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In today’s market, uncertainty is part of the process. From labor shortages to supply chain issues, there are a number of factors that can impact your project’s cost, schedule, and quality. Now picture building 10 projects across 10 cities—all similar in size, scale, and scope—in less than two years. How can owners and developers avoid compounding change orders, costs, and coordination issues during real estate rollouts with so many variables?

Here, members of STO Building Group’s Global Services team—a group designed to service national clients with projects spanning multiple markets—share their tips on how to achieve a smooth rollout.

1. Engage the general contractor early. When developers embark on a real estate rollout program—a package of similar projects spanning several
markets that are awarded together—they’re typically looking for an architect with national reach who can guide the entire collection
of projects, building in consistency through design elements from start to finish.

When choosing a builder, the approach is a little less prescribed. Traditionally, owners and developers must decide between a local general contractor for each project or a national GC that can leverage their local teams to handle the day-to-day of each individual job. Either option, especially when the builder is brought on after the design is finalized, can lead to consistency challenges during the rollout. After decades of experience honing their approach, the Global Services model addresses this consistency challenge in two ways:

  • A Single Point of Contact. Global Services assigns all their clients a single point of contact (SPoC). The SPoC becomes the client’s one-stop-shop for all construction information for the duration of their rollout and beyond. They’re also dedicated to facilitating communication between project teams in different locations, who are often solving similar field issues.
  • The Playbook. Specifically developed and implemented for each client, the Playbook is a living document that each project team builds on as they get more familiar with the client and the work. It outlines the key players, the geography, the client’s goals and priorities, as well as their preferences when it comes to project details—down to who is handling the furniture delivery. At the start of a job in a new location, the Global Services lead hosts a kickoff meeting with the project team to review the client’s playbook and discuss lessons learned from previous jobs.
“Having that main point of contact and a few of us regionally developing an individualized playbook means that our clients don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time they start a new job,” says Mallory Wall, BCCI vice president of client services. “Instead of the client contacting prior project teams to solve the same challenges, we’re making that phone call and resolving the issue on their behalf.”

2. Support opportunities for shared success. In the AEC industry, the client’s win is everyone’s win. When establishing partnerships for a rollout program, creating and supporting opportunities for alignment is another strategy that can help ensure all parties are invested in the success of the projects. For instance, establishing a Master Service Agreement (MSA) that maximizes that partnership—whether that means allowing the contractor to have the local market fees or competitive insurance rates—this approach leads to shared savings and reinforces the “in it together” mentality.

“Having contractual alignment means pulling Global Services into the team so that the communication happens between the client, the builder, and the design team,” says Rob Leon, STOBG Global Services executive vice president. “Our goal is always to build strong partnerships with our clients and foster relationships that last.”

3. Communicate effectively. Communication is essential for any job, but during a rollout, having the right conversation at the right moment can save time and costs on multiple jobs at once. Understanding the value of top-tier communication especially during a rollout—Global Services is purposefully structured to make the most of the group’s connections.

  • The Network. A defining feature of Global Services is  the vast network of companies and experts that allow STOBG to deliver projects for clients anywhere. Depending on the location of the project, the Global Services lead and his or her team will work directly with an STOBG company or a strategic alliance partner. The alliance partners are an elite group of contractors who work with Global Services through MSAs to execute projects outside of STOBG’s geographical reach. Over time, several alliance partners, including BCCI, have even joined the STOBG family.

BCCI became part of the STO Building Group in 2019, but as a former alliance partner, I’ve been working with the Global Services team for over 26 years,” says Wall. “I’ve watched Global Services grow, expand, and evolve into this powerful network of relationships and seen firsthand how we can leverage each other’s diverse strengths and perspectives.”

  • The After-Action Review. To leverage the network’s varying skillsets, abilities, and lessons learned, Global Services holds an after-action review after each project closes. This process gives the team time to revisit challenges on the job, document how they were solved, and brainstorm strategies to avoid parallel issues on the next project. Each after-action review is added to the client’s playbook for future project teams to reference. 

“That intercompany communication is truly a best practice that sets us apart,” says David Ransome, STOBG Global Services vice president. “Our global teams are the glue that tie all the business units together—joining forces to avoid complications and problem-solve before issues arise.”

  • Shared Expertise. Another hallmark of the Global Services approach during a rollout is communicating industry standards and market conditions with clients regularly. The group has employees dedicated to keeping a watchful eye on local markets and reporting back on factors that have the potential to impact budgets

“We have real-time data on what’s happening at the local level, from permit lead times to labor issues,” Leon says. “We compile all that information into a regular benchmarking report that helps our clients understand what’s happening across different markets.”

For global clients looking to deliver consistent, top-quality spaces for employees in all markets within a short window of time, building today can be quite the challenge. Implementing these tips from experts who have done it time and time again, and partnering with teams who can learn as they go, is invaluable.