Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hiring an Architect

Q: Help! My landlord requires an architect for my move to a shopping center. It is basically a vanilla box now. He has given me a list of names to choose from but I have no idea what I am doing. Any thoughts?

A: If your landlord requires an architect, then there is nothing you can do. My landlord provided me one that in the end, I felt was a waste of time. I remember many meetings when I could tell he just didn't get my vision and at one point he said sarcastically, "So basically you want it to look like an Italian restaurant". I almost slapped him.

Let me get to the heart of this: A landlord may want an architect for many reasons:
1. To actually see something in black and white and approve your design.
2. To have technical blueprints for the contractor so work goes smoothly and professionally.
3. To make sure the interior build out stays on budget, is not a hodge podge of crazy ideas and amateur rigging so it is usable for the next tenant.

After going through all the above procedures here is what I learned in the end: I did not need an architect because I knew exactly what I wanted. My space was a former GAP so everything was simply cosmetic to transform it into an older, time worn interior. It was a big open room- how hard could it be? I am good at pre-visualizing so I knew what it would look like when it was finished. I wasn't one of those gals that had to see paint swatches or wood samples and sleep on it to make a decision. I had done a plan on my computer (although amateur) to show the scale, the check-out counter, the storage, all the electrical outlets, the overhead lighting, the toilets, the phone jacks, the computer, the plumbing, the kitchen, the storage- everything. In my head it was done. I just needed to explain it all to others. But with any work that needs a permit from the city, you do need blueprints if the build-out is over so many thousands of dollars. I hired all the painting, distressing, wallpaper, computer, security, utility & music people myself. That was not up to my landlord. I also went out and picked out the entry flooring, the ceiling tiles, the ceiling fixtures, the front doors and hardware, the toilet and sink and faucets, the kitchen cabinet and sinks. I had to have all that ready for them when they needed it. Some of that I paid for, some of it they did.

I became good friends with the general contractor hired by my landlord to redo my space as well as his foreman and all the workmen. I was here every morning checking in to answer their questions and make sure they were on the right page, went to my old shop and worked during the day, then came back every night to see what they had accomplished. The foreman and I would sigh many times over the blueprints because the architect did not follow a lot of my plans and jazzed things up too much and made things more difficult for the crew.

So the #1 thing I learned. START WITH THE JOB FOREMAN! Find out from your landlord who will be working on your space and ask HIM about architects because he and his crew are who have to deal with the plans, work from them and make sense from them. This is a HUGE lesson. Some general contractors meet with the landlords but it is really the job foreman who has to read the blueprints, deal with getting the job done, manage the carpenters, the painters, the plumbing and electrical, doing things in order, hiring and finding the supplies and be in constant contact with you. Make sure you like this guy. They have their favorite architects, believe me. At one point the foreman said he could have done my blueprints as he had that skill. If only I knew that before hand, how much smoother it would have gone. All in all it turned out 99% exactly as I wanted. A year later the architect brought a camera crew in to shoot my store for his portfolio. I had to keep my lip zipped as none of it was his idea, he simply drew up the plans which were overworked. Hope this helps. -Deb

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Letter To Save

I received this in an email, (author unknown).

To All My Valued Employees,
There have been some rumblings around the office about the future of this company, and more specifically, your job. As you know, the economy has changed for the worse and presents many challenges. However, the good news is this: The economy doesn't pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job however, is the changing political landscape in this country.However, let me tell you some little tidbits of fact which might help you decide what is in your best interests.
First, while it is easy to spew rhetoric that casts employers against employees, you have to understand that for every business owner there is a back story. This back story is often neglected and overshadowed by what you see and hear. Sure, you see me park my Mercedes outside. You've seen my big home at last years Christmas party. I'm sure; all these flashy icons of luxury conjure up some idealized thoughts about my life. However, what you don't see is the back story.

