By Mike Waller, National Director of Preconstruction
In our industry, there’s no such thing as a sure thing. Politics, market rates, labor shortages, weather — there’s a lot of uncertainty that can impact a project’s schedule, budget, and overall success. We believe the best way to combat the factors you can’t control, is by managing all the details of a project you can control and planning for the unexpected. That’s why we focus so intently on our preconstruction efforts — a successful preconstruction effort adds value to a project by providing cost certainty, high yet appropriate quality, and a more predictable schedule.
Over the last 79 years, we’ve continuously developed and adapted our preconstruction process and our methods have been thoroughly tested in the field. Based on our experience, there are five key steps you have to take during preconstruction to deliver cost certainty and a more reliable project timeline. Our president, Turner Burton, laid them out here, but the five steps to preconstruction excellence are:
- Build a team based on trust and capability.
- Establish the Conditions of Satisfaction for the project.
- Develop a detailed preconstruction and design schedule.
- Provide continuous design review and estimating.
- Engage trade partners early.
Let’s take a closer look at building a team based on capability and trust. It probably seems like a no brainer. Every client wants to hire someone they can trust to get the job done. What makes a builder trustworthy? In a sea of experienced contractors, how do you find the most capable for your project? In my 27 years in the construction industry, I’ve led projects, hired new employees, and put together countless project teams. Here are my top 5 criteria to seek out trustworthy, capable builders.
To me, being trustworthy is being an advocate for the team and project owner. It’s putting the owner’s needs first and making every decision with their best interest in mind. As the client, you need to trust that your contractor is looking out for you and your investment, not their own bottom line. Your contractor should be capable of being a leader —during the design phase, preconstruction, and in the field. The role of the contractor is to guide, lead, and deliver your project in the manner, cost, and schedule you need.
Don’t hire the “yes man”. That person might make you happy in the moment by telling you what you want to hear, but your project will suffer in the long run if they’re not being honest with you. Hire the builder who isn’t afraid to have the tough conversations. You may not want to hear that there’s an unforeseen condition on your adaptive reuse project that is going to cost more, but you need to know about it immediately. We coach our associates to treat our clients like we would want to be treated. For me, I want the facts without sugar coating. That’s how we communicate with our clients.
Look beyond the list of projects and experience and find the builder who has a proven history of doing what they say. Anyone can claim to build a project faster and cheaper than the competition, but you have to follow through. We pride ourselves on responding to RFP’s with realistic, attainable construction plans. We think our clients deserve schedule and cost certainty throughout the life of the project, and we would rather lose a project because we weren’t the lowest bid, than fail to deliver a project within budget.
Capability is more than what’s on a resume. True capability is expertise. It’s not enough to ask a contractor if they’ve ever built a project in the same market sector. Look for the contractor who is an expert in their field — the difference between experience and expertise is capability. An experienced builder has completed a lot of projects. An expert builder has completed a lot of projects well — efficiently, on time, within budget, without accidents, and without negative impact to the surrounding community.
The personalities of the individuals on your team is important. In the grand scheme of things, it might seem trivial to hire the builder you like the most — but chemistry is important. We are in the business of service. When you’re working closely together for several years on a project, a positive experience is almost as important as the project’s budget and schedule.
Hiring the right team is the first step to preconstruction excellence. It sets your project up for success by placing your project in the hands of capable builders who you trust to be your advocate. We’re passionate about preconstruction, because we believe it’s the best way to create schedule and cost certainty on a project, and truly deliver value to all team members. In the coming months, we’ll dive deeper into the other four keys to preconstruction excellence.