Q&A: How and Why Clients Choose an Owner’s Rep

Curious what clients are looking for in an owner’s rep or real estate project management firm? We compiled feedback from over 100 experts digging into just that – everything from why clients look for a firm to what types of offerings turn them into recurring customers.

Q: Who is a prospective client for a project management firm (also known as an owner’s rep or OPM) and why do they typically seek out a firm for development help?
A: In-house teams at corporations, organizations and institutions with physical footprints often do not have the expertise or bandwidth to manage complex development and capital projects. This could be a large, multi-national bank wanting to build a new high-rise HQ, your favorite boutique exercise studio wanting to expand their locations across the country, or even a local cultural institution undergoing a major renovation. Their main focus is their own product or service, not handling 50-200+ vendors, complex budgets and pressing key milestones over the course of a 1-3+ year project. It would be a huge undertaking and distraction for these types of clients, so instead they partner with professionals – an OPM – to manage the day-to-day and deliver their projects on-time and on-budget.

Q: What are some key owner’s rep differentiators, firm-by-firm? What is attractive to a prospective client?
A: Most firms boast deep industry expertise and an impressive list of successful projects when pitching new business. Clearly that’s important to demonstrate a firm’s capabilities, but many clients want to see that you’ve worked with similar companies/ organizations and if you have a specialty – maybe a firm focuses on the non-profit space, so they’ll likely be keyed into navigating tighter budgets and nuanced funding grants.

Or sometimes the size of a firm matters – larger firms have more resources, but smaller firms can offer a more intimate, tailored experience. Development projects are a huge undertaking, not just financially but also operationally, so clients really want to feel like they are getting the care, attention and professional counsel they deserve. And it never hurts to share your secret sauce – proprietary strategies and methods that actually save them time and money!

Q: How big of a role does communication, transparency and/or visibility play into managing a project?
A: Most clients have a responsibility to keep their key stakeholders (senior management teams, board of directors, financial partners, etc.) informed of project status. But, since client leads aren’t often real estate project experts, they need a succinct, high-level executive summary that is easily understood and can be shared across audiences. Being able to answer tough questions quickly and accurately at a moment’s notice really sets clients at ease. They want details to be clear and straightforward so they are armed with information and feel in control of their project. It’s an owners rep’s job to set clients up for success by being as communicative and transparent as possible, depending on a client’s preference and needs.

Q: Does technology factor into a prospective client’s decision to work with a firm?
A: Absolutely. Clients want to be sure that we’re doing everything possible to deliver their projects on-time and on-budget, which usually means leveraging modern technology. Being able to show that you’re using the latest software or tools demonstrates that your finger is on the pulse and you’re constantly striving to do what’s best for clients. Also, in our 21st century world, it’s important to keep up with the ever-changing digital and data-driven landscape, which impacts nearly every high-skilled industry. Many clients out there are very tech-focused and forward-thinking, so they want to know they are partnering with a firm that shares that modern edge.

Q: When are you typically brought into a client’s project?
A: It makes the most sense for clients to engage an owner’s rep during the conceptual and feasibility stages, even as a client is determining what the eventual shape and goals of the capital project should be. There are the obvious budgeting implications, but it is also important to have guidance from experienced, up-to-date real estate professionals that will help clients select the best early stage consultants, including an architect. Errors and missteps in the conceptual and programming stage are often compounded later on down the road – meaning missed deadlines and ballooning budgets. Owner’s reps can help avoid these hangups.

Q: Do you find clients prefer building a long-term relationship with their firm or do they reassess firms on a project-by-project basis, caring mainly about cost?
A: It all depends. Some clients with a large development portfolio will partner with a firm and foster a long-term relationship project after project. Other clients that only have one or two projects over a lifetime may hop from firm to firm to find the best price and/or the firm with the best qualifications. Those situations make it even more important to keep pricing competitive. While loyalty is important, ultimately clients are worried about their bottom line. So, again, if firms can save their clients money and engender confidence that they’re using the best methods, experience and data to get strong results – via proprietary strategies or modern technology – that will often seal the deal.

Are you an owner’s rep curious to learn more about new, modern technology to better attract and serve clients? How about a way to gain a competitive edge over your peers by: increasing visibility, leveraging data to make more informed decisions and empowering your project team with proactive insights? If so, you should check out Northspyre today.

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