I started this company 28 years ago. At that time, I lived in a 300 square foot studio apartment for 3 years. My entire living apartment was converted into an office so I could put forth 100% effort into building a company, which by the way, would eventually employ you.
My diet consisted of Ramen Pride noodles because every dollar I spent went back into this company. I drove a rusty Toyota Corolla with a defective transmission. I didn't have time to date. Often times, I stayed home on weekends, while my friends went out drinking and partying. In fact, I was married to my business - hard work, discipline, and sacrifice.
Meanwhile, my friends got jobs. They worked 40 hours a week and made a modest $50K a year and spent every dime they earned. They drove flashy cars and lived in expensive homes and wore fancy designer clothes. Instead of hitting the Nordstrom's for the latest hot fashion item, I was trolling through the discount store extracting any clothing item that didn't look like it was birthed in the 70's. My friends refinanced their mortgages and lived a life of luxury. I, however, did not. I put my time, my money, and my life into a business with a vision that eventually, some day, I too, will be able to afford these luxuries my friends supposedly had.
So, while you physically arrive at the office at 9am, mentally check in at about noon, and then leave at 5pm, I don't. There is no "off" button for me. When you leave the office, you are done and you have a weekend all to yourself. I unfortunately do not have the freedom. I eat, and breathe this company every minute of the day. There is no rest. There is no weekend. There is no happy hour. Every day this business is attached to my hip like a 1 year old special-needs child. You, of course, only see the fruits of that garden - the nice house, the Mercedes, the vacations ... You never realize the back story and the sacrifices I've made.

Now, the economy is falling apart and I, the guy that made all the right decisions and saved his money, have to bail-out all the people who didn't. The people that overspent their paychecks suddenly feel entitled to the same luxuries that I earned and sacrificed a decade of my life for. Yes, business ownership has is benefits but the price I've paid is steep and not without wounds. Unfortunately, the cost of running this business, and employing you, is starting to eclipse the threshold of marginal benefit and let me tell you why: I am being taxed to death and the government thinks I don't pay enough. I have state taxes. Federal taxes. Property taxes. Sales and use taxes. Payroll taxes. Workers compensation taxes. Unemployment taxes. Taxes on taxes. I have to hire a tax man to manage all these taxes and then guess what? I have to pay taxes for employing him. Government mandates and regulations and all the accounting that goes with it, now occupy most of my time. On Oct 15th, I wrote a check to the US Treasury for $288,000 for quarterly taxes. You know what my "stimulus" check was? Zero. Nada. Zilch.

The question I have is this: Who is stimulating the economy? Me, the guy who has provided 14 people good paying jobs and serves over 2,200,000 people per year with a flourishing business? Or, the single mother sitting at home pregnant with her fourth child waiting for her next welfare check? Obviously, government feels the latter is the economic stimulus of this country.
The fact is, if I deducted (Read: Stole) 50% of your paycheck you'd quit and you wouldn't work here. I mean, why should you? That's nuts. Who wants to get rewarded only 50% of their hard work? Well, I agree which is why your job is in jeopardy.
Here is what many of you don't understand ... to stimulate the economy you need to stimulate what runs the economy. Had suddenly government mandated to me that I didn't need to pay taxes, guess what? Instead of depositing that $288,000 into the Washington black-hole, I would have spent it, hired more employees, and generated substantial economic growth. My employees would have enjoyed the wealth of that tax cut in the form of promotions and better salaries. But you can forget it now.
When you have a comatose man on the verge of death, you don't defibrillate and shock his thumb thinking that will bring him back to life, do you? Or, do you defibrillate his heart? Business is at the heart of America and always has been. To restart it, you must stimulate it, not kill it. Suddenly, the power brokers in Washington believe the poor of America are the essential drivers of the American economic engine. Nothing could be further from the truth and this is the type of change you can keep.

So where am I going with all this? It's quite simple. If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, my reaction will be swift and simple. I fire you. I fire your co-workers. You can then plead with the government to pay for your mortgage, your SUV, and your child's future. Frankly, it isn't my problem any more. Then, I will close this company down, move to another country, and retire. You see, I'm done. I'm done with a country that penalizes the productive and gives to the unproductive. My motivation to work and to provide jobs will be destroyed, and with it, will be my citizenship.
So, if you lose your job, it won't be at the hands of the economy; it will be at the hands of a political hurricane that swept through this country, steamrolled the constitution, and will have changed its landscape forever. If that happens, you can find me sitting on a beach, retired, and with no employees to worry about ...

Your boss