Builders – the uber Project Managers
11 October, 2023
Most people have a favourite tale about ‘that building project’ that went wrong that they’ll crack out at every dinner party. Builders in general seem to have a reputation for being unreliable, running way over budget or disappearing completely – but we’ve got the builders in right now in the Pitt building and it’s going well. And that's because of the excellent project management.
In my experience there are lots of good builders and contractors who do deliver, and actually we could all learn a lot from these uber multi-tasking, highly accurate Project Managers.
Managing people, managing personalities
First and foremost, a builder leading any project has to be a great manager of people. From stressed clients to overloaded subcontractors, recalcitrant regulators, nosy neighbours and naïve apprentices, everyone involved needs the right mix of friendly encouragement, education and tough love from their builder. If you’re wondering how to be a good Project Manager – you could do a lot worse than seeing how a builder does it!
Expecting the unexpected – and keeping us all safe
Builders have to cope with the unexpected – so far, my own building site stories include a surprise pipe just under our garage which appeared on no map or survey despite appearing quite new, hundreds of metres long and the width of a car. A labourer one day carefully followed the architect’s instructions and removed all support from under our staircase before the builder noticed that there was nothing in the 16 pages of plans to hold the landing up once the old brickwork was gone… and just the other week a routine gas check during a small project revealed a serious leak that could have blown the house off the map, and had possibly been there for weeks. The house had to be evacuated, and of course it was the Friday before a long weekend... Construction leaders have to think quickly, get things back on track, think ‘what would the client want me to do?’ and most of all, keep everyone safe. There aren’t quite as many risks of physical injury for us when we’re building websites, for instance!
They cope with corralling busy, often overcommitted subcontractors to get their work done in exactly the right order (sparky first, plasterer, drying time, tiler and so on…) as fast as possible. Then of course the day they remove the roof tiles there’s an afternoon downpour that wasn’t forecast so work ends up unavoidably delayed.
Money matters, and moves fast
Quoting is tricky in all industries, but materials costs have all sky-rocketed in the last few years. Even trickier, not all at the same rate: for example, gravel, doors and windows have almost doubled in price in the last four years, meanwhile steel and other things shot up and have now fallen back. Vacancies are pretty much the highest they’ve ever been and earnings growing only modestly. With all these challenges and more we’ve not mentioned, our builders over the years have really coped calmly and with courtesy – the same can’t always be said of their customers!
Marketers and builders – the supreme multi-taskers
So this reflection brings me to marketing agencies – busy places where the early phases of typical client activation plans might involve anything from making artwork, identifying influencers, media purchasing, to keeping up with privacy laws and contracts and testing ads on hundreds of devices and platforms. We often have one team building new web pages while a second team prepares for the launch of it. And it’s thanks to our very talented Project Managers that we, like builders, are able to stay on track, pivot, adapt but ensure we deliver a project which delights our clients.
Once we are in full activation mode, we’re ready to anticipate changes midstream, measure what works best and tweak programming and targeting for best results. We keep a keen eye out for news that could suddenly create a ‘hook’ for a client’s PR coverage - or cause problems - and there are hundreds more other puzzle pieces that must fit together to execute the plan that I don’t have space for here.
So – (hard) hats off to our amazing technical teams and Project Managers. I like to think we do a pretty good job, but I will always say our teams could learn a thing or two from ‘Bob the Builder’ and his ‘Yes we can!’ attitude.