Never By the Book
Chris Perez had an interesting–if frustrating–first day of class in one of his construction management courses during college. After Chris dutifully purchased the textbook listed in the syllabus, his professor started the semester by informing all the students that they could throw the book out, because construction learning is never “by the book.” A memorable teaching moment (if a little too “Dead Poet’s Society”), and one that Chris relayed as part of our conversation about his experience of working in the construction industry. The prof did have a point – no one day is the same, and Chris elaborated that no single owner is quite the same either. Learning to build relationships with all types of owners on all types of projects is what makes Chris successful. [Note: interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.]
BC: What is the most interesting part of your job?
CP: The relationship between the General Contractor and the Owner or Owner’s Rep. Every project is different for several reasons, but the most interesting thing to deal with is the different types of personalities that we encounter with different types of owners. It’s been interesting learning how to adapt to different personalities and work styles on a project-by-project basis.
BC: It seems like you’re speaking from experience.
CP: I’ve dealt with everyone from “mom-and-pop” small businesses to Fortune-500 clients. Everyone you encounter on a construction project, but especially the owners, has a different level of experience with construction. And as you work on a project, you tend to develop a personal relationship with these people. Typically, that comes from day-to-day interaction, and breaking that barrier of owner/GC interaction. Most of these relationships turn into personal relationship which in turn lead to more opportunities to work together again down the line.
BC: You build that trust with them day in and day out.
CP: Absolutely. At the end of the day, from a technical standpoint, there are so many choices to get someone to build a building for you, or someone to pour concrete for you (for example). Owners are making the decision of whether they want to deal another GC or with you. If you have that relationship already, they want to deal with you. That’s why for me, dealing with different owners has been so interesting because it’s not just the current project on the line, but that future relationship as well.
BC: What are other top ways you build a relationship with clients/owners?
CP: Attentiveness and figuring out what’s important to that individual, which will be different for every client, and it’s something you figure out in real time on the job. Also, show that you’re truly interested in the success of the project and that this isn’t just “another job” to you. And there are some individuals where it’s really important just to chat with them every morning and build that rapport. Being there and understanding what they’re looking for will get you a long way.
At the end of the day the project is going to get done no matter what. No matter what, you got hired to build a facility, you’re going to deliver a facility. Now it’s how you interact with clients and how you deliver on wants and needs throughout process that will make or break your relationship with them. That’s the name of the game: where those relationships stand and whether you’re working on continually building those relationships.
Chris Perez has been with Butler-Cohen since June of 2018. When he’s not building great relationships with owners and clients, he enjoys spending time with family and BBQing. He is currently the Site Manager for a government office facility in Conroe, Texas.