In the spirit of honesty, there are those in the development space that feel getting a retail permit expediter just isn’t worth the time or money when getting retail permits. Here are 10 questions you need to ask to prove or disprove whether a retail permit expediter is worth it to you.

  • What is your background?

You wouldn’t go to a foot doctor whose background is in Information Technology (IT), would you? Or ask your dog walker to work on your plumbing? It’s important to dig into the permit expeditor’s background. No joke, I’ve seen actors get into the space. Also, make sure that their so-called “planning experience” is more than just an internship with the local parks and recreation department. Ask the question and verify the answer you get.

  • Who are your referrals?

Ask for past clients and current clients that work with the permit expediting service, and give them a call. Are they happy? Do they have concepts similar to yours? Also, for an added perspective ask if there is anyone at the city that would act as a reference. City official’s will not hold back when dishing the dirt as they have the day-to-day dealings with the service.

  • Which past projects can I see?

Have they worked on a big name project? Can you go walk around in the project now? If they are brand new to the space then any projects they are working on might still be in the works. While not bad, it doesn’t really let you know past performance of success. The one things you don’t want is for a service to be learning on-the-job with your project.

  • Where is your “sweet spot”?

Every retail permit expeditor has a sweet spot where they have the right contacts, relationships, and local expertise. It’s important to find out where that is with any given service. Some services, like mine, has a decade of experience all over the country, and it’s important for you to know if they outsource or handle it themselves. There shouldn’t be any trepidation about telling you this information as it goes to their credibility as well as to yours.

  • What experience do you have with shopping centers?

Retail entails much more than just tenant improvements: it also entails ground up permitting and shopping centers. Shopping centers are very important in today’s environment of development and it’s worth asking if they have that experience. Again, ask  the retail permit expeditor where and what references they have you can talk to. Get the good, the bad, and the ugly.

  • Tell me about retail ground-up projects

As mentioned before some retail projects have a ground-up component to them, and it’s important to know if the permit expediting service understands how to get the shell permit as well as the tenant improvement permit. Some retail permit expeditor services cut their teeth on TI’s but haven’t done shell permits. Even if you aren’t doing ground-up it’s important to know what expertise they do or don’t have.

  • Do you know anyone at the city who can act as a reference?

I spoke about references earlier in the article and added asking city officials. I want to separate it as a question separately to emphasize the importance. While looking for references you can also verify if they are telling you the truth. If you’ve worked in the city before and the permit expeditor gives you a name you can check it with who you’ve worked with in the past.

  • Can I meet my team?

When you’re starting to decide in favor of a retail permit expeditor you should ask if you can meet the team that will be working on your project. Not only will this get communication started early, it will also help give you a sense of how the permit expediting service works. It will also help clarify if they are, in fact, giving you a team or just saying they are. I’ve seen some of my competitors tell customers they will be getting a team when really it’s one poor soul being worked to the bone. You need to know if this is the case as your brand and name are linked with this unprofessional attitude towards employees the minute you sign a service level agreement.

  • How do you price your projects?

I won’t beleaguer this point as you are already vetting the service with respect to pricing. Now, let me draw attention to how they price projects rather than what the price is. Does the service do a package price, where everything is included? Do they charge by line item? Ask yourself which works better for you. I personally choose a solutions approach to pricing so that you (the client) can rest in the knowledge that my team will be trying out-of-the-box methods for you.

  • What’s your approach?

Do they approach a project action by action and “working a process” or they find the solution? Many permit expediting services pride themselves on working a process, but what you need is a solution. Developments are complex and if the permit expeditor is charging you line item by line item you are going to end up overcharged, verifying every tedious charge, and over your timeline. If they are a solutions-based approach you can hop on a call and find how they are going to get your permit approved on-time and within your budget.

As you vet whether a retail permit expediter is worth it, use my questions as a checklist. Or you can just call me and I’ll give you a consult. I’m happy for you to visit my offices and meet my team.