Are you considering hiring a project manager for your upcoming office build-out or renovation?

This guide will help you learn everything you need to know before making the decision and hiring the right project manager for your company. We will explain all you need to know, from exactly what a project manager does and how much they cost, to the benefits of hiring one and what questions to ask during the interview process in order to select the best team.


Guide to Hiring a Project Manager

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Dustin Hogzett | Commercial Project Management in Austin, Texas | AQUILA Commercial About the Author

Dustin Hogzett

Dustin is a beloved figure among AQUILA’s project management clients. His incredible work ethic, initiative and easy-to-work-with personality make him everyone’s favorite person to work with.
Chapter 1

Who Should Hire a Construction Project Manager?

A project manager can help any company with an upcoming construction project, including:

  • The build-out of a new office, industrial or retail space
  • An interior renovation of your existing office space
  • The ground-up development of a new project

A project manager can also help you if you already have a construction project underway.

Bottom line: if your company has any type of construction project in the works, a project manager may be a good fit for you.
Chapter 2

But What Exactly Is a Project Manager and What Do They Do?

What Is a Project Manager?

A project manager acts as your representative throughout the entire project. Essentially, it is their job to take the day-to-day management of all aspects of your build-out, including vendor management and budgeting and scheduling, off of your shoulders and ensure that your project comes in on time and on (or under) budget.

There are dozens of tasks in motion at any given time during a project that need to be managed in order to keep your project on time and on budget.

The project manager’s sole job is to take these tasks off your plate and manage the process for you, from initial planning, to move-in day and beyond.”

Dustin Hogzett
What Is a Project Manager & How Can They Help Manage My Office Build-Out?

A project manager is not the same thing as a construction manager. The project manager acts as your representative from before the project begins until well after move in, while the construction manager is only involved in the pre-construction and construction process.

The project manager is responsible for managing the construction manager, as well as the architect, engineers and any other vendors involved in your office build-out.

Project Manager vs. Construction Manager Timeline


What Does a Project Manager Do?

A project manager will be by your side throughout the entire build-out process, from assisting in the site selection process and budgeting, to move-in and ongoing support.

Here are a few key things a project manager can help you with:

  • Site Selection Process: While your broker will be your primary point of contact during the site selection process, it is important to bring in a project manager at this stage as well. Your project manager will assist with test fits for potential spaces, as well as provide project budgets and schedules for you to compare multiple spaces and know how much TI you may need to negotiate into your lease.
  • Design Process: This is where the project manager really takes the lead. From design discovery, through bidding and design approval, the project manager will coordinate all of the vendors and steps involved in designing the perfect office space for your company.
  • Bids & Permitting: The Project Manager will guide you through the vendor selection process, as well as the tedious permitting procedure. This period, also known as the “pre-construction” period, is when all of the pieces come together in order for your project to come to life, including the construction drawings, general contractor and construction manager, permits and more.
  • Construction: During the construction process, the project manager will act as your direct point of contact and manage all of the contractors and vendors directly. In order to ensure that your project is delivered on time and on budget, the project manager will perform regular job site inspections, as well as give you scheduled progress updates. In addition, the project manager will coordinate all FF&E installations and punch list items.
  • Delivery: Once construction comes to an end, most other vendors’ jobs do too. However, the project manager stays with you to coordinate your move in and will be available to help you with any issues that may arise once you have occupied the space.

When you hire a project manager, you’re hiring someone to take all of the time, effort and hard work of managing your construction project off of your plate, and allow you to focus on the full time job you already have.

Of course, you could manage the construction project yourself. But our experts always recommend enlisting a qualified project manager to keep your project on time and on budget. Here’s why.
Chapter 3

Why You Should Hire a Project Manager for Your Construction Project

There are three main benefits of hiring a project manager for your office build-out or renovation.

  1. Save you time so you can focus on your business goals.
  2. Keep your project on time and on budget.
  3. Mitigate any problems that arise.

We’ve explained how they will save you time and keep your project on schedule and budget. But additionally, a qualified project manager will be there to solve problems when (or even before) they arise.

From standard value engineering to innovative solutions to help expedite your project should an unexpected cost or an issue with the schedule arise that cannot be avoided, your project manager should have a number of ideas of ways to save money and/or get your project back on track without out compromising on quality.

With years of experience under their belt, your project manager should have a solution at the ready for any issue that may pop up during your build-out process.

Dustin Hogzett
3 Benefits of Using a Project Manager for Your Renovation or Construction Project
Chapter 4

When Should You Engage a Project Manager?

A project manager can (and should) be engaged as early as the site selection process. When determining if a space is right for your company, a project manager can help you fully understand the timing, scope and costs associated with the various prospective spaces.

