Establish Your Presence Early in Job

WHILE NO SINGLE DAY in a project is any more important than any other day, I maintain that the initial phase, those first few days to first month of a new job, is a whole lot more important than the middle and end phases. If you proceed with mobilization and the initial job meetings with the attitude that youre the meanest, roughest, toughest SOB on the block and that no one dare mess with you or

WHILE NO SINGLE DAY in a project is any more important than any other day, I maintain that the initial phase, those first few days to first month of a new job, is a whole lot more important than the middle and end phases.

If you proceed with mobilization and the initial job meetings with the attitude that you’re the meanest, roughest, toughest SOB on the block and that no one dare mess with you or your company, then trust me, no one will.

Absolutely no one will seek your cooperation over schedule issues or will ignore your requests for favorable schedule floats when you make them.

No one will seek your input on delivery coordination issues and material lay-down, construction storage and office trailer space allocations. After all, you are your own show. Then you’ll be assigned such critical things on the whim of the GC or CM because what they think about you and how you operate isn’t important anyway.

No one will bother to waste any of your precious time when it comes to trading out uses of equipment such as cranes and forklifts either, since you made it very clear at the start no one but you is important to the job.

And no one will seek your input on above-ceiling coordinated space issues since you’re God’s gift to project management and you’re going to put your stuff in as you want and the other trades be damned.

However, if you take the attitude (as best you can, especially when having to deal with the odd individual who operates in the manner described above) that you’re a true professional project manager and you seek control through cooperation not confrontation, then, who knows, you might actually make a little money on this job.

The trick with project management is to seek and obtain control through the easiest and most stress-free means possible. That usually means getting to the GC or CM first, making your requests for jobsite space and scheduling input first, demonstrating your professionalism and commitment to the job by getting in your safety plan and MSDS sheets before any other sub, figuring out and presenting your case for areas of coordinated space above the ceilings and humping your submittals in before anyone else.

By demonstrating that you are on the ball, paying attention to the minutiae required of a professional PM, then you’ll likely get respect that translates into profit dollars.

Even if it costs an extra month’s rental, I like to get my office and material storage trailers on the site before the other subs, or at least get a commitment for placement on the site that will ease access for both deliveries and for my guys getting their material.

If I can get my storage trailers just 100 ft. closer to the building, that will save me hundreds of man-hours not spent fetching and transporting. If I can get my office trailer next to the GC’s, then I’ll have access to the GC that others won’t have as easily. This can be a double-edged sword, but I always want that premium spot.

During the first job meeting, I always want to wear something a little nicer than my usual PM clothes, maybe a shirt, tie and sport coat.

Even though a small part of the POs are usually written at this point and few submittals have been sent, I always make a point of asking the A/E if he received the submittals that I transmitted a week or two ago, making the point that I’m on top of the job.

Then I always ask the other subs what we could do to pool or split equipment rental costs, something most will at least discuss with you. This also helps establish your professionalism.

Next I always ask if anyone needs the plumbing to his office trailer hooked up and never directly charge him for it. I prefer to “take it out in trade” later in the job, something that I usually get a return on anywhere from 500% to 1,000%.

And, lastly, I make a point of telling all present if there’s anything else I can do to help them, see me after the meeting. Said help from me isn’t free. There’s always a price with me, usually a steep one in the form of returned favors, but my offer is sincere. It reinforces the fact that I do my level best to be a professional and a team player, but I always take care of the bottom line, the bottom line being the bottom line.

H. Kent Craig is a second-generation mechanical contractor and project manager with unlimited Master’s licenses in boilers, air conditioning, heating and plumbing. He can be reached by calling 919/851-9550, or via e-mail at [email protected].