Setting Our Sights on a Thriving Client Partnership with Target
Working with large, national retailers can often make it hard for an A + E firm to make a name for itself, especially if it's one of many design firms working with the retailer.
It can be easy to assume that to do so means you must prove yourself through a constant flow of innovative ideas and large-scale projects rather than dedicated, detailed day-to-day work.
Target initially brought on our team in 2018 to produce construction documents for the remodel program. As we worked through onboarding and created a team to support the work we were awarded, it was apparent that the way to make our mark was continually showing up. And that meant in the minute details, not just on a grand scale. By staying committed to our fully integrated team of experienced architects, engineers, designers, and permitters, we were given a chance to prove ourselves. From there, we set our sights on a successful, long-lasting client partnership that has continued to grow throughout the years, just like the team supporting it.
A Humble Beginning
At the beginning of our relationship with Target, we were part of an onboarding process called the Prime Production Model, where established legacy firms of record were responsible for onboarding new firms and familiarizing them with Target standards. As a part of that process, the legacy firm would handle the projects from inception to design, then pass them off to our team for production, which primarily involved creating construction documents.
"We learned a lot through this process in the first year, from trial and error. However, we quickly made a name for ourselves, especially when it came to permitting. We owe that early success to Pam McRell, who was with HFA for more than 16 years before retiring in 2021. She helped us establish a firm foundation with Target and helped solidify the good reputation we were working to build with them,” said James Mann, Team Lead/Architect for the Target team at HFA.
At that time, only five people were supporting Target and the small team went from working on ten remodel projects in 2018 to double that in 2019. Our team expanded to account for that growth in work, as well. We doubled down on creating a team poised to support this new business and began to dig deeper and become even more agile in our approach to everyday work.
However, as we began to hit our stride, 2020 happened. And with the COVID-19 pandemic, came a reduction in the scale of projects, especially those within the remodel program. When Target cut back on their planned remodel projects in 2020, many firms had to shift focus, including ourselves. With the lack of remodel work on our plate, our team was fortunate enough to dive into special projects, which required the skills and expertise we honed throughout our work on the remodel program. Target's special projects required attention to detail and quick turnarounds. Still, because our team could play to their strengths and build out processes and workflows that would help refine the project lifecycle, we completed more than 250 special projects in the year 2020 alone.
Hitting Our Stride
These special projects were a different ball game from what we were used to, and the scope of each could vary greatly. Because of the high-volume, fast-paced nature of the work for these projects, it was easy for other firms to decline the work, but that was precisely the area in which our team shined, showcasing our skills in project management, permitting, and attention to detail.
"We found success in developing our relationship [with Target] with these ‘special’, typically high-volume, small scope of work projects. The process is very project delivery and program management based. The Remodel program for Target is well established, but for special projects, Target allowed us the liberty and leverage to develop our own, turnkey processes and systems that worked best for both HFA and Target," said Nathan Connors, Multi-Site Lead at HFA.
Being deliberate about the processes is essential to successfully implementing them with new teams. And after working with their teams for a few years, we've come to intimately know the processes, procedures, and programming that is unique to Target. That knowledge helps inform the processes we establish for special projects. This knowledge of our client-partners and how they work is essential to a successful partnership, but so is trust. We have been fortunate to work with some fantastic client contacts at Target for the past few years, including senior project manager Marcelo Ferraz de Toledo, who was one of the very first. Thanks to the relationship we've built, and the trust brokered throughout the years, he’s now comfortable enough to ask for us by name for upcoming special projects.
“When everyone on the team works together to overcome any issues to try to achieve the greatest amount of success—that is what a healthy program looks like for us,” said Ferraz de Toledo. He continues, “I value the professionalism, transparency, and partnership that goes into every project I work on with HFA, whether it's large or small.”
Reinvesting in processes to ensure quality work was an excellent steppingstone for the moment in 2021 when we were able to bid for remodel projects again, once the world began re-engaging in pre-COVID activity. One of the critical aspects that changed the face of a retailer's business was the convenience of express, contact-minimized shopping, namely online pickup. Many of these remodel stores we were awarded in 2021 included an Online Pickup remodel, which called for freezer coolers added to the front of the store, relocating office space to the back of the store into the stock room, restroom remodels, and vestibule expansions. The scope of these projects is slowly getting more extensive, and with that expansion in work, we have expanded our team to ensure Target is adequately supported every step of the way.
"This is our niche—structuring a team around a client. I think that's something we do very well at HFA. We make a point to have dedicated leadership and representation for each discipline. I think that is a huge benefit to our clients; and honestly, it just speeds up the process. We're hyper-focused on project delivery throughout the project's lifecycle," said Connors.
Focused on the Future
As we look to the future, many exciting opportunities have arisen for our team, including working with the new store program, and partnering with Target on logistics for their Fulfillment and Distribution Centers. As we partner with Target in new industries and spaces, we once again emphasize building a team with experienced team members poised and ready to help Target achieve its goals. We've recently acquired some new store work and have begun to build a team to engage with those projects while the other team members continue working on remodels and special projects.
The future is bright for many industries, and retail is undoubtedly one of them. With so many implications of COVID, both good and bad for business, customers are not shy about speaking up about the changes they wish to see in their local retailers. State-of-the-art fulfillment and distribution centers are becoming more crucial than ever before. By getting in on the ground floor for those projects, we're afforded the opportunity to partner with Target in yet another way.
We're confident that as we work together as one, we will continue seeing great success now and into the future. For now, we remain focused on how we can provide quality work and cultivate a robust and long-lasting partnership with Target for many years to come.
Special thanks to James Mann and Nathan Connors for the thought leadership and expertise they provided throughout this article.
Want to know more? For more about our work with Target, please reach out to James Mann, Team Lead/Architect (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Nathan Connors, Multi-Site Lead (email@example.com)