How to Be a Successful Construction Project Manager

Every project has a designated team regarding every phase. Pre-construction has architects, engineers, general contractor team, and the owners for starters. The main construction phase has the subcontractors, managers, and other field staff. However, one position that is present from beginning to end is the Project Manager, or the PM. Here at Laux Construction, our PM is present from bidding to final inspections, and maintains communication far after the project has been complete for future projects or unexpected issues during the warranty period. A PM of our own, David Rockafellow, will be celebrating his 5-year anniversary with us at Laux this Sunday! For Careers in Construction month, we will be looking into the life of a PM, DR style!

DR grew up in the construction industry, with his dad being a role model for him while working as a carpenter and superintendent. DR attended Ferris State University where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Architectural Technology and Construction Management. While working for a previous employer, he caught wave of Laux’s growing success and the rest is history! As a Laux PM, DR has managed many projects all over the state of Michigan and has received awards for his amazing work! He was the PM for our renovation and addition project of the St. Thomas Aquinas Pre-School in Lansing.  The new addition brought 10,000 more square feet creating 3 new classrooms, as well as more administrative spaces. The addition also included a new multi-purpose room that can be used for dining and play for the students! DR worked alongside the many teams involved with this project, as well as Laux Superintendent, Scott Brown. DR kept track of the daily reports Brown would submit to him ensuring deadlines were being met, as well as quality of efforts was above standards. This project is one of DR’s most proud accomplishments with us. With a tight budget and schedule to keep, DR managed to navigate across many unexpected hurdles and helped guide his team to a successful completion. The school was so pleased with the outcome, DR and the team were honored for their work and was awarded the Golden Scissors Award from St. Thomas Aquinas!

“You have to be able to keep up!”
David Rockafellow, Project Manager

Being a PM may sound like a laid-back job compared to others that are doing the physical labor – but that’s far from the truth. PM’s must be highly organized and knowledgeable about all aspects of the project and through all phases. When they receive a project, they must study and understand the architectural drawings and apply for permits, materials that will be used, and do the research to determine lead times. This phase of construction also must adhere to the owner’s wishes for their budget. Although the world is experiencing financial fluctuations, PM’s can find ways to not only stay under budget, but also provide a project that is up to their standards, and above. Once they have clarity on how this project can be built, they must create a project schedule. This alone takes a large amount of time and consideration to accomplish as they must consider the company’s staffing capacity, other projects that are being done to not affect other project deadlines, and the schedules of subcontractors that will be working with them.

Keep in mind, these duties are before ground has even been broken! Once the project has been thoroughly planned, the PM is then in charge of scheduling meetings to ensure everyone is on the same page. They distribute meeting notes, schedule plans, communicate expectations of deadlines, and always keep an open line of communication. As often as possible, they will visit the job site to observe the work being done is correct, safety protocol is being followed, and adjust the schedule if necessary. The day-to-day tasks for DR is pretty unpredictable, but with keeping his projects organized, he’s able to get a good start to each day! In the morning, he makes a goal to “read the daily reports from our superintendents” which in turn “prompts phone calls and check-ins on the projects.” The rest of his day fills up with meetings and conversations to address any issues that arose overnight, or to provide updates on amazing news such as an awaited delivery! DR also comments that with each day being different, you can’t make direct plans and expect to follow them in the order you want. For those exploring the career industry, being a PM is a great option for those who like to be involved with the project in a cleaner environment – an office. Unlike a Superintendent who is on a work site the whole time, a PM typically stays at the company office where they can make any phone calls or organize meetings with others in a more professional setting. PM’s also must be highly organized, both with their time and paperwork. Dealing with multiple projects at a time means you will have rolls of drawings, binders of paperwork, and continuous new contracts, meeting minute notes, updates on RFI’s, and other things placed on your desk or sent to your inbox. This job is perfect for someone who also enjoys puzzles, as there are countless factors that go into getting a project running. PM’s also must have a solid understanding of math and finances, as you could deal with projects with million-dollar budgets!

Being a Project Manager is a highly respected position, paired with major responsibility. You will be considered the main contact for the project for your company, so making a good impression for yourself is also representing your employer. DR is an amazing example of this position, as he has made amazing contributions to growing our clientele and growing his own skillset and personal network. With his exceptional communication skills, along with his passion for this industry and work ethic, he never falls short on providing owners with a project better than what they originally imagined. He is consistently finding ways to maintain project budgets, maintain communication with all parties involved, and even seeking advice from other PM’s to gain extra perspective on issues that arise. We’re extremely grateful to have him on our team as a PM, and even more thankful to highlight him for this position to inspire those seeking career opportunities in this field!

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