Keepers of the project


What did you say?

Do you understand?

Who else knows?

These may be three of the most important questions in the renovation industry. No matter how great the skills of hands-on workers and designers, if there’s no communication (or worse, wrong communication), a project is doomed.

Jeff Hayes is a site supervisor with Ottawa General Contractors. He’s a master at communications, and as such he is one of the most valuable members of the team.

“Everybody loves Jeff,” says owner and general manager Moe Abbas. “He’s amazing. He communicates with everyone constantly. He doesn’t waste time when he’s taking care of issues. He knows the trades and he knows how to talk to people.”

Jeff has been site supervisor for a year, but he has a depth of experience and knowledge that goes back far longer than that. He was one of the company’s contractors for years before Moe hired him.

“It’s not easy to find good guys to do this,” he says. “They need to be a package of experience, expertise, technology, people skills and organization.”

Ish El Farro is Ottawa General Contractors’ project manager. Moe calls him the “decision-maker in the backend”. He relies on accurate information from the field in order to organize the contractors. Together, Jeff and Ish keep communication flowing.

Mis-communication, says Moe, is the number one issue in construction. Everybody, from homeowners to contractors, tradespeople, designers and office staff, runs the risk of falling into that deep hole of silence or bad information.

It means a company’s site supervisor or foreman or project manager, as communicator, is the single most important person in any project.

You find site supervisors on larger jobs. They continually go from site to site, checking on safety, progress, and any onsite issues. They make sure everything’s going according to specifications, and that the tradespeople are co-ordinated. They keep clients and the office project manager fully aware of every step. Site supervisors are the keepers of the project, the ones who constantly maintain, update and tend to the ongoing work.

In smaller companies, a site supervisor can be the project manager, foreman or owner. Regardless, the position is critical, and it all comes down to one thing: great communication.

Ottawa General Contractors has recently taken a big step in furthering good communication.

“We realized the importance of communication early on,” says Moe. “Both our company and our clients were losing in some part of the project because of miscommunication.

Moe knew that great communication was tantamount to the company’s success as a leader in the business. And so it drove them to develop something Moe calls “the most effective up-to-date communication system in the industry”.

This is how it works: Clients are invited to an online group that involves the whole company. They receive a secure login. They can share any issues, comments or suggestions they want to.

The company uploads designs, supplier lists, allowance sheets, company contacts and any other relevant information so everyone has open access.

“That’s only part of the fun, though,” says Moe. “Our site supervisor can update the group live from the job site with comments and site photos, so clients can see everything on their job without actually being there.” And of course, if there are issues, they can be addressed instantly.

“Nothing is hidden,” adds Moe.

He says so far they’re the only renovation company in North America to use such cutting-edge communication methods.

“We’ve been getting fabulous feedback,” he says, “especially from clients.”