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Choosing the Right General Contractor
What makes up a great general contractor?

by Mikhail Tuknov  
   
   

 
  Architect, designer and general contractor at work - photo by Anne Krauze
 
One of the greatest assets of a quality General Contractor, or any building contractor for that matter, is a clear clarity of purpose. Without a purpose, or without a target, efforts are inefficient, success is unverifiable, and team members flounder and waste time not knowing exactly what they should be focusing on. For any Contractor to survive today in this risky economy, clarity of purpose is extremely necessary, and even though the market may not be clear as to what area of construction will be profitable, there are some basic tools which need to be in any contractor's toolbox in order succeed and have clarity wherever the market may lead. A successful contractor needs to develop, incorporate, and maintain three basic skill sets in order to survive. Those skill sets are: Construction, Communication, and Controls. Sounds simple and obvious, but unfortunately, for many remodel or new construction contractors, it's not so simple.

To most, the element or skill set of "Construction" may seem a no-brainer for one wanting to make it in the competitive field of construction contracting. Yet, many times, and much to the dismay of the client, the lack of construction skill by a Contractor only becomes apparent after much money has been spent. It's usually after the project is finished and things begin to fall apart or leak, the unsuspecting client only then finds out the Contractor had limited expertise and knowledge of proven construction methodology. Truly successful, long-term construction companies all bear the same distinct mark and feature...they all have a quality management team carrying a collective high level of experience in the building trades, and especially with a journeyman's skill level in basic carpentry. One cannot emphasize how critical it is in understanding basic building concepts, project scheduling, and materials use and application. While I know some construction companies which are run by managers or "estimators" who have never actually hands-on built anything of substance themselves, somewhere within the "successful" company, someone has to know first-hand how things are built in the real world. Just as any skill, construction knowledge and expertise can be improved by use or training. Getting out of the office and into the field with some actual hands on time or even observation works wonders for stagnating construction knowledge and skills. Simple training like reading periodicals of handbooks, taking classes, or attending seminars or conferences needs to be an ongoing commitment and priority of the company if one wants to stay on top in these uneasy days.

The element of "Communication" also seems obvious as a critical Contractor skill, but it is often one of the most understated, most underrated, and most under skilled tool in the toolbox. When the ability to communicate clearly, quickly, and authoritatively is lost, a once busy quality Contractor over time becomes a has-been contractor just trying to hold its head above water. Simply and bluntly, one of the main reasons a company loses its edge and competitiveness is that a company becomes (or was) poor at communicating (and listening), which in turn causes them over time to become known by projects marked with confusion, misunderstandings, wishy-washy direction and promises, and declining performance and quality. All of these issues of course translate into wasted money and cost overruns. While a great "Construction" skill set might have gotten a building contractor in the door of the building trade and marketplace, and helped them produce some stellar quality projects, the lack of "Communication" skill will eventually and silently catch up to them. Lack of communications skills will de-rail anyone over time into a second place status, and force them into a state of expending great energy and monies constantly looking for new clients and new locals who have not experienced or "heard about" their confused management team, or their less than stellar project history.

The third element of a successful Contractor is "Controls"...or systems of monitoring, tracking, risk management, communications, project and quality control, evaluation, etc. In the "old days", believe it or not, a house was actually built without computers, without cell phones, without email, and without high tec methodologies or gadge...and yet still had quality, durability, and profitability. Today, modern contractors have no excuse. Modern contractors have at their disposal a vast array of technological tools to assist them as the projects get more complex, as construction schedules get more compressed, and as material and labor costs skyrocket while the Client's money gets tighter and tighter. Controls are not necessarily technological, but new technological tools must be a part of the contractor's tool box if he wants to be competitive and relative. Computerized estimating, budgeting, tracking, communication, scheduling, and invoicing are but a few of the teckie new tools one needs to even "look" competent in today's marketplace. Controls are also simple things like an experienced and solid project manager who excels in people skills while without mercy, keeps his foot on the gas, constantly monitoring the gas gage. Keeping control of subcontractors and their scopes of work, keeping control of the schedule, and keeping control of the information exchange is absolutely a skill set any Superintendant or Project Manager must have and use. Another area of contr...the control of project quality (QC) will only rise to the level of the expectation and experience of the General Contractor, and unfortunately, some contractors have limited or no experience with high-level quality or finish, and thus expect and allow less quality construction to be performed and accepted. If one wants to compete in the construction field where the ability to deliver top of the line "award-winning" quality finish projects is a pre-requisite for even being considered to look at a project, one has to have the experience in order to know what level top design Architects and Clients are looking for, in order to be able to deliver that quality on time and budget, and to have at least some kind of portfolio to provide just to get into the door of consideration. Controls, or the abilities and tools to control the various aspects of projects from safety to accounting are invaluable and the more control tools in toolbox, along with the skilled use of such are a necessity if one wants to be a Contractor who has a great long running reputation. Without controls, the project will speak for itself, and speak loudly this Contractor may be a great carpenter, but a lousy businessman or reckless and loose keeper of the Clients time and money.


Interior & Exterior Painting Jobs

Nothing can make or break a home more than it's paint. While a fresh coat of paint can make your home shine with that new again look, dingy, peeling and cracking paint can make it an eyesore for your neighbors and passers by. Keeping your home's paint in good condition doesn't have to be a difficult task as long as you look over it thoroughly on a fairly regular basis. By quickly identifying problem spots can help you make quick repairs and touch ups instead of waiting and having to re-paint your entire home. Your home's interior paint can do the same. Changing your home's bare, white walls will give your home an amazing look. Matching your home's walls to work with your furniture and window coverings can do wonders. Try painting a few accent walls to highlight certain areas in your home. While you usually think of paint as an aesthetic element the truth of the matter is that it is a very important element in protecting your home from the elements. Good quality paint will create a barrier between your home's delicate wood and damaging sun, temperatures and moisture. This is why it is extremely important to properly prepare your painted surface and to check for failing spots on your current painted areas. Quickly fixed paint issues can save you time and the stress and money associated with replacing rotting and damaged wood.


Lead Based Paint Information

One of the most significant safety concerns relating to painting projects and renovations is the possibility of encountering lead based paint. Below you'll find basic safety info on lead based paint, information on how to protect yourself and your family, as well as info on the effects of lead poisoning and the history of lead based paint. read more ...




 



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