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Owner – Be the best you can be!

How can owners make themselves understood at the outset of a project, before hitting roadblocks that sidetrack progress and push the schedule? Consider these insights.

Set the tone – project culture

As an owner, you are the single most influential entity on a project. You have the opportunity to set the culture from the get go. Your actions, decisions and style set the tone for the project very early on. Everyone is watching you…they are looking for signs of risk, trust or lack thereof, areas of concern, opportunities, etc. Being clear about the culture that you intend to perpetuate on a project will have a lasting effect on the entire project. Make sure that you think this through and you are intentional about the culture you will instill on the project. Then, make sure everyone is clear on your expectations and the overall vision of the project.

Method of delivery

Every project is unique, with multiple stakeholders, goals and expected outcomes. As such, each project may lend itself to a specific method of delivery whether it be CM at Risk, Design-Bid-Build or Design-Build. Each method of delivery comes with a different level of owner involvement, risk and contracting methodology. When selecting building partners, understand that it’s their job to be able to accommodate each of these methods and perform with the same level of respect and professionalism in every situation.

Transparency and risk

As an owner, it’s important to understand what you’re expecting of your partners and that each team member is transparent about how this translates to risk. For example, understanding the risk of an accelerated schedule, a condensed design period and a fast tracked procurement process could present specific risks that may or may not be avoided. Identifying the areas of risk is key and determining the best place for this risk to reside is also important. At the same time, the owner should be clear about potential internal risks from their organization. If these risks are identified early, then the project team can assist in managing this risk or establish opportunities to mitigate the risk completely.

Procurement process

The procurement process during construction is critical to the success of any projects. An owner needs to focus on providing clear information to prospective partners whether they are construction managers, general contractors or consultants. Providing accurate and detailed the information during procurement will yield in responsive and comprehensive proposals and bids. Often, a lack of comprehensive information signals risk to your proposers and the quality and cost of the proposals will reflect this. The most important component to any procurement process is the specifics on the selection process and the selection timetable. This makes it very clear up front how and when the selection process will move forward.


Collaboration means being in concert with your stakeholders every step of the way on a project, making timely decisions and working cooperatively to address challenges. Collaboration starts with setting the project culture on the project and carrying it throughout the duration of the project. Collaboration means understanding the risks of each project partner and demonstrating the willingness to understand the bigger picture. None of this occurs without entrusting your partners, listening to their concerns and sharing a unified project vision. The owner is an important part of establishing, expecting and maintaining a culture of collaboration throughout the project.

No project is perfect. But if owners come to the table with a clear vision, reasonable expectations, good communications and engaged participation, they’ll come away with minimal conflicts, a positive experience and most importantly, a reputation that results in building partners clamoring for the next opportunity to work with you.

Written by Wendy Cohen, regional executive at Kitchell.

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