Congratulations, you’ve decided to turn your business dreams into a brick and mortar reality. Now comes the difficult task of transitioning from dream to reality, and for most that means hiring a realtor, finding the perfect location, signing the lease and finally completing the construction project. Some of you may be familiar with this process, others will be jumping in head first into uncharted territory. Either way, at some point during the course, you will pose the question “Who’s going to build it?” Here’s some insight to help you decide on the “Who”. Do you hire a General Contractor? Are you looking for a Construction Manager?

At this point, you may be thinking “What’s the difference?” you may also be thinking that it doesn’t matter whether you hire a General Contractor or a Construction Manager, they do the same things, right? Not exactly. Although there are plenty of similarities and you ultimately get to a similar end result, a GC and CM offer different services to their respective customers.

What is a General Contractor?

It’s possible you’ve heard the terms GC and General Contractor quite frequently. By definition, a General Contractor is manager/tradesman hired by the client who is responsible for the overall coordination of a project. It is the responsibility of the GC to hire and schedule subcontractors to perform all or portions of the construction project. The GC will provide supervision to the job site monitoring the progression of each trade while they complete their contracted work. Your GC will oversee the day-to-day activities of the job site during the construction phase. Once the architect has finished the plans, design development has been completed and the construction is ready to begin, it’s time to hire your General Contractor.

What is a Construction Manager?

You may be slightly less familiar with the roles and responsibilities of a Construction Manager or CM. You can think of a CM as a liaison between yourself (the owner of the business) and all parties involved with seeing the project to completion. Different from the GC, the CM often participates in various aspects of the project from conception to completion and everything in between. The CM will provide insight on budgeting, scheduling, development, organization and implementation particularly in the pre-construction phase and post-construction phases. During the construction phase of your project, the CM will act as a GC as well. Your CM will work with you and your architect and engineers to ensure your project is scheduled effectively using the most efficient method of construction with the lowest cost to successfully complete the project.

The Difference

The construction industry is always changing and evolving, with the recent and most predominant development being the Design-Build concept. A design-build project is a collaboration between owner, designer, architects and engineers and the professionals tasked with ultimately building the project. More business owners are adopting the Design-Build philosophy creating the need for Construction Managers rather than the typical General Contractor. A General Contractor will gladly work with you in completing your project during the construction phase, however, they will be less likely to assist prior to breaking ground and after handing over the key. A Construction Manager will offer advice and oversee the details of planning, cost efficiency, facilitation and operation of the project and the job site.

Who do I Need?

Each construction project is different from the next, therefore, you’ll want to assess your needs as the business owner to decide if you should hire a General Contractor or a Construction Manager. Once you’ve made the decision, it is important to understand that a General Contractor and a Construction Manager should be brought on at different stages. Your GC can begin bidding on your project as soon as the design is complete and your architect has delivered the set of design documents. Unless you have a longstanding, trusting relationship with a reputable GC, you may want to collect bids from several qualified companies prior to selecting your General Contractor. A CM could be hired as soon as you’ve chosen a site or even before. As we’ve highlighted, the expertise and knowledge of a Construction Manager may prove beneficial during the pre-construction phase, and therefore, the introduction of the CM to your team at the earliest stages of planning is recommended.

Whether you hire a Construction Manager or a General Contractor, clear communication and collaboration will ensure that your project is run smoothly.

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