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Setting up a commercial property

Last Updated Mar 8, 2017 · Written by Rob Schneider

Setting up a commercial property can be exciting, rewarding and challenging. What do you need to know before you start? After you've signed your lease or bought the property, what trades do you need to hire? In what order do you need to schedule the trades?

  1. Getting Started with a Commercial Property 

  2. Hiring Trades: Getting Started

  3. Setting Up an Office

  4. Setting Up a Café

  5. Setting Up a Hairdressing Salon

  6. Setting Up a Retail Shop

  7. Your Commercial Property Exterior

Getting Started with a Commercial Property

Most successful businesses start by studying the local market. Where would the best place be to set up a café, a hairdressing salon, an office or a retail outlet? Is there enough passing traffic for your business? Will passersby be interested in coming into your business? Study the area before you decide on the premises.

After you've chosen a spot, you'll have to check with your local council and find out what permits and approvals you'll need. You may just need a building permit, but in some cases you may need to go through the process of getting Development Approval (DA). Your local council will tell you what you need to know and what the zoning restrictions are in the area you've chosen.

Commercial property

If it looks like you can go ahead with your business plan, the next step is to sign the lease or purchase the property. You also want to get a head start in making preparations for setting up your business. You should get quotes from the trades you need and make arrangements with the ones you choose to come in and set up your business as quickly as possible. Every delay is lost income.

You want to be sure the process goes smoothly. If you don't feel you have the expertise, consider hiring a project manager with experience in commercial properties. Many shopfitters also do project management and can make setting up your business go smoothly. They can schedule trades and oversee the project while you handle the details you know more about.

For some businesses, you might also want to hire an interior designer. For example, you might want your café or retail shop to look just right for your clientele. A commercial interior designer can help you get the look of your business right and can give you invaluable advice about where to source your furniture and fittings. An experienced interior designer will also be able to set up your interior to manage traffic flow, making the space more comfortable for your customers.

Hiring Trades: Getting Started

You may know how you want to set up your business and have a clear idea of what you want it to look like. If so, you will probably want to take a hands-on approach and set up your commercial property yourself. It won't be exactly a step-by-step process because you'll need to organise trades and source your furnishings and fit-outs at the same time. When work begins, it will be step-by-step and having trades come in the right order and arrive on time will be a crucial part of the setup process. Hiring tradies

If you took the step of getting quotes ahead of time, talk to the tradespersons you've hired. They can tell you from experience in what order they should arrive. In many cases, an electrician or plumber may have to come back more than once. They will need to come before your furnishings and fit-outs arrive to do the rough-in work and later to make the final installations.

You may also need to hire a shopfitter, joinery, cabinetmaker, carpenter or builder. They, too, will need to come at the right time to make sure you set your business up quickly and efficiently. If you need a builder or carpenter, they will probably come first, followed by the joinery, who should also have licensed carpenters or builders on their staff to handle the installation.

Every business will have different requirements. Setting up an office is not the same as setting up a café or hairdressing salon. In each case, you will need to hire trades. Who you need to hire will vary depending on whether you're starting from scratch or moving into a building that is already set up for the type of business you're running.

If you're starting from scratch or even if the building you choose is set up for your type of business, it's a good idea to hire a drafter or architect to make a detailed plan of your layout. You will need the plan to get council approval and the trades you hire will need to work from your plan. If you need to work with a joinery, they may suggest a drafter they work with or you can hire your own.

Setting Up an Office

If you've leased an office building, you may only need to make cosmetic improvements. Depending on the age of the property, the improvements may include painting, possibly retiling the bathroom and improving the lighting.

Setting up an office

If you've purchased an empty shell, you will need to do quite a bit more work. You may need to hire:

  • A builder for structural work

  • A carpenter to build walls for a bathroom and other non-structural work

  • A commercial bathroom builder to install your bathroom. They should be able to do the full job, including plumbing, tiling and electrical work

  • A glazier to install windows if you need more natural light

  • An electrician for your work stations and lighting

  • A shopfitter or joinery for furnishings and built-ins

  • You will need to think about the type of flooring you need

It's important to hire them in the right order. You may need to get the plumber and electrician in first to rough in the plumbing and electricity. They will need to return later to install fixtures.

Setting Up a Café

Setting up a café will require the services of a number of trades. You should have a detailed drawing of your café interior and exterior. You will have a lot of work to do and may also need to find tables and decor for your café. A project manager or shopfitter will make the work go more smoothly.


Sit down with your shopfitter or project manager well ahead of time to discuss the colours you want your walls to be painted and other details. The list of trades you need can be a long one that includes carpenters, tilers, plumbers, electricians, a gasfitter, a joinery, painters, flooring installers and other trades. They should all be scheduled in order to avoid delays and extra expenses.

Setting Up a Hairdressing Salon

A hairdressing salon is much like a café. You will need a plan to work from and may want to hire a project manager or shop fitter. An alternative to a project manager may be a joinery with experience in setting up hairdressing salons. They will know where to source the things you need for your salon and you can focus on the design of your salon.

Setting up a hairdressing salon

The joinery or shopfitter won't be able to do all the work. You will also need to hire an electrician, a plumber, painters and other trades. Work with your project manager, joinery or shopfitter to find the most efficient way to schedule trades.

Setting Up a Retail Shop

Your top priority when setting up a retail shop will be to find a joinery or shopfitter with extensive experience in setting up retail shops. They can be of invaluable assistance to you and help you schedule all the trades you need.

Setting up a retail shop

You may choose to design the interior yourself, but an interior designer or interior decorator can help you make your interior decor match the vision you have for your retail shop. Choose your designer or decorator well in advance to work out the design details. You will want to work quickly and have your furnishings and fit-outs ready to install.

Your Commercial Property Exterior

Whatever type of business you set up, you'll need to have an attractive exterior. This will include signage, a fresh paint job, perhaps new doors and windows, lighting and other details that will attract customers. Your exterior will attract customers and your interior will make them want to return to your place of business. Take the time and spend the money you need to make your commercial property attractive to your clientele. It will be worth the effort and money when your business succeeds.

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