Category Archives: Vlogs

Thoughts That Build – Estimating…

I want to keep talking about the various careers in construction, as it pertains to general contractors and construction managers spoke about differences between project management, site supervision, talked about project coordination, but one of the key foundations to any successful business is their estimating department. Now, why that estimating is the foundation by which you try to capture everything you can see on the drawings. Everything you pick up, it’s not always so linear. You always have other projects on the go, there are tons of notes I mentioned in the blueprint reading, how you have to look at the electrical drawing with the architectural drawing, with the interior design drawing, with the h factoring and trying to make sure everything kind of fits together.

Now, try doing that in a week, ten days, two weeks depending on the size and scope of the project. How do you put all of that stuff together? Make sure you’ve captured everything that you can. I remember when I started in the industry, I worked with the company, my big company bird construction and I was an assistant estimator as a co-op student. I remember one day my supervisor asked me to count doors. So I counted these doors. I was so proud of myself and it came back and he said all right, what are the different sizes? It’s like what do you mean different sizes, to go back 30-inch door, 32-inch door, 36-inch door, now they’re 38-inch doors for universal washrooms accessibility went back to them. Here are the numbers that go all right which ones are fire rated, so you can see how all these things come into play.

The next thing you know just counting doors and frames took me the better part of today, this was a much larger project but once you try to put together the entire size and scope of the different sizes of doors, the different fire ratings of doors, the different hardware that comes into play, every cost is different for each door, some of them jump, some of them roughly stay the same but estimating again is the key part of the reason why it is as well is. It’s so important to try and visit a project site before you price the job. If you look behind me we’re just about to start a new project today and not everything is always picked up on the drawing sometimes in this particular case we’re supposed to demo portions of the space but the new drawings call for painted walls, now while the drawings call for the tiles as you see to be removed halfway down what happens up above when you look at it. It’s actually wallpaper so now you have options, do I just pull off the wallpaper and skim coat it? Do I remove the drywall completely, so now I have to go full sheets of drywall so not just your demo price change, now your drywall price changes as well these are the things you have to keep looking at as it pertains to a project.

Generally speaking, you’re going to be able to submit these questions to the client so everyone’s on an even playing field. Sometimes it’s not so simple, sometimes you don’t have that luxury sometimes when you’re dealing with independent business owners they’re not 100% sure of the exact process. So understanding the actual scope of work is key. I believe in clarity I don’t believe in just pricing as per the drawings you have to look a little bit outside the drawings and see how everything fits together in the real world. So keep that in mind if you want to get into the estimating department. It’s a vital role you need to have attention to detail. You need to have an analytical mind that sometimes you need to think outside the box as well and if that kind of suits you, estimating is key. It’s also a big-big advantage to get into estimating because you can springboard to other roles and go higher up as well because again it forms that foundation of understanding how to price work, how all these prices come together.

Thoughts That Build – Blueprint Reading

So, last week I talked about project management and site supervision as it pertains to clients and trying to explain it to them but I got a lot of feedback from some of the listeners here who watch this video, wondering if it’s that simple for project management, it’s that simple for site supervision and of course it’s not. When you’re dealing with people, it never is but when you’re trying to get into the industry, especially as a new grad, as an immigrant, some of the keys and the fundamentals need to be known and understood.

Understanding health and safety requirements is absolute key but the absolute foundation for any career in construction is blueprint reading and really, there are three areas in which you can push ahead with a career in construction. I’m talking about from a general contractor construction management perspective because that’s what I do. Obviously there are tons of skilled trades you look at all the divisions, there are tons of them that you can go down but as a general contractor at three, I mentioned two last week the project management and site supervision. The last one is estimating is actually the foundation and the backbone of any business, any construction company. If you’re not able to adequately price projects and be competitive, if you’re not able to interpret those drawings and figure out how all the pieces come together, chances are you’ll miss something and you’ll take some hits on your pricing. You’re never always going to be low but the goal is to be competitive. The goal is to not miss anything on the drawings because it’s a lot to take in just in the architectural. You’ve got one drawing for partitions, another drawing for demo, another one for finish plans, you’ve got elevations, you’ve got section details, then you take in to account your electrical drawings and now you got to take all those with the architectural drawings and let’s not forget interior design as well and try to make sure all of them fit together and yes you’ve got to do that right from the estimating side as well because if you don’t look at it from that perspective from the start, how are you going to come up with an adequate price? How are you going to project how long a project is going to take?

So, for anyone looking to get into construction start in the construction industry with no prior experience, take courses on blueprint reading. I can’t tell you the number of people that I’ve interviewed over the years that do not understand how to read drawings. I’m not saying you’re going to know everything but understanding it and interpreting it, so that we know what trades are involved what materials are involved is absolutely critical.

Thoughts That Build – Project Management & Site Supervision – Interchangeable?

