An effective construction manger will display great strength through respectful and clear communication skills, will keep the HOA board informed, will create and maintain a cooperative environment, and will be a respected friend and ally to the HOA Board. Often home owners in community associations wonder why they can’t just call three General Contractors, parade them through the project, and then pick the cheapest bid and get the work done on time, on budget and without problems. The following article explains how hiring a construction manager for your project can save your association time and money.
The Right Construction Management Firm Offers Financial Savings and Community Unity
Why Use a Construction Manager?
Many years of litigation, especially in the HOA arena, taught professionals how complex construction is and that everyone on the project must collaborate effectively. When the team hits the deadline on budget together, it is because the architect, engineering and construction components have been effectively managed – a tall task. In my experience, projects typically start off with a subtle breakdown of communications. Why? Often due to the lack of clearly defined goals, professional job & material specifications and clear communications. And you will find that many of these “crashed projects” have been started, run and organized by well meaning volunteer home owners who were coerced into “managing” the HOA project.
Effective people management, meticulous planning and strategy, and ethical decisions are vital components of a successful project management team and, by adding a quality project and construction manger to the team money, conflict and time will be saved.
In my experience, one person on the board has to step to make a commitment to tackle the issue(s). Remember, he or she is dealing with a neighbor or even a friend in the association. Some effective techniques for leading this change include:
- Acknowledge the work done by volunteers
- Find some thing positive
- Stay away from finger pointing
- Use a “what worked” scenario as the foundation for change
- Sell the other board/committee members on the value of hiring a professional
To re-start the project on the right track, you will probably need to sell the board a new strategy: that a professional management service will yield sustainable results. This will allow the directors involved in the crashed project to keep face! And do not yield to misguided “give me a second chance” pressure.
The board members may now approach you with questions like: “What service do we need”, “How do we qualify those professionals?” and “How do we manage those services after they are hired?” Great questions and by adjusting your approach, these issues will be easy to solve. After a project crash, fear naturally surfaces in meetings. Here is how you help other decision makers reduce their anxiety by asking the questions: “To date, we have done it our way. A way that we felt was cheapest. How has it been working for us? Is there room for a new approach?”
For you who have a quality Property Manager managing your property, you should find them very helpful and a great referral source. But I suggest that you do not use your property manager also as your construction manger if they are not licensed contractors or engineers.
When the decision to hire a consultant is made, the HOA board should organize a meeting and record it. In brief, the purpose of the “Taking Inventory” meeting is to identify critical modifications in the project schedule, budget, legal matters, and in the overall project status. Unfortunately, associations’ politics and personalities can tangle in this meeting. Use a detailed agenda and have a suitable moderator run the meeting.
Finding & Qualifying a Project/Construction Manger
Since the construction and project manger should be the expert knowledge you the HOA board needs to make better decisions, we do not recommend going to the yellow pages or search amongst friends and family members.
Quality consultant are known to and respected by Attorneys, Architects, Engineers and General Contractors. We suggest that you start off by asking your property manger for referrals. In addition, read the ECHO magazine articles, go to HOA related trade shows, and look for advertisers in the specialty magazines.
Here is a partial list of questions and “must meet” standards when qualifying a project/construction manager:
- How many years involved with construction (not in business)
- Is the licensees history clean
- In addition to the basic insurance, do they have HOA coverage
- How tainted or clean is their claims record
- Check their references AND
- Meet face-to-face
- Is the new consultant on time and returns calls promptly
- Are they willing to meet you on your schedule or on theirs
- Do they have long scheduling and bidding times
- How thorough is their qualifying process of services and contractors
- Will they be on the job site frequently enough to be effective
- How much knowledge do they have of new materials & systems
- Are they skilled diplomats creating collaborations or dictators
Back Your Construction Manager
Back your construction manager 100% as long as he or she is creating and maintaining a collaborative environment.
Much of the recent years of litigation have been the result of many HOA’s choosing under-qualified consultants; accepting “cheap bids” over better qualified contractors; approving mediocre specifications or no specifications at all; selecting inferior materials and so on.
Construction has evolved substantially over the last several years and many new products will last many years longer than before. The established HOA contractors have matured and have an expertise that a small contractor can not match. So I strongly caution you not to just invite anybody to bid on your project.
Hermann Novak has extensive experience as an effective liaison for factions within multicultural environments. He has over 25 years of experience in the architectural, engineering, and construction world. He is a California licensed general contractor, a certified mediator and a director on the board of the American Institute of Ethics.