What differentiates high-performance construction managers from the rest?
They seem to always be one-step ahead of the curve. They might have known drones would be a big thing in construction before you even considered the concept, or might be gnawing at the bit to invest in 3D construction printing. They’re always talking about construction successes, both domestically and internationally, and don’t make it a secret that they love their job.
How do they stay informed? And how are they so darned good at their jobs?
They are constantly learning more about their field.
Trying to know everything about construction management would be unrealistic. The secret is in knowing where to go for resources when you need them, and to use them to put yourself at a professional advantage compared to others (sneaky!).
Construction project and team management are two areas that spring to mind, but know-how in business development, construction accounting, and job profitability is often required too. Indeed, smaller building enterprises may require construction managers to wear all these hats at the same time. This is especially true when the general manager and the owner are the same people.
The Complete Construction Manager
You may specialize in a specific area, be responsible for a broad cross-section in construction, or manage other construction managers. In all cases, it’s good to know what goes into a complete construction management “life cycle.” With this information, you can avoid being blindsided on building projects, you’ll find working with colleagues easier, and you’ll be able to put together a management team that covers all the bases. As construction companies do projects and develop, construction managers get involved in the following ways:
- Construction methods and know-how
- Finding projects and customers
- Construction bid management
- Regulatory compliance
- Hiring construction workers
- Building supplies procurement
- Project management
- Financial organization
- Seeking specialist advice
- Keeping up with construction industry developments
With this much to manage, there are a few conditions about the suitability of resources. They should be easy to access and use, and bring practical benefit. Ideally, they should also be useful for as many construction managers as possible and also “evergreen,” meaning they will be as valid next year as they are now.
1. Construction methods and know-how
It would be too easy to point to a search engine and the web, and leave you to type in your question. The amount of different sources of information about construction is staggering. Besides web pages, there are also applications available for Android and iOS (iPhone, iPad) devices to help with different aspects of construction. They often specialize in areas such as calculations for structures, volumes for concrete and rebars, measurement and geometry for carpentry, and so on. What is in shorter supply is the online construction method compendium, offering one “go-to” source of information. This kind of site is also useful for finding out what you don’t know as well as providing answers to specific questions.
2. Finding projects and customers
A construction company cannot run without customers. Word-of-mouth references from other customers can be a great way to get new, profitable projects, but sometimes you need more. The Yellow Pages used to be the standard way for many contractors to advertise their services. Now other media to attract customers are available too. Social marketing tools like Pinterest and Instagram are good platforms for posting photos of your completed building projects.
Overall, however, Google AdWords online advertising offers many contractors the most cost-effective way to target the type of customers and construction work they want, in the geographical area they want. You can also manage your advertising from your tablet for example and turn it on or switch it off at any time. Just the thing when you’re out on site waiting for that ready-mix concrete truck to arrive.
3. Construction bid management
Costing, preparation, and bid tracking are all key parts of the construction management life cycle. They determine if your construction business will be profitable, keep existing customers, and acquire new ones.
The days of handwritten quotes are fading fast, especially as inexpensive software applications make it possible to rapidly and reliably make professional-looking proposals to be printed for, or emailed to customers. To find the app that best suits your business, use Capterra’s comparisons and trial versions of construction management software programs.
4. Regulatory compliance
Building regulations about which buildings can go up where often change from one locality to another. A direct contact with the municipality concerned is the best way to compliance in this case. Construction safety regulations, on the other hand, apply nationally, not just locally.
In the United States, the OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) web pages for construction safety regulations give both extensive and detailed information on where to pay attention. The “Construction Quick Start Library” part of the same site offers additional forms, publications, resources, and sample programs. The equivalent construction safety web resource in the UK is provided by HSE (Health and Safety Executive.)
Ignorance of the law is no excuse, as the saying goes. These sites help you plug holes in your construction management knowledge that could otherwise leave you in some very sticky situations.
5. Hiring construction workers
Fast forward to the world of hamburgers (just for a minute). A big advantage of a global fast-food brand like McDonald’s is that you know what you’ll get whatever country you’re in. When it comes to hiring construction workers, the equivalent of McDonald’s is Monster. If you’re hungry for new talent, Monster is an immediate resource available in many different countries. Granted, Monster, like McDonald’s, may not be to everybody’s taste. However, it has the undeniable advantage of a huge web presence and of being well known to construction workers looking for the kind of building jobs you want to fill.
6. Building supplies procurement
Bags of cement aren’t as well-suited to online sales. In addition, few building materials suppliers can claim national coverage, let alone international reach (although Alibaba.com now offers building supplies online). You’re going to have to look locally for building materials.
On the other hand, information on building material price trends is immediately available from ENR.com. You can track concrete, steel, aluminum, lumber, and pipe price changes, as well as average hourly wages. You can then scoot down to your local supplier to bulk up on the special offers that will protect you from impending increases.
7. Project management
Software is an increasingly common solution for getting things done faster and better in project management. However, there is also a growing requirement to share construction project management information with third parties. Project partners and subcontractors need to see what their responsibilities and deliverables are, and customers want to track progress on the projects they are funding.
A decade ago, collaborating in this way was a delicate matter and often technically challenging.
Today, cloud computing has dramatically expanded the possibilities for working together on construction projects, whatever the size. A project management app running in the cloud is typically available 24/7 to any authorized user via a standard Internet connection.
Your construction management solutions in the cloud to bring your partners and customers closer to you.
Finance is often the Achilles heel of construction managers.
Their building background and site management experience let them deliver good quality buildings, but funding and profitability too often take a back seat in the process.
Accountants are not necessarily well placed to offer advice about financial decisions, as their attention is often focused on past events. Bank managers may be forward-looking although they may have a vested interest in recommending one financial solution over another.
Either way, many construction managers can benefit from clear, impartial information about construction finance, such as that offered by the NAHB (National Association of Home Builders.) For those who want more detail, the CMFA (Construction Financial Management Association) offers a “body of knowledge” specifically for construction industry accounting, available in eBook format for reading on your mobile device, whenever and wherever.
9. Specialist advice
Construction managers may also need to deal with legal, environmental, and quality issues.
Experts exist for all these domains. Better still, they are often referrals from the local chambers of commerce, which provide a one-stop shop for construction managers to find specialist advice. Chambers of commerce also provide an opportunity to meet other people face-to-face, a refreshing change from an increasingly web-oriented world.
10. Keeping up with construction industry developments
Websites and blogs abound, some more up to date than others. Yet it’s hard to top the effectiveness of professional journalists in presenting the most up to date news and trends in the construction industry. A list of professional construction journals and magazines will help you focus on the one that deals specifically with your industry (yes, graders and excavators, there’s a magazine dedicated to your activity too!)
An alternative is to connect your Internet browser to an RSS (“Really Simple Syndication”) news feed. Construction industry news is then “pushed” out in text form to your PC, tablet or smartphone. On the other hand, an RSS feed will not give you the pictures that an online version of a construction magazine can give you.
There is one more resource that we have not yet mentioned because it can apply to many or even all of the areas above.
The experience of colleagues and friends in the construction industry can be invaluable.
You can leverage personal experience as appropriate and complete your construction management knowledge by using one or more of the resources above. Between all of these possibilities, you can then build your construction management know how and capabilities in the way that best serves your company and your customers, and that best suits you.
Are there more construction management resources that we should have listed here? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!