Project management versus site supervision. What’s the difference, it’s a question I’ve been asked increasingly over the last little while from clients. You know they look at my line items and they ask, but why are you charging me for supervision and you’re also charging me for project management, well there’s a few key differences between the two as a site. Supervision means that you’re constantly on site of course but you’re also looking at quality control. In Quality assurance you’re making sure that the bones initially anyway have all been done properly, you’re managing expectations, you’re scheduling sub trades and suppliers to make sure they come in on time and make sure that overall schedule is met. You’re making sure that any site conditions are met and addressed with the project manager. Now as a project manager what you’re doing is from my perspective. There are really four key areas of project management, the four key areas are:

  • Client management: Number one to me, that’s really important you have to manage the client’s expectations on deliverables right from the get go not after.
  • Second one is subcontractor and supplier management which is making sure that they have the right purchase orders, making sure their scope of work has been covered same with suppliers, make sure the long lead items have all been secured well in advance.
  • The third one is scheduling initially you come up with the entire schedule on how the entire macro of the project fits all together.
  • And finally and most important being a business is but making sure that when you are issuing pos that the whole scope of work is there, making sure you’re still profitable at the end of the day.

So when you have these two pieces of functioning and working together well, that makes a successful project, not just for a GC or a contractor but also for the clients. There are two separate and unique processes that are involved but they do overlap with each other. So I try to explain it to my clients in this context when a client needs something addressed right away that has nothing to do with the site and we have to source out extras or changes and stuff like that, that involves somebody not on the project but off-site looking after those pricing coming and betting those prices, make sure all that stuff is all in order, that’s a different skill set, that’s project management. If something comes up on site and my site super calls the client and ask questions, that’s site management and those are how those two things come together so don’t be afraid to explain the two most times, I find clients are not fully aware of the differences of what they actually are and how they work together to finish off a successful project.

Thoughts That Build – To Include or Not Include

To include or not include, that is the question, especially for us contractors, when we’re submitting proposals. Might sound funny but when you’re a small business, an independent business owner and you’re trying to open up that second office, that first office, that retail space, that gym, that restaurant. How do you qualify proposals from contractors, how do you ensure that everything on those drawings are covered and not just on the drawings? How do they figure out what’s included and what’s not? Do they look at the details, it’s much easier for much larger corporations that have dedicated project managers who can hire external project managers to qualify and met these prices coming in. They’re able to look at all the line items and with their experience say, you know what I think this is. I think he has missed something, this seems low I wonder what’s going on but when you’re an independent contractor how do you?

I had an experience once where I was told from a client actually that it was better for me to submit my proposal exactly as per the drawing, get that contract signed and then before you start ask questions, ask questions about site conditions, ask questions about ambiguities. In the drawings after the fact. Now I personally don’t like that I try to include as much detail to show as many assumptions as I can, it gives a more holistic and full complete picture of a proposal and it’s a lot more accurate than just pricing as per drawings. The question clients have to ask themselves is, are they looking for the lowest starting price that can balloon completely through a project or they’re looking for somebody that is actually looking through the drawings and trying to understand how everything gets put together? That’s the question you have to ask but in order to have that even playing field, the questions must be asked up front, the information needs to be passed to everybody as to exactly what they’re pricing.

Thoughts That Build – Fears of Clients & Contractors

Fear, let’s talk here today and not in the sense of whether we should make a decision or shouldn’t. I’m talking about the fear that exists out there with clients as it pertains to contractors, doesn’t matter if you’re a general contractor or a subcontractor, clients still fear engaging with them as we know most people love referrals because it gives them that sense of confidence, but I want to talk about why they fear these things? What are the reasons behind it? Now we’re blasted in society, in the media about how bad contractors are. We see shows on TV talking about how contractors walk away all the time.

In my experience that’s actually the exception, not the rule. I mean we’ve got people who are bad in whatever industry that you’re in. I’m sure I can name any industry and you can pick the bad apple but clients seem to feel that contractors are either over charging, they’re not going to perform, they can take their money and run and it creates the sense of mistrust, right from the get-go. But here’s the interesting part there’s a fear from us as contractors as well, back to the client and it’s even the case in commercial when you’re dealing with much larger dollar figures. The residential, everyone knows as well even from the contractor side, that’s why they include a payments, upfront payments before work is done, payments for materials. It’s not always the case like that on the commercial side but there’s a fear from our side as well that we will perform the work and we’ll still be waiting that we will sign a contract that’ll say you got to pay quick and they won’t that at the end of the project when you have a holdback that they will nitpick at details.

We all know that there’s a cost versus performance dilemma, shall we say right, if everyone had infinite budget, the quality would be perfect, so how do you straddle that line you can’t always want to pay for a fiat and get a Ferrari that’s what I like to say. Anyway nothing against fiats but that fear comes from both sides and the question is how do you bridge that gap. How do you instill that trust in people, I like to always leave money at the end of a project could be five percent, ten percent as a good will to say hey I’m doing this just to show you that I’m paying my trades that I will finish my deficiencies from the client side. How you instill that trust is could be a deposit, it could be following through on those contract terms that you will pay in 24 – 48 hours or seven days, whatever that case might be respond to questions quicker, that creates more trust between the partners. Now for me what I like doing as well sometimes I’m guilty of not doing it but I don’t like to just email a quotation off to a client, there is something to be said to sitting down in front of them walking them through your proposal explaining to them how you came  up with your number, why, what those qualifications are and what they actually mean? The client has to understand that hearing you not reading it on a sheet of paper that’s where you bridge the gap of trust. Again, it comes back to the human to human connection, how do you present yourself? How does the client present themselves and how do we follow through on those words. Those are the most important things to dispel a lot of the myths as it pertains to this fear between contractors and clients.