Project managers execute the plan
To David Roberts, president of Roberts Construction Group Inc. in Evanston, Ill., project management is all about executing the plan. He was formerly working under a lead carpenter system and decided that larger, more complex projects needed a single person committed to making sure execution is just right.
As a project manager at Roberts’ company, the first priority is to create the project manual—which documents all project information, including design, specifications, materials and contracts for both the homeowner and subs—and a weekly work schedule. The project manager works with the estimator on calculating labor hours and mapping out the work and delivery schedules.
“The project manager usually has a wide knowledge base of what is needed in terms of labor and scheduling for that particular project,” Roberts says. “The estimator has a good handle on costs and feasibility given the budget.”
The project manual is signed by all parties, and it is then the project manager’s job to follow that manual. Roberts’ system also means that the project manager is the only person who looks after the daily activities on the job.
“Though we [owner and estimator] have an idea of the weekly schedule, it is the project manager that has the daily schedule, and the homeowner is only given a monthly schedule,” Roberts says. The homeowner’s project manual does not contain contracts of material order forms.
The project manager is the point of contact for the homeowners, although Roberts likes to have weekly meetings with the clients and the project manager to ensure that everything is going well.
“I insist that we have a weekly meeting at the home to see the progress and make ourselves available to address concerns right away,” Roberts says. He adds that he also notices how the project manager is working with the client and confirms for himself that the relationship is a healthy one.
Change orders in the project most likely begin with the project manager; however, depending on the significance, it usually makes its way to the estimator for final pricing. “We have a very rigid change order process—we make homeowners signs a mini-contract if the scope of the project is changing,” Roberts says.
Roberts believes that a project manager is able to look more broadly than a lead carpenter and see the big picture of a project, such as understanding what each trade contractor brings to the project or knowing how important it is to have solid specifications before work begins, in order to keep to the schedule.
“My projects are more consistent now, there are fewer surprises, the budget is maintained, the schedule is followed, and I have good relationships with my trades, suppliers and homeowneres because I have a reliable person at the home of my projects,” Roberts says.
Roberts’ project manager has a construction management degree and five years of carpentry experience. The combination of education and field experience is very important to Roberts, whose background is in architecture.
“My project manager brings a great deal of sophistication to the project, combined with real world skills that covers the building process,” Roberts says. “On the other hand, being that I am an owner architect, I need someone with carpentry experience to carry that skillset into my project.”—Morgan Zenner
Three important steps toward effective management
1. Identify deficiencies in your current management process.
2. Identify your role and capabilities as an owner and what level of involvement you’re able to take on.
3. Educate yourself and your employees on project management solutions to build a solid foundation for your unique process.
NARI’s Certified Remodeler Project Manager (CRPM) prep class and certification covers project planning, communication, project cost management, quality assurance, risk management and recordkeeping. To sign up for the next class, visit the NARI Website. If you’re not sure a project manager is a good fit for your company, consider using a lead carpenter system instead.