Where do I find a good project manager? | C-Link

Where do I find a good project manager?

by Paul Heming

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, once said that:

“The secret of my success is that we have gone to exceptional lengths to hire the best people in the world.”

I’m sure this resonates with us all. No matter which business we are in, recruitment plays a fundamental role in our business’s success, profitability, and growth. Getting recruitment right is not easy and requires a clear understanding of precisely what you are looking for from the outset.

In the context of moving to Construction Management and managing construction in-house, I’ve spoken at length about the benefits of SME developers identifying and recruiting a Project Manager to take their businesses’ construction arm forward. Therefore, I thought it was only fair that I speak in more detail about how best to do this and which attributes you want in a Project Manager given your specific niche.

The context is that we are talking about SME developers no longer employing Main Contractors and, instead, replacing that resource with an in-house Project Manager, among other things.

So, remind me, why do I need a Project Manager?

As discussed in previous articles, when paying for a Main Contractor, you are in-part paying to hire construction professionals: Project Managers, Quantity Surveyors, Site Managers.

Main Contractors are in the business of hiring construction professionals who are good at the management of and communication with specialist subcontractors. A good Main Contractor has good people with excellent knowledge and management skills to deliver lean construction projects.

When you bring this in-house and have a single Project Manager collaborating and bringing design and subcontracting parties together, you avoid the waste, increased cost and time, and adversarial relationships that frequently rear their head with the traditional model. A Project Manager will focus on encouraging early involvement from all parties. Early involvement leads to effective collaboration, increased efficiency, minimised waste, and a unified objective.

When SME developers bring management in-house, they align all their interests. With construction expertise in-house, developers can deploy that added knowledge within the teams to all development phases. You can bring your project manager into the conversation to advise how early decisions during planning may affect the construction phase. She can then collaborate with her sales team to share ideas on modifying construction and design methods to improve your development’s marketing and sales aspects.

Many developers are moving to this new approach and, in doing so, creating a simple yet very effective competitive advantage.

What kind of role are we looking to fill with this recruitment?

On larger construction projects, the three key construction roles, in my opinion, are the Site Manager, the Project Manager and the Quantity Surveyor.

The Site Manager is the ‘boots on the ground’, construction-focused resource; the Quantity Surveyor manages the commercial aspects, financials, and procurement; and the Project Manager acts as the conduit between the two to provide a balance between getting the job built and getting it built at the right price.

I believe a quality Project Manager can serve all three functions on smaller developments. You may wish to add some Quantity Surveying support in some cases, but you could do this through software or alternative human resource.

With that in mind, when writing a job description for a Project Manager, the key attributes to request – as an SME developer – would include the Project Manager being responsible for:

  • Overseeing construction projects from beginning to end
  • Collaborating with subcontractors, architects, and the wider project team
  • Managing the budget
  • Procurement and management of subcontractors on site
  • Keeping stakeholders aware of progress and preparing progress reports
  • Supporting the business in providing early-stage advice on other projects

You are really looking to employ someone capable of coordinating the three key construction roles mentioned above. Someone who can carry out the functions of both Site Manager and Quantity Surveyor and be your in-house construction expert to advise on other schemes you are looking for.

What am I looking for in an individual?

Recruitment is not dissimilar to the pre-qualification of contractors for a project. You’re looking for a candidate to have relevant expertise on similar projects to the ones you build. Fundamentally, I think you are looking for someone happy to be site based but at the same time can manage the commercial aspects of the project via procurement etc.

Given they will manage the site, they will need to be comfortable with the site and have extensive experience managing subcontractors, managing budgets, and project programmes. The Project Manager should evidence the majority of this through their project portfolio.

One way to distil this pre-qualification would be to view it through the eyes of your lender. Any lender assessing your development is going to want to understand whether you can deliver the construction works. Therefore, the CV of your Project Manager, together with the portfolio of projects they’ve completed in their career, will go a long way to showing whether you, as a business, can manage the project. You can do the same: is this person impressive enough to put in front of lenders and help take my business forward.

On that note, getting the salary right is essential. Building.co.uk recently classified the salaries of construction professionals and have suggested that experienced and senior Project Managers in London would be valued at £78,000, and across the rest of the UK, £60,000 is the national average.

It’s certainly not cheap. But, a Project Manager will make your life easier, your business better, and, as previously explained, will save you money in the long run. Consider that this salary of £60,000 – £78,000 is something you’re already spending every time you employ the Main Contractor (plus profit) as it’s included in their preliminaries.

It may appear expensive, initially, but the numbers stack up in your favour as has been previously discussed in our article, give me the numbers. By employing a Project Manager and adopting Construction Management, you can save 17% on construction costs.

The reality is that time and energy spent in the front-end completing recruitment of this crucial role will make your business much more robust. Having an in-house Project Manager is a no-brainer and means you will:

  1. Assess new off-site schemes more efficiently with in-house expertise in construction
  2. Better position yourself in the market to many more lending options reducing the cost of funding
  3. Open the door to Construction Management and the major (17%) savings in construction costs available through this route

Feature image photo by Kaitlin Duffey on Unsplash

About Paul Heming

Paul was a Quantity Surveyor who gained 10 years experience of managing £200 million worth of flagship UK projects, including 20 Fenchurch Street and Battersea Power Station. In 2015, Paul founded C-Link with the intention of sharing his expertise of managing major projects with the SME market.

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