By bringing the project manager in during the site selection process, it makes for a smooth transition into the build-out of your project.

Matt Wilhite
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While this is ideal, it’s never too late to bring in a project manager, if you have already begun the site selection process, signed a lease or even started your office build-out, you can still engage a project manager at any point to help guide the project or even bring it back on schedule or within budget.

If you aren’t moving into a new space, but are instead hoping to renovate your existing office space, the first step should be to enlist a project manager to help you determine the scope of your project and recommend and bid vendors.

However, the same holds true. Even if you have already commenced the renovation process, it is not too late to engage a project manager.


St. John Neumann Sanctuary | AQUILA Project Management Case Study

From Design to Budget, How AQUILA Brought This Renovation Back on Track

Here’s an example of a project that was already underway with a different project manager and well into design & bid phase. The client realized the project was off track and over budget, and brought in a new project manager who brought the project back on scope and budget.

View Case Study

Chapter 5

How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Project Manager?

In short? That depends.

Your project manager will charge based on the overall scope and size of your project.

The fees may be a percentage of your total project cost, a fixed monthly cost based on the estimated hours per month the project manager will dedicate to the project, or a cost per square foot.

Typically, your total project cost and project management fees will depend on these four factors:

  • Square Feet: The size of your project will be a major factor in your project, as both materials and labor are often calculated on a per square foot basis.
  • Construction Type/Scope: Is this a ground-up construction project, a renovation of an existing office space or a build-out of shell construction? All other factors being equal, a renovation or shell build-out is going to be less expensive than ground-up construction. The economics of a build-out of a shell space vs. the renovation of a second generation office space can vary on a case to case basis.
  • Level of Finish Out: Are you looking to outfit your space like the Taj Majal? Or do you have a more cost effective build-out in mind? The cost of the design and materials you choose are going to have a big impact on your final project cost.
  • Timeline: While this is typically tied to the scope of the project, the time spent on a project can impact the cost as well. Obviously a year-long project is going to come with a higher bill than a quicker project, but a rush job can come with its own premium as well. Your project manager will be able to guide you through this and ensure that your project timeline is efficient and fits your needs.

Read More: Cost to Hire a Project Manager for an Office Build-Out or Renovation (Fees/Rates)

Chapter 6

How to Hire the Right Project Manager

Now you understand why you need one and how much it will cost, how do you go about selecting the right project manager for your company?

While there are many qualified project managers in the market, some have certain specialties or attributes that differentiate them, and it is important to find the project manager that’s skill set matches your needs.

Here are five key questions to address when interviewing potential project managers:

1. Does the project manager work for a reputable firm?

Doing some initial research on a potential project manager’s firm will go a long way. If they are employed by the firm, chances are they share a lot of the values and goals of the company. In order to narrow down your candidates, be careful to choose from trusted firms. Reputation and resources are key components in deciphering if a project manager will fit with your vision.

In most markets, you will run into both national powerhouses and local experts. To help navigate which is best for you, we’ve put together this article highlighting the pros and cons of each of these type of firm.

2. How much experience does my project manager have?

Experience in this sense is not limited to how long a project manager has been in the industry. Instead, this question asks how well they know the local construction market, their relationships with industry vendors and the kind of specific work experience you’re looking for.

You should make sure that your project manager has a strong list of connections, clients and unique access to market resources.

3. Have you worked on a project in our field before?

Having specific experience in the type and scope of the project you are looking for should be a determining factor for your project. Because commercial spaces can vary dramatically depending on the intended use, it is important to find a project manager with experience dealing with your industry and the type of specific requirements you need.

For example, imagine the different need requirements between a manufacturing and distribution plant and a Class A law firm space.

4. What was the outcome of your last project?

The biggest predictor of future success is often a history of past successes. Be sure to ask about the project managers previous projects, and dive into what made them successful or what they learned from a recent bump in the road, as failed projects often help people learn from mistakes and not make them again.

5. What certifications or qualifications do you have?

Project management is a highly technical field and requires significant training. Additionally, if you’re hoping to achieve environmental certifications for your project, it’s extremely helpful to have a project manager with training in that area.

Many project managers hold a degree in Civil Engineering or Construction Management. Additionally, they may hold special certifications such as:

  • LEED Certification
  • Project Management Professional Certification (PMP)
  • American Institute of Construction Certification (AIC)
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Quality Management for Contractors

30 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Project Manager

We’ve compiled 30 must-ask questions to help make the processes of hiring the right project manager for your office build-out or renovation as easy as possible. Download the free questionnaire today and feel confident that you’ve hired the right team for the job.

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