Constructions: Two Giant Mistakes - (And How To Avoid Them)
Contracting projects can rightfully claim the lowest expectations in the business world. There seems a general assumption that every groundbreaking unleashes an ongoing parade of delays, foul-ups, cost overages, and overall nightmares that dog the project to its miserable end. If we didn’t require shelter, we wouldn’t put up with it.
Much of this dubious reputation comes from sheer size. Contracting of any type is inherently complex and risky. Even for CEO’s of fair-sized companies, overseeing a new building is often the largest undertaking they have yet experienced. But Mark Trapani, CEO of Contracting Smart, based in Verona, insists that small upsets need not erupt into nightmares if owners launch the process with a few, logical steps.
Below, Trapani outlines a more sensible course.
Of the two giant mistakes most construction consumers frequently make, the first begins long before any nail is ever driven.
Choosing a Contractor. Conventional wisdom tells us to get recommendations, check references and look at the work portfolio. These are important, but they are poor indicators of project success. Virtually every contractor comes highly recommended, has glowing references, and a stunning portfolio. No one chooses a contractor without these things. Yet, construction nightmares exist.
In nearly every problem resolution case we hear the same homeowner frustrations: “My brother recommended him, his references were excellent, past work was outstanding, and we had a great feel for the guy. He knew exactly what we wanted, I’ve known him since high school – and his price was right. How could things go so wrong?” The reason is because this approach is a toss of the dice; sometimes lucky – usually not, but always risky. Truly, there are much better ways to select a contractor!
Every contractor selection involves risk. The larger the job, (bridges, skyscrapers, etc.) the greater the risk. But to minimize this risk, add these four inspections to the verbal reference and glowing portfolios. - Background Review - This review tells you what he has done for others. Do the contractor's other jobs (beside his hand picked references) tell you of cost overages or litigatioins? - Bid Proposal Review - This tells you what the contractor will do for you. For many contractors the proposal and the contract are one in the same. In this case, it’s even more important, but either way, it’s crucial. It’s usually one of the most difficult tasks because proposals are never written on an apples to apples basis. - Contractor Interview - This, along with the contract review, are unfortunately often ignored, at the consumer’s peril. This contractor interview often happens only when the company owner or representative comes to the project site to gather information so he or she can present a proposal. Contractors prefer to minimize these face-to-face chats and will often only talk on the fly. But, there are always subsequent visits, and you should take advantage, and take the time. - Contract Review - This should be relatively simple if the proposal review was done correctly and the proposal material was transferred to the contract. But it doesn’t hurt to have an experienced ally on your side.
* Project on Autopilot. Architect Frank LLoyd Wright was renown for making secret deals with contractors, introducing totally new rooms, and keeping his clients ever in the dark. This trend still continues. In theory, Architects are supposed to be the owner's advocate. Sometimes they are, sometimes they have other ideas. Also, however honest, brilliant, and professional your contractor may be, he has his own visions, and other pressures. He is not your regent. That is your job.
To minimize the risk of construction nightmare, you, the owner of this building, must be there, onsite, delving deep into the work, and learning what is going on. Additionally, owners can minimize the risk of problems by reviewing all the paper that goes with the job. Below are six problem-stopping tools to be employed throughout the life of the project. (The final four involve paper reviews.) - Video archiving at each step of the job - On site work observation - Change Order Review - Trade-Work Transition Review - Billing Statement Audits - Work Closeout Review
Just like it’s impossible to guarantee returns on an investment portfolio it’s difficult to guarantee the outcome of a project. No contracting project ever comes off totally without a hitch. Life doesn’t go that way, neither does contracting. However, by looking at your project from a risk point of view, unpleasant surprises can be dramatically minimized or eliminated. It just involves rolling up your sleeves, and employing a firm set of risk management tools. The greater your technical understanding of construction, and the quicker your response time to initial problems, the better your odds all around. Biz4
Mark Trapani grew up in Bogota, the son of a construction worker, and heard all the tales of building problems early on. He attended Alfred University in New York, earning a bachelor’s and masters in engineering. Since 1977, he has gained three decades’ practical experience, as an engineer, general contractor, and construction manager. He currently owns Contracting Smart, a construction consulting company in Verona, New Jersey that specializes in risk management and problem resolution for residential and light commercial contracting.