Construction leaders discuss what will take your company to new heights in 2018

Getting all subcontractors on project sites up to speed and enforcing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) final silica standard will be a
challenge for 2018.

Shaw: Access to qualified workers and the retention of qualified project management and field staff is always a concern. The construction industry has exploded since the recession a few years ago. People have a lot of options as to who they want to work for and where. Figuring out how to manage remote projects, while maintaining a healthy, work-life balance, is a significant measure to having a strong company. If we can find the lever that makes this a reality, we will retain key people and develop those coming in behind them.

CBO: What advice, that has helped you do your job better, can you offer to other project managers in the industry?
Wiehe: I’ve had an opportunity to work on a number of different project types, and PCL has always done a great job of letting me design my own career path. During the job search process, look for a position where you will have the opportunity to work on projects that excite you, so you remain highly engaged. Construction is built on long-term relationships; it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Sometimes project partners make mistakes, and usually, it’s in your best interest to help clean up. Always err on the side of over-communication. Be transparent about the team’s goals. As a team, clearly define what the contract requires, the owner’s goals and the end user’s needs to pave the way for overall project success. When everyone has an understanding of what is valued, then each stakeholder can make decisions based on what they have to add to the conversation. Encourage project owners to be straightforward and consistent in what they expect. Get the end user involved early on in the process. They will have insight into what the project needs that you may not ever consider.

Hedlund: Keep your eye on the ball. When things get busy, those who pay attention to the basics of our business, like putting work in place safely, productively and on schedule,will make the most of a solid construction market.

Welton: Understand that you are not simply in charge of managing a project. You might not explicitly have “customer service” or “marketing” in your title, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t representing your company to your client every day. You have to provide the highest level of customer service, be constantly trying to prove and add value and be solutions-oriented for your client at all times. Next, be sure to train your next generation. We need talented and experienced people to support sophisticated building types and clients. We simply cannot expect our nation’s college institutions to provide every skill necessary for project managers, so we need to take it upon ourselves to provide on-the-job training, mentorship and guidance. The more you help grow your people, the more support and ideas you have to draw from as you move forward with new client challenges. Last but not least, never stop learning. The project managers who have the greatest success at JE Dunn are the ones who aren’t afraid to try out a new technology or a new approach to building. I tell everyone to be open-minded about finding new, innovative solutions to age-old construction problems.

Thayer: Get into the details. There are times to stay at a high level, but frequently at the project site, items can be missed, unless time is taken to get into the details. Make sure to communicate. Communication among the project stakeholders and internally within project team is critical. Know your people in order to grow and keep the best people.

Shaw: The construction industry is one that is based on relationships and effective communication. Learning and expanding on these skills was key for me. In today’s world, we gravitate toward text messaging and email. While important, there are many times where face-to-face conversations solve more problems and open new doors. My best advice is to develop the skill to communicate effectively. Recently, I have noticed employees move between companies now with greater frequency than at any other time in my career. I have watched people leave companies and projects without any regard to the potential damage they cause to the company that employs them, the staff they are leaving behind or the owner with whom they are involved. Life happens, and at times, it cannot be controlled. However, we can control the decisions we make. If we strive to practice patience and make decisions with others considered, everyone benefits.