Project management stabilizes growth

This article originally appeared in NARI’s Tuffin’ It Out series.

It’s been seven years since Laura Taylor joined Lensis Builders Inc. in Manassas, Va. The operations manager had perfect timing—owner Richard Lensis and his wife couldn’t take on the project management role any longer because they wanted to focus on growing the business.

“Before I was there, Richard and his wife would handle the business, sales, planning and high-level management (from the office) of projects,” Taylor says. She says that lead carpenters would oversee the workers, the work and the onsite management. Problem is, jobs were disorganized, and eventually, it became apparent that the lead carpenters had too many to-do items competing for their time.

“The lead carpenters have specialized skills, and it’s more valuable for us to have them using those skills on the worksite than on the phone scheduling appointments,” Taylor says.

As the project manager, Taylor handles all project coordination and the three full-time crews working under her. She is responsible for at least 10 to 11 jobs at a time, at various stages. She handles permits, scheduling, pick-ups, inspections, budgets, change orders and, probably most important, she handles the clients.

“I am in constant communication with the clients from start to finish,” Taylor says. “They know that if there is an issue or a change, to talk to me right away.”

This new set-up allows the owners more time to run the business and make sales and allows the lead carpenters the time to handle the work. So far, Taylor says things have been working out pretty well, as they keep a steady flow of sales. “Without sales, we all wouldn’t be here,” she says.

Her success comes from streamlining the process to be more efficient than ever before, she says.

“I know the vendors and suppliers for each major company, I know how to reach them and who to talk to for what I need,” Taylor says. “I know the subcontractors—I know who to hire for what part of the job, how long it takes and pricing.”

But beyond knowing the ins and outs of suppliers and tradesmen, she knows when to take shortcuts and dodge problems before they arise.

“My coordination and planning reduces unnecessary costs for the company. We don’t have to wait for materials or re-schedule subs—all of these mistakes come out of our profit line, not the homeowner’s, and this is how we reduce extra costs,” she says.

Taylor also reduces liabilities because she has oversight over everything that happens on that worksite. From cleanliness, to LRRP or OSHA documentation, to working with the homeowners and addressing their questions and concerns, she makes sure it’s done and documented correctly.

“I believe the biggest challenge on a remodeling project is that the client is usually still in the house, living their daily lives or asking questions, watching over people, needing advice on a change order,” Taylor says. “I’m there to counsel them so the guys can continue working.”

Taylor’s problem-solving abilities on the jobsite are what makes or breaks the bottom line. Budgeting accurately results in conserving margins, no setbacks results in satisfied homeowners, dedicating full-time lead carpenters results in higher-quality work—all of these things combined equals finishing work efficiently, being paid quicker and taking on more jobs and increasing sales.

When you think about how much of a company’s success is riding on the project manager, it starts to become more important for companies to not only have one on staff but also to have one who is efficient and on top of the to-do list.

Taylor says that before she joined Lensis, they were only able to handle two to three jobs at once. At the peak of the remodeling industry in 2005 to 2007, she was managing 18 to 20 jobs, and today she now she manages on average 10 to 11. She says her management skills help turn-around a kitchen in one month, and 70 percent of her work stems from repeat or referral clients.—Morgan Zenner

Want to get your project management into gear for the coming year? Take advantage of NARI’s new Certified Remodeler Project Manager (CRPM) education program starting Feb. 28 and begin your path toward growth. Please download the CRPM Application here.

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