The Big Picture – Avoid DIY Disaster

A fit out usually comes before your business is making much money. No surprise that everyone wants to pay as little as possible for this inconvenient step in the start-up process. But most people usually go about minimizing fit out costs in the wrong way.

It is essential to minimize cost, but you cannot cut costs at the expense of losing sight of the bigger picture. Would you hire cheap, inadequate employees to represent your business? Would you compromise the quality of your product by buying cheap parts? The same applies for your fit out. Cutting out an interior designer may save you a small percentage of your total fit out cost but you have to do business in your resulting interior space for the next 10+ years. Is that short term saving really worth the disproportional reduction in quality?

Even in the short term, the value added by interior designers is often underestimated. Many people who’ve done their own fit outs have felt the pain of their decision. Here are some lessons they’d have wished to learn before going DIY.


Design concept?

Design concepts are for trendy businesses like Google or pretentious businesses who want to make the cover of belle magazine. Or that’s what most DIYers think. A design concept is actually quite simple. Even if you copied the open plan layout of your last workplace, that design is still based on an idea. And that is all a design concept is: the idea that your design is based on. It can be as simple as copying The Office TV series or as powerful as Google’s interior spaces which carefully and deliberately create the desired corporate culture. The design concept is your most significant opportunity to promote your brand and your culture through your work space. Instead of telling people what you are all about, show them! Design your space to tell your story and to highlight the things your business values. You have to fit out your business anyway, why not put some thought into it to maximise the return on your investment?


Google Campus Dublin - Designed by Evolution Design - Photo by Peter Wurmli

Google Campus Dublin – Designed by Evolution Design – Photo by Peter Wurmli


You’re not as good at drawing plans as you think

This is one of the corner-stones of interior design: the ability to draw plans that are technically sufficient for builders, electricians and plumbers. These plans are accurate and painfully detailed. Just because you bought a pacer and ruler does not mean you have mastered the ability to draw a technical plan. Not only will your interior be very simple (primary school geometry comes to mind) but in the absence of a detailed plan chaos ensues.


Technical DIY office plan

Technical DIY office plan


Project Delays

How much is one day of lost sales worth to your business? Now multiply that by the number of days you are going to overshoot your opening day deadline. Adding lost sales to your fit out cost gives you the true cost of your fit out. One of the most common issues self-managed projects face is that they often take much longer than they should. You are not an experienced site manager and you are learning a lot on the job. Learning takes time. And inexperience leads to fighting fires and a constant row of road blocks that need to be addressed to keep the project moving. Experienced site managers know the project requirements and inter-dependencies and can streamline the project activities to minimize the timeline.

When you manage your own fit out, you are also managing your business. You spend less time on site and tradesman drag the project out. Project managers who are paid a fixed fee for their service want to project to finish on time. They are present on-site to keep contractors accountable and to resolve roadblocks immediately so tool time is maximized. Managing a fit out is a full time job. Give it the attention it deserves or accept the delays that result.

It costs less

Mistakes cost money. The less experienced you are at designing and managing fit outs the more likely you are to make mistakes. The cost of getting someone with experience to do this job will cost you no more than the cost of fixing the mistakes you will most likely make.

Designers can also leverage better prices with suppliers to save you money. More importantly, interior designers can tell the difference between quality bargains and cheap counterfeits. Don’t waste your money continually replacing cheap furnishings and finishes.

You have better things to do

For everything you decide to do, you have to decide to not do something else. You are already busy. If you decide to fit out your own business you are giving up the time you would be spending to run your business. Or (more likely) you will be testing relationships by short-changing your personal life. Even if you manage to balance the extra workload, chances are: where you used to do 2 things well, you will now do 3 things poorly. You don’t need more stress. You don’t need less sleep.  A fit out is a much bigger task than most people think. And the most common thing people would change in hindsight is to spare themselves the chaos of doing their fit out on top of their day job.