Growing your business
Small Business Refurbishment and Renovation Guide - Part One: Planning & Design
Part One: Planning + Design
Part Two: Funding + Costs
Your business’ property may have been just perfect when you first moved in - all glossy windows, speedy electrics, and the ideal amount of space and storage - but as your business has grown, you may have found yourself gradually outgrowing your environment too. This doesn’t mean you have to relocate entirely to find a new fit, but rather think about redesigning, refreshing, and renovating your existing space instead!
Renovation is a big project, and is certainly not one without risks. Keep everything running smoothly by staying organised and taking your time to do things properly, ensuring a quality transformation for your business; our Small Business Refurbishment and Renovation Guide should help you out!
The key to a successful refurbishment project is all in the planning and preparation. Doing this properly can not only estimate the likely costs and timelines of the work beforehand, but also help to avoid any unexpected issues or problems. You wouldn’t want to find, midway through your renovations, that your roof is riddled with damp meaning you’ll have to start your work all over again – it’d be a waste of time, money, and effort that no smart business owner needs to be dealing with.
So, the first step in any renovation project is to assess the existing condition of your property; and if you’re making big changes, this should be done in detail by a chartered surveyor. They’ll put together a building report which will provide an account of any necessary repair work, and recommend further investigation into areas of damp, infestation, or drainage issues that would require extra attention. All of these problems should be resolved before you begin working on anything new.
This won’t be the case for all renovation projects, but for some it will be important to plan how your business is going to run whilst the works are taking place, and if you will need to halt, limit, or relocate trade for the duration.
If you’re making notably extensive changes to your building, this will usually require planning permission from your local property planning authority. You will have to make an application for this and each site will have different application requirements, but generally they should include:
- Five copies of application forms
- The signed ownership certificate of the property
- A site plan
- A block plan and elevations of both the existing and proposed site
- A Design and Access Statement
- The correct application fee
These applications can take a while to process so make sure you time them as early as possible. A final decision will then be made based on ‘material considerations’ which include, but are not limited to, factors such as noise, disabled access, nature conservation, and parking. You can find out more about planning permissions from your contractor / designer, or online here.
In a rented property, you will, of course, have to address your tenancy agreement too. This is in order to understand the full allowances for refurbishment and repair work under your contract. Before going ahead with anything, check with your solicitor to ensure that the conditions of your lease are suitable for your renovation plans.
You can always choose the DIY route, but if you can afford to – and most definitely if you’re working with a larger project - do try to employ professional tradesmen. Make sure you’re getting your money’s worth from them by sourcing quotes for each job from a range of different contractors, and asking for references from previous clients to back these up too. And don’t forget to ask them exactly how much work they’ve got on at the moment too, so you can confirm exactly when they’ll get to you.
Then get everything in writing, from the duration of the project, to the exact total cost; and keep back at least 5% of your payment for snagging work once the bulk of the renovation is complete – remembering that it’s their obligation to fix any short-term problems, not yours!
Any renovation project will bring a huge amount of materials both in and out of your property, so you’ll want to make sure you’re handling this process in the best way possible.
In getting materials in: rather order too much than not enough; because you wouldn’t want to find yourself dealing with a half-tiled wall and having to wait around to finish the job. So round up your orders - as most supplies will come in standard pack sizes - to allow for any breakages in delivery or on site.
When choosing materials for a building renovation project, make sure to use traditional supplies that are compatible with the way your property was originally built. And try not to be tempted by the cheap stuff, these will detract from the finished result and won’t last.
To get materials out of your business property: any leftover materials can be sold on or returned, just make sure that any entirely unusable waste is disposed of safely. If you’re working with the right people, they’ll be making sure this gets done properly anyway. Then just remove any forgotten plaster, dust, materials and packaging from the premises, give it clean, and you’re good to go!
New light fittings? Reflooring the shop? Switching out the windows?
You may know exactly what you want from your renovations already, but for some, the design stage can be a little tricky – the options are almost endless after all! Take a look at your space and think about its best features, which features would you like to accentuate? Which areas work best for your business? And which are causing you problems?
Once you have this list, work with a good team of professional contractors to put a schedule together, prioritising jobs in an order that’ll work best for your time frame and budget. Renovation works can be hectic, with tradespeople overlapping and tasks crossing paths, so keep the project schedule detailed and stick right to it when beginning your works to minimise the chaos!
If you’re going a little bigger, you might be considering knocking down some walls to change the internal flow of your property, or expanding outwards if you’re lucky enough to have some extra land around your building. This won’t only give you that extra room, but by removing those extra layers of brick, it can be a great way to get some more natural light into your property too.
Be careful with planning and make sure you speak to your contractor in detail, as knocking down internal walls can be sensitive if they are integral to the structure of the building. And do consider the hidden spend of working with a bigger space too, and the potential increase in gas and electricity outlet costs which could cause issues in the long term.
After some extra room but don’t have the funds to make a permanent change? Try moving around the furniture and equipment you keep inside the property to create a little more space instead. If you run a customer facing business within your property, think about their journey through the store: what do they see first? In terms of their purchase process, does the way they move around the room make sense? Is the till positioned in a convenient area?
Refitting + Refurnishing
Use your renovation project to freshen up your business’ kitchen, or light fittings, or shelving and storage units! All of these changes can make a huge difference in your space, and refresh the look of your business without necessarily spending too much money.
You may choose to do things by utility, and replace slow or broken appliances based on how essential they are to the running of your business. Or, you could complete your refitting by aesthetic and simply redesign and furnish! A new set of bar stools, wall art, or soft furnishings can do wonders for impressing customers and redefining your brand image.
You may want to take a look at your electrics too. Generally, if the property hasn’t already been rewired within in the last 25 – 30 years, it will likely need at least a little upgrade. But often a full rewire can be avoided as long as the existing cabling is healthy and bears the capacity to carry any additional loads due to install; in this case, you may be able upgrade with a modern consumer unit, earthing arrangements, and cross bonding. Speak to your electrician, and find out more about rewiring here.
Following your property’s transformation, it’s not unlikely that a few minor problems will crop up as the space adjusts. ‘Snag’ these problems as they come, or call back your tradesmen to help them out – be mindful of any extra costs here. If you’ve used one main contractor and held back that 5% of the final payment, pay this only when they’ve resolved any defects. And finally, enjoy your newly renovated space!
Read Part Two of Small Business Refurbishment and Renovation Guide to find out more about the funding and costs of your project.
Good Small Business Guide 2013: How to Start and Grow Your Own Business
Renovation: Your Step-by-Step Planner - Homebuilding & Renovating