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Project Management: The Linchpin to a Solid Mechanical Business

We live in a world where we are continually trying to cut costs in order to maximize profits and, Lord willing, survive another day or month, or year. I can remember when I first started my career in the industrial and heavy commercial HVAC business, going to sites all over South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina, in hopes of talking to a plant manager, building owner, or plant engineer. The gatekeeper to all those lovely names and phone numbers was the receptionist. I can remember spending hours a week visiting with the receptionist in all of these facilities, working my magic, to get beyond the foyer into the promise land of purchase orders and service agreements. Now when I go to sites with my team to try and dust off that old charm, I land in rooms with magnetically locked doors with no way out and only a phone with a directory with names of people that haven’t been updated since the George W. Bush years, half the names being retired.

We have allowed the trend that resulted in the death of the receptionist position to creep into the operational team. Making folks that had a job title and focus on a particular part of the business to bleed over into other arenas. They keep the title, but they get new hats that stack upon each other as they quickly move around the field, the office, and the client's conference room. That position that has had a stake put in it over recent years is the project manager (PM). I’ve seen the senior technician or installer act as the PM, the dispatcher act as a project coordinator, the sales guy, and a whole host of individuals try to wear this hat only to find that it is too big and too complex to wear well. Ultimately, the job suffers and deadlines get missed, submittals are never reviewed with the engineer of record, equipment is miss ordered, the wrong crews show up to the jobsite with nothing to do, or the crane was there Tuesday and it was supposed to be their Thursday; and by the way who ordered the dumpster to put all this old junk in? The owner gets frustrated and thinks his contractor is incapable and vows to never use them again, when in fact the contractor could have very capable staff but lacks a conductor of the symphony.

In early 2020, as we began to offer more design-build solutions to our clients, Hoffman Mechanical took the initiative and ate the cost of creating a project management team that is a dedicated silo within our business. Though our costs went up, we found that having that person that was the “one finger to point to” made us more efficient. The key to all this is now we have accountability on how our projects execute, whether it’s a 2-ton mini-split or a 2,000-ton chiller plant retrofit; we have dedicated men and women to close the gap on communication chasms to ensure our solutions don’t just look good on paper quotes but also as a finished good. So if you’re looking at multiple contractors to install your solution for your building or plants problem, don’t let just cost be your deciding factor. Ask yourself, who are the people behind the solution and how many hats are they wearing when they step into my facility?

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