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The 10 traits that construction project managers need

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Copper Staff

Contributors from members of the Copper team

So, you’re looking to hire a construction project manager.

Construction project managers (or “CPMs” for short) are busy, to say the least.

They’re also super knowledgeable as they need to know how to oversee both the labor side and admin side of construction. This means they need to be able to communicate effectively with people in various positions.

Because of the vast assortment of skills and duties required under this role, it can be tough to know where to start when it comes time to hire. What do you look for?

This article takes the guesswork out of your hiring process by providing insights into the key attributes to consider when selecting a candidate who is a project manager. Look for these qualities (along with a good personality, of course) in your next construction project manager hire.

A quick background on construction project managers:

A construction project manager is someone you hire to overlook a project while having your best interests in mind. This means taking care of things on your behalf, including people management, costs, scheduling, relationships with vendors, and more.

These are some examples of responsibilities that typically fall under a construction project manager’s job description, but these can vary. Clearly though, it’s important to hire a qualified CPM who has all the skills necessary to handle the wide spectrum of duties required by this role.

Now, onto the top 10 traits to look for in a construction project manager.

1. They thrive under pressure.

It’s safe to say a construction project manager’s job is a bit stressful.

A typical work day for a CPM might include having to deal with things out of their control, like:

  • Wrong materials being delivered to the job site
  • Delays in hearing back from vendors
  • Unexpected overcharges in bills

Not only do they need to deal with these problems—they need to do so while still meeting strict project deadlines.

So, a good CPM needs to be someone who not only survives in stressful situations, but also can thrive in them.

2. They’re super organized.

Construction project managers need to be able to juggle a lot of tasks, sometimes for multiple projects at once. They need to ensure these tasks not only get done, but also get done well and on time.

In addition to being organized, it helps to be tech-savvy, which we’ll go into next.

3. They’re tech-savvy.

You’re likely using a bunch of different types of software and programs on a day-to-day basis at work. A good CPM has the tech-savviness to pick up these programs with ease.

For example, you may be using a CRM to manage all your clients. It’ll be a lot easier for a CPM to learn how to use this software if they’re tech-literate. (It helps if your CRM is easy to adapt to, too.)

Copper’s CRM is designed to mirror Google’s G Suite UI. This makes picking it up easy as its interface is already familiar to most people.

Aside from adapting to your software, a good CPM likely has their own set of tech tools they use regularly to be as productive as possible.

4. They’re good with money.

Construction projects are expensive. A good CPM knows how to manage a budget.

This trait is useful when negotiating material discounts, ordering supplies, and inspecting deliveries upon arrival to make sure you didn’t get ripped off. A good CPM also has a keen attention to detail, reviewing bills regularly to ensure no overcharges and that your budget is being stuck to.

They’re basically your business bank account’s frontline defense, so hiring someone who knows what they’re doing is important.

5. They have strong time-management skills.

A good CPM won’t only meet deadlines, but beat them too. This is because they allot room for error, which is crucial.

Ensuring projects stay on schedule is a huge part of a CPM’s job. If they don’t allow room for error and something unexpected happens—which in construction, is bound to—the entire project will be set back.

Hiring a CPM without strong time-management skills means deadlines will be breached. Which in turn, costs you, the owner, money.

6. They’re a leader.

It’s not just machinery and admin work that needs management on a construction site, people management is even more important.

Construction crews feel the stress of deadlines. Having a leader who is positive, solution-oriented, and an overall nice person can minimize this stress and keep morale afloat. A good CPM motivates crews and takes accountability for the group of people under their guidance.

It’s no myth that employees perform better when they feel the love. Being able to effectively lead will result in more productivity among the rest of your construction team.

7. They’re good at managing relationships.

Being a CPM requires a whole lot of working with people. Whether they’re talking to clients, vendors, partners, or construction workers, a CPM needs to have the soft skills necessary to effectively manage these relationships.

This means more than just giving off a good first impression. Your CPM will need to build relationships with these people and maintain them. There’s a difference.

Research has found that the average project manager spends 8-12% of their time on people-focused activities, while the top 10% tier of project managers spent 60-80% on them.

8. They’re trustworthy + reliable.

Your CPM will be representing you and/or your company in your construction projects, so it’s important you can trust them to uphold your company’s standards and image.

This means your CPM will act as your eyes and ears on the job site, and be responsible for troubleshooting any problems.

It also means that sometimes, they may not agree with what you’re asking of them. That’s okay—you’re hiring them to be the expert. If you ask your CPM to complete something that simply isn’t feasible, a good CPM will be honest and transparent and tell you why it won’t work out (unless you’re willing to stretch budget or submit to other forms of “scope creep,” that is).

Legally, you’re liable for almost all screw-ups your CPM may cause. This means…

  • Overage in budget? Your problem.
  • Construction defects? Your problem.
  • Things running late? Your problem.

So yeah, trustworthiness and reliability are pretty important traits in a CPM.

9. They know how to manage risks.

A good CPM doesn’t wait for problems to happen, they plan ahead for them.

This means if any of the following happen, your CPM should have you covered.

  • A supplier falls through and you need to find a new one
  • Material delivery is late, holding back building schedule
  • Vital construction crew member has to leave suddenly due to family emergency

Don’t worry, a good CPM’s got action plans in place for all these situations and more. They put these plans together by sitting down with the team and identifying potential risks before the project even begins. Risks are unavoidable, but a good CPM can minimize the damage.

10. They’re good communicators.

According to a survey conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit, poor communication in the workplace can lead to:

  • Higher stress levels
  • Delay or failure to complete projects
  • Low morale

And more.

It's no wonder CPMs have to be good communicators.

A good CPM will keep everyone in the loop about the progress of the construction project. They’ll be able to articulate updates and action items clearly and concisely, so no one’s ever left questioning what they’re supposed to be doing or how they’re supposed to be doing it. They’ll also document all progress clearly and thoroughly.

You deserve a great construction project manager.

Hopefully, you’ll snatch up a good one by looking out for these traits!

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