What to Consider When Selecting Your Construction Partner

by Harry Scheid, President Horst Construction
With over 32 years in the business, Harry prides himself on being a community leader, exceptional building provider, and client advocate. As President & CEO of Horst Construction, he provides leadership to Horst’s multi-disciplinary teams throughout all stages of a project—from discussion through ribbon cutting. His creative approach to value engineering, constructibility, and planning is one of the reasons clients come back to Horst time and again.


When our clients start to investigate and plan a major capital expenditure, they sometimes overlook the fact that they are getting involved in a relatively long-term commitment. Of course, each project has a unique schedule and timeline; however, for many clients, the process can take several years from start to finish. For example, with churches we work closely with the building committee—typically consisting of church members who lead the major service areas within the church, such as education programs or community outreach—as well as the religious leader. That relationship begins with planning, whether informally or through an in-depth Master Planning Process, and continues through program/budget development, selection of options, and phasing approach; as well as through preconstruction, construction, and ribbon cutting.

Senior living projects, whether for-profit or non-profit, also constitute a very long-term relationship that can last for years, often including ongoing maintenance and refresh programs after the facility is open for business. Here, the relationship needs to be even more dynamic because the owner, staff, and residents become part of the relationship with our firm. We work alongside them every day, so trust and mutual respect are key components to a successful and long-lasting relationship.

Relationship is Key

The knowledge that you have a trustworthy construction partner in your corner is priceless. Our relationship-based approach keeps our clients and their best interests first and foremost in our minds. We do not see our projects as simply transactions; we are committed to the quality, respect, and communication that our relationships are built upon. I hope this article will give you some helpful advice regarding your choice of construction partner. At Horst, we sincerely want to understand your needs and your budget. Once we do, our goal is to design a project that meets both.

Using our Expertise to Help Make Educated Decisions About Your Wish List

From my experience, most churches have long wish lists—and for very good reasons! This is likely one of the largest projects they will ever be involved with, and can also have a multi-generational impact on their community. Another reason is that committee members are often approaching the project primarily from their personal or religious viewpoint, without having an understanding of the construction process.

This is where it is our obligation, as the construction partner, to provide our knowledge and education to help bring an understanding to your team. While creating a wish list is an excellent start, most committee members either do not realistically consider costs when creating a scope of work, or they feel that the construction itself should automatically adjust (up and down) along with their fundraising efforts.

To guide our clients along the journey, we often begin the conversation by asking about needs versus wants, and by asking if they are willing to approach their project in phases. Life cycle costs and operational costs are also a noteworthy factor that can make a huge impact in the future.

To illustrate, here are just a few examples:

  • Considering a higher-end HVAC system that saves energy costs in the long run may be a better option than a less expensive one.
  • A reasonably priced vinyl floor that looks like tile and has a 25-year warranty may be a good option to add value and stamina.
  • An on/off sensor on a commercial kitchen hood may be a good safety investment that is not immediately thought of by a building committee.

How Do You Know If You Have a Quality Partner?

First of all, understand that not all construction companies are created equally. Transparency is extremely important when evaluating costs and gaining the necessary comfort level with your contractor. If you get a low bid, question it; because the firm may be specifying inferior quality finishes, or they may be expecting to make up the fees in change orders. Often wide cost variances indicate that each bidder is interpreting the scope of work differently.

If the document you provide to your potential construction partners is vague or leaves room for interpretation, then the response will likely be incorrect—one way or another. On the other hand, it’s the job of the construction firm to meet with you in person and ask the right questions that will help them understand the specifics of your project and estimate costs as accurately as possible. If you don’t know the specifics, ask for suggestions; otherwise, you won’t know the difference between a $1 acoustical ceiling tile and a $5 ceiling tile. One analogy we like to use is to consider two different five-pound bags of groceries. One may contain a 5-pound bag of flour and the other may contain filet mignon. While the size and weight may be the same, the content and quality are clearly different when you dig a little deeper.

What Questions Can You Ask Your Construction Partner?

There are several questions that we recommend asking any prospective construction partners:

  • How detailed is your estimate? What is not included?
  • What is your typical price range for a similar building and quality of materials used?
  • What value engineering suggestions do you have to help us save money?
  • What issues/problems do you foresee based on our drawings?
  • Do you see any issues with our location, egress, permitting, or other ‘gotchas’?
  • What maintenance costs should we anticipate based on our selection of materials, finishes, HVAC system, appliances, etc.?
  • How experienced are your subcontractors with similar projects?
  • Can I meet everyone who likely will be dedicated to my project?

The Horst Advantage

I hope this article has given you some helpful advice regarding your choice of construction partner. At Horst, we sincerely want to understand your needs and your budget. Once we do, our goal is to design a project that meets both. With decades of experience, allow us to bring you ideas that you may not have previously considered. Ask us questions. Ask us about alternative approaches, materials, and timeframes. Ask us about our experience and how we can avoid disruption to your operations during construction, if needed. I’d appreciate your thoughts and questions. At Horst Construction, we are here to listen first—then build what matters to you.

Allow us to bring you ideas that you may not have previously considered. I’d appreciate your thoughts and questions. You can reach me at 717.581.9906 or HScheid@HorstGroup.com.

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