Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
With 2018 behind us, and with that another great year of articles, podcasts and many workshops across the nation (and even one in Canada), Let’s Fix Construction looks forward to 2019, as do many others. A new year starts with fresh energy, renewed spirit, a hopeful change of habits and a positive outlook.
With 2019 facing us and 2018 in the rearview mirror, Let’s Fix Construction is using this post for a Call to Arms. A challenge, if you will. Hopefully you can identify your role, or more than one, in this list. Don’t see a challenge that calls to you? Identify your own. Step out of your comfort zone and move yourself and the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry forward.
Educate yourself before you proceed with your project, especially if it is your first one! Take the time to learn the roles of the major players in a building project. Vet your architect, construction manager, general contractor and any other major contractor or consultant that you are going to be contractually obligated to. You don’t have to be best friends, but it will go a long way if you know who you will be working with and get along with them. What makes them tick? What sets them off? What are their expectations? What are their expectations of you? And in the end, if you really want to educate yourself about a project, get a copy of the Construction Specifications Institute’s ‘Project Delivery Practice Guide’. It could just be the best $129 you’ve ever spent. AND save you a thousand-fold in the long run.
Projects are getting increasingly complex and the demands on you, your supporting staff and ultimately, your entire office are growing as well. The world we live in changes rapidly and with that the demands that are put on all the major players in a project. You’re being asked to do much more in much less time for the same amount of money. Practice saying no. Don’t be afraid to lose a client that expects more from you without understanding your point of view. Make sure you and your staff are compensated appropriately for your time. Track all costs and analyze your data. If you are able to reference a completed project that is similar in size and scope of a new project you are working on, you will be able to substantiate to the Owner why you have the requests, both financial and otherwise, that you do.
Contributed by Brent Williams
Hi, I’m Brent Williams and I’m a self-described construction materials geek. I come from an architecture background, but I was serendipitously detoured into the product rep world…and I’ve never looked back. Why, you ask?
Because I love working in the visual oriented design world that we live in. I’ve been lucky enough to become a hyper-specialist in one, weird little construction product. But my product is unusual & amazing, it solves a myriad of issues in the industry and I completely love my amazing job.
A big chunk of what a professional building product rep does on a daily basis is explain exactly where, why, how and how not to deploy these products to the design community. In medical terms, our friends in the Architecture world are General Practitioners, while the rep is a Micro Neurosurgeon. Architects, by the design of their craft, need to know at least a little bit about everything. Me? I need to know everything that there is about one tiny little thing. More importantly, I need to know what THEY need to know about my tiny little corner of the world.
And therein lies the magic, the alchemy, as it were. Product Reps have to communicate quickly and accurately, at an incredibly high level of proficiency, in both directions…both to and from the client. You simply must be empathetic, intuitive and proactive. Not the simplest matrix of executables and doubly tough to execute rapidly and on the fly. Nothing less than excellence will be tolerated by the modern construction industry.
An experienced rep needs to be both an incredible listener yet anticipate issues and questions almost before they are spoken. Frankly, all of us in the product representation arena either hold this skill set, or we’re not around very long. Check any employment website, or look on LinkedIn, and there are lots of vacancies for reps and lots of reps looking for employment.
If you think about it, just about everyone involved in the design industry must possess most of this skill set in order to be able to sustain the construction process. You either communicate at scale, or you’re gone. No quarter. You can’t do a proper program unless you can communicate at a very high level, with all of the constituents in and on a project.
Contributed by Marvin Kemp
In a musing about leading meetings, I wrote that "I'm an architect by education and licensure. I'm a project manager by definition of my firm." Since a recent strategic planning exercise our firm went through, I've been thinking about what it means to be an architect and a project manager. The architect part is easy, legally speaking: you've earned a first professional degree in architecture from an accredited university, completed the Intern Development Program (now known as Architectural Experience Program AXP), passed the Architects Registration Exam (ARE) and have applied for and been granted a license to practice architecture in the State where you reside. Okay, so maybe its not that easy, but it is a straightforward and linear process.
The philosophical notion of what it means to be an architect is much more complicated and probably meant for a different blog post or maybe even several blog posts! But, from the beginning of my career, I had the goal of becoming an architect. I accomplished that in 2001, just shy of seven years after I graduated from college. I also had the goal of being a project manager and eventually a partner or principal in a firm. Project manager may seem a strange goal for someone educated as an architect. I was never the strongest design student in school. At first, I wasn't mature enough to understand or focus on the studio curriculum. That set me back in terms of my design maturation. I probably could have caught up but let my ego and confrontations with several professors get in the way. I graduated with a respectable GPA north of 3.0, but had many C's in design studios, though I did manage a B on my thesis project.
When I took my first job out of school, it was with a small firm that did good work, but not great design work. Generally, the two partners were the designers and with our clientele there was little opportunity for more than basic design solutions. I got my shot at some basic planning and elevations studies, but rarely had the budget to do much more from a design standpoint. At the same time, one of my bosses and first mentors, began taking me to client meetings. I found I really liked being out of the office, meeting with our clients and getting to know more about that end of the practice of architecture. It seemed more real to me.
I also had four solid examples, other than the two partners, of what good project managers do in that office. My first desk was in a studio with three of them! What a treat to work with them, interact with them and listen to their phone conversations on a daily basis. It was in those early experiences that I decided I wanted to be the hot shot project manager, not the hot shot designer.
Nearly 21 years later, what does it mean to be the "hot shot project manager?" Here are some notions.
Contributed by Chris Maskell
The flooring industry is constantly challenged by the same repeating issues. Installing too early, wet concrete, non-flat sub-floors, sub-floor surface not prepared, heat not on, windows not in and lack of installer training and certification. In fact, as construction speeds up to meet demands for faster build times and with the threat of an increase in the cost of borrowing money lurking in the economic wings, the provision of acceptable conditions for the flooring contractor is becoming less likely.
This raises the importance of supporting those in the construction team (Building Owner, Construction Manager, General Contractor, Design Authority, and Flooring Contractor) with good, timely information that helps all involved plan ahead for the floor covering installation. As one of the last significant trades onsite, the flooring contractor needs certain conditions, that if not planned for in advance, will be next to impossible for the Construction Manager/General Contractor to provide without extra time and/or extra money: two things in short supply at the end of a build or renovation.
Change is possible, but requires a few things to be understood and acted on in advance.
There is a generic Canadian floor covering industry reference manual available for specification, which supports all construction parties, and when included in the Division 09 section of the construction documents, means correct flooring processes and supportive language is available to guide the floor installation and all the points listed below.
Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
Earlier today, while researching job ads on Craigslist, I came across a help wanted post for flooring installers that had some interesting exclusions and language:
My immediate thought was ‘boy, does this guy have some nerve to post an ad like this!’.
But then I thought about it more.
I put myself in the post creator’s shoes for a minute and I immediately knew where he was coming from. Having written ads on Craigslist for flooring installers and laborers myself, and even going so far as to register the domain workinflooring.com to find potential applicants, I know full well that there are very good reasons why these requirements were listed in the above ad.
Much like the list of terms and conditions that my company has in our proposals to clients, there are legitimate explanations for each and every one of those items being there. Typically, an item is added to our terms because at least one time in the past, a situation arose on a project jobsite that necessitated declaration for potential future work. I don’t even need to jump to conclusions to know that every item listed above is spelled out, in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS at that, because he’s seen it first-hand.
But without even knowing who this person was, I could easily envision the scenario, and it hits very close to home. They’re a small business. They’re owner-operated, and chances are, the owner is the lead installer, as well as chief cook and bottle washer. They don’t have a marketing division, nor a human resources department. They have more than enough work to keep them busy at peak times and when times are lean, everyone in the company feels the pinch. I could just as well be describing my day job. I could also be describing thousands of other small businesses across the nation.
In early June, the United States Department of Labor released the news that for the first time since statistics were tracked in 2000, the number of American job openings exceeded the number of job seekers. As a result of this ratio, business owners may feel that they have to say yes to someone who comes along unqualified, because they answered an ad. Chances are the Owner is short on time. They’re short on employees. They have bigger fish to fry and more important tasks to accomplish. And that is why, out of sheer frustration, after hiring and firing a times over, Mr. Craigslist Ad posted the above.
Let's Fix Construction is an avenue to offer creative solutions, separate myths from facts and erase misconceptions about the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry.
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