store down the block went cheap on its flooring and walls, and now already has dingy, dirty linoleum that looks scuffed up no matter how often the employees bust out the mops. As you look across your sleek, clean store, you breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that it will stay that way for a lot longer than theirs, and with less upkeep.

    You think about how obsessed you were with penny-pinching and how it almost cost you big. Sometimes making that tiny extra investment upfront can save you a lot in the long run.

    That was certainly the case with your grading and landscape design process. You shudder to think about how much it would have cost if your project team hadn’t caught the bad soil conditions in time. Fortunately, with some careful planning and creative thinking, you were able to work around it. Otherwise, you would have poured thousands into the dirt, instead of into your new convenience store.

    In your case, those thousands went to replacing your originally installed veneer. The subcontractor told you he knew of a waterproofing product that could cut your bottom line, and since he seemed like he knew what he was talking about, you trusted him. Of course, your architect could have told you the waterproofing suggested by the subcontractor was designed specifically for wood applications, and unfortunately your building is CMU (concrete masonry units), but you didn’t know until it was too late.

    The chimes make a cheerful chirp overhead as you push open the spotless glass and steel doors and walk out into the parking lot of your brand-new convenience store, greeting your audience with a big, forced smile. Although this is a great day for your business, it’s hard not to think about the fact that your big step forward set you back at least two steps.

    The lessons you learned in your first real construction project wound up being expensive ones. Hopefully your preliminary development review was accurate and you’ll soon have a busy, thriving store that will make enough money for you to avoid these costly mistakes on your next project. Wait — you did have your architect do a preliminary development review before you went through all this, right?

    Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News. 

    By Lee Imbimbo , Imbimbo Inc.
    • About Lee Imbimbo Lee Imbimbo is managing principal of Imbimbo Inc., a family-owned architecture firm headquartered in San Antonio. Imbimbo continues his father’s vision to nurture a studio of modern artisans. He has managed tens of millions of dollars in construction projects, along with overseeing the day-to-day operations of Imbimbo Inc. for nearly a decade. For more information, go to michaelimbimbo.com.

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