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5 Things to Consider Before you Hire a Project Manager

Hiring a project management agency (aka construction management firm) to run your construction project is the best thing you can do to ensure your endeavor’s smooth, efficient outcome. But do you know how to hire a good project manager?

In this post, we will talk about the 5 things you should consider before you sign a contract with a PM agency.

1. Do they have experience with similar projects to yours?

In construction, quality comes with practice. And while different construction sectors share similarities, you shouldn’t hire a PM specializing in subway tunnels to help you build a luxury villa. The example is extreme, but it highlights the fragmentation of field experience.

Ideally, you’d want to see past projects that make the hair stand on your neck and make you think: “WOW, this is the building I want.” However, at a minimum, you’d want a PM with a portfolio in similar sectors and occupancies to what you’re building.

So when you interview your PM firm candidate, be sure to ask them about past projects. Check out as many samples of their past work as you can.

2. How does the PM balance time, budget, and quality?

All construction projects operate under the “triple constraint” of time, budget, and quality. Before you hire a PM agency, make sure they can find the equilibrium between these factors in a way that satisfies your intentions. To do this, the PM will need your guidance. So make sure you specify if either of these 3 construction tenets takes priority for you. For instance, is the time of more essence than the budget? Or, perhaps, is quality the leading aspect for you? Not that you should “sacrifice” one or the other; simply help the PM understand what they should prioritize.

Which brings us to the next factor you should consider:

3. How does the PM make prioritization decisions?

The PM you hire will have to set priorities throughout all the phases of the project.

During preconstruction, they’ll have to establish controls related directly to the project, such as for scope, budget, and schedule. The PM will also need to prioritize their tasks and those of the entire team to ensure that the project can start and be completed as quickly as possible.

When working with a fixed cap on spending, the PM may have to prioritize certain scope features based on their cost. If time is of more essence to you than expenses, the PM will have to prioritize a prompt completion and balance speed with quality.

After shovels hit the dirt, the PM will face snowballing circumstances that will leave them thinking on their feet. How would they arrange construction activities when one falls behind? Or if there is a shortage of labor? Or a longer lead time on required materials? Or an accident on site? These situations can directly impact your bottom line, and proper prioritization by your PM can help keep the project afloat.

4. How does the PM handle conflict situations?

Construction projects revolve around several business entities: the contractor, their trades, consultants, engineers, and of course, you. Each has a vested interest in the project.

When this individual interest supersedes the project’s common goals, conflicts are bound to crop up. Handle them right, and the project goes on with some hurt feelings; mess them up, and you may be looking at litigation.

Before you hire a project manager, you should find out how they’ve dealt with conflict situations. While they may not be free to disclose specifics, they should introduce you to their conflict resolution approach and explain a few anonymous examples.

5. How does the PM manage stakeholders?

While conflict resolution is a crucial PM skill and function, managing stakeholder relationships doesn’t always have to be adversarial. Most stakeholders have a genuine interest in seeing the project flourish; those who don’t, like the general public, or city officials, may have legitimate concerns.

The PM you hire must have a strategy for managing these relationships. They can execute this plan via common project management tools. For instance, the PM can use the power-interest matrix to gauge stakeholders’ involvement in the project and tailor the relationship accordingly. Regardless of a stakeholder’s interest or influence over a project, the PM must find the right communication approach to this individual or entity.

Before you hire a PM agency to manage your construction project, find out how they handle stakeholders, and ask for relevant examples.

Final thoughts

Hiring a PM company to help you build can take a heavy burden off your shoulders and even give you a sense of control over the project. Hiring the right PM can help you even more. With a fitting project management professional on your team, you’ll have a better chance to:
  • set clear objectives for the project
  • keep construction on time
  • stay within your budget
  • avoid uncontrolled growth of scope
  • avert disputes, conflict, and litigation
  • ensure effective communication between everyone involved in the project
To establish whether a PM agency is right for your project, consider this:
  • Does the agency have experience in similar projects?
  • How does the PM balance the 3 constraints of construction – budget, time, and quality?
  • How does the PM prioritize?
  • What can you expect when conflict situations emerge?
  • Does the PM have a strategy for managing the project’s stakeholders?
If the answers to these questions align with what you expect, you may have found the right match.
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