When his company is in control of a project (during a design-build situation, for example), Scott Wright, president at Lifeline Audio Video Technologies, noticed that the estimated labor and associated costs were right on.
Bid projects, however, were another story. “Historically, we haven’t done very well in terms of hitting overall hours. That’s because we hadn’t done a good job of understanding how to estimate and manage a new-construction project. It became frustrating to miss those numbers due to so many different variables we didn’t consider. We simply did not have enough experience and expertise on our team to manage larger bid projects in terms of project management hours.”
Investing in Project Management
NSCA Executive Director Chuck Wilson pays a visit to Lifeline AV every other year to examine processes and procedures, helping the company position itself for growth. “When he came in last time, we discovered that we do well on design-build projects but needed to look at bringing in some project management expertise,” says Wright.
With no full-time project manager on staff, and no plans to hire one in the immediate future, he knew his team needed education on the topic. But he didn’t want to spend lots of time or money to make it happen.
After attending NSCA’s Business & Leadership Conference in Tampa, FL, Wright met Nadim Sawaya of Enterprise Performance Consulting. “I spent half an hour going over what he offers and said, ‘Sign me up.’ We knew we needed to get better at this.”
Sawaya came to Lifeline AV’s offices in Platteville, WI, and met with salespeople, technicians, and installers. In addition to project management training, there was an underlying objective: To identify someone who may be interested in functioning as a project manager once training was complete.
Starting at the very beginning of the project lifecycle, Sawaya walked the team through everything that leads up to the sale, including bidding. His training approach ensures that, once you land a project, you’ll be confident that you’re working with accurate numbers and will be ready to successfully manage it.
Instant Efficiency Improvements
At the end of the two-day session, Wright led a team discussion and asked, “How can we change things based on what we learned?” The team evaluated an existing project and each project-management task related to it. They then compared their list to what they learned and pinpointed ways to improve efficiency and shift job duties.
The result was an immediate change in procedures and responsibilities in the flow of job duties. “It literally happened that day,” says Wright. “When we showed up for work the next day, there were procedures in place that outlined who was now responsible for each task. It made us more efficient literally on Day One. We saw an immediate return that could easily pay for itself in a short time period. In the past, whenever we invested in training, we sat through a day of class and said, ‘That was cool,’ but didn’t change anything. This time we did. We also found deficiencies in our design-build projects that we never knew we had. The training helped our design-build projects immediately as well.”
An Efficient Approach to Professional Development
Wright appreciated the fact that this project-management training was specific to the industry. While there’s a lot of information available on the topic, the majority of it isn’t tailored to the way integrators work. Sawaya’s decades of industry experience provide valuable real-life examples and allow him to address project-management challenges specific to integrators.
Another training perk: Wright didn’t have to pay for travel to take his team somewhere. “It’s never just the cost of the course when professional development is involved,” he says. “It’s things like the cost of lost wages, travel, and food. For Nadim to come to us and create a course around the way we work was outstanding. We got to be in our building and he heard our way of doing things.”