Startups and Branding – Tenant Improvements Are Key

This is a guest post by Bridget Willard at Riggins Construction & Management, Inc.

You’re the next big thing. You have an idea. You’ve formed a team, built the app, and started your Indiegogo campaign. Seriously, you’re the next desktop 3-D printer. But you need an office. Your parents need their garage back.

Finding a turnkey office space is always an option and there are tons of spaces out there that are set up and waiting for you to move in and collect your rent. But what if you want some place that reflects you? Your brand? Your Style? Your charisma? Can you redesign the space to make it more collaborative?

Leasing or buying a permanent space can be easy with the right commercial real estate broker or arduous if the market is tight. Truthfully, not every office space will speak to you straight out of the gate. Most of them have potential — waiting for your interpretation.

In this disposable society where toasters work for a maximum of two years, moving or leasing a new space may seem like a good solution. What if, like a homeowner, you did some remodeling instead?

That’s where tenant improvements come in. We call them TI’s for short, and they are a great way to rework commercial space to fit your startup culture & branding. You can do this with space you lease (with prior approval from your landlord) or with a building you own. First you need to find a good design-build contractor to help you design and build your tenant improvements. A word of the wise is to try to find a contractor that not only designs the space according to your style and budget, but also builds the project for you. That way you have one point of contact, who understands the scope of your project and is responsible for successfully executing it. This is a Win-Win-Win.

The new interiors of your space will both reinforce your brand’s image and inspire your creatives. If you want to be edgy, go with metal finishes and a polished or stained concrete floor. If you want classic and timely, go for rich mahogany wood finishes and stone accents. Bright colors show you’re a fun company to work for.

The possibilities are endless.

The most important thing is to find a great contractor. Let your fingers do the walking and look up any potential candidate on (in California) to ensure their license is active and in good standing. Ask for references and/or check out the client list on their website. Ask them this: “Would you hire So-And-So Contractors again?” That will tell you everything. Repeat relationships are the fruit of positive and efficient project management.

During the design-build process, your General Contractor should be asking you questions. Questions are a good thing. It means your contractor is ensuring you’re getting exactly what you expect.

When you partner with a general contractor, be upfront about both your construction budget and your time frame. As a startup, you won’t want to waste your precious time and energy getting bids for pink marble when it’s way too costly or an espresso machine whose lead time is 18 months.

This is where reality and dreams collide; and, quite often, there is a marriage of compromise. That’s where trust and an open dialog is crucial to your project.

The results of a harmonious relationship with your contractor will be quality work in your new space, designed just for you. After all, your company isn’t generic, why should your office be?


About the Author:

Bridget Willard not only has a background in teaching and psychology, but has been in the commercial construction industry since 2000, six in roofing, and nearly seven with her current employer, Riggins Construction & Management, Inc, a general contractor.

Not shy about new technology, Bridget joined Twitter in 2007. Sensing a need for Riggins Construction to be socially present, she began the @RigginsConst Twitter account in March of 2009. At the time, there were very few AEC accounts online and she thought it would be an experiment doomed from the start. Fortunately, that was just the beginning.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.



  1. You made me laugh right away: “But you need an office. Your parents need their garage back.” Thanks